Father regression: Clinical narratives and theoretical reflections1

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The author deals with love–hate enthrallment and submission to a primitive paternal object. This is a father–son relationship that extends through increasing degrees of primitiveness or extremeness, and is illustrated through three different constellations that constitute a continuum. One pole of the continuum encompasses certain male patients who show a loving, de-individuated connection to a father experienced as trustworthy, soft, and in need of protection. Further along the continuum is the case of a transsexual patient whose analysis revealed an intense ‘God-transference’, a bondage to an idealized, feared, and ostensibly protective father–God introject. A great part of this patient's analysis consisted in a fierce struggle to liberate himself from this figure. The other end of the continuum is occupied by religious terrorists, who exemplify the most radical thralldom to apersecutory, godly object, a regressive submission that banishes woman and enthrones a cruel superego, and that ends in destruction and self-destruction. Psychoanalytic thinking has traditionally dealt with the oedipal father and recently with the nurturing father, but there is a gap in thinking about the phallic, archaic father, and his relations with his son(s). The author aims at filling this gap, at the same time as she also raises the very question of ‘What is a father?’ linking it with literary and religious themes.

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