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This paper outlines the main arguments in those of Andr Greens works that have

been translated into English. It investigates Greens relationship to Lacan, Winnicott

and Bion, their similarities and differences, as Green himself has expressed it. Greens

fundamental theoretical concepts of negative hallucination, framing structure and the

dead-mother complex are outlined. The author examines Greens relationship to the

drives, including Freuds death instinct and the repetition compulsion. Particular

attention is paid to Greens recent writings from 2000 onwards. In them, it appears

that Greens theoretical emphasis has shifted from the earlier drive- and object-

centredness to an even stronger emphasis on the drive itself. In these later works,

Greens descriptions of psychic motility crystallise, and this is conveyed in the present

paper through direct quotations from Green.




I write because I cannot do otherwise, says Green and adds, The aims of both the

unconscious and the ego come together in the compulsion to write. (1986, p. 3)

Green identifies the higher level aims of his writing to be the wish to organise the

experiential into theory, and above all, the wish to demonstrate the truth of his quest

in Freuds footsteps. However one may judge it, it is also a testimony. It is, I think, a

fairly representative sample, a derivative, of the French psychoanalytic movement of

the second half of the twentieth century. (1986, p. 3)

Being too conservative means that I am one of the last believers in Freuds theory.

Not that I think we should take it as it is and repeat it as a bible. This has never been

in my mind, I cannot be called an orthodox Freudian if I admire Winnicott, Bion and

Lacan. If I admire these people I necessarily admit that Freud is not enough. (1999a,

p. 31)

The analysts that Green cites are for the most part French. Out of theorists outside

France, Winnicott and Bion hold a special position. However, it is difficult to believe

that Freud would not have, for the most part, sufficed. It is only in relation to the

death drive and the theory of narcissism that the boundary between Green and Freud

becomes apparent. It appears that in his writings from 2000 onwards, Green is even

more deeply in conversation with Freuds work. It is as if Green has had an even more

profound discovery of Freud than before, in particular with reference to concepts of

psychic energy. I expect, and would argue that Freud becomes even more accessible

to us as we advance in age and gain in analytic experience, at least this thought is

familiar to me personally. My respect for Green has its origins precisely in Greens

knowledge of Freud. Greens work has inspired me to immerse myself in Freuds

texts. Green is the most keen-sighted analyst referring to Freud. It is through Green

that I have begun truly to comprehend the greatness and depth of Freuds oeuvre.

Green is not, nor does he wish to be, a hermeneutic theorist. Green seeks to give due

attention to Freuds biological models, and this attention is best demonstrated in

Greens books from 2000 onwards, in particular, as I already mentioned, with the

significance of psychic motility taking precedence in Greens conceptualisations.

Greens paper on affects, which grew into a book called Le Discours Vivant was

published in 1973 (the English translation, with Greens addenda, The Fabric of

Affect in the Psychoanalytic Discourse was only published in 1999). It originated

from criticism of Lacan. It appears that Greens independent psychoanalytic thinking

was spurred by an early critical separation and distancing from Lacan. Green never

actually became Lacans student, despite Lacan offering this to him.

This quality in Green, first, the studious familiarisation with anothers thought, and

then a distancing and disengagement from it, and the endeavour to create his own

ideas, is I believe a quality that one comes across again and again in all of Greens

thinking. It is easy to find examples: his relationship to American ego psychology;

his view of the British Schools emphasis on the significance on presence for the

analysand which leads to a density of interpretation regarding weekends; and the

attitudes of developmental psychologists to baby observation; all of which Green, in

some respects with good reason, passionately opposes.

I respect Green, above all the honesty and the uncompromising attitude with which he

defends Freudian psychoanalysis against the watering-down effects of contemporary

analytic trends. All of the books by Green that I have been able to read contain many

citations of Freud and solid commentary on Freuds thought and theory-building.

Freuds thoughts are so often bypassed, which is not just a sign of the times but

something that was already in evidence in the actions of earlier generations of

analysts. They hurried to invalidate Freuds findings and tried to simplify that which

can only be reached by concentrating on analysis and by holding back in order to

observe the associative links flowing deep within both participants, in the analyst and

the analysand. Green has had this patience, and because of this, has been able to grasp

how the analytic process took shape in Freuds mind, as Freud worked to sketch for us

the movements of the unconscious levels of the mind.

Although Green confesses that he has abandoned clinical work to concentrate on the

intellectual, he also has clear opinions on analytic technique. In the paper The Dead

Mother Complex he states that the presence of the analysts continuous interest is the

most crucial aspect in helping the analysand. Another instance when Green expresses

a strong opinion on technique is in an interview with Kohon, in which Green mocks

the British and outlines the differences between British and French analysts attitudes

toward the analysand. For the French, absence, not presence, is key; for the British,

presence is of foremost importance. There lies the difference. The British treat the

patient as if he were a dying child, analytic sessions take place as often as five times a

week and interpretations of separation dominate. For the French, the analysand must

have the opportunity to regroup himself and his resistances at a distance. Thus, French

analysis favours three weekly sessions.

In this article I will concentrate on describing Greens work from my own perspective,

and I would not be able to do otherwise. In addition to the fact that for me, Green has

been a significant guide, he has also provided one of the most important theoretical

backdrops for my, sometimes critical, development of my own theoretical perspective.

I will focus on giving as faithful a rendering of Green as I can.


Lacans significance for Greens development into an analyst has been great, not so

much for providing an object of identification, but for provoking interest, independent

thought, and critique. Lacans Rome Report of 1953 became pivotal for Green.

Lacan inspired Green. From the very beginning, the unconscious for Lacan was not

just about content, but an organised and organising system. For Lacan, the symbolic

represented the unconscious, much like dream-work, in which it is possible to

approach the unconscious. This early view of Lacans struck a chord with Green.

