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Love: from libido theory

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by Robert M. Young

I shall begin and end in the domain of idealizations, ones which mean a lot to me. As a schoolboy I was required to memorize the following poem by Leigh Hunt:

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An angel writing in a book of gold:--

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the presence in the room he said,

"What writest thou?"  The vision raised its head,

And with a look made of all sweet accord,

Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,

Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blest,

And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
This was my introduction to a way of seeing human relations which was half-way to secular humanism. It conveyed that to love one’s fellow human being could place one at the head of the list of those who love God. (The other half is to try to behave altruistically without recourse to God.) I have heard it said by an eminent professor of ethics that loving everyone is such an implausibly undiscriminating response. But he is missing the point that to love everyone is to impute something unique and valuable, a spirit or at least a human ‘species being’, to every person, making him or her part of a larger and valued entity, humankind. This is the point made by Preacher at the end of John Steinbeck’s classic novel of suffering and redemption, The Grapes of Wrath. In the depths of the American depression, when the migrants from Oklahoma to California are at a point of maximum immiseration, Preacher shares his theology. It is no longer evangelical or even Christ-centred. Perhaps, he muses, we are each a tiny part of one big soul. Religions and ethical systems urge us to value one another in this or related ways, while our actual behaviour falls far short of this ideal. Indeed, it is often said that pacifists love humanity in general but get on badly with one another and those close to them. Still, many strive toward the fulfilment of the ideal of what we once called ‘brotherly love’, and some institutions, for example, the United Nations, seek – however imperfectly - to embody it.

Of course, as I shall amply illustrate, the truth of human relations is that they are inescapably and irreducibly ambivalent. Indeed, Kleinians are taught that to believe that one can operate at one end of the emotional spectrum and love others all the time is to occupy the paranoid-schizoid position, wherein we make extreme splits. It is much more mature to dwell in the depressive position where everything is a mixture and a matter of degree. Yet romantic love between individuals is surely paranoid-schizoid, though not virulently or malignantly so. We attribute a heightened degree of beauty, goodness and other desirable and admirable attributes to the lovedone, and our doing so often actually evokes or brings out the best in them. We find it hard to be apart from them and when separated go to extreme lengths to be reunited with them. We want to gaze into their eyes, hold them close and never let them go. We want to touch, kiss, caress, join in lovemaking, mingle fluids, have children together, raise a family (or the equivalent in homosexual couples). We want to merge.

Love inspires extreme altruism. We make sacrifices for our lovedones, even to the point of risking or forfeiting our own careers or even our lives. When one dies, the other is utterly bereft and often finds it hard to carry on and has to negotiate the boundary Freud draws between mourning and melancholy (Freud, 1917). When permanent separation and divorce occur, as they do in up to half of couple relationships, the angry feelings are often extreme. This is not surprising, since choosing a life partner or spouse is probably the most externally un-coerced and most committed choice we make in our lives except, perhaps, to children and to Arsenal football team (in the case of my children).

I don’t know about you, but I really think I know about love. Heaven knows I have had my vicissitudes and failed relationships, but commitment to the ideal of a loving and lasting relationship with one other person has never left me. It has wavered and faltered and undergone recurrent disappointment but it has never gone. You may say, ‘Some guys never learn’, but, as my mother used to say, ‘Always let your reach exceed your grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?’ ‘In for a penny, in for a pound; it’s love that makes the world go round.’ ‘All you need is love.’ ‘Love is a many-splendoured thing.’ I found it easy to locate in my memory dozens of songs with love in the title, many – most – of which I know by heart. Most of the Beatles’ twenty-seven number one hits are about love and its tribulations. As I was writing this talk I was offered on cable television sixty-four of the most admired love songs on two CDs for £19,95. Think, also, how much of fine art and the rest of culture – both high culture and the low culture of soaps, tabloids and schlock writing – is about love.

