Individual (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
The concept of the individual is not especially Freudian, although analysis assumes that the analysand has a degree of psychic autonomy, individuality, and even identity. The term "individual" (Einzeln) is found in Freud, notably in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a ), where it stands in opposition to culture. More broadly, the concept is central to a variety of disciplines, such as ethnology, sociology, political theory, and philosophy.
Cultural historians have described the birth of individual love as an outgrowth of courtly love, the appearance of the individual feeling of finitude and death at the end of the Middle Ages, and the birth of the modern conception of childhood within the family in the eighteenth century (Philippe Ariès). With the Enlightenment and Romanticism, the child became "the father of the man." After 1900, childhood and adolescence became distinct age categories and stages of mental development. Scholars can trace the development of the concept of the individual across the political, social, cultural, and religious landscapes from the Renaissance to the Reformation to the Enlightenment.
While having universal scope, psychoanalysis is nonetheless marked with the imprint of Western culture, in which it was born. According to Claude Lévi-Strauss, this culture "vomits up" the individual, in contrast with group societies ("holistic" societies, according to Louis Dumont), which "swallow" the individual.
Ethnopsychoanalysis (Georges Devereux) examines differences in mental development according to culture. The Oedipus complex described by Freud refers to the symbolic figure of the father in Jewish and Christian cultures, and it affords the possibility of triangulation, which leads to individuation and identity construction. Other oedipal modalities are present in matrilineal societies, where the parent is differentiated from the maternal uncle, who represents the paternal functionn arrangement consistent with limited individuality and extended dependence on the social group. The history of European culture is marked by a gradual transition from a holistic society (during the Middle Ages) to a society of individuals, and accompanying this transition was the evolution of identity formation characteristic of modernity.
If a conception of the individual is a precondition for the development of psychiatry, the existence of the self, the subject, is a precondition for the creation of psychoanalysis. When the individual perceives his ego as a double and perceives the uncanny nature of his division, this perspective can be presented as a cure for the suffering that the individual experiences in the face of modernity. In Totem and Taboo (1912-1913a), Freud hypothesized that a "mass psychosis," a collective soul, in his text, "culture" (Kultur) in the sense of a collective mental formation situated above the individual, to a large extent conditions the individual's mental functioning. Freud elaborated the concepts of the ego ideal and superego, transitional formations located between culture and the individual. He also showed that the repression associated with anality in modern culture has an impact on the modalities of identity formation during adolescence.
During the 1950s Margaret Mahler defined "individuation" as a process of separation to escape the primary union of the mother-child symbiosis. Working with the uncertainties of individuation in infantile psychosis, Mahler described a "symbiotic" stage of child development, prior to the separation and individuation that ends absolute dependence. John Bowlby, using an ethological approach to the mental development of the infant, developed the concepts of attachment and separation. José Bleger, employing the concepts of symbiosis and ambiguity, showed that traces of primitive undifferentiation persist, even among the most evolved individuals, in the form of an "agglutinated nucleus."
Research by Alain de Mijolla (1981) and data from group psychoanalysis and family therapy have shown connections between subjectivity and the Other in culture, in the family, and across generations, that is, connections among the intrasubjective, intersubjective, and intergenerational dimensions of the psyché.
See also: Adolescence; Castration complex; Constitution; I; Identity; Libidinal development; Object; Processes of development; Self-consciousness; Self (true/false); Symbiosis/symbiotic relation.
Ariès, Philippe. (1962). Centuries of childhood: A social history of family life (Robert Baldick, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books. (Original work published 1960)
Bleger, José. (1981). Symbiose et ambiguïté:ude psychanalytique (A. Morvan, Trans.). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. (Original work published 1967)
Dumont, Louis. (1986). Essays on individualism: Modern ideology in anthropological perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1983)
Freud, Sigmund. (1912-1913a). Totem and taboo. SE, 13: 1-161.
. (1930a ). Civilization and its discontents. SE, 21: 57-145.
Mijolla, Alain de. (1981). Les Visiteurs du moi: Fantasmes d'identification, confluents psychanalytiques. Paris: Belles Lettres.