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Towards a New Psychoanalytic Theory of Abandonment: A Feminist Intervention Via Myth

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:09 authored by Flor De Maria Gamboa Solis
Summary of early research which led to the current study of the myths Clinical background to the current research on myths My work as an academic and my private clinical practice offered me the opportunity to attend female students and patients who in some way had experienced abandonment due to migration. While listening to them I was often forced to question the clinical strategies I was employing and to interrogate the psychoanalytic approaches that established abandonment as a paradigm of mental catastrophe. Why? Because in the different testimonies of these women there seemed to be no trace of severely damaged or perturbed psychic processes. This female experience while traversed and shaped by a male sexual desertion that, although negative in itself, was neither impairing nor psychopathologic – as the classic psychoanalytic theory of loss, abandonment and mourning had established. Quite surprisingly to me this specific form of abandonment, which is essentially centred on the ambiguous status of being and not being in a relationship, stimulated in these women very interesting unconscious process which led them to start breaking into traditional patriarchal social moulds and gender patterns. These women seemed to have become emancipated and thereby in command of many decisions which offered them a greater sense of independence and self-awareness while leading them to redefine aspects of their subjectivity which were before solidly linked to the prescriptions of their male partners. In very simple terms, these women did not consider themselves as victims. In order to tackle the unconscious vicissitudes underlying this form of female subjectivity, and since I did not usually keep written or taped records of my patients, I considered the implementation of clinical group work outside the context of my consulting room and office at the University. The Clinical Work Group 2003-2004 With the support of the Instituto Michoacano de la Mujer (The Michoacan Women's Institute) in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico and the Universidad Michocana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo (UMNSH) the clinical work group was set up and it took place throughout eight sessions from November 21, 2003 to February 6, 2004 with the participation of five women and a colleague of mine in the role of observer. Theoretical Background My study case was organised as an operative group following the approach of the Argentinean socio-psychoanalyst Enrique Pichon-Riviere who made important contributions to the study of group dynamics and their role in society. As he himself describes it, “the technique of these groups is centred on the task, where theory and practice are resolved in a permanent and concrete praxis of the ‘here and now’ of each indicated field.” The two main hypotheses guiding the operative group technique were: 1) The pre-existence within each subject of ECROS (Conceptual Referential Operative Schema) which are stereotyped structures of thought that achieve a certain unity through group work and later stimulate the group’s operative referential scheme. 2) There is an essential similarity between the processes of teaching and learning, on the one hand, and of therapy, on the other. This kind of group was therefore centred on the participants’ pursuit of a rational learning task and not an explicitly therapeutic one. This means that participants were not labelled as patients requiring a therapeutic process but as individuals (women) who were invited to join a group learning experience. On the other hand, the group experience itself was conceived and conducted in relation to British psychoanalyst W.R. Bion’s basic assumptions concerning group theory, which means the application of a theoretical understanding of the psychoanalytic principles of group psychotherapy. In general terms, what Bion postulates is that there is a group mentality, -the unanimous expression of the will of the group that presents difficulties for the individual in the pursuit of their aims -, which can be understood in the light of three basic assumptions, or three recurrent patterns of behaviour: pair, fight-flight and dependence. Approach to the group The task undertaken in this case consisted of the reading of short stories which I selected on the basis of their themes which needed to be relevant to aspects of the research topic, and thus included stories about the separation of lovers, abandonment, marriage problems and ordeals, female sexuality and the role of women in Michoacán’s migrant communities. The titles of the stories were as follows: 1) “La Tejedora” (“The Spinner”) 2) “El Hombre de Hierro” (“The Iron Man”) 3) “Gracias a la Vida” (“Thanks to Life”) 4) “Underwood” 5) “El Esposo” (“The Husband”) 6) “Una Yunta” (“A Yoke”) 7) “Los Ciclos de la Vida” (“Life Cycles”) Outcomes The group work revealed that abandoned women by migrant men were not psychologically damaged. Further details An extensive account of the methodology, theory and development of the group work experience is offered at: [site details to be supplied during April 2009]


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Contribution to the study of separation and abandonment in the context of migration from a gender perspective and a psychoanalytic approach.

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