Despite Lacans invitations, Green did not follow Lacan, but entered into analysis

with Bouvet. Green had received a psychiatric training and he had an understanding

of the biological aspects of the human mind, as did Freud.

Although I recognized the interest and merit in this [Lacans the unconscious is

structured like a language] work, I criticized it in detail, already at this period [1961]

by pointing out the lack of attention to, even the occultation of, the place and function

of affects in Lacans theory. (1986, p. 7)

For Lacan, the unconscious is structured like a language. For Bouvet, the unconscious

evolved, as Freud had described it, from object representations, structured differently

from language.

Green describes his relationship to Lacan as follows. In the Rome Report, Lacan

outlines his analysis of Freuds fort-da phenomenon (the play of Freuds grandchild).

In these few paragraphs, inspired by Hegel, Lacan speaks of the impact of childhood

on the structuring of the mind, the position of absence as an internal aspect of the

mind, the birth of self consciousness, the alienation from ones own productions (for

example, the production of sounds and meanings), the conflicts between the psychic

and language, and the subjects relationship to death.

But this happy episode was not to last, for Lacans thought was to respond to the

siren calls of the signifier, and then to that of topography where references to

language and history were gradually supplanted by other, more scientific ones.

(1990a, p. 2)

Lacan did not merely examine Freuds fort-da game, as Winnicott does, but

reinterprets it, no longer in Freuds original sense, but in the spirit of Hegel.

Lacan attempted to build a bridge between academic philosophical knowledge and the

philosophical interpretation of Freuds theories. He soon developed the theoretical

foundations of his own conceptual framework. Their crux is on an axel, real-

imaginary-symbolic. A Hegelian vision is contained within them.

Green wonders how it is possible to combine Hegel and Freud - Hegels absolute

knowledge and Freuds attitude of discovery and investigation - in the object of


Lacan proposed to return to the spirit and the letter of Freuds thinking by giving the

speech and language precedence again. Influenced by the rediscovery of the linguist

Ferdinard de Saussure, by the philosopher Merleau-Ponty and the anthropologist

Lvi-Strauss, he inaugurated a structuralistic conception of psychoanalysis by giving

priority to the symbolic as opposed to the imaginary and the real. The symbolic stood

for the unconscious organization, such as dream-work allows one to apprehend it, for

example. In other words, the unconscious was not a matter of contents, but an

organizing and organized system. (1986, p. 6)

Lacan created the French Freud. Simultaneously in France, alongside developed

Hartmans American Freud. Green followed Lacans example and began close study

of Freuds work. Lacanian thought was useful in opposing Hartmans American ego

psychological concepts in France. Hartmans attitude to drive theory and in particular,

ego functions, made Green agree with Lacans critique. A common object of criticism

was a uniting factor between Green and Lacan. They realised that while Hartman on

the one hand accepted drive theory and never abandoned it, his concept of the

autonomous ego is a psychoanalytic impossibility. It is important to note that Freuds

statement The ego is not master in his own house delineates the subject and

research methodology of psychoanalysis. What we analysts approach and seek contact

with through our own method is the unconscious and its intimate connections with

needs and desires, that is, drives. For Lacan, on the other hand, speech and language

are synonymous with the unconscious. Green observes that language is located in the

realm of the preconscious. Freud distinguishes clearly between the preconscious and

the unconscious. It is precisely the tension between the unconscious and the

preconscious that creates the forcefield in which language is born. This idea inspired

the young Green to write a pamphlet to criticise Lacan, and it eventually grew into a

full-length book, Le Discours Vivant. (1973)

The following statement by Green could serve as the motto for that book:

The affect is the flesh of the signifier and the signifier of the flesh. (1999b, p. 178)

Green reminds us of Freuds idea that speech is not merely the verbal expression of

thoughts, but also includes gestures and many other forms of expression, such as

writing. Freud also points out that when we interpret the unconscious, we are

transforming an alien system into a language more familiar to us. This is precisely

what happens in, for instance, the interpretation of dreams. Our interpretations and

their objects are not identical. In addition Freud reminds us, and Green takes care to

raise this point, that the unconscious speaks in many different dialects. We should not

try to overly harmonise them.

Absence, significant for Lacan as well as Green, already features in Freuds

conceptual world, according to Green, in the fact that absence creates the object. The

object is known in hate. (1999b, p. 76) Here, an affect (hate) has a fundamental role

in imposing the reality principle.

Green criticised Lacan in his writing already in 1960, and they disagreed openly in

1967. It was easier for Green to critique Lacan from outside Lacans immediate circle

than it would have been for those committed to Lacan. Through having immersed

himself in Freuds work, Green realised that the French view of psychoanalysis, that

is, Lacans interpretation of Freud, differed significantly from what he himself found

in what he read. So Green ended up putting forward the concept of negative

hallucination, already from 1966, to counter the Lacanian structures of signification,

and through that, presented an interpretation of absolute primary narcissism. The

negative hallucination represents the attempt of the psychic apparatus to reduce

psychic excitation to zero. In this way Green formulates in his theories the concept of

the death drive, as I will later describe in more detail.

Green defines negative hallucination as a representation in which absence itself is

hallucinated. It does not need to be an actual absence, but rather, the hallucination of

absence. It is, therefore, the opposite of positive hallucination, in which we see things

that are not there. Green describes the event using Lacans mirror metaphor: negative

hallucination manifests itself when the person looking in the mirror sees nothing. The

image of the subject, the concept of self, has been lost. What is real and in existence

has been erased from the mind.


