Abstract taken from the report presented at the Congress ” Un Genitore quasi perfetto: Funzione genitoriale tra aspettative, fantasia e realtà”, Ceriale 2014)
While I was reflecting on the direction to give to this contribution, initially limited to the pathogenous function of the “false presence”, I realised that the pathogenous interaction parent-child not only interests both parents, as is known, but is progressively acquiring over the last years a precise significance given to the social tolerance of perversions.
Today I will tell you about a borderline case, but you should not believe that it is exceptional clinical material.
The interaction with perverse parents becomes always more frequent and goes hand in hand with the social tolerance of the narcissistic position in its multiple variables.
Since I have used the term ‘perversion’, I may as well give it an appropriate definition.
Etymologically the term indicates something which has taken a different direction from that which one would have expected: Per versum. The expected direction is that of generable sexual intercourse, an intercourse in which, the drive of genome perpetuation utilises the sexual drive to achieve its own goals.
All of you know the windy path that the human sexuality follows to arrive at the so-called genital maturation, that final stage of sexual maturation in which the libido is concentrated in the genitals and the aim becomes the copulation with an adult (in other words a human being capable of generating) of the opposite sex.
Here, I know, an enormous debate would be created but this is not the appropriate context.
Let’s say that in a historic era in which we are almost just a step away from the possibility of creating human beings without sexual activity (you can be sure that this will happen very soon) the transformations of sexual activity as we consider it are becoming truly unpredictable.
Sometimes I think that sexual activity as we know it could even disappear, in the same way that many behavioural or psychobiological functions have disappeared during the course of the biological evolution.
We can then limit the field of perversion to the exercise of sexuality with a weak person, that undergoes the experience without desiring it, in an egodystonic way.
Surely minors are included in this field, even if some psychopathics already speak scandalously of pedophilia as a legitimate variation of love and you can be sure if something that strengthens the acceptance of the reality principle in the social body does not intervene, soon or later it will become decriminalised.
Therefore perversion is a sexuality endured against one’s own will, in a situation of psychological subjection, where the freedom of choice or refusal is abolished.
But, as Freud reminded us, many activities which belong to the perversion sphere are present in healthy individuals and represent a variation of their sexuality.
What makes us consider perversion morbid is the imperious and compulsory character of the activity which employs such a pressure on the subject’s Ego apparatus to often compromise the reality principle.
As the Master reminds us: “The essence of perversion does not consist in the transgression of the sexual goal, nor in the substitution of the genitals, nor in the variation of the object, but only in the exclusivity with which these deviations take place and through which the sexual act which serves for reproduction is pushed aside”. (S.Freud, Introductory Lectures On Psycho-Analysis, Lecture 21, Development of the Libido and Sexual Organizations, 1915-17).
Today I will speak to you about a story of demons dressed as angels , ideal and idealised parents which mask demons destructors of souls.
Prepare yourselves to plunge into hell.
When I receive for the first time Mr. Sparrow I find in front of me a tall handsome man, an athlete, but even so I attribute him the name ‘Sparrow’ on my database since, beyond his extremely rigid character armour, I see a scared sparrow, totally lost, without a nest, which will never fly again.
The patient is afflicted by a frank persecutory paranoid delusion which fluctuates between persecution and erotomania, at times it manifests itself in very violent delusions of jealousy, for which his wife finds it hard to live, held in check to the core.
He feels no emotions, he is a non-affective robot, his speech is reduced to the bare minimum, his persecutory mentism is unstoppable, he is convinced that his brother has a relation with his wife and that they laugh behind his back, he is acted by a tumultuous aggressiveness which he can hardly contain.
Sometimes I fear that he could commit a violent acting-out which might involve himself and his family.
He spends a long period describing his wife’s assumed affair, who works with the public and can therefore, according to him, easily betray him.
Often his delusions are interrupted by a key sentence: “I can’t carry on here: I feel that sooner or later I’ll discover something frightening, that I won’t be able to tolerate!”.
His sexual life is pure physical exercise: a pantomime without any pleasure: he is totally impotent. Slowly his wife becomes the privileged persecutory object: “I always have the sensation that I must discover something which has been hidden from me. Why does my wife hate my brother? Are there any reasons? I have always thought that she has screwed him. She is not a woman that shows herself as she really is. She makes everyone believe that she is a good person. And then I don’t even know who she is. I know that the hate I feel for her is the hate that I nourished for my mother and for which I can’t explain the origin, but at times I can’t stand her!”
The man was incessantly invaded by coprophagus and urolagnia desires, impossible to imagine.
I will not give details about this material, even if very interesting, because many of you would not stand the impact.
But all of this inferno was closed in his battle armour in the most efficient and impermeable manner. An irreproachable person, clean, polite, efficient, calm. A perfect husband when in society, a paranoiac demon at home, an affable father for all but a totally false presence in the family.
