Autonomy And Rigid Character by David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Beginning with a dialogue of the matter of autonomy in dynamic psychiatry and a evaluation of its improvement from infancy to formative years, the writer of Neurotic Styles explores, with a number of scientific examples, the distortion of the advance of autonomy in obsessive-compulsive stipulations, in sadism and masochism, and, eventually, in paranoia.

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The behavior of these persons often seems forced or exag­ gerated, artificial in some way. ” Hellmuth Kaiser was, to my knowledge, the first to focus attention on this phenomenon; he said that the neurotic person is not com­ pletely “behind” what he says or does . 16 For example, a young man expresses concern over the health of an older man, but his behavior seems forced, overly solicitous, perhaps even patronizing. A woman behaves with a humility and deference so exag­ gerated that it makes the person who is its object uncomfort­ able and even uncertain whether she is being serious or ironic.

Yet it is equally clear that her behavior was not consciously directed in a com­ plete sense. It was guided by a conscious aim, but it was not completely self-conscious. Its aim was conscious, yet not con­ sciously articulated. In order to understand this phenomenon more clearly, it is necessary to consider certain aspects of the nature of neurosis or neurotic character. Neurosis in one way or another restricts subjective experience. Neurotic attitudes and ways of thinking, having developed in shrinking or self-protective reaction to certain kinds of conflict or discomfort, then tend to inhibit the full conscious experience of certain sorts of conflictful and discomforting feelings or motivations.

On the other hand, to the extent that such a conscious aim is lacking and motivation consists only of an unarticulated need or tendency, delay or control is meaningless and impossible. See also Shapiro, Neurotic Styles (New York: Basic Books, 1965), p. 189. 19By “detached representation” I mean an image or idea that the child distinguishes from the object it represents. " Even such beginnings of the imaginative rep­ resentation of things or events permit an expanded awareness of the world. T he child is freed to some extent from the limitations of the present (which has been likened by Piaget to a slow-motion film in which each event can be linked only to those with which it is immediately involved).

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