In Greens article The Intuitition of the Negative in Playing and Reality in Gregorio

Kohons book The Dead Mother: The Work of Andr Green, Green describes what

he finds interesting in Winnicotts theory. My summary is as follows: In 1971

Winnicott introduced the aspects of the negative, modifying his earlier views (1951-

1953) on the transitional object. Now Winnicott emphasised the transitional objects

not-me aspect. The object is formed from the negative, from what is not present. This

event, this birth of an internal sense of objects, reduces omnipotence and promotes

psychic development. Transitional space exists between two physical beings, a third

object is created into it, one that is not physically part of either being. It exists in a

space which not only distinguishes them from each other, but which contains the

possibility of their reunification. This third object, a concept later further developed

by many analysts (e.g. Green 1975, Ogden 1994, Gabbard, 1997), is one of the central

elements of the analytic situation. A successful analysis creates in the space of the

patients transference and the analysts countertransference an analytic third object.

The creation of a transitional object is important; not only the object itself, but also

the process of creation. In it, tolerating absence is the most crucial aspect; Winnicott

has understood this, and Green applauds him for it. Not only is the existence and

symbolic significance of the breast important, but also, and above all, the fact that the

transitional object represents the breast (Winnicott, 1971, p. 6). Winnicott mentions

this in a paragraph on symbolism. Winnicott also points out that the transitional object

refers to the symbolism of time. It represents the phenomenon of creation, which

describes the childs journey from the purely subjective to the objective the part of

the childs mind journeying toward experiencing. What is crucial here is movement.

Transit is a state of transformation. In order to achieve this state of movement and

liveliness, the mothers liveliness and participation is required. If maternal functions

collapse, the childs creative state dies and is superseded by a persecuting internal

object. This ability to symbolise, which is lost in paranoia, is what Green calls

negative representation, the representation of the absence of representation. This is

what he terms negative hallucination. In my understanding, it is this kind of sequence

of events that is described in Greens dead mother complex. Green distinguishes

between his theory and that of Winnicott as follows:

He is oriented mainly towards the object, while I consider the situation from the

point of view of the presence of the drives. In his words, what happens is a fading of

the internal representation and, in mine, a destructive negative hallucination of the

object. (1999, p. 271)

Both Lacan and Winnicott concentrate on the negative, the absent; that which is not

available for experiencing or seeing that which is not present. So too does Green,

and this I believe is the most crucial factor uniting the three theorists.

In Greens and Winnicotts theories, the most significant aspect for development is the

framing structure, analogous to the mothers supporting arms. The framing structure

enables the child to tolerate the absence of the object by supporting a psychic state,

similarly to Bions container.

The mother is caught in the empty frame of negative hallucination and becomes a

framing structure of the subject himself. The subject constructs himself in the place

where the objects investiture (to be titled) has been consecrated to the locus (place) of

its investment. (Green, 2001, 85)

Green describes the operating principles of this framing structure as follows (my

summary): As long as the framing structure supports the mind, negative hallucination

can be replaced by wish hallucinations and fantasies. However, when the child

experiences the death of internal objects, this function no longer works, but instead,

the framing structure is redirected to hold emptiness. Sometimes the framing structure

itself gets destroyed; the consequence of this is disintegration. Non-existence has

taken over the mind, removing the object which had been in existence before its

removal. This is an irreversible process, at least until treatment. Patients disabled in

this way seem to have become prisoners of the repetition compulsion. Green connects

this kind of disability with a phenomenon he calls primary anality (1993b). It is not

the same thing as anal erotism. Primary anality is the state of being ruled by

narcissistic fixation instead of drive fixation.


In his introduction to the book Life Narcissism, Death Narcissism (2001), Green

develops ideas about the different stages of narcissism in relation to satisfaction. He is

interested in borderline disturbances. Green notes the borderline patients tendency to

confuse the significance of a fantasy object with the real object. In this way, the

subject reduces his need for an object as a producer of satisfaction, and, of course, this

habit protects him against disappointment. The ego itself becomes eroticised, and the

desire for ones own self supersedes the desire directed toward the object. Green

outlines negative narcissism thus (my summary): The babys first disappointment

produces a hallucinatory wish fulfilment, autoerotic functioning to replace the absent

object. In this way, the child believes he can recall the mothers breast that is beyond

reach. Identification shields him from the feeling of disappointment, primary

identification means a fusion with the primary object. It prevents the perception of

separateness. Disappointments follow on from each other and as the perception of

separateness develops, the ego must collect its own self-cathexes for its protection.

These are created by identifying with an idealised object. This process is never fully

successful. The consequence of the impossibility of identifying with an idealised

object and disappointment caused by that is a retreat to non-existence, the reduction of

psychic charge toward zero; psychic death. The subject gives up his desire, all his

desire, and the consequence of this is that life becomes living death. This is how death

narcissism contrasts with life narcissism.

Green sees this sequence of events as the negative hallucination of wish fulfilment.

Out of this he develops a model of psychic functioning. It is not about unpleasure, but

neutrality, not about depression, but about asceticism, an anorexia of life. This is

Greens interpretation of Freuds article Beyond the Pleasure Principle. For Green,

narcissism is a meta-concept, as the death drive was for Freud.

Greens relationship to the death drive seems at times to shift, but in the description

above Greens view is clear. So, too in the following direct disagreement with Freud.

Green writes:

However, in contradistinction to Freud, I do not believe that we should defend the

idea that the self-destructive function expresses itself primitively, spontaneously and

automatically. (1999, p. 84)

On the other hand, Green emphasises that we do encounter phenomena that do not fit

this view, and in these cases there is reason to ask whether this is where we encounter

the death drive. At the very end of his article, Green states (with good reason, in my

opinion) that the death drive is a concept, and we do not need to look for clinical

evidence. However, Green mentions the character neuroses, borderline states and

narcissistic structures as examples of pathologies to be investigated in relation to

death drive. Green adds:

It is impossible to say anything at all about the death drive without referring to life

drive which together form an indissociable conceptual pair. (1999, p. 84)

The object reveals the drives (p. 85)

The drive cannot be investigated without reference to the object.

