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Psychodynamic

Approaches to
Human Behavior

Peter B. Zeldow

a century afterFreud's first publications, to have ari influ-


Every man has some;~miniscences~hich:'he wo~ld not tell to ev- ence not only in psychiatry and clinical psychology but in
eryone, but ooly to his friends. He ha(o.thErswhichhe would not the arts and humanities in intellectual communities
reveal even to his friends, butonly ~p:N~self, andthat in secret . throughout the world. Contemporary psychoanalytic the-
But finally there are others which a maó'isúen afraid to tell hirn- . ory and practice have both changed dramatically since
self, and every decent man hasa corisidérablénumber of such Freud's death in 1939 and can no longer be considered the
things stored away, .•... . ':' ~'}c'~s~~:~itif,;/
.;:;:".~; , work of a single mano They have evolved in many different
.,,' HODOR DOSTOYEVSKY directions, sorne of which represent radical departures
, Notes from the Undeigroun(J . ' ",' .'<~ from orthodox Freudian formulations. A very small sarnple
"';.>:'\.\:.: .. of psychoanalytic theorists and concepts is provided in Box:
Al!the art of analysis consist,s in sayinga truth only when the other 10-1.
person is readyfor it, has been preparedfor it by an organic process Ariother view of psychoanalytic thecry, popular in
of gradation and evolution. sorne academic cireles, considers it worthless beca use it is
based on a biased sample (neurotic, rniddle class, nine-
ANAis NIN teenth-century residents of Vienna) and because its con-
The OiaryoJ Ana/sNin .' cepts cannot be subjected to ernpirieal testing. These crit-
icisms are sirnplistic, and a rebuttal is beyond the scope '
Every life is, more or less, a ruin arnong whose debris we have to of this chapter. Suffice to rnake the following comments .
. discover what the person ought to have been.
First the history of science suggests that those theories
ORTEGA y GASSET richest in explanatory power have often proved most dif-
ficult to study empirically. Newton's Second Law, for ex-
ample, could not be demonstrated in a reliable, quantita-
tive way for 100 years. Psychoanalytic theory is derived
For many people, psychoanalysis c:onveys the image of a primarily from the experience of psychotherapy, and, in
patient Iying on a couch, speaking endlessly (that is, session the eyes ofthose who have experienced it, provides a vo-
after sessiori, and for many years) about dreams and sexual cabulary and conceptual map for a set of experiences that
fantasies to a bearded and elderly psychoanalyst who re- are in tense, highly personal, and otherwise hard to ex-
mains relatively sílent, except for an occasional oracular plain.
comment known as an interpretation. For those who have Furthermore, it is not trile that a1l the theories of Freud
been superficially exposed to Freud in undergraduate psy- and his followers are untestable. Psychoanalytic hypoth-
chology courses, psychoanalysis is both a largely discredit- eses may be difficult to subject to scientific scrutiny, but
ed theory of personality and form of treatment for which the same can be said about any psychological hypotheses
there is little empirical justification. involving complex phenomena and worthy of being te,st-
Yet psychoanalytic theorizing and psychoanalytically in- ed. Psychoanalytic ideas have possibly inspired as much
fluenced psychotherapy rernain viable and continue, over empirical research as any theory in the behavioral scienc-
134 Part 2: Patient Behavior

BOX 10.1 Selected psychodynamic theorists

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939); Creator of psychoanalysis as a theory, research method, and psychological treatment
Vienna; psychoanalysis Psychosexual theory oí development, emphasizing vicissitudes of biological drives through oral,
anal, phal/ic, and, ultimately, genital stages

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961); Early disciple of Freud who disputed sexual nature of psychic energy, or libido
Zurich; analytical psychology Developed psychoiogical types: introverts and extroverts
Interested in spiritual crises of midlife
Formulated theory of archetype, a universal, emotionally charged mythological image in the
col/ective unconscious

Alfred Adler (1870-1937); Vienna; Early disciple of Freud who deemphasized sexual strivings in favor of social interest: "rnan is
individual psychology inclined towards the good"
Emphasized conscious capabilities of humans
Interested in effects of birth arder and earliest memory
Formulated theory of compensation for organ inferiority

Harry Stack Sullivan (1892"':1949); Eminent and influential American psychiatrist


New York and Washington, Defined the psychiatrist as an expert in interpersonal relations
D.c.; interpersonal psychiatry Formulated theories:
Anxiety results from threats to one's security
Seif-system develops as guardian of security but limits personal growth
Good-Me remains conscious; Bad-Me is dissociated

Erik H. Erikson (1902-1994); Emphasized psychosocial implications of Freud's psychosexual stages


. Germany, Vienna, and United Extended developmental theory throughout adulthood (Eight Ages of Man)
States; psychosocial theory of Wrote psychohistorical studies of Luther and Gandhi
development Developed concepts of identity and identity crisis

Donald Winnicott (1896-1971); fransitional objects such as blankets and teddy-bears, which soothe and comfort the child in its
Great Britain; object relations early efforts to separate from mother .
theory Capacity to be alone as a psychological achievement reflecting a cohesive self and successfully
internalized objects

Margaret Mahler (1896~1985); Central dimension of development from complete dependence (symbiósis) to differentiation oí
United States; object relations self (separation-individuation) .
theory

Heinz Kohut (1913-1981); Eniphasized narcissistic line of developmerit from immature grandiosity and exhibitionismto
Chicago; psychoanalytíc self more mature modes of self-enhancement
psychology Developed taxonomy of transferences élassified according to type of experience patient is trying
to recreate (mirroring, idealizing, twinship) .
Formulated theory of seifobject, defined as any object (person, thing, ideal) that lends sense of
cohesion, strength, and harmony to self

es, and they have not always fared badly. Interested read- cians and health-care professionals, rnost readers of. this
ers can consult Fisher and Greenbérg (1996) or Westen's book will inevitably find themselves in clinical situations
(2000) introductory psychology text for balanced discus- that will require them to empathize with patients, to un-
sioris of theernpirical status of conternporary psychcan- derstand patients' motivations and adaptations under
alytic ideas. stress, and to understand their own intensely personal re-
My intention in what follows is to provide a clinically actions to their patients. 1 believe that psychodynamic
useful introduction to what 1 prefer to call the psychody- formulations of human behavior often provide the most
IlClIl1iC perspective on human behavior. As future physi- experientially useful roadmaps for clinica! work.
· Chapte,r 10: Psyehodynamie Approaches to Human Behavior 135