I have spoken so far about idealized love of humanity in general and idealized love of a one other in the sense of lovers or partners or husband and wife. But there are, of course, many varieties of love and some very good books about them. I will list some and dwell on a few. There is, for example, Platonic love in two senses. One is the belief that we are each half a soul and go through life finding our other half, thereby becoming complete. This is an attractive myth, but, in truth, most of us have to make do with more than one mate, so it is hard to hold onto the idea that our other half is unique. The other sense of Platonic love is love which is deep but does not involve overt sexual relations – the love of a dear friend. I love and have loved several people in this way, mostly women, as it happens. Then there is parental love, something which we as psychotherapists know to be fraught. Its vicissitudes are the source of most of our and our patients’ difficulties – too little, too much, too preoccupied, being orphaned, parents divorce or don’t get on, physical or sexual abuse. Sibling love is almost as dicey and in danger of causing ructions. One of the very first brothers in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Cain, killed the other one, Abel. Relations with grandparents are often safer, less potentially damaging.

If we turn to psychoanalytic thinking about love, there are about two hundred articles in the main journals and several admirable books. I have perused them all, read many and studied some closely. However, I have not made much of a dent in the 11,961 books on love and currently in print listed by I have prepared a reading list and starred some items, in particular, the writings of Irving Singer (1984, 1984a, 1987), Otto Kernberg (1987, 1995), Ethel Person (1988, 1991) and especially Martin Bergmann, whose The Anatomy of Loving (1987) I commend to you most highly of all. (Unfortunately it is currently out of print, but I found over three dozen second hand copies on offer on the internet under BibliofInd and ABEbooks). Half of Bergmann’s book is addressed to the history of theories of love, a topic better canvassed in Singer’s three volume history of ideas of love, the third volume of which recapitulates the first two and has a sixty page chapter on psychoanalysis. The second half of Bergmann’s book is the best single source for psychoanalytic ideas about love. His main finding is simply put. When we fall in love, it is ‘a refinding of some aspect of a repressed relationship with a parent or parent-figure, a dim recalling of a very early symbiotic phase, the inclusion of the other within the bounds of the self and thus some undoing of separateness, and the transfer of some degree of idealization of the self or the parent onto the new love object’ (Pulver, 1989, p. 655). Bergmann considers this notion of refinding to be Freud’s most profound contribution to the understanding of love. However, ‘lovers do not simply and repetitively refind infantile objects, but seek objects who can undo the wounds and humiliations experienced early in life at the hands of their infantile objects, with the outcome of love dependent on the balance achieved between its repetitive and reparative functions’ (Person, 1992, p. 847).

Coming to love someone is typically a powerful, irrational and all-consuming experience, which is why we call it ‘falling in love’, i.e., infatuation, which can be short-lived or develop into a more mature love. This idea certainly conforms to my own experience. The hard task, as most of us have occasion to discover, is what you do when you discover that this has happened. Another way of putting this point is to say that we all fall in love with an infantile fantasy, and this is a neurotic symptom. If you are lucky and work at it, you will find enough that is good between you so that you can build a strong and lasting relationship out of the good elements plus what else you can add from the rest of life, along with large doses of tolerance, loyalty and true grit.

I now want to say something important about changing conceptualisations of love. A classical Freudian would find it obvious that a talk on love should be included in a series of sexuality, because classical Freudianism conceptualised love in terms of instinct and libidinal energies. Love is, on this view, a sublimation of sexuality. The concept of libido, which meant sex drive in reductionist versions of Freudianism, now means something as wide as negative entropy. (Entropy is a concept in physics, specifically thermodynamics, indicating the tendency of systems to disorganise, for their energy to run down to equilibrium; negative entropy characterises energised, complex, relatively organised systems which need further inputs of energy to be maintained.) I suppose it would be too crude or simple to say that in orthodox Freudianism any cunt or cock would do, but the uniqueness and individuality of the character and attributes of the chosen one – ‘the object of my affection’, as the song says – would be seen in the context of libido and sexual energies.

Love was reconceptualised in the wake of the rise of object relations theory in the work of Ronald Fairbairn, Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott. The libido theory, which roots love and sexuality in instinctive hedonism, is now out of fashion in most quarters. In the great Freudian triad of instinct, aim and object, the emphasis has shifted decisively from aim to object, and the mental representations of instincts are to the fore rather than their biological roots. Indeed, Fairbairn went so far to say that libidinal attitudes do not determine object relations. On the contrary, he maintained that object relations determine libidinal attitudes (Greenberg & Mitchell, 1983, p. 137). One way to characterise the change is that what was once rooted in biology has come to be grounded in relationships; what was focused on sexual areas – erogenous zones – is now focussed on the unconscious phantasies in the inner world. In some circles the privileging of certain body parts in Freudian theory has been replaced by a claim that any part of the body, any function, anything at all can be the legitimate focus of sexual preoccupation, excitement and gratification. Still others (e.g., O’Connor and Ryan, 1993, p. 246; cf. Young, 1996) seek to root out all naturalism from sexual identity, orientation and behaviour.