For Freud, the death instinct and the life instinct are a pair, in the same way as the

process of binding and its undoing. They belong together, side by side. This idea is

sound but insufficient Green frets, it is sufficient to have life drive which can

contain within itself the death drive. (p. 85) Therefore, Green does not see, or does

not wish to see, an absolute concept of the death drive, and he does not investigate it.

Green does investigate the function of creating objects. This is fuelled by the life


This function is destroyed by the death drive. The purpose of the death drive is to

decathect objects. Its goal is an unbound state that affects not only objects, but the ego

as well. Its consequence is negative narcissism, the reduction to zero of the object-

forming function directed at the psychic operation of binding.

Green repeatedly formulates:

The resulting indifference does not even serve egoism by means of lack of empathy

for the object. In many cases it appears that the ego becomes as disinterested in itself

as in the object, leaving only a yearning to vanish: to be drawn towards death and

nothingness. To me this is the true expression of the death instinct, which is in no way

comparable to aggressivity or even to primary masochism. (p. 85)

Green uses the concept of the death drive feverishly, even though he obviously does

not wish to recognise it as a drive. Green tries to distance himself from this concept as

the inevitable death drive conceptualised by Freud, Ananke. Greens relationship to

Freuds death drive is contradictory. Although Green denies it on more than one

occasion, and explains it through narcissism and reduction to zero, he does not seem

to be able to completely let go of the term drive.

For me, what remains a problem is how Green conceptualises the energy that reduces

narcissism, that is, that orientation of energy; why not precisely as a death drive, as

the negative of energy.


In evaluating Bions work, Green (1999, pp 7-10) notes the following: Bion wove

together Kleinian thinking and Freuds theory. Melanie Klein, overly intent on the

most archaic unconscious fantasies, did not sufficiently note their effect on thought

processes. This is Bions contribution. He investigated knowledge alongside love and

hate as a third component. He observed minus-knowledge, a negative knowing and its

significance. In this, he differed from Klein for whom emptiness and negation do not

exist. All psychic space is always full of love and hatred. Bion moves between Freud

and Klein, and Green suspects that although Bion makes reference to Kant, Bion, just

like the theoretical view of Lacan, seems to have been considerably influenced by


Bion differentiates between not understanding and misunderstanding. When

something is misunderstood, it produces surprise, the possibility of thinking

otherwise, but not understanding stops one. The analysand uses not understanding as

well, when necessary. Minus-knowledge is needed when the mind protects itself from

further understanding and psychic work. Bion strongly connects these minus elements

to frustration, and Green wonders why Bion does not perceive any positive use at all

for the ability of the human mind to exist without memory or desire. The patient too

uses this on the analyst when he needs to, in order to paralyze the analyst. Keats

praised Shakespeare for just this negative capability as the highest spiritual gift.

Bion works with the breakdown of mothering and the dysfunctions of the childs

mind, ones where concrete thinking dominates and no development can take place.

Green sees similarity between himself and Bion in their shared interest in the double

effect of disappointment. Disappointment may even lead to the denial of the self, and

in the worst case, to the collapse of the satisfying object and the structures built upon

it. What connects Bion and Green is the examination of the negative and observation

of its various aspects.


Primary process obeys the pleasure/unpleasure principle. In this article, Green agrees

with Freud and continues thus:

Psychoanalysis has little prospect of becoming liked or popular. It is not merely that

much of what it has to say offends peoples feelings. Almost as much difficulty is

created by the fact that our science involves a number of hypotheses it is hard to say

whether they should be regarded as postulates or as products of our researches

which are bound to seem very strange to ordinary modes of thought and which

fundamentally contradict current views. But there is no help for it. (Freud, 1940)

As author, I take the liberty of adding that contemporary scientific thought in the

twenty-first century is visibly nearing Freuds point of view. The scientific

conclusions of self-respecting sciences are more and more frequently approximations.

For example, physics and mathematics have shown that such approximations bring us

closer to accuracy than does the reliance on absolute numbers. Freud already observed

that resistance to unconscious formations does not only arise from moral censorship,

but from intellectual censorship, as if our findings defied logic and rational thought.

Green describes how, as we listen to the analysand, we soon observe that behind his

words, associations and silences is a logic that does not follow common sense. This

phenomenon Freud treated as primary process.

Although it is well known that secondary processes are processes of traditional

logical thought and obey the reality principle, it has not always been made clear that

primary processes, which obey the pleasure-unpleasure principle also have an implicit

logic. Its main characteristic is that it ignores time; it does not take negation into

account; it operates by condensation and displacement and it does not tolerate any

expectation or delay. (p. 18)

It allows our unconscious wishes certain instant illusory fulfilments. The subject is no

longer one, but two. These two processes, the primary and secondary processes,

coexist either in a bearable state of conflict or in relative harmony.

I feel that if Freud was so strongly attached to maintaining a dualistic point of view

concerning instinct theory, for example, it is because he had understood intuitively

that the duality at the outset was the condition necessary for the production of

something else to be born from the relationship between the two generic terms,

Green continues, for whom duality is an extremely significant point of departure as is

evident in the following: It sets up the pair as a theoretical reference which is more

fruitful than all those which use unity as a base. If we reflect even further on the

implications of this fundamental duality as a condition for the productions of the third

part, we find the basis of symbolic activity. In fact the creation of a symbol demands

that two separate elements be reunited in order to form a third element. (p. 19)

The speech and associations of the analysand are always a compromise formation

between two parties: the unconscious and the conscious. It is also a compromise

between two opposing wishes: the wish to be in contact with the analyst and the wish

to be separate from him. The ego must shift its connections between the primary and

secondary processes as flexibly as possible. These connections lead to the birth of

tertiary process. Analysts have often been preoccupied by the question of truth;

discovering what really took place in the patients life. To this Green responds: We

will never know the material truth, but we will know historical truth, that is, the way

in which experienced events developed and formed in the analysands mind. Infantile

sexuality distorts mental images. It obeys the laws of passion, primary process. (1986,

pp 17-20). Content and form are inseparable. In addition, todays psychoanalysis is as

much about analysing the container as it is about analysing the content.

