Can we continue without ties?
Can we stay isolated? Are we made to be without human contact? Do we really manage to stay closed within four walls without what we need most, namely relationality? Can we resist and at what price in this lockdown dimension how do they like to define it in this period? How will we feel when we can enjoy some freedom?
Maslow in 1954 put the needs of the human being in a hierarchical order and without entering into the epistemology of this theorizing that can be criticized on several fronts starting from the same definition of need, we limit ourselves to focusing on a fundamental need of the human being : the need to belong. It is defined by Maslow as the need for belonging; the dispositional, intrinsic tendency to be with other human beings (Maslow, 1954). Even in the most severe forms of autism we note how the child is unable to be totally extraneous to the relationship. There is always, even in the autistic, the need for reaction with one’s caregiver. The relationship is what man cannot do without. We are phylogenetically led in search of the Other. If we take every mental disorder present in DSM-5 (2014), we may be able to decline it from a relational perspective. The relationship is what human personality is built upon. We are born and we are immediately immersed in a relationship. Our first great Other is the other mother, in particular the mother’s body. The first object to which the child’s drive is directed is the breast but what matters in particular is not only the bodily relationship, but the contact between the two minds of the mother-child dyad. In the first months of life, the baby feeds on this recognition given to him by his mother’s gaze. Being seen, being recognized, is a need as strong as the physical need for contact.
We are “thrown” into the world and immediately we need someone else to take care of us. What is psychotherapy basically if not the re-edition of this primary need within the here and now of the therapeutic relationship?The turning report of Psychoanalysis shows us how the drive, unlike what Freud initially claimed, cannot exist without an object to which it is linked (Klein, 1945). It is always a question of binding the drive to a goal that can allow the drive to be satisfied. We are always, during the arc of all life, inserted in an oscillation between bond and untying. In order to be such, it also needs non-bonding, not being in contact. Life is played between these two tendencies and every form of mental suffering we can conceive of it as the extremeization of one of the two poles along a continuum that goes from contact to separation and vice versa. We see well in the neurosis clinic how the neurotic is always moved towards the dimension of bond, contact, relationship with the Other.The neurotic lives his life in function of the Other . His problem lies in entering into a contract with his own subjectivity, with his internal world. He does not ask himself the problem of being able to satisfy his desire because he lives at the mercy of the desire of the Other. It never enters into a relationship with one’s desire. On the contrary, in psychosis it is evident that the psychotic is moved to the other pole, that of non-bonding, of detachment, of the dispersion of any relationship with the external world. He is so absorbed by his internal world, by his own fantastic reality, that entering into a relationship with the real, concrete reality, what we all share would mean sinking into disintegrating anguish, in what Bion calls “nameless terror” (1962 ).The psychotic rejects the relationship because he cannot get in touch with a world that is not the world that he himself is able to control, his internal world. In some ways the psychotic is only in an asymmetrical relationship with his internal reality. It lives in a dimension of fusionality, of non-separation between inside and outside. It is the exasperation of non-contact on the one hand and of the relationship with one’s desire on the other. Psychosis is the anarchy of one’s desire. The life of the psychotic is life that takes place within chaos. He has no problems with the desire of the Other because he cannot even represent himself an Other within himself. Only the relationship with one’s desire lives. This is basically madness: “an orchestra without a conductor” as Kraepelin called it (1919). Nobody who gives a limit, a law, a border, no super-egoic function away from excess. The psychotic does not live in the shadow of the Other but in the shadow of himself.
Through these two dimensions, contact and separation, we can reflect on the period that we are all experiencing. From one day to the next we had to deprive ourselves of contact with the outside, of the relationship, of the dimension of “being with”. If we remove the relationship from the human being, we remove the human that is inside each of us.We often hear of domestic violence in this period, even of people who want to go back to jail for not being murdered every day anymore. We were catapulted from a world where everyone could live, perhaps even excessively, the relationship with the Other, towards the world of its opposite extreme, that of non-relationship. Today we are imprisoned within a border, within the limit. The only law we have is that of separation between us and the Other who is outside our home. Let us ask ourselves: Where does freedom come to life? Isn’t freedom based on law, on being inside a perimeter of action? Acting within a limit is the highest form of freedom.There is no freedom if not within a border otherwise we would live in anarchy, in the total absence of laws and what would reign would not be the rule we all need but the only law would be that of chaos. But what happens when the space in which freedom manifests itself becomes so narrow? This is where freedom ceases to be such. Are we sure we can hold on for much longer? One of the big problems of the post quarantine in addition to the economic situation will also be that of the return to the relationship, the restoration of the contact that will no longer be (for a long time at least) as before. Unfortunately we cannot make exact predictions on how this event will affect people’s psyche but we can imagine that when it is time to get out of this situation, there could be significant complications. We are obviously in a hypothetical field but if we think of the feeling that dominates in this period, fear, it is not difficult for us to imagine that the anguish of contact with the Other, of greeting someone on the street and always being at a minimum distance of one meter, may mark our future daily life.
Since the early days of the lockdown we have seen commercials of famous people who told us to rediscover how beautiful it is to stay at home, to be in contact with ourselves, to do the things we never do. Many have defined it as a chance for rediscovery. This rediscovery is absolutely impossible unless we first mourn what we have lost. Mourning does not mean retreating into a fantasy world, sometimes delusional, that this situation is positive, because the reality principle requires us to open our eyes and see that it is not. Only by managing to mourn the “before”, understood as the psychic processing of loss, can we arrive at a dimension of change, of discovery and not of rediscovery. Discovering what before we were not able to represent ourselves psychically, working on ourselves, on our thoughts, on our passions allows us to create a new freedom within the boundaries that today are imposed on us from the outside. But once again we must ask ourselves: how long can we resist without being in relationship with other people we miss? The sudden lockdown has caused a split between the past and the present, between the before and the after, between the old and the new, between the bond and the non-bond. Each person reacts to this rift in a purely subjective way, just as every reaction to a sudden and unexpected event is completely unique.Our trauma, the one we all had to deal with in these days of quarantine, has split the linearity of our life favoring anguished experiences of fear and bewilderment in the face of uncertainty. Everyone in his own way is trying to work out the rift but many people who were already in difficulty before, may not be able to patch up the tear and find the linearity of their lives. This is perhaps the task that each of us should try to accomplish in this period: try to make definable and linear, through a process of change and psychic elaboration, the new that has manifested in front of us and also what will manifest in the next months. Hoping that on May 4th we can finally get out of this constricting fence to get back in touch with the outside, the only thing we can remember in the moments when we feel we are being put to the test, is that nobody in life saves himself . Like it or not, we are made to research and to stay within human relationships.