Don’t get me wrong. Sexuality, sexual parts, erogenous zones and phases of psychosexual development have not been purged from most psychoanalytic theory. It is still the result of biology and evolution that we make highly-charged responses to breasts, bottoms, eyes, hair, vaginas, clitorises and penises (some would add anuses) rather than, say, toes, knees or elbows. (I am reminded of a skit by Billy Connolly in which he goes on at length about God having some spare scrotum left over after creating Adam, so he put it over the elbow.) In characterizing the change from libido theory to object relations theory the most helpful thing that can be said is that erogenous zones and psychosexual phases have moved from the foreground to the background. Sexuality has been progressively relocated so that relationships are in the foreground, and sex is seen in that context as one way of loving. Kisses and cuddles and particularly hugs which do not lead to intercourse are no longer seen as truncated or postponed lovemaking but are valued in their own right as expressions of love which are highly valued. Indeed, in this country two thirds of people value affection and companionship as the most important thing in a relationship, while only 16% think sex is (Wellings, 1994, p. 264).

One feature of the libido theory has, in certain quarters, been placed under particularly critical scrutiny: the centrality of the Oedipus complex in psychosexual and moral development. There are those – I am not among them (Young, 2001) – who seek to discard any notion that there is a privileged path of development which we must all pass through if we are to attain maturity. They also reject the claim that failure successfully to negotiate the Oedipus complex is certain to land one in psychological trouble. On this matter there can be no compromise as far as Freudians are concerned. Freud called the Oedipus complex, the painful working out (from about three and a half to five years in childhood) of psychosexual relations between the child and the parents, 'the core complex' or the nuclear complex of every neurosis. In a footnote added to the 1920 edition of Three Essays on The Theory of Sexuality, he made it clear that the Oedipus complex is the immovable foundation stone on which the whole edifice of psychoanalysis is based:
It has justly been said that the Oedipus complex is the nuclear complex of the neuroses, and constitutes the essential part of their content. It represents the peak of infantile sexuality, which, through its after-effects, exercises a decisive influence on the sexuality of adults. Every new arrival on this planet is faced with the task of mastering the Oedipus complex; anyone who fails to do so falls a victim to neurosis. With the progress of psycho-analytic studies the importance of the Oedipus complex has become more and more clearly evident; its recognition has become the shibboleth that distinguishes the adherents of psycho-analysis from its opponents (Freud, 1905, p. 226n).
No compromise is possible with respect to the significance of the Oedipus complex, then. However, if you read the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality with an open mind, Freud’s ideas about sexuality come across as rather more liberal and tolerant of aberration than many of his critics represent them as being. For example, the first essay is not about normality but about sexual aberrations. The second essay is about infantile sexuality, and the third is about puberty. You could say that normal adult sex comes last. Indeed, ‘The Finding of an Object’ of one’s affections turns up in the very last section of the third and last essay. You could say that normal love is something reached by a circuitous path from polymorphous perversity through a series of fixations and incestuous wishes, eventually renounced, although (in strict Freudian theory) the girl does not finally sort out hers until she has a child, i.e., a symbolic substitute penis. (Nagera, 1981, pp. 67-72; Klein, 1928, 1945, pp. 50 sqq. and 72-74). In fact, that path from polymorphous perversity to more civilized love is the one he says, in Totem and Taboo and in Civilization and Its Discontents, that humanity actually travelled in history.