In his early years, Freud imagined that resistance and repression could be overcome

and access gained to the unconscious. This was to be the treatment technique of

psychoanalysis. It did not work. He discovered that the ego too is part of the

unconscious. This discovery was disappointing. Freud observed that the ego itself is a

source of resistance and that it is not capable of consciously perceiving its own forms

of defence. Finally Freud also realised that this type of functioning of the ego was not

in the least unusual, but part of everyones makeup. On top of this, the ego is, to a

greater or lesser extent, psychotic. It distorts its relationship to reality. (Freud, 1937)

In his final work, Freud faced the role of destructiveness when he opened his eyes to

the reality of negative therapeutic reaction. It was then that the significance of the

death instinct became clear to him. The patients unconscious striving to protect his

illness and suffering turned out to be greater than his wish to get better. Green states

that in this kind of psychic world, tertiary processes no longer function.

In his work, Freud already turned to observe the split:

The childs ego admits the two contradictory judgements at the same time. (Freud,

1940, pp. 152-3)

The two contrary reactions to the conflict persist as the centre-point of a splitting of

the ego. (Freud, 1940)

The result is that analysis gets stuck. No communication takes place between the split

parts. (Freud, 1940, pp. 275-6) In conclusion, Green states:

The more our psychoanalytic work reaches deep layers of the mind the more it is

likely that our hypotheses will appear far distant from ordinary thought, and even

from forms of thought which Freud has already brought to light, and which

enlightened the relationships between the unconscious and the conscious. (1986, p.



SETTING (1975)

Psychoanalysis has always been on the move. Already, the work and views of Freud

underwent change. In the 1970s, some analysts wished to change analytic technique,

while others supported classical technique.

According to Green, analysis began to shift toward self-observation of the analyst, his

ability to evaluate his own skills and their limitations, just as he evaluated the


The real change has taken place in the improved ability of analysts to hear and

observe, not so much in how we help or change the internal equilibrium of the patient.

We hear what formerly we were unable to pick up. In any case, the sole responsibility

of analysis is to be be able to bring the analysand into contact with his own psychic

reality. (1986, p. 36) The emphasis in analysis has shifted to the analysts ability to

understand and to communicate this understanding to the patient.

Green also reflects on the analysability of the patients internal disequilibrium. Being

suitable for analysis is not the same thing as analysability. Some factors that lead to

interminable analyses are the surfacing of a psychotic core, unexpected regressions,

difficulty in engaging the deep layers of the mind and character rigidity. Green often

reminds us of Freuds late observation that the basis of neurosis and perversion is

psychosis. (Freud, 1924). In Greens opinion, analysis is not complete before we are

able to touch on this psychotic core at least to some extent.

Green has views on the borderline syndrome: It is a primary depression, in which the

patient strives for emptiness, the reduction to zero of the self and of everything that is

meaningful. It is an empty psychosis: a psychotic core without actual psychosis. A

psychotic patient attempts to fill his emptiness retrospectively with his delusions.

Neither scenario is about, as with a neurotic patient, emptying out in which the

superego contains forbidden wishes, but rather, the striving for emptiness is primary.

The borderline patients problem is the conflict between two opposing internal

objects: the defense against a persecuting, intrusive object, and at the same time, the

depression caused by the loss of this object.

Green reminds us continually that object relationships are triadic and not dyadic, as is

almost always suggested. That is, both father and mother are present, but these

internal objects are constantly and simultaneously affected by two different

tendencies: good/bad and alongside them, emptiness, that is, non-existence and a

dominant intrusiveness. Delusion and death are the options.

One should not simplify these difficulties as love/hate relationships, this does not

work. The contradictory pressures described above mainly affect thinking. In their

midst, it is impossible to experience and tolerate, that is, think, of absence. It is

precisely in integrating and working through absence that psychic structuring takes

place, and where a healthy ability for metaphorical thinking is born.

The borderline patients unbearable mental state and the difficulty of his analysis or

therapy is due to this simultaneity, that on the one hand, he cannot tolerate absence,

and on the other hand, simultaneously with this, the inner emptiness if filled by an

intrusive, overwhelming object. Absence comes to signify death.

Treating this complex of problems prompts questions about the analysts function. He

is compelled to regulate the two different tendencies so that neither the deadening

emptiness nor the overwhelming intrusiveness drowns the patient. He must be able to

provide the patient with a way to connect with working through, verbalizing, with a

feel for how to digest problems in the mind, with the flexible psychic state that the

analyst communicates with his own actions. Of course, the analyst is required to be

actively present, actively working through in the midst of these contradictory

pressures that are communicated by the patient through actions and words. This

analytic functioning most closely resembles a capacity for reverie, a term more

familiar to us from concepts of the maternal function.

Working through always takes place on a metaphorical level. The analyst strives to

understand what is going on in the patients mind. He communicates this to the

analysand when he feels the analysand can receive and digest it. The experience of

discovery helps the analyst whether his interpretation is right or wrong. The analyst is

present as a person, trying to create an atmosphere in which the process of

symbolization may begin. At the same time, the birth and development of an object

relationship is also made possible.

A symbol is a two-part object coming together in the symbol. The symbol is created in

the moment of perception. This is the product of analysis, the third object, which

emerges between the analysand and analyst; it is metaphorical. It is present in the

moment of understanding.