PSYCHODYNAMIC ASSUMPTIONS sonal. To speak of conflict in this way is simply to note that
humans are complex organisms, capable of having incom-
Unconscious Motivation patible goals and engaging in paradoxical actions.
Conflict can take many forms. There can be conflict be-
Any psychodynamic [ormulation ofhuman behavior must in- rween two impulses (leve and hate); conflict berween an
elude the notion that human lives are governed by internal impulse and a prohibition (U[ want to kili" vs. "Thou shalt
forces of which they are Llnaware and that these forces, which ' not kill"); conflict over a vocational choice (medicine vs.
/Ilay be images, thoLlghts, or feelings, are the primar)' determi- creative writing); or conflict over orie's sexual identity
nants of who they are and what they do. Psychodynamic the- ("Am [ gay or am [ straight?"). This is far from an exhaus-
orists emphasize the limi ts of self- report and self-awareness; tive list. Furthermore, conflict can be experienced fully,
they are more impressed with the human capacity for self- partially, dimly, or not at al!. In the psychodynamic per-
delusion as demonstrated in the following vignette. spective, conflict is considered to be the basis of most forms
A patient on a coronary care unit witnessed the fatal car- of functional (i.e., nonorganic) psychopathology.
diac arrest of his rootnmate. Although the nursing staff ex- It is easier to speak of psychological conflict if a hypo-
pected that this would be traurnatic for the patient, he denied thetical psychological structure is created, the parts of
any fright and eagerly accepted the staff's reassurance that he which may operate more or less smoothly (more or less
was not atsirnilar risk. Only one seemingly minor event sug- ·conflictually). Such is the purpose served by Freud's heu-
gested that there was anything more to this situation: When ristic division of the human personality into three corn-
patients were surveyed as to whether they would prefer single ponents. Id is the repository of al! biological urges and
rooms or roommates should another hospitalization be re- instincts, including hunger, thirst, and sexuality. Under
quired, al! patients chose ro have roommates, except for this most conditions, human s are unaware of its contents and
patient and others who had witnessed cardiac arrests. functions. It is governed by thé pleasure principIe. Thi~
In this situation it is easy to see how the patient's denial means that it attempts to avoid pain and obtain pleasure
of fear served to reassure him and maintain his psycholog- and cannot tolerate del ay of gratification. The id is said
ical equilibrium. However, it is also difficult to believe that to opérate accordíng to primary process, a primitive forrn
he was not terribly upset at some level, although the onJy of wishful and magical thinking. For example, if the or-
evidence for this (his preference for a single room) is ad- ganism is hungry, primary process provides a mental im-
mittedly tenuous. Perhaps if the staff were to insist that he age of food, a wish fulfillment. Dreams and the halluci-
share a room, his protestations ";'ould increase and his anx- nations of psychotic patients are other examples of pri-
iety would come closer to the surface." mary process thinking. Although they satisfy the id, such
There arestrong objections to the notion of an uncori-' experiences do not enable the organism to de al with ob-
scious among experimen tal psychologists, even thcugh jective reality.
mernory researchers accept the related riotion ofimplicit Ego develops to perrnit more effective transactions with
rrrernory. Can thoughts and feelings existoutside of aware- the environment.
, In contrast to the id, the ezó
e is e
soverned
nessi If so, how can such repressed mernoriesinfluence be- by the reality principie, which aims to postpone gratifica-
havior? Still; .many responsiblé c1inicians have reported tion until an appropriate object is found. In other words,
working with patientswho have r'emeri1be~ed events from the ego will not accept a mental image of food or any wish- ,
their early Iives that had long been fcirgotten. Such rernern- fulfilling fantasy. It operates according to secoridary pro- '
brances are often quite ernotionally charged. ir can be hard cess thinking, which is basically synonymous with realistic
to avoid the conclusion that mental mechanisrns had be en thinking and problem solving. Ego functions irrclude cog-
at work to keep the mernories out ofawareness. At present, nition (perceiving, remembering, speech.and language, re-
ir is important to draw a distinction between a phenorne- alitytesting, attention, concentraticn, and judgrnent), in-
non (such as the apparent recovery of a memory) arid the terpersonal relations, voluntary movernent, and defense
explanations that are proffered for it.. Few psychologists mechanisms (discussed in this chapter ). However, because
would deny that there is much behavior thar' takes place the ego develops from the id, it is always beholden to it, and
without awareness. Whether the concepts of repressiort and its various functions may be disrupted if the demands of '
unconscious rnotivation provide the best explanatioris of the id are insufficiently addressed. ,
such phenornena is a question for further research. For hurnans to function effectively, they must learn not
only to negotiate a balance between their bodily needs and
the limitations of physical reality but also how to de~l
, with the norms of society. The superego is the interna!
Confliét representation ofthe values, norms, and prohibitions of
an iridividual's parents and society. It has two cornpo-
Psychodyi1Qmic [ormulations of human behavior begin with nents: conscience, which both punishes the person for ;n-
the inevitability of conflict, both intrapsychic a nd interper- gaging in forbidden actions and thoughts and rewards
136 Part 2: Patient Behavior

rnorally acceptable conduct, and ego-ideal, which repre- destructive. The notion that psychoanalytic theorizing re-
sents the moral perfection that humans strive for and nev- duces everything to sex and aggression is caricature. It is
er attain. equally ludicrous to pretend that characteristic ways of sat-
Intrapsychic conf1ict occurs when the demands of these isfying and inhibiting various bcdily needs have nothing to
three mental agencies are at odds. When id impulses threat- . do with the development of personality and psychopathol-
en to become overwhelrning, anxiety is generated. Anxiety, ogy.
in this perspective, is a signal of impending danger. It may
be experienced directly or may serve as a stirnulus to new
efforts by the ego lo keep the id impulses unconscious.
Sorne of these efforts of the ego to respond to signal anxiety PSY(HODYNAMIC THEORIES OF
are discussed in the section on defense mechanisms. DEVELOPMENT