He will get to know his son only when he reaches the age of 7 or 8 years when, in other words, we managed to liquify the paranoiac delusion.
I often asked myself how he had not become an infanticide. And I wondered from which infantile vicissitudes this universal immense hatred could derive. He spoke to me about powerful, principled, influent, religious parents, with high ranking roles.
The paranoiac defence, the hate that kept the objects distant, protected him and he was perfectly aware of this: “I can’t give up these phantasies, these tormenting thoughts, I would find myself completely empty, I would wilt”.
He spills interminable monologues of hate over me: he hates me, his mother, his wife, he identifies himself as a violent, brutal woman and he feels attracted by men. A perfect psychoanalysis handbook situation: the paranoiac defence against homosexual impulses.
“She bothers me because she enters my cruel world, my viciousness. Women should vanish from the face of the earth and only men should remain! I like all men, even the old ones. Open your legs! Open yourselves! Show yourselves!”.
Then an apparently banal phrase which will however gain an enormous importance in the following work.
“The only important thing is that these things are not done to children, and that one has control of certain urges”.
A strange thing occurs in the mean time. His brother contacts me for an appointment, which I concede, only after my patient’s consent, as is normal procedure. His brother tells me that he is normalised and that by now it would be best to suspend the therapy, he insinuates that I am stringing out the work for mere profit.
I explain to him that we have only just resolved the paranoiac delusion, that the possibility of an acting-out has probably been warded off but that there are still great margins for improvement for the harmonisation of his psychic structure. He goes off in a huff. A week later his father arrives. I suppose that he has finally come to inform himself of the health condition of a son that has been absolutely neglected.
No, instead the man is pleased to underline that his son told many strange and implausible stories as a child, that could compromise his and his wife’s reputation and not to give any importance to those stories, on the contrary, to help the patient forget about those rantings.
I am not the type to be conditioned: the psychoanalytic work continues.
Memories, for example, of the sadistic oppression that the patient was subjected to by his older brother begin to emerge: “I thought that he wanted to make me do something so he could laugh at me” [crying] My brother enjoyed making me say words that I couldn’t pronounce properly, so he could make fun of me. For example, instead of saying ‘lemon’ I said ‘melon’. “This idiot does nothing but make mistakes and cry! Where did he come from? He doesn’t seem to be brother to us!” my brother used to say and he took pleasure in locking me in a room. He would switch off the light and say to my sister: “Let’s, see if he cries!”. Once I jumped from the first floor window. He had left me locked away for hours, and I cut my tummy!”.
Soon after, the patient’s wife receives from her brother-in-law a threatening letter regarding me, ranting and violent, full of slanders but which contains a sentence that makes me jump: “Let’s say that it’s a proven fact that my mother and my father, as my brother says, did partner swapping…”.
It is the first time that the hypothesis, even in an indirect manner, is accepted. Mr. Sparrow had described several times the interminable waiting in unknown houses, with a coming and going of seminude men and women and seductive glances, in an orgiastic atmosphere.
contemporaneously a thing of capital importance occurs. I had brought together a small group of six patients the majority of which were severe borderline cases to experiment a systemic technique from which I have drawn memorable teachings for my profession. The man accepts to take part.
Each patient has his individual sessions but once a week there is this dynamic comparison with the Other.
For briefness’ sake I cannot explain the dynamics which make this clinical solution such a powerful tool: I will limit myself to saying that for him, as for the other components of the group, the Omertà fell away.
With regard to this, our Master Nicola Peluffo reminds us that the psychoanalyst is treated as the totemic authority and therefore cannot be told the true family secrets. (Nicola Peluffo, L’Omertà, Scienza e Psicoanalisi, gennaio 2010) But they can, at most, tell others above all when someone else has already shown the courage to do so and nothing catastrophic has happened to them.
In group the patient will begin to unveil the title of his secrets, in the individual sessions, between floods of tears and screams of protest, he will begin to illustrate the elaboration, speaking about the inferno of his infantile life, involved in the perverse sexuality of adults, treated as an icon of excitement, lent, abandoned and forgotten, during these unending evenings where things happened that I cannot mention, for obvious reasons. A flood of names, circumstances, verifications and incontrovertible testimonies.
Finally someone who believes him, after being treated and presented as a mad crackpot all his life, who spreads absurd phantasies.
The only thing possible occurs: the total and irreversible splitting of his own destiny from that of the family’s. His mother died a long time ago, his father and his brother will continue to wear their angelic masks and, soon or later, will look at themselves in the mirror.
Frankly I do not know if Mr. Sparrow will ever be able to have a normal sexual life. The thing we can be happy about is that he is no longer a sacrificial victim of the Lie, he no longer has psychotic fury, he has opened himself to the world and to social life with happiness, he is a loving and present father and he has abandoned his paranoiac delusions which made his family life