When he is successful, the analyst creates an absent meaning. His potential for

understanding creates hope in both participants. In this way, new connections, not

objective truths, are created in analysis.

Green is interested in the fathers role in the emergence of the childs ability for

metaphorical thinking. The father is metaphorically present even in his absence,

representing a third presence in the mothers mind. He is the third element enabling

the communicative coexistence of dyad of mother and child, and in this sense, the

absent is potentially present.

Green suggests, in contrast to Lacan, that the more important than mirroring in the

attitude toward the analysand is to make sure that the patient can or becomes able to

simultaneously perceive the analyst as he is and as he is not, and to be able to

distinguish between these two perceptions. The same is true for the analyst in relation

to the patient.


The effect of the negative on the psychic has preoccupied analytical theories and

clinical practice for the last forty years, with varying solutions. Often it is placed

among certain primary defense mechanisms: disavowal, negation, foreclosure,

splitting, denial (1999, p. 173) Greens concept of negative hallucination is at the

intersection of many suggested ideas. For him, negative hallucination is on the one

hand essential in the healthy psyches creation of an internal functional space, and on

the other hand its pathological, perverse and alienating effects can be observed in

clinical work.

Greens thinking has been motivated by the desire to examine the phenomenon

preoccupying all of us contemporary psychoanalysts, the negative therapeutic

reaction, in analysis. It is sketched in Greens best-known article The Dead Mother

which is about the dead mother complex, or the tomb of the dead mother in the

patients mind, as Green so aptly describes it. It is built into the childs mental

structure and surfaces in the analysis of an adult incapable of love. Green views the

love relation similarly. The avoidance of love is not about separation anxiety or

castration anxiety, but about the idea of a triadic relationship being intolerable and

about the fear that the impossibility of sharing will lead to the total disappearance of

all the satisfaction and all the good that have already been experienced.

In his article The Dead Mother (published in France in 1983) Green discusses

oedipal and infantile sexuality in relation to negative hallucination. He examines the

negative hallucination in the childs disappointment in the mother when the mother

has lost her liveliness in her contact with the child due to her own sudden depression.

At this point the child discharges his positive maternal cathexis and identifies with the

image of the dead mother that has emerged. This leads to a lifelong striving to

decathect from each meaningful relationship. This restricts life. Desire and attachment

must be given up, even existence is experienced as forbidden. The father is imagined

retrospectively at the oedipal stage to be the cause of mothers grief and loss. The

primal scene is Greens basic idea: The witnessing of parental intercourse is not what

is crucial; what is crucial is that the child was not present. This feeling is intolerable

and the inability to work through it psychically creates in retrospect, precisely at the

oedipal stage, a dead mother complex. This trauma re-emerges in analysis. The result

of this trauma, and of the fact that the third party, the father, gave the mother pleasure,

is terror and the impossibility of accepting the parental connection.

Green lists the most painful constellations of internal mental primal scenes:

A persecuting or sadistic primal scene with a depraved mother. Two simultanous

images: the father is a murderer or a healer. These may lead to a compulsion to

sublimate and the total denial of the primal scene. Three anti-erotic factors are side-

by-side or separately in operation in these psychic scenarios: hatred, homosexuality

and narcissism.

Analysis threatens to become endless, interminable and without a solution. From the

transference it becomes evident that the patient is powerfully attached to the analysis

itself, not to the analyst. The patient needs a listener like a child who comes to him to

tell him what has happened. He does not use the analyst for analysis. The analyst is

idealised and seduced. The patient presents himself as a strikingly good and easy

analysand. He self-analyses and intellectualises. He captures the interest of the analyst

with his talk and tries to influence the analysts feelings. He feeds the analysis trying

to prolong it endlessly. Speech is not associative and if it is, the patient speaks of

himself as of a third person. Emptiness and the absence of drives characterise this

situation. Green offers the same advice to the analyst as he does above: the patient

must be encountered with lively and active presence and interest.


Green begins his book Chains of Eros: The Sexual in Psychoanalysis (2000) by

examining Freuds relationship with the physical. Freud created the concept of the

drives in psychoanalysis as a bridge between the mental with the physical. Sexuality

was Freuds basic starting point. Humanity is expressed in psychosexuality. Sexuality

is a fundamental part of psychic structuring. Freud discovered the significance of

infantile sexuality and perceived its presence in the psychic symptoms of the adult.

Freud saw that transferred onto dreams, desire colours the unconscious charges and

contents that take the stage in the form of dream images. In transference, Freud was

able to uncover love, and the conflict that is an integral part of it. He noticed that

infantile sexuality always encounters the opposing forces of censorship and amnesia.

The drives are Greens basic theme in this book. The drive must be understood as a

continuously flowing psychophysical stimulus.

That which floats to the surface, which one must exert pressure upon to send back

down, which must be pushed under. (Freud, 1905a, p. 165)

The verb is a vehicle here, the subject passive rather than its agent. (Green, 2000, p.


Green emphasises that Freuds interests went from sexual trauma though memory

toward fantasies. Sexual activation, the original fundamental element of Freuds

theories, shifted toward an interest in the functioning of the mind, to how the mind

deals with traumatic events retrospectively.


I like Greens ability in this book to describe the dynamics of psychoanalytically

significant phenomena and therefore I wish to quote him word for word. His view

corresponds to the picture I too wish to put forward. This is how Green describes the


It became essential for Freud to find a concept to span both the direct and the fantasy

forms of instinct, and which could incorporate a dynamic force, the changes in

physical location that take place during development, including the variations of

intensity and the transformative ability itself. This is a formulation of the drive. It is a

concept that both expresses its original basic premise and those distant phenomena

that this original force has lead to. Freud no longer clung to the sexual recollection,

but rather, now concentrated on this force, an energy charge, and to its opposing force

that sets repression into motion. Many have attempted to make psychoanalytic theory

fit with external events by sweeping away the complexities and difficulties of Freuds

theory and the nature of psychoanalysis (2000, 63).