When unconscious motivation is being considered, ques-


tions such as what precisely are the "contents" of the un-
Developmental Perspective: conscious that motivate human beings and are the sources
The Past in the Presento of conf1ict and inner divisiveness should be asked. In a con-
sideration of the role of the past in the present, the aspects
of human development that exert the most formidable in-
A third assurnption common to psychodynamic formula-
f1uence and provide the greatest challenge should be deter-
tions is that the events of the past, particularly the even ts of
m ined. Unfortunately, psychoanalysts disagree consider-
childhood, h ave a profound influence on our beh avior as
ably on these issues.
adults. This inf1uence appears in two distinct ways. First,
Freud's theory of psychosexuat development represen ts a/1
humans are viewed as "repeating machines," playing out
attempt to describe the potli of the instincts through various
(as adults) crucial early experiences in an effort to master
erogeno!ls zones and phases of childhood. Sexuality for Freud
them and obtain the gratification that was unavailable in
refers to a "prirnary, distinctively poignánt pleasure expe-
childhood. Second, modes of thinking characteristic of
childhood remainwith individuals as adults, unconscious rience" derived from the stimulation of an area of the body.
and ready to be activated under appropriate conditions.
Both of these int1uences are evident in the case study at the
end of this chapter.

Respect for the Body

A fourth assumption inherent In most psychodynamicfor-


mulations is that an individual's body plays a crucial role in
personality development. However controversial Freud's
view that "anato rny is destiny" may be as an explanation of
psychological differences between the sexes, two related
points are c1ear. First, the anatomical differences between
men and wornen are objects of no srnall interest to chil-
dren, who notice the differences and wonder and fantasize
about them. The possibility that these differences may have .
different consequerices for boys and girls does not seem
unreasonable. Certainly events such as menstruation, lac-
tation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are unique
to the female life cycle and have profound effects on self-
esteem and the ways in which needs and emotions are ex-
pressed. Anyone who has spent any time in a men's locker
room knows that rnen, too, have sorne curious rituals (such
as teasing each other about the size of their penises), which
seem cornprehensible only when sorne sort of genital anx-
iety is assumed. Second, al! humans have to come to terms
with their sexuality and their capaci ty to be hurtful a nd Sigmund Freud (7856-7939). Courtesy ofthe National Libraryof Medicine
C.h_apt~~10 Psyehodynamie Approaches to Human Behavior 137

retrospect, he thought that his history of underachieve-


The little girllikes to regard herself as what her father loves above ment was related to his relationship with his father, and he
al! else: but the time comes when she has to endure a harsh pun- used the oceasion of his aeademie diffieulties to take a leave
ishment from him and she is cast out of her fool's paradise. The boy of absenee from sehool to work out these problems in psy-
regards his mother as his own property; but he finds one day that chotherapy.
she has transferred her love and solicitude to a new arrival. Erik Erikson has rejormuiated (sorne would say "sani-
SIGMUND FREUD tized") the psychosexual theory in psychosocial terms. For
him the oral stage is the time at whieh a child idea1ly de-
velops a basic sense of trust vs. mistrust, an outlook on life
lnfantile sexuality has nothing but this sensual pleasure in as essentially good, nour ishing, and predictable, based on
common with the variety of experiences that we think of his or her early experienees with the mother. Sirnilarly, the
under the rubric of adult sexuality (or genital sexuality, to demand for bowel control that society imposes in the anal
use Freud's terminology). During the oral stage, sucking, stage can leave a child with either a healthy sense of auton-
biting, and other oral activities are primary sources of plea- orny, rooted in mastery of his or her body, or a lifelong and
sure. During the analstage, at roughly age 2 to 3 years, pervasive sense of shame and doubt. Erikson spoke of the
pleasure is obtained through the expulsion and retention phallic stage in terms of initiative vs. guilt and defined the
of excretion. During the .next 2 or 3 years, in the phallic latency stage in terms of a child's sense of industry (i.e.,
stage, the predominant. erogenous zone is the genitalia. learning the basic skills of soeiety) vs, inferioriry. He de-
During the latency period, from 6 years to adolescence, seribed adolescence as the time in which an individual es-
drive activity presumably subsides. Only at the end ofad- tablishes a firm sen se of identiry or beeomes eonfused
olescence do we find psychosexual development culminat- about his or her role in society. Erikson also made a major
ing in sexuality as adults know it, with a capacity for or- eontribution by extending the notion of growth beyond
gasm and unambivalent, mutually gratifying relations with adolescence. In contrast to Freud, he described adulthood
others. This so-called genital stage is not attained by a1l not only as a stage for the playing out of infantile eonflicts
persons but represents the highest possible leve! of human but as a series of new opportunities and dangers. The fol-
. development for Freud. lowing are Erikson's developmental tasks of adulthcod:
What is not apparent in so sketchy and abstract an ac-
count are the implications of this theory for personality 1. To develop a trusting and enduring relationship (intima-
developrnent. Suffice to say that particular personality cy vs, isolation)
traits are associated with excessive gratificatiOn or depr iva- 2. To develop in midlife a concern with guiding the next
rion ateach stage. Problerns at the oral srage, such as insuf- gerieration (gerierativiry vs. stagnation )
ficient opportunity for oral gratification, can leave a legacy 3. Te develcp in old agean acceptance of an individual's
of pessirnisrn, dependency, and excessive need for approval, own .life as a neeessary andvalued experience, lived with
as we1l as an inclination to eat, drink, and smoke excessive- dignity (ego integrity vs, despair)
1)'. Problerns at the anal stage, such as toilet training that is
too early or too severe, can result in cornpulsive neatness, With such formulations, a clinicianhas a frarneworkfor
stubbor nness and defiance, arnbivalence ~nd indecisive- evaluating the developmental progress ¿f a patient at any .
ness, and stiriginess. Dúring the phallic phase, boys and ... srage of life. . . "., .
girls must come to terms with their possessive leve of the Ereud believed ali behavior was ultirnately in tire seivice
parent .of the opposite sex and their rnurderous fantasies of, or an expression of, basic sexual and aggressive instincts.
toward the same-sex parent. One purported outcorrie of In contrast, a nurnber of psychodynarnicjtheor ists have ar-
difficulty in containing such feelings can be a lifelong pur- gued that the most significant !ines of human growth and
suit of failure. In such a view, success is unconsciously development eoncern self and object relatio ns (objects are
equated with the gratification of the Oedipal fantasy and significant others or their intrapsychic representations). To
rnust be studiously avo ided. these theorists, who have serious divergences of opinión
Several years ago a medical student carne to see rne after amo ng themselves, the understanding and treatment of
having failed an examination in one of his basic science psyehopathology take very different forms from the tradi-
courses. He had had no earlier acadernic difficulties during tional Freudian model. MahJer and Winnicott, two propo-
medical school and expressed the belief that he had uncon- nents of object relations theory, stress movement from the
sciously sabotaged his own performance. He explained that absolute dependence of the newborn to the independence
he was ambivalent about becoming a physician and that . and autonomy of the adult as the primary and lifelong de-
there .were rnany unresolved tensions in his relatioriship velopmental task. Deve!opment proceeds from a symbiotic
with his father, an eminent physician-educator. He also re- fusión with the mother through various stages of partial
poned that earlier in his life, he had failed to perforrn as differentiation of self and others toward a state of increásed
we1l as expected in numerous important sports events. In individuality and independerice. The internalized images
, './