In the first essay Freud stresses just how wide the range of human sexual behaviour is. His is not a rigid position. He says quite straightforwardly that everyone is to some extent a deviant. Freud wrote,

No healthy person, it appears, can fail to make some addition that might be called perverse to the normal sexual aim; and the universality of this finding is in itself enough to show how inappropriate it is to use the word perversion as a term of reproach. In the sphere of sexual life we are brought up against peculiar, and, indeed, insoluble difficulties as soon as we try to draw a sharp line to distinguish mere variations within the range of what is physiological from pathological symptoms (Freud, 1905, pp. 160-61).
This allows for quite a lot of latitude, but there is still a definite limit. His model is one of norm and deviation – deviation up to a point, but you are supposed to get back onto the appropriate path in the end. There were definite taboos, as well. According to Freud, it was a perversion if the lips or tongue of one person came into contact with the genitals of another or if one lingered over aspects of foreplay which, as he quaintly put it, 'should normally be traversed rapidly on the path towards the final sexual aim’ (Freud, 1905, pp. 151, 150; cf. p. 211). He regarded 'any established aberration from normal sexuality as an instance of developmental inhibition and infantilism' (Freud, 1905, p. 231).

Once again, object relations theory has not jettisoned this way of thinking, although certain dissidents and would-be reformers of psychoanalysis – e.g., Lacanians, feminists, gays and lesbians – would gladly see it off. The majority, I’d say, stop a long way short of jettisoning some version of obeisance to the libido theory, biological links for sexuality and love and the Oedipus complex. As I have said, what has happened in most quarters is a recontextualisation, whereby instinct and biology are seen as less deep that object relations, which are our unconscious feelings in our inner worlds about important figures in our lives, initially carers, followed by other significant figures, say, other relatives closely involved with our care, siblings, teachers and mentors, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, partners, husbands and wives, children.

0tto Kernberg has written extensively on love and its pathology. He offers a summary of his views which he reformulates in the light of later research. He sets out to integrate object relations theory with basic Freudian concepts:
I concluded that the capacity to fall and to remain in love reflected the successful completion of two developmental stages: In the first stage, the early capacity for sensuous stimulation of erotogenic zones is integrated withy the later capacity for establishing a total object relation. In the second stage, full genital enjoyment incorporates early body-surface eroticism in the context of a total object relation, including a complementary sexual identification. The first stage requires, in essence, that primitive dissociation or lack of integration of the self and of object representations be overcome in the context of establishing ego identity and the capacity for object relations in depth. The second stage requires the successful overcoming of oedipal conflicts and the related unconscious prohibitions against a full sexual relation (Kernberg, 1977, p. 80)
After reviewing new work, especially by Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel (e.g., 1985), he says,
To conclude, the maturation in the sexual realm, in the realm of object relations, and in superego development jointly determines the capacity for mature love and for the couple’s stability, but also creates potential conditions for its dissolution. Sexual passion as the ongoing crossing of boundaries in the realm of self-experience both protects the couple and creates new conditions for it, with consequences that cannot be fully foreseen. I think that mature love relations are not “postambivalent”, but remain ambivalent with the predominance of love over hatred, and remain ambiguous, with a combination of intimacy and secrecy, growing freedom, mutual sexual experience, and a persistent mystery of the ever-changing nature of private fantasy life. Intimacy and discretion are two essential ingredients of mature love relations; they permit the combination of optimal expression of sex and love, and the optimal absorption and neutralization of aggression in the relationship. The awareness, tolerance, and integration of the many complex aspects of one’s own sexuality reinforces the capacity for mutual empathy, another dimension of the growth of the couple. And empathy, in turn, reinforces intimacy, discretion, and love (pp. 111-12).
Kernberg’s writings about love have been revised and collected in a volume entitled Love Relations: Normality and Pathology (1995). I admit that he writes in a difficult style, but he repays patient study.

I have dwelt at length on love, committed partnership and marriage, but, of course, these are the exception – however desired and repeatedly sought after. Over eighty per cent of people in this country say that fidelity in a relationship is highly desirable and infidelity is wrong, but thirty-seven per cent of men and twenty-nine per cent of women commit it at least once during their relationship. Moreover, though most take vows of lifetime commitment, the marriages of about forty per cent of young people will end in divorce, and predictions are that this will rise to half (Wellings, 1994).