The following sentences add to this idea, and I feel it is essential reading for todays

analyst. Green continues:

I have shown elsewhere that the model of the drive is a result of an interiorisation of

the model of action an internalised action which has no direct opening onto the

outside but which has an impact on the mechanisms that control discharge to the

outside; a loop in a circuit, destroying any simplification of cause-effect relations.

(2000, p. 63)

The unconscious is not merely the container of contents or meanings, and it is not,

just as the drive is not, purely teleological. The drive is an concept of energy. It is

what brings about action.

It is precisely the qualities of transformation and dynamism which I think are the

crucial characterisations of the analytic concepts of drive theory. It is only these

characterisations that capture the idea of instinctual energy and the motion it

produces. The inclusion of this dimension of motion demands a change in the

analyst's thinking and in psychoanalytic theoretical description. This dimension is

exactly what I have hoped to convey through my selection of quotations.

It is useful to keep in mind, as Green too points out, that Freud said to a critic, while

explaining the logic of psychoanalysis:

First I have to admit that I have tried to translate into the language of our normal

thinking what must in fact be a process that is neither conscious or preconscious,

taking place between quotas of energy in some unimaginable substratum. (1933, p.



For us analysts, the following sentence has become familiar:

Eros which holds together everything in the world. (Freud, 1921, p. 92)

According to Green, Freud introduces this mythical image: Eros. Because it is

impossible to find a concept that unifies both knowledge and the soma. In Eros, the

physical unites with thought.

Green says, in agreement with Stoller, that it is also important to note that Eros does

not just contain pure bliss, but it also contains sadistic strivings, and a desire to cause

pain and trouble. Indeed, he states that Eros is an organic charge of libido, organically

united with its destructive opposing force. Eros, the life force, becomes part of the

psyche. The structures of psychic functioning absorb Eros. Eros is described as the

love instinct, but Freud already states that one cannot claim that a drive loves its

object. Rather, one has to say that Eros is compelled to love. Eros demands the

realisation of satisfaction, and submits to loving in circumstances that enable this


Green outlines a new concept, the erotic chain. I will allow Green to speak at length

as these quotations powerfully express just that drive theoretical viewpoint of Greens

that I am describing.

If we accept as I propose, the hypothesis of an erotic chain that begins in the drive, to

spread out as far as a luxuriant foliage of fantasy and of sublimation, passing through

desire and memory; if we thus link the huge field of unconscious representations to

the psychical representatives of drive, then we establish a network of psychical

phenomena, able to flow in every direction. Drives, psychical representatives of

drives, ideational representatives, affect-representatives, word-representatives, reality-

representatives, there is no possibility of reaching a totalised grouping! (p. 178)

Furthermore we can imagine that the activation of cathexis a notion that runs right

through the chain, going from an actualization through the act, to the elaborations of

fantasy or sublimation may bear on any link in the series, following various

directions progressive, towards verbalization or symbolic expression; or regressive,

towards the soma either towards the psyche or towards biological structures,

sometimes emerging as a to-and-fro movement between them. (p. 178)

This is followed by an important statement:

between the activated drive (at work in an action) and speech (word representations),

is an enormous hiatusthat threatens to prove always impossible to cross over or fill

in. (180)

Green analyses his own and Freuds idea of how the ego is in fact always split,

particularly when word representations are activated. Affect and word cannot fully


Green also examines biological factors that we can observe during an analysis,

particularly in situations when they cause difficulties and prevent the analysis from

progressing and prevent psychic development.

I will select a few of them:

The first of these impasses is apparent in the repetition compulsion: psychic forces are

dammed up in such a way that psychic movement is prevented and it only begins to


A second object of scrutiny is the division of psychic energy between two opposing

forces, libido and destrudo, their balanced or unbalanced interaction. Instability can be

observed in the rigidity of defence mechanisms and in fixations which do not allow

sufficient room for psychic variation and change.

A third factor is apparent in unbalanced binding and discharging: here too, in the

imbalance between Eros and destructive forces, sufficient freedom to achieve

satisfaction and the possibilities for creativity remain unrealised.


Perspectives from developmental theory have attracted psychoanalysts during the last

few decades particularly as studies in baby observation and research into child

development have made enormous progress. The field is of great interest but it is not

so directly applicable to psychoanalysis as it has appeared to many researchers.

Psychoanalysis is a different kind of science and its concepts, for example, its concept

of time, is completely different. The concept of linear time does not tally with

Freudian time. In other words, the picture of how time behaves in the mind given by

psychoanalysis is at odds with linear time. This is not to be simplified, neither in

practice nor in theory.

Green echoes Freud:

The relations between the mnemic fragments are of more value than the fragments


I shall again keep to Greens own text, because in my opinion he is unusually good at

expressing just the dynamics that I too, as a drive theorist, seek to approach.

This is how Green expresses it: It is clear that no form of linear development can

account for the peripeteia of the theory: the Freudian pendulum continues to waver

between a diachronic perspective grounded in childhood in which sexuality,

unconscious desire, and now the loss of the object a loss which used to be transitory

but for which there can be no turning back of the clock now are at stake, and a

structural perspective opposing psychical systems that are organised differently. In

fact the two axes, historical and structural are complementary. That which existed at

the beginning of history will constitute the primary pole (2002, p. 19)

Green continues:

one is bound to come to the following conclusion: the diachronic heterogeneity of

the psychical apparatus is accentuated, owing to the difference of structure between

the agencies and the way in which the effects of the various forms of temporality are

inscribed in them. The time is now not just in pieces; its parts are in a state of tension

with each other. (p. 25)

This takes place when biological time (the id) and more developed historical time (the

ego) meet. there exists, not so much synergy, as difficulties of harmonisation

between its component parts, and even antagonism. (p. 25)

Freudian time is a shattered time.