.,
138 Part 2: Patient Behavior'

of others (or objects) in the infant (and the psychotic adult) CLlNICAL CONCEPTS ANO APPLlCATIONS
are prirnitive, engulfing, devouring, and otherwise menac-
ing. Only in maturiry, when separation from the mother
has been successfully achieved, is seen a capacity for empa- Defense Mechanisms
thy and for seeing others as they actually are and not as
projections of an individual's primitive fantasies. The concept of the defense mechanism was borrowed from
Even in maturity, there rernains, more or les s conscious- immunology to describe the ways and means by which the
ly, the eternallonging to lose separateness and be blissfully ego wards off anxiety and controls unacceptable instinctual
reunited with the "all-good, symbiotic mother." Ideally this urges and unpleasant affects or emotions. The first system-
is manifested in the capacity for loving and true intimacy. atic treatment of defense mechanisms was written in 1936
However, in persons who have failed to establish a firm by Freud's daughter Anna Freud, an eminent child analyst.
sense of self and in those who, when under duress, find More r ecently, George Vaillant has introduced a classifica-
themselves losing this sense of separateness, love may be- tion of defenses based on the degree to which these mech-
come an attempt to recapture sorne of the primitive grati- anisrns distort the perception of reality.
fication characteristic of the earliest feelings of fusion with The defense mecnanism of denia/ is C0/11111011/yseen in gen-
the maternal object. In such instances a desperate style of era/medica/ practice. It is a primitive defense wherein the
love relations may ensue wherein the lover is idealized, sep- facts or logical implications of external reality are refused
arations are intolerable, and rejection may be life threaten- recognition (denied) in favor of internally generated, wish-
ing. The lover is not perceived in an accurate way as a sep- fulfilling fantasies. Denial involves a major distortion of re-
arate person with strengths and imperfections but as the ality and is ccrnmon in healthy children until around age
sole so urce of nurturance and need satisfaction. There is 5 years.
really no room for personal growth in such a relatioriship, An example of denial is seen in the 50-year-old physician
and bitter disappointment is an inevitable consequence. who ignores the classic signs and symptoms of an acute
Kohut has been more concerned with the narcissistic myocardial infarction and continues to clear his driveway
line of development and the concomitant changes in the of sn o w, Another is found in the woman who examines her
self as the individual moves from the grandiose and exhi- breasts daily for lumps until she discovers one, ceases her
bitionistic fantasies of immature narcissism to the more self-exarninations, and fails to report her findings to her
realistic modes of action associated with healthy narcis- physician. Denial in these examples is life threatening and
sismo He stresses that certain experiences (which he calls clearly maladaptive. However, it can be adaptive at times:
self-objects) are as vital to the developing self as are food For example, a cardiac patient may refuse to accept that he
and water to physical well-being. These experiences include or she has had a heart attack.and appear incredibly cheerful
the need to be confirmed and prized for who we are (the and serene after admission to an intensive care unir.
need for mirroring), and the need to look up to, admire, Projection is another defense associated with consider-
and feel a part of a source of calm infallibility and strength able reality distortion.ln projection, an individual's own re-
(the need for idealizing). In a child, these needs are ex- pressed (or unacceptable) impulse} and desires are 'disowned
pressed in unsocialized ways. As long as the child's caretak- ami attributed toanother persono Most typical are projection
ers provide a milieu in which such expressions are wel- of sexual and aggressive impulses, such as when, al! evidence
comed, the child wil! develop a healthy, self-assertive am- to the contrary, a patient is convinced that his or her physi-
bition and a viable set of values and ideals by which to live. cian is making sexual advances or that the physician is plot-
If the child's needs are misconstrued, ignored, orodispar- ting with the nursing staff to have the patient killed. Projee-
aged, the child (and later the adult) will lack the interna! tion is the dominant defense mechanism employed by people
sense of self that is so essential for psychological well-being. witli paranoid persona/ity disorders. It also plays a part in
Lacking these emotional nutrients, such a persori resorts to many prejudicial attitudes. When bigots assert that rnern-
a variety of strained, desperate, and developrnentally prirn- bers of sorne rninoriry group are all lazy, cheap, dirry, un-
itive measures to bolster.a defective self. For exarnple, if a tr usrworthy, immoral, etc, they are very likely projecting
parent continually responds to a child's age-appropriate ex- attributes that they need to disavow in themselves.
pressions of aggression and sexuality with anger and con- Regression is a partial return to an earlier stage of devel-
tempt, it is difficult to imagine the child becoming an adult opmen t and to more eh ildish and childlike [orms of behavior.
capable of expressing affection and assertiveness in a con- " Its purpose is to escape anxiety by returning to an earlier
flict-free way. Sim ilar ly, a drug addiction, which Freud leve! of adjustment in which gratification was ensured. Likc
might consider a direct attempt to satisfy oral cravings, de nial, regressiori is an extremely common response to se·
would be se en by Kohut as an attempt to compensa te for a vere and chronic illness and to hospitalization. Whenever
defective self the consequence of parental failure to pro- confronted in clinical practice with a patient whose symp-
vide the mirroring and calming functions so necessary for toms and incapacities are disproportionate to the physical
the child to learn to regulate his or her own feelings. disorder that underlies them, the c1inician is probably deal-
,~hilp(,eriO: Psychodynamic Approaches to Human Behavior 139