It behoves us, then, to look at other kinds of love relationships, ones less likely to succeed. The incapacity to love or make commitments usually betokens an absence of a deep tie to one person in the early years of their life (Bergmann, 1987, p. 269). As bad is a carer who is physically present but emotionally absent. André Green has, in my opinion, painted the definitive picture of such a person in his essay, ‘The Dead Mother’ (1983). She is not physically dead, but there is no end to her dying, and she is not ‘there for us’, resonating, containing, caring; she is ‘somewhere else’, preoccupied. Bergmann gives us sketches of other unpromising forms of love, for example, triangular love, conflicted love, loveless sexuality, masochistic and sadistic love, Pygmalion love, narcissistic love, addicts of love (whose relationships do not survive the waning of infatuation), aim-inhibited love (where the sexual component is absent, repressed or taboo).

He also writes at length and movingly about transference love, a normal part of the psychotherapeutic relationship which must be transformed by sublimation, if the therapy is to prosper, into a striving for understanding. Occasionally a patient will not settle for this, and, alas, occasionally the therapist succumbs – or, worse – seduces the patient. The taboo against sex with patients or clients lies at the heart of the forms of abstinence which constitute the analytic frame and define professional integrity (Young, 1998). The analytic space is an Oedipal space. The analytic frame keeps incest at bay. The analytic relationship involves continually offering incest and continually declining it in the name of analytic abstinence and the hope of a relationship that transcends or goes beyond incestuous desires. Breaking the analytic frame invariably involves the risk of child abuse and sleeping with patients or ex-patients is precisely that.

Bergmann puts some of these points very nicely. He says,
In the analytic situation, the early images are made conscious and thereby deprived of their energising potential. In analysis, the uncovering of the incestuous fixation behind transference love loosens the incestuous ties and prepares the way for a future love free from the need to repeat oedipal triangulation. Under conditions of health the infantile prototypes merely energize the new falling in love while in neurosis they also evoke the incest taboo and needs for new triangulation that repeat the triangle of the oedipal state (p. 220).
With respect to patients who get involved with ex-therapists, he says that they claim that “‘unlike the rest of humanity I am entitled to disobey the incest taboo, circumventing the work of mourning, and possess my parent sexually. I am entitled to do so because I suffered so much or simply because I am an exception’” (p. 222). From the therapist’s point of view, ‘When the transference relationship becomes a sexual one, it represents symbolically and unconsciously the fulfilment of the wish that the infantile love object will not be given up and that incestuous love can be refound in reality’ (p. 223). This is a variant on the Pygmalion theme. The analytic relationship works only to the extent that the therapist shows, in Freud’s words, ‘that he is proof against every temptation’ (Freud, 1915, p. 166). Even so, somewhere between 2.5% and 10% of male therapists have sex with patients. Female therapists do it, too, but only a fraction as often.

Before I share some clinical summaries with you I want to round out my sketch of kinds of love. Not all love is for people. The headmistress of my son’s primary school loved her dog so much that it was sweet to behold, I was so grief-stricken when my dog was run over when I was ten that I have never had another pet. People love their schools, their colleges, especially Oxbridge ones. I certainly do. People love their regiment, their city, their country, the sports teams they support. Harold Searles waxes eloquent about his love of the region where he grew up and tells us of many more sorts of love for the non-human environment. He writes,

Probably for everyone who has found life to be more kindly than cruel, the land of his youth is a golden land; youth is such a golden time of life. Certainly for me the Catskill region of upstate New York possesses an undying enchantment, a beauty and an affirmation of life’s goodness which will be part of me as long as I live. For as far back as I can recall, I have felt that life’s meaning resided not only in my relatedness with my mother and father and sister and other persons, but in relatedness with the land itself – the verdant or autumn-tapestried or stark and snow-covered hills, the uncounted lakes, the rivers (Searles, 1960 p. ix).
I am sure we all have places we love, just as we have inanimate objects we love and cherish. Bikers love their motorcycles; other men love their motors. A lawyer friend from Texas told me that when he suggested that one of his clients, a successful industrialist, should think of making a will and making provision for his lovedones, the reply was, ‘Don, I don’t love nuthin’ but my corporation’. We love songs, symphonies, books, plays, creations in the visual arts. Toddlers love transitional objects, and many’s the grown-up who does, too. We may be lonely at times in our lives, but we still lavish our love over all kinds of objects of affection. There have been times when the only thing that stood between me and despair was the timbre of Willie Nelson’s voice.