The next reference reveals how essential the dynamism is for Green:

We will see that there are elementary forms of the psyche which are entirely

permeated by motional dynamic mobilisations linking together the minimum of

meanings and the maximum of movement; that is to say, tensions evoking an

actualisation that is potentially acted out. They conjure up the dimension of an

automatism of repetition or are realised in a hallucinatory form; they may even

take the paths of a somatisation, more or less evocative of meaning. (p. 39)


I have selected the following quotations in order to introduce Green the clinician, best

revealed in his consideration of the negative therapeutic reaction and the repetition

compulsion in precisely this book, Time in Psychoanalysis.. This is how he

describes the negative therapeutic reaction, which he calls an interminable


How can one untangle the ties of these interminable transferences, which are deadly

owing to their stagnation and infinite repetition, as if they were installed in

timelessness? (p. 131)

Freud situated his thoughts on free unbound destructiveness in the context of the

repetition compulsion, which, as he describes it, spreads to every agent across the

whole of psychic functioning. Freud distinguished this phenomenon from bound

aggression, which is woven into the superego and is in this way in relation to an


The impasse seems to make the transition impossible except by repeating the trauma

again and again with an object. That is to destroy, in an underhand manner the

potential richness of the transference relationship by making it conform to the model

of the primary object of the past. Only the analyst can offer the way out by proposing

himself to the analysand as an object who accepts that which is hazardous (p. 132)

The analysis is asphyxiated. Thus repetition can only cease, and respiration can be

restored, on the prior condition that has repeated and reproduced itself until its

thirst is satisfied; that is until the subject has had enough of destruction, without

succumbing to the punishments called for by his unconscious guilt which pushes him

to deflect this destructivity onto himself. (p. 132)

Deeper analysis shows that the analysand is addressing an object which can only be

used on account of its deficiencies; and that he is only relating to a ghost of an object

which seems to be inhabited by vampyric desires. (p. 133)

Green explicates the origins of the ghost-object: This object has become a narcissistic

object as a consequence of the childs inability to deal with his own trauma. It has no

direct relationship to the primary object of the past, but is the analysands own

monstrous creation. It contains all the incomprehension, meaninglessness and

indifference with which he treats himself, in the same way as he feels he has been

treated; in a manner that is cruel and deadened to pain and which avoids all

experiences of being understood. The analysand must avoid at all costs this

experience of being understood, because it reminds him of the feeling that he does not

exist. That is the worst.

The discharge of repetition is in fact an attempt to create a vacuum at the heart of the

psychical apparatus. It is in this sense that the compulsion to repeat is a murder of

time. (p. 78)

The ultimate aim of the compulsion to repeat is to destroy the internal primary

maternal object, with which the subject is fused in a manner that does not allow either

party to exist separately. According to Green, unfortunately, very often, as this

structure begins to break down, the consequence is not relief and healing, but total

collapse. What is the remedy? Green believes that the analyst must allow himself to

be used for destruction without resisting it, at least to an extent that allows the

repetition of destruction to be confronted, and for it to begin to arouse interest, and

thus make the analytic relationship an object of the patients scrutiny.

In my opinion, Greens solution is the only possible one, but one that demands a great

deal from the analyst. I appreciate it and my own experience of analytical work

corresponds to what Green says here. Here we encounter Green the clinician who

never stops the work of analysis, as Green adds emphatically:

If I had not observed such developments, I would not have taken the trouble to

describe them in detail Hopefully, others will be able to reap the benefit. (p. 135)


My sense is that Green has been from the very beginning strongly in touch with drive

energy both in his concepts and the dynamics of his theory. The moulding of drive

energy in his theory again powerfully features in the books from 2000 onwards.

Movement and process gain the position that drive theory requires in psychoanalytic

conceptualisation. Green has returned to his roots. In my selection of extracts, one can

observe instances where I have found him at his most vivid.

What, then, is the clinical significance of Greens theory? What is its relationship to

analytic practice? The significance is great. The analyst who can afford to listen and

perceive the movements of analytic processing, and who is not compelled to

prematurely add representational content where it has not yet been created, will

understand and see the multifacetedness of analysis in a deeper way. He will see the

forms of its associative movement vividly enough to be ever-ready for journeys that

create new symbolisations both by the analytic couch and in his own, theory-building

psychic world.

The English translations of Greens works listed below are the sources for this article.

Green, A. 1975: The analyst, symbolization and absence in the analytic setting. Int. J.

of Psycho-anal. 1975. 56.

Green, A. 1981: Negation and contradiction. in James S. Grotstein (editor) do i dare

disturb the universe? In memorial to W. R. Bion Maresfield Library.

Green, A. 1986: On Private Madness. International Universities Press, INC.

Green, A. 1999a: The Work of the Negative. (in French, 1993). Free Association

Books, London.

Green, A. 1999b: The Fabric of Affects in the Psychoanalytic Discourse. (in French,

1973) Routledge, London and New York.

Green, A. 2000: Chains of Eros. The Sexual in Psychoanalysis, Rebus Press,


Green, A. 2000: Andr Green at the Squigle Foundation. Edited by Jan Abram,

Karnac Book.

Green, A. 2001: Life Narcissism Death Narcissism, Free Association Books, London.

Green, A. 2002: Time in Psychoanalysis. Free Association Books, London.

Green, A. 2003: Diachrony in Psychoanalysis. Free Association Books.

Kohon, G. 1999: The Dead Mother. The work of Andr Green. Routledge. London.