ing with a regressed patient. These are the patients who


rnake insatiable demands on physicians and nurses, corn- BOX 10.2 Oimensions of regression and sample items from the
plain insistently, demand medication (and meetings with BUMP Scale'
their lawyers), request special privileges, and accuse al!
1. Regression proper
those around them of indifference to their plight.
Clinging, needs reassurance
Regression is not necessarily a sign of psychiatric distur-
Angry
bance and short-lived reactions of the kind described here
Uncooperative
occur frequently But when extended in time, such signs of Complains
emotional distress make it difficult for health providers to Oemanding
maintain their professional attitudes of equanimity and Irritable
detached concern. 11. Deteriorating relations with staff (scored in opposite direction)
Regression can be precipitated by fatigue, drugs, chronic Friendly
pain, stress, or any ctrcumstance that deprives a patient of his Starts conversations
or her autonomy. It is not uncommon to witness mildly re- Able to ask for help
gressive behavior in a group of students who have stayed Accepts advice
up late to study the night before an examination. Psycho- 111. Depressionj a nxiety
analytic theories of creativity consider regression in the Críes
service of the ego to be o ne of the hal!marks of creativity. Looks worried
But when regression is prolonged and severe, it is associat- Looks sad
ed with psychotic levels of functioning in which the ability Says he or she is a burden to staff
to separate reality frorn fantasy is blurred. IV. Passivity jwithdrawal
Refuses to speak
Viederman (1974) uses the concept of regression to ex-
Has to be reminded what to do
plain the behavior of patients on a renal transplant unit. He
Sleeps unless otherwise directed
likens hemodialysis treatment to the rnother-child relation-
Passive
ship in two ways. First, the patient lives in a type of symbiotic
fusion with the machine, and is attached to it by a plastic • Each item is rated by an observer on a five-point scale from
tube ... not too dissimilar to an umbilical connection. Pa- "never" to "always." From Zeldow, P.B., & Braun, L.(1985). Measur'
tients readily en ter into a love-hate relationship with this ing regression in hospitalized medical patients: The BUMP Scale.
machine, which beco mes both the preserver of their life and Generol Hospital Psychiatry, 7,49-53. Used by permission.
the tyrant that syrnbolizes the limitations of their freedom.
Second, because dietary and fluid limitations are severe,
oral deprivation is a constant elernent in treatment. Vieder- sive gratificatio n at the stage where development has
rnan uses case .material to demonstrate that successful ad- ceased. When we say that a 40-year-old person has the
aptation ro dialysis depends on the patient's ability to effect mind of a 15-year-old perso n, we are implicitly saying that
a partial tegression to the stage of oral dependericy, which in sorne important ways (perhaps in capacity for intimate
in turn depends on a reasonably successful rnother-child interpersorial relationsj.this perso n do es not act as expect-
relationship during the patient's earliest years. The patient ed for someone of his or her chronological age. Various
who, as a helpless child, was able to develop a hopeful and psychoanalytic theories emphasize differerit lines of hu-.
trusting relationship with his or hermother is more corn- man developrnent (psychosexual, psychosocial, narcissis-
fortable with the enforced dependency on the dialysis rna- tic), and an individual's progress can bestunted along any
chine than the patient whose earliest years were character- of these lines. For exarnple, every human has a need for
ized by less than adequate maternal careo recognition, attention, and affirmation of worth. However,
As one. exarnple of how psychoanalytic concepts can be there are different ways of obtaining such so-called narcis-
studied and measured empirical1y, Lynne Braun and 1 (Zel- sistic gratifications at different points in time. A 4-year-old
dow & Braun, 1985) developed the BUMP Scale, a rating child who engages in blatantly ex.hibitionistic activity rnay
scale measure of regressive behavior (we called it Behavior- be seeking such affirmation in an age-appropriate way. It
al Upset) in medical patients. We found four distinct corn- may be the only way he or she knows. Adults should not
ponents to regressive behavior in hospitalized patients and feel that they have to outgrow such needs, but are expected
discovered that a large minority (around 40%) manifest to seek gratification in more mature ways. Recently a ce-
regressive symptoms of clinical proportion. The four fac- lebrity was quoted as saying that he loved his girlfriend be-
tors of the BUMP Scale, along with representative iterns, . cause "she never makes demands on him." From a psycho-
appear in Box 10.2. dynamic perspective, this is a rather selfish form of love.
Fixation refen to a persistent inability to give "P infantile Mature people are not afraid of making demands on oth-
or childish patterns of behavior for more mature ones and ers, nor are they afraid of having demands made on th!em.
may occur beca use of either excessive deprivation or exces- Although it would not serve any purpose to sayas rnuch to
;ll '.,"