Now some cases. When I cast my mind over the people I have seen in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, I am struck by how hard love is. I do not think is right or prudent, in Hampstead, to give detailed expositions of case material, but I will offer some vignettes.

A man who was pushed hard by his parents and succeeded academically yet has no confidence in his abilities in his profession (which is the same as his father’s) and has always been plagued by his mother’s incessant fault-finding. She got him special tuition at every stage of his education. When he sought a long-term relationship every new potential partner was found wanting in increasingly rapid order – too much body hair, too small breasts, even ‘too Celtic’ (whatever that is). He switched to telephone sex and could deem several women inadequate in a single evening. He also got through the introductory year of several psychotherapy trainings, but all were found wanting, as well, as was the therapist who came before me and as, eventually, was I.

A man whose mother could not cope in a war-ravaged country felt she had to take my patient in and out of children’s homes. The father was gone before he was born. When he was not in an institution he was a latch-key child. Now living in Britain, he cannot commit himself to a woman, and each, in turn, loses patience and leaves him.

A man whose mother died when he was one. His father remarried, but the stepmother brought a lover into the family home and turned all the children against the father and drove him out. My patient married a bullying woman who divorced him and left him nearly broke. He, too, now finds it hard to make a commitment and becomes involved with a compliant woman. She, alas, cannot break away from her domineering brute of a husband, so my patient loses out for a third time.

A young woman whose family of origin was so ‘perfect’ that neither she or her sister can seek a new and independent relationship.

Another young woman has grown up in this country, but her family is from a foreign culture in which a daughter stays at home until she marries. She lives a life of hypocrisy, sleeping with men but appearing to her parents chaste and pure and deferential, though seething underneath. No man has the right combination of skin colour, religion and social standing to be acceptable to the family or, indeed, to her, so she languishes and frets about her body. She failed at university and in psychotherapy training because she could never do the reading or write the essays, though she excelled in class discussions.

A cleric’s father died in World War Two when the boy was one. He and his widowed mother moved into the maternal grandmother’s home. When the mother decided to re-marry, the grandmother would not let the boy move out with her. He becomes successful in career terms but fears women will dominate him, so he turns to mutual masturbation with adolescents or inadequate men. No amount of effort to get on with eligible women gets very far.

An older man marries late, and it is decided not to have children. Both he and his wife come from families in which the father was unfaithful and walked out. When he retires, he, who has been almost totally faithful, goes on holiday alone and falls in love with an unhappily married woman, but he breaks it off and comes home bereft and seeks his wife’s support and sympathy. The wife is devastated, and he seeks therapy in order to understand his aberration and save his marriage.

A man in his mid-thirties who received utterly inadequate parenting at the hands of a hippy mother and a cuckolded father who left when he was a toddler, cannot bear to have a child, even though this will likely lead to his losing the wife he really loves. He cannot find the resources to give what he never had and identifies with the unloved and deprived baby, whose needs he cannot imagine meeting, since his never were. And he is right about himself. He has already walked away from one baby in an earlier relationship. When his wife has miscarried he has been relieved. The prospect of becoming a father makes him seriously suicidal.

None of these people want to settle for less. Each of them shares the ideals of what constitutes a loving relationship which romantic songs, films, novels and poetry leads us to aspire to. All but one of them – the cleric – functions adequately in intercourse. It is the quality of their relations which is wanting. They suffer from the heritage in their
respective inner worlds of the emotional structures within which they grew up. Their problems are hellishly difficult to shift. I have mentioned eight patients. I know I helped the retired man who had the affair. I know that the serial fault-finder got nowhere, as he had in a decade of work with his precious therapist. The cleric gave up the inappropriate relations with unsuitable partners and is at peace in a pious celibacy. The rest are in the balance, and I am not unhopeful, though I am far from complacently optimistic. The foundations of their object relations will have to be re-laid or at least importantly reconstructed, and in my experience this is a very slow process with an uncertain outcome.

Just before closing I offer another rendition of a good and loving relationship, this time from Bergmann. He finds the roots of love in our prolonged infantile dependency. The wish to merge, to be at one with the beloved, is a yearning for the very early symbiotic phase of infancy (pp. 260-61). He concludes by saying that mutual idealization is a healthy component of love.

