Monday, November 7, 2011

Kafka, and the Schizoid Dilemma

"When mothers both threaten their infants and also reject physical contact with them, they place them in an impossible position. Threats of any kind, from any source, simulate an intense need for attachment on the part of the infant, because the prime function of attachment is protection from the threat of danger. But if the source of the threat is the very person to whom the infant must turn for protection, the infant is faced with a conflict which cannot be resolved. Placed in such a situation, the infant exhibits vacillation between approach, avoidance, and angry behaviour. This disorganization of behaviour can only be alleviated by the infant turning away from everything to do with the mother.

It is clear that avoidance implies a deeper disturbance in the relation between the infant and its mother than does compliance. This may be connected with the fact that avoidance is manifested at an earlier stage in the infant's development than the more sophisticated behaviour of compliance. Avoidance is connected with the fear of being damaged or destroyed by hostility. Compliance is concerned with the fear of love being withdrawn. Avoidance suggests doubt as to whether love has ever been proffered. Compliance implies recognition that love is available, but doubts whether it will last.

.....One of the most characteristic traits of the people whom psychiatrists label schizoid is their inability to make close relationships with people without feeling threatened. The typical schizoid dilemma is a desperate need for love combined with an equally desperate fear of close involvement. Kafka was a writer who vividly portrayed this dilemma in extreme form, and who also used avoidance in adult life in order that he could employ his writing as a means of preventing 'behavioural disorganization'.

Although Kafka, during his brief life, made a number of friends who were deeply fond of him and who sometimes idealized him, he said that, even with his closest friend and later biographer, Max Brod, he had never been able to hold a prolonged conversation in which he had really revealed himself."

Page 100, 'Solitude', Anthony Storr

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