"
140 Part 2: Patient Behavior

the celebrity in questiori, his comment reflects a fixation at Concentration camp victims and terrorist hostages
an immature level of psychosocial development. sometimes identify with their captors, taking on their char-
It is somewhat inaccurate to speak of all the behaviors acteristics and converting to their political points of view.
described herein as defense mechanisrns. It is more accurate Sorne medical educators have even described the occasion-
to describe thern as having, among other things, dejénsive . al harsh treatment of medical students by residents as the
aspects. The "defense" of identification provides a good ex- result of a similar process. In these Cases a resident who has
ample. Identification is the psychological mechanism by been mistreated by an attending physician may be similarly
which sorne traits or attributes of another individual are abusive to a medical studen t c1erk. Such an identifica tío n
taken on as an individual's own (more or less permanently). with the attending physician may temporarily reduce the
This process is a major factor in the developrnerit of the hurt ofhis or her own mistreatment, but at the expense of
superego, the moral dimensión of personality. According to the victirn.
Freud, during the Oedipal phase, children relinquish their Repression refers to motivated forgettil1g, the process by
troubling attraction to the opposite-sex parent for fear of its whicl: memories, feelings, and drives associated witli pairzflll
consequences. By identifying with the parent of the same and unacceptable impulses are excluded [rom consciousness.
sex, the child is able to resolve this conflict. "Instead of re- Repression is the basic defense mechanism, according to
placing Daddy (or Mornmy), 1 wil! beco me like him (her)." Freud. Only if repression fails or is incomplete do the other
Su eh a resolution has its defensive side, to be sure, but it is also mechanisms come into play. Denial and repression are
adaptive and plays a major role in personality development. sometimes confused. Denial, however, is a reaction to ex-
Identification is seen in its predorninantly defensive as- ternal danger; repression always represents a struggle with
pects in pathological grief reactions-reactions to loss of a internal (instinctual) stimuli. Repression must also be dis-
loved one in which the normal work of mourning, grieving, tinguished from suppression. Suppression reflects a volun-
and truly accepting the loss is blocked. For many people the tary or intentional effort at forgetting. It is as if the person
death of a parent is a profoul1dly ambivalent experience. At the knows the forgotten material is there but ignores it.
same time an individual experiences acute pain and sadness, Suppression is considered to be one of the more mature
he or she may be more dirnly aware of less admirable and defenses and has been shown empirically to correlate with
more disturbing feelings: anger from being abandoned, re- various measures of adult mental health. 1 have always ad-
lief if a long siege óf suffering has ended or unconsciously mired ml' wife's ability to use suppression appropriately.
wishing for the parent's death, and possibly guilt over such Once we were driving home from work en a Friday after-
hostile wishes. Under such circumstances, normal grieving noo n, and she was reviewing sorne stress fui events that she
may be inhibited and identification can contribute to this fully anticipated would continue to preoccupy her during
process. For example, if the parent suffered a heart attack, the next workweek. Because the weekend was on us, how-
the child may have chest pain. If the parent walked with a ever, she declared that she would put it al) out ofher mind
limp or spoke with a stutter, the child (even the adult child) for n ow, It has always seemed to me that the emphasis on
may unintentionally adopt the same characteristic. Inso do- the volitional nature of suppression is not entirely accurate.
ing, the child keeps the parent alive in a magical kind of way My wife did successfully suppress the unpleasantthoughts
through identification. The new symptom also helps to dis- about her wor k. But how many of us, having made the
tract the mourner from the pain of the loss. same declaration of intent, would be able to carry it out?
A common variant is identification with the aggressor Reaction formatian is the defense mechanis~1 by which
in which an individual masters the anxiety generated by repressed motives are translated into their opposites. For in-.
being victimized through involuntary imitation. Anna stance, have you ever found yourself disliking sorneone
Freud (1966) describes the case of a 6-year-old boy whorn who is overly kind and good? Much to your embarrassment
she interviewed shortly after he underwent a painful dental you quesrion the purity of their motives. Perhaps thereis
procedure: something to your intuitions. Unless this person qualifies
for sainthood, a psychodynamic formulation of such be-
He was cross and unfriendly and vented his feelings 011
havior might involve a reaction formation againsthostility:
the things in my room. His first victim was a piece of
Repressive defenses were insufficient to keep hostile irn-
India rubber '" Next he coveted a large ball of string ...
pulses from consciousness, so the defense of reaction for-
When 1 refused to give him the whole ball, he took the
mation is enlisted to aid in this effort by camouflaging the
knife again and secured a large piece ... Finally, he ...
original aggressive intent of the behavior. In a reaction for-
turned his attention to sorne pencils, and we n t on inde-
mation against dependency, a person who is unconsciously
fatigably sharpening them, breaking off the points, and
ver)' needy often lives a life of exaggerated independence,
sharpening them again.
refusing all help from others. In a reaction for marion
As Anna Freud points out, this was not a literal imperson- against sexual impulses, all sexual desires are repudiated.
ation of a dentist; rather, it was an identificatiori with the The individual takes up the cause of celibacy and lives alife
dentist's aggression. of asceticism.
Chapt,:r';O: Psyehodynamic Approaches lo Human Behavior 141
." .~._--'-----"----'-'-----------------------:"":"':_
In all of the preeeding examples it is fair to ask how an the service of learning. This is a perfectly acceptable use of
individual knows that these formulations are true or valido in tellectua 1 iza tio n.
The psychodynomu: clinician would poin t to the dieams and The following example illustrates a less adaptive use of
slips 01 the tengue (parapraxes) of the pattent for evidence of intellectualization. An oncology resident had just informed
the underlying impulse. The patient's words (or assoeia- a young man of approximately the same age as himself that
tions) are another rieh source of evidence. Excessive reli- he (the patient) had liver cancer. In response to questions
ance on first-person pronouns and frequent allusions to from the patient concerning his prognosis and the alterna-
power and status may reflect a narcissistic orientation. tive courses of treatment, the resident launehed into a
Themes of supply and demand and frequent use of food lengthy and technical discussion of "age-corrected mortal-
imagery may reflect an oral orientation. I was recently ity rates" and "double-blind clinical trials of chernothera-
struck by a male patienr's discussion of dating and its at- py." It is not difficult to appreciate the physician's anxiery.
tendant risks. He constantly spoke of his fear of "sticking Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, and undoubt-
his neck out" and referred to singles bars as "butcher ediy the sirnilarity in age enhanced a troubling sense of
shops." Such imagery suggests castration anxiety to the identification with the patient that only compounded the
psychodynamic clinician. Observations of how the individ- problern. Unfortunately, the net result of such an abstract
ual in question handles unexpected life changes are another and intellectualized response was to increase the patient's
source of evidence. If an independerit man were to sustain anxiety level and to confuse hirn more about his prognosis
a rninor injury and react with disproportionate emotion and treatment. Were he to meet again with this resident, he
and distress, taking to his bed for the next 6 rnoriths, this might hesitate to Express his deepest concerns or to ask the
would enhance our suspicion that dependent impulses lay necessary questioris. Pattents are often sensitive to the emo-
beneath his pseudoindependence. With sorne regularity, tional sta tes of their physicians and will go to great lengths to
the media treat the American public to scandalous revela- avoid burdening physicians (e.g., with difficult questions},
tions about the unconventional sexual preferences of so me even at the risk of jeopardizing their own cate.
well-known sports figure, televangelist, politician, or en ter- Displacement invo/ves redirecting an emotion from its
tainer. The psychodynamic clinieian who is not surprised original object to a more acceptable substitute. The emotion
by such revelations is not a cynic and does not simply be- most cornmonly involved is anger. The classic example of
lieve that base impulses alone underlie our noblest ideals. displacement is the story of the milquetoast who comes
But such a clinician does know that human behavior has home from the office where his boss has berated him rner-
multiple deterrninants and that our bodies (including our
cilessly and displaces his pent-up aggression by yelling at
sexual and aggressive impulses) cannot be ignored. Rare his wife and kicking his dogo
indeed is the individual who negotiates- his or her child- Turning against the self is asspecial form of displacernent
hood so smoothly that "no troops are left behind" to handle in which impulses and fantasies directed at sorneorie else are
sorne problern on one or another path of development. self-directed. It is a common feature in sorne depressed pa-
Isolatiori and intellectualization are two related defens-tients who have be en provoked or wroriged by another per-
es whose cornmon purpose is to se al off feelings, or affects, son but who do not display any overt anger. Instead, they .
. . . to use a technicalpsychiatricterm.jn isolation ofaffect, o/lly
grow increasingly depressed. Patients with postoperative
the emotionaicomponeni 01 an íde~ is repressed, whereas the cornplications and those who undergo painful procedures /
cognitive component (or the idea itself) rernatns consciolls. frequently beco me depressed through the use of this mech-
People are often betteroff not experiencing the full extent anisrn. These patients are angry and resentful toward their
of their emotional involvernérit in a situation. The capacity .. caretakers but do not express sueh feelings-publicly for fear
for logical thinking itselfdeperids on isolation ofaffect. For of jeopardizing these important relatioriships. Instead, they
physicians and other health professionals, isolation pro- turn their rage en thernselves. An individual can alleviate
vides the distance and objectiviry toward the suffering of depressive symptoms that are generated in this way by giving
patients that is neededto allow treatme~tto proceed. But the patient permission to turn the anger ourward with as-
if isolation is used too rigidly and pervasively, an individual surance that such feelings wil! not alienate the hospital staff
is in danger ofbecorning unduly dispassionate and distant. Undoing refers to a defense mechanism designed to negate
The distinctive [eature 01 inteliectualization is its "shift of or annul (undo) sorne unacceptable thought, wish, or actual
emphasis from ;mrnedii:úe inner and interpersonal conflict to transgression of the past. The neglectful parent who showers
abstract ideas and esoteric tapies" (Schafer, 1954). When presents on his or her children and the underworld gcdfa-
rnedical students en ter the anatomy laboratory for the first ther who makes generous charitable donations may borh
time and begin to dissect cadavers, they must find ways to be said to be engaged in undoing, that is.vatoning for or
cope with the feelings of revulsion and disgust that are attempting to counteract past rnisconduct. Undoing can
eommon reactions in the presence of the dead. By focusing becorne the predominant defense mechanism and virtually
intently and narrowly on the assigned anatomy lesson for paralyze its victirn, as illustrated in Carson's (1979) exarn-
the day, they are able to deflect many of these feelings in pie: .
,1 !(

