Volume 1, Issue 2: Love and Work
History attributes to Freud the statement that psychoanalysis aims to free individuals from conflicts in “love and work.” While these terms—“love” and “work”—might at first seem transparent or self-evident, they have been conceptualized and debated by thinkers differently across the psychotherapeutic tradition. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud wrote that the forces of Eros (love) and Ananke (necessity) were the driving and motivating factors not of the individual psyche, but of communal life. It was Erik Erikson who later explicitly formulated “love, work and play” as the goal of mental health treatment. French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan took a different perspective, with his insistence that love was that which animated the “work” of the transference and, as such, all analytic discourse. Existential psychiatrist Irvin Yalom, in contrast, writes of being “love’s executioner” and queries his patients on what “work” they would be doing were they not obsessed with a beloved.
As such, even in these selected accounts, the words “love” and “work” appear in diverse forms—multivalent and, at times, intertwined. Like the thinkers above, the writers of the papers in this issue of metaxu take varying perspectives on love and work while exploring, how, in the therapeutic endeavor, the two often appear together. Going beyond Freud’s statement that “psychoanalysis in essence is a cure through love,” papers in this issue tackle the complexities of the work of love in the therapist-client relationship and tarry with both its possibilities and limits. Another paper looks at the way failures in early love relationships bring clients to the work of therapy. Other authors in this issue look at how philosophical conceptualizations and capitalist mystifications of work leave many individuals in contemporary society radically alienated from their labor. Philosophically-oriented psychologists, thus, might take up these issues to consider how therapy can become a place to interrogate the broader effects of these social and labor conditions rather than situate problems with work solely in the individual.
The issue opens with an article from Leah Boisen who, in her paper, “A curious devotion: Winnicott, hermeneutics, and love in the practice of psychotherapy” cuts through theoretical orientations and debates in psychotherapy to highlight the role of the clinician’s “good-enough” love in the therapeutic process. Through case study material and descriptions of her own clinical training process, Boisen shows how clinicians need—and, in fact, ought—not seek to love their clients perfectly, but rather, instead, can adopt a reliable devotion to love clients differently than they have been loved in the past. Following the work of Winnicott, Boisen develops the important notion of a “hermeneutics of curiosity” underlying healing in the clinical setting, a meaning-making process that operates through dialectic and paradox, questioning and trust.
In her paper, “Narcissism, Intergenerational Trauma, and Love,” Gupta looks at failures in love relationships by tracing a pathological form of diminished ability to love—viz., narcissism—as it reproduces itself through successive generations. She begins by outlining phenomenological and psychoanalytic understandings of the DSM-5 category of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, emphasizing the narcissist's devaluation of others as fully-fledged selves and the narcissist's style of relating to others as extensions of the self from which are sought self-recognition and self-esteem. Drawing on the work of Daniel Shaw and Alice Miller, she situates the origin of pathological narcissism in the child's relationship with a narcissistic parent. Such a child—his or her experiences, feelings, and thoughts consistently overlooked and misattuned to—goes on to develop an inflated, but ultimately hollow, “false self,” contributing to a sense of inner emptiness and doubts about the veracity of their own personhood and subjectivity. Gupta reminds us that love—the crucial ingredient lacking in narcissistic relationships based on “subjugation”—is founded on intersubjectivity. Love entails a mutual and realistic seeing of the other while maintaining one's own integrity of self. This experience is at all times, but especially in childhood, the matrix in which develops selfhood, revealing thereby that self, like love, is a deeply interrelational phenomenon.
Jose Arroyo looks at how not only love, but the process of losing or falling out of love, can work to create change in the therapeutic endeavor. In his article, “Therapy—Let go and move on: Interpretations of love and the termination of treatment,” he argues that clients’ processes of ending therapy create the possibility for new and reparative emotional experiences. Love in the therapeutic setting, in Arroyo’s formulation, is more than transference: It is a feeling and experience that clients carry into their relationships beyond it. Updating and going beyond Freud’s work in “Analysis Terminable and Interminable,” Arroyo uses case study material to look at how both clients’ and clinicians’ ways of loving are imbricated in the termination process.