Idealization identification and regression to infancy all partake of the love experience without being allowed to go beyond a certain limit. Seen in this perspective love constitutes an ideal compromise formation of a great variety of wishes and needs. What Is surprising, therefore, is not that it often falls short of the ideal, but that in spite of these numerous checks and balances, many lovers succeed in transforming falling in love into an approximation of ideal love… We cannot forego idealization entirely, but the transformation of falling in love into a permanent tie depends significantly on the ability to establish an inner peace between the idealization we bring with us from infancy and our capacity to accept the limitations of reality (pp. 277-78).
I conclude with my most cherished passage on love, one which I heard so often as a child and keep on the wall next to my bed. In an increasingly secular age I think we encounter it too seldom. It says, with unparalleled eloquence what love is and what life loses without it.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all thing, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Love never faileth; but where there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophecy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This is the text of a talk given in the CONFER series on ‘The Labyrinth of Sexuality’ at the Tavistock Centre, London, 27 November 2001.

(Place of publication is London unless otherwise specified.)


Bergmann, Martin (1987) The Anatomy of Loving: The Story of Man's Quest to Know What Love Is. Columbia.

Chasseguet-Smirgel, Janine (1985) The Ego Ideal: A Psychoanalytic Essay on the Malady of the Ideal. Free Association Books.

Freud, Sigmund (1917) ‘Mourning and Melancholy’

______ (1905) 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality', S. E. 7, pp. 125-245

______ (1912-13) Totem and Taboo, S. E. 13, pp. 1-161.

______ (1915) ‘Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’, S. E. 14, pp. 117-40.

______ (1917) ‘Mourning and Melancholia’, S. E. 14, pp. 243-58.

______ (1930) Civilization and Its Discontents, S. E. 21, pp. 59-145.

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______ (1995) Love Relations: Normality and Pathology. Yale.

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______ (1945) ‘The Oedipus Complex in the Light of Early Anxieties’, W. M. K. Vol. I, pp. 370-419.

______ (1975) The Writings of Melanie Klein, 4 vols. Hogarth. Vol. I: Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works, 1921-1945. Vol. II: The Psycho-Analysis of Children. Vol. III Envy and Gratitude and Other Works; 1946-1963. Vol. IV: Narrative of a Child Analysis. all reprinted Virago, 1988. (W. M. K.)

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______ (1991) ‘Romantic Love: At the Intersection of the Psyche and the Cultural Unconscious’, J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn. 39S: 383-411

______ (1992) Review of Bergmann, The Anatomy of Loving, J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn. 40: 845-49.

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______ (1984a) The Nature of Love, vol. 2. Courtly and Romantic. Chicago; pb 1987

______ (1987) The Nature of Love, vol. 3. The Modern World. Chicago; also pb (contains summaries of vols 1 & 2).

Wellings, Kate et al. (1994) Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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______ (1988) ’The Analytic Frame, Abstinence and Acting Out’, Psychoanalytic Studies Distance Learning Unit, University of Sheffield.

______ (2001) ‘Locating and Relocating Freudian Ideas about Sexuality’, in Celia Harding, ed., Sexuality: Psychoanalytic Perspectives. Routledge, pp. 18-34.

*______ (2001) Oedipus Complex. Duxford, Cambridge: Icon Books.


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*Armstrong Perlman, Eleanore (1991) ‘The Allure of the Bad Object’, Free Assns. (no. 23) 2: 343-56.

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***______ (1987) ‘What Freud Discovered about Love’; ‘Varieties of Love and Loving’, chs 13 and 20 in The Anatomy of Loving: The Story of Man's Quest to Know What Love Is. Columbia pb, pp. 156-80, 257-78. All of Part II is concerned with ’The Psychoanalytic Contribution’.

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*______ (1905) 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality' S. E. 7, pp. 125-245; key passage p. 222. (See also. appendix - 'List of Writings by Freud Dealing Predominantly or Largely with Sexuality', pp. 244-5).

*______ (1910) ‘A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men (Contributions to the Psychology of Love I)’, S. E. 11:163-76.

*______ (1912) ‘On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love (Contributions to the Psychology of Love II)’, Ibid., pp. 177-90.