142 Part 2: Patient Behavior

Before going to school each day, a 13-year-old male whether conscious or not, would serve to intensify and col-
went through an elaborate series of rituals that served no or an otherwise legitima te resentment. Every interpersonal
practical purpose. He checked his closet and checked un- encounter has both realistic and transference components.
dcr his bed exactly three times before leaving his room. Transference is a double-edged sword, It can provide the
On his way out of the house, he always straightened a pie- physician (or any other health-care provider) with leverage
ture on the living room wal! until it looked just right. On in influencíng a patient to cornply with an unpleasant or
his way to and from school, it was important to hirn to inconvenient treatment regimen. It can also lead a patient
walk in definite pathways in relation to several telephone to trust a physician long before he or she has an objective
poi es he passed. If he deviated from this routine, he be- basis for such confidence.
came quite anxicus, He was sexually inhibited, and expe- A positive transference can help carry a patient through
riencing guilt about masturbatory fantasies. His ritualistic the anxieties that accompany most illnesses. I was once
bchavior served the purpose of decreasing guilt and anx- asked ro see an elderly woman who was terrified of radi-
iety by magically undoing his unacceptable sexual fanta- atíon treatment. She was upsetting her family arid dis-
sics and urges. rupting the nursing staff with her histrionic refusals. After
Sublimation may be understood as a reiatively mature a bríef interview during which I simply allowed her to ex-
defense in wñic}: various instincts are displaced or converted press her anx.ieties, she announced that I reminded her of
in/o social/y acceptabie outlets. Normal sexual curiosity, for her favorite grandson and promptly consented to the
cxarnple, can become voyeurism under adverse circurn- treatment.
st ances. Under more favorable circumstances, the sarne Transference, whether positive or negative, can create
impulse may be sublimated into an interest in photogra- great difficultíes when it is not recognized and successfully
phy. Similarly, a sadistic impulse to inf1ict pain can be sub- managed. The sarne transference that permits patients to im-
lima red in to the socially acceptable and necessary pracrice bue tlie pIJ)'sician with magical therapeutic powers also leads
of surgery. The surgeon can cut and hurt the patient in them to make impossible demands, to rage when the physi-
i hc service of a higher goal. Note that in both of these cian disappoints thern, to resent his or her authority, and
examples of sublimation, the infantile and sexual origins to fear and rebel against the physician.
()f these behaviors are nearly completely disguised.
Humor, altruism, sLippression, and anticipation corn-
plcte most lists of mature defenses.