While psychoanalysis may be one of the fields that has, in the contemporary era, most explicitly addressed the categories of love and work, the roots of thinking the interplay of love and work can be traced, in Western philosophy, as far back as Plator—and carry with them, as Jessie Patella argues, implicit assumptions that still frame love and work along gendered lines. In her article, “Giving birth in beauty: On physical procreation and philosophical creativity,” Patella provides an important critique of the foundations of Western philosophy, notably the subtle ways in which binaries between feminine procreation and masculine creativity have served to keep women’s artistic and intellectual labors out of the dominant social sphere. Through a close reading of Diotima’s speech in Plato’s Symposium, Patella shows how the (mis)use of the metaphor of pregnancy works to elevate men’s spiritual accomplishments while relegating women to the realm of the physical and material. In doing so, Patella questions problematic assumptions around both women’s labor in childbirth as well as their historically unacknowledged labor in the philosophical and creative arts.
The issues Patella brings up also come into play in contemporary contexts and current dominant modes of labor. In his paper, “Subjects and Alienations of Affective Labor or Theoretical Grounding for Study of Psychotherapist as Affective Laborer,” Daniel Gruner looks at how the divide between the “masculine” and “feminine” in the public sphere results in forms of alienation that prove detrimental to modern workers. Gruner develops the thesis that qualities of caring, intuition, feeling, community development and relational intelligence that were previously suppressed under a Fordist mode of capitalist production become, in a new “semiocapitalist” mode of production, essential skills that are demanded of workers. In this new work environment in which feelings are utilized for the benefit of capitalists, workers become alienated from their feeling life. This shift has, in turn, led to a change, he argues, in pedagogical methods and curriculum with an emphasis on teaching children “to do the emotional and affective labor that will be required of them.” Gruner sketches out the possibility that therapists and other “helping professionals” might either, in the current mode of production, serve to perpetuate hegemony or provide important modes of resistance to it.
Finally, Kay Chai, in her paper “When Working Harder is Not the Solution: Addressing Work-Related Distress with Marx’s Theory of Alienated Labor,” makes a radical reversal in our understanding of the relationship between work and mental health. While we find in various iterations of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual the implicit belief that mental disorders impair one's ability to carry out and find enjoyment in work, Chai develops a Marxist critique that calls out disordered work as the effective cause of lack of enjoyment in work and much personal suffering. Shifting the diagnostician's focus to the arrangement of modes of production in capitalistic economies, she makes a sustained argument for why it is work—not impaired cognition—that is behind many of our current psychological travails. Specifically, she draws on Marx's theory of alienated labor under capitalist modes of production to understand how a disordered economy can lead to frustrated relationships with others, the products of one's labor, the natural world, and the very “act of working.” For Chai, it is crucial that psychotherapists disabuse themselves of the ideological belief that workers are to blame for their workplace dissatisfaction. As she writes, “These beliefs become questionable in light of Marx’s assertion that work in a capitalistic society frustrates our existential need for self-expression, self-development, and recognition, which necessarily causes unhappiness.”
Taken together, the papers in this issue call for psychologists to consider what mainstream psychology often leaves out: More than changes in cognition, the role of love in therapeutic work; more than an inability to work as an expression of pathology, the ways in which ideologies of work create pathologies. For people while may come to therapy seeking to change or fix their disturbances in love and work, it is may be love and work—loving work or the work of love—that change them.
Metaxu is the graduate student journal of the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Duquesne University.
Metaxu, from the Greek, refers to the “in-between” or being “between the two.” In Plato’s symposium, the priestess Diotima situates love as metaxu—in between poverty & possession, eros between the human & the divine—and reveals the limitations of logic and speech in capturing truth.
At Duquesne, we likewise situate our clinical work & scholarship as in-between: in-between philosophy and psychology, art and science. From diverse theoretical orientations we explore the subject & the human—between life and death, the conscious and the unconscious, immanence and transcendence—to create new possibilities and openings for clinical research and praxis.