______ (1918) ‘The Taboo of Virginity (Contributions to the Psychology of Love III)’ Ibid. , pp. 191-208

_____ (1921) ‘Being in Love and Hypnosis’, in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. S. E. 18: 111-16; see also pp. 140-43, 166-67.

______ See also S. E. 21: index entries on Love.

Fromm. E. (1956) The Art of Loving; reprinted Unwin pb, 1957.

______ (1973) The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Reprinted Pimlico pb, 1997.

Gaylin, Willard (1986) Rediscovering Love. N.Y.: Viking.

**Giddens, A. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Polity pb.

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Jekels, L. and Bergler, E. (1934) ‘Transference and Love’, Psychoanal. Quart. 18:325-50.

Kernberg, Otto (1977) ‘Boundaries and Structure in Love Relations’, J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 25: 81-114

*______ (1995) Love Relations: Normality and Pathology. Yale.

**Klein, Melanie (1937) ‘Love, Guilt and Reparation’, reprinted in Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works 1921-1945. Hogarth Press, 1985, pp. 305-43.

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______ (2001) Melanie Klein: Her Work in Context. Continuum, esp. chs. 6 and 7 on early obect love and loss of the loved object.

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*Reik, T. (1944) A Psychoanalyst Looks at Love. N. Y.: Farrar & Rinehart.

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______ (1960) The Nonhuman Environment: In Normal Development and in Schizophrenia. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.

Singer, Irving (1984) The Nature of Love, vol. 1. Plato to Luther. Chicago; pb 1987.

______ (1984) The Nature of Love, vol. 2. Courtly and Romantic. Chicago; pb 1987

**______ (1987) The Nature of Love, vol. 3. The Modern World. Chicago; also pb (contains summaries of vols 1 & 2).

______ (1994) The Pursuit of Love. Johns Hopkins; pb 1995 (sequel to trilogy).

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_____ (1988) About Love: Reinventing Romance for Our Times. N.Y.: Simon and Schuster.

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*Delvin, David (1993) The Good Sex Guide. Ebury pb.

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*______ (1905)'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality' S. E. 7, pp. 125-245. See esp. appendix - 'List of Writings by Freud Dealing Predominantly or Largely with Sexuality', pp. 244-5.

*______ (1930) Civilization and Its Discontents. S. E. 21, pp. 59-145.

**Giddens, Anthony. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Polity; pb, 1993.

**Greenberg, Jay R. and Mitchell, Stephen A. (1983) Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Harvard, esp. Part II on Klein, Fairbairn, Winnicott, Guntrip, pp. 119-232.

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______ and Pontalis, J.-B (1983) 'Sexuality', in The Language of Psychoanalysis. Hogarth, pp. 418-22; see also 'Libido'. 'Object', 'Object Relation(ship)', 'Oedipus Complex', etc..

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*Nagera, H., ed. (1981) Basic Psychoanalytic Concepts on the Libido Theory. Karnac pb.

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______ (1991) ‘Horrah for Love’, J. Amer Psychoanal. Assn. 39S: 413-35.

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______ (1980) 'The British Object Relations Theorists: Balint, Winnicott, Fairbairn', J. Amer. Psychoanal, Assn. 28:829-60, (notice: no Klein)

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*______ (2001) Oedipus Complex. Duxford, Cambridge: Icon Books.

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*______ (1996) ‘Is “Perversion” Obsolete?’, Psychology in Society no. 21: 5-26.

*Burch, Beverly (1993) ‘Heterosexuality, Bisexuality, and Lesbianism: Psychoanalytic Views of Women’s Sexual Object Choice’, Psychoanal. Rev. 80:83-99.

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*Giddens, Anthony (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Polity; pb, 1993. esp. chs 7-9 re: ‘plastic sexuality’

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______ (1964) ‘The Psycho-analytic Theory of Sexual Deviation with Special Reference to Fetishism’, in I. Rosen, ed., The Pathology and Treatment of Sexual Deviation: A Methodological Approach. N. Y.: Oxford, pp. 123-45.

Khan, M. Masud. R. (1979) Alienation in Perversions. Hogarth.

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*Stoller, Robert (1986) Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred (1975). Maresfield pb.

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