Tra nsference

7~ansJerence may be defined as "the attitudes, feelings, and


frtl1lasies which patient's experience witli regard to their doc-
!OTS, many of them arising, seemingly irratio nally, from
their own unconscious needs and psychological conf1icts
ruthcr than from the actual circumstances of the relatiori-
sh ip" (Nemiah, 1973). The analysis of tra nsjere n ce is the fo-
ca! floint oJ psychoanatytic treatment, but our interest in it
(Oll~crns its expression in a broader variety of health-care
sctt 1 n gs. .
Thc physician-patient relationship is not entirely (or
l'Vl'1l primarily) rational. Patients attach all sorts of wishes,
~XI~cctations, and sentiments to their physicians, the ma-
J(I[Jty of which remain unknown to the physician. Por ex-
;lll11.. 1c' whe na panent " for havi
aving h a d to sir.. m t 1le
1
IS angry ror
-.. h
waJ!lllg
. . . roo m ror
e
L. ours, t hiIS IS not an mappropriate
. . re-
,1L(lon and d . f e
II'C nee not fall under the rubric O transrerence.
lit I this same patient were raised in a household with
11L1111crou 'bl" ,.
.. .1 h S SI ings cornpeting for the parents attention
,Illu ad t d
if o en ure more than his or her share of delayed
gratl Icatio ". . . ..
n, Slttmg m the waitmg room misht sur up all Melencolia I (Melancholy) A/brecht Dürer(7574}. Courtesy ofthe National
.\Or!s of . f o
, pain ul memories and associated feelings that, library of Medicine.
",
, ., Cl1áp'\'e; 10: Psychodynamic Approaches to Human Behavior
.,-:,--:,-~_!__--'-.!____:_:_:_:__::_~.:__::__=-----------------~
..<,-.
143
.,
Transference is basically a regressive phenomenon based dreaming, conscious and unconscious, will and cornpul-
on psychological factors and not on reality. For that reason, sien, love and na te.
it is important not to take personal/y one patient's con fes-
sion of undying love-just as it is important not to be of-
fended by another patient's equally unjustified expressioris
of hatred and contempt. Such expressions must be ac- CASE STUDY
knowledged and understood, and the physician must help
the patient separare reality and fantasy. To act on initial A third-year medical student began his clerkship year with
impulses in either of the preceding situations would dis- a rotation in internal medicine. It soon became apparent
rupt the relationship with the patient and render rhe phy- to his supervisors that he overly identified with his patients,
sician ineffective. spending inordinate amounts of time engaging thern in
When such understandable but unprofessional feelings in- conver satiori, giving them false reassurances, and corn-
terfen~ with a physician's work; it is known as countertrans- plaining to all who wo uld listen that the nursing staff had
[erence. Despite its exclusive reliance on male pronouns, I been negligent in its duties. He was tactfully and justifiably
can find no better statement concerning the role of feelings confronted with his behavior by the chief resident, but his
in a clinician's professional life than the following by Ne- immediate reaction was a combination of resentment and
rniah: denial. The next day he was temporarily overcome by feel-
"

It would be unwise if not impossible for a doctor to avoid ings of depression and worthlessness, and he considered
having any feelings for his patients. One cannot help at dropping out of medical school.
times being annoyed at a particularly hostile patient,
pleased at praise that may not be entirely warranted, anx- How can a psychodynamic perspective help you understand
ious and uneasy with so me, warm and comfortable with the student's behavior!
others, charrned by the seductive behavior of an attrac- A psychiatric consultation revealed that this young man
tive wornan, overcome by a feeling of helplessness in the was the only son of a chronically depressed mother of
face of hopeless situations. Ir is, however, of particular four who r arely had sufficient energy or mental health to
importance that the doctor have enough self-awareness attend to h e r childreri's' needs. Over the course of his
to recognize how he is feeling. He must be able to judge childhood, he and she established an urispoken arrange-
whether his attitudes are really appropriate to the situa- ment, the essence of which required that he subordinate
tion in which they arise, or whether they are a result of his his own needs to hers in return for her approval. In other
countertransference. It is even more irnportant that he be words, as long as he was a gocd little bey, uncomplaining
able to refrain from acting according to the dictares ofhis and attentive, willing to listen ro her lengthy complaints
impulses and feelings, if such actions would conflict with and to provide unrealistically oprimistic feedback, he
the rationally deterrnined goals of treatment. It is part of could avoid alienating her. His sisters coped with their
the physician's job to recognize the irrational in both rnother's psychopathology in an entirely differerit way, by
himself and his patients; he must be able to provide the distancing themselves both physically arid emotionally as
best they could. '
objectiviry they lack, without losing his human warmth,
understanding, and empathy. ' Repeated interviews with this student helped to de-
lineate further the picture of an individual whcse choic~
of vocation an'd whose character istic \'J~ys ~f .relating ro
patients could both be understood, in.part, as efforts to
win maternal approval by assuming thé roles of healer,
SUMMARY listener, and cheerleader. As. an adult.ihe was still trying
to master an impossibly complicated relatio nship with his
This chapter can only hint at the complexity and range of mother. His perception of the nurses, too, was colored by
psychoanalytic ideas. My hope is that readers wil! find his perception of his sisters as derelict in their respo nsi-
some of the ideas herein to b~ both thought-provoking bilities to their mother. To the degree that his concern for
and useful in understanding sorne of the less rational as- his patients was free of conflict, he was capable of being
pects of human behavior that one observes in patients an unusually ernpathic physician. But to the degree that
and physicians as they cope with illness. The psychody- his self-esteern was at the mercy of his patients' well-be-
namic perspective may not provide the most scientifically ing, he was at risk of impairment himself (Cabbard,
rigorous approach to human behavior, but it offers a 1985).
comprehensive conception ofhuman concerns with room Childlike modes of thinking are most apparent in the
for all psycholcgical phenomena. No other perspective is student's denial and in his subsequent depressive reaction. '
so successful at weaving together such disparate dornains He was unable to absorb criticism and keep it in perspec-
of exper ience: past and present, waking thought and tive. Instead he éxaggerated and overgeneralized, conclud-

~~~~~~~~~~~~~. ~~-
-~--~-'~- ~-~---~--~- - ------- -----~._._- - .
144 Part 2: Patient Behavior

ing on a flirnsy evidential basis that be was no longer 1I'0r-


thy of becoming a physician. This is an example of what is
sometimes called pars pro tato thinking in which tbe part
(in this case, orie episode of problematic behavior) is mis-
taken for the whole (his worth as a person). Fortunately, a
brief course of psychotherapy was sufficient to improve the
student's morale and restore a mature perspective on the
situation. He completed the clerkship (and the rest of med-
ical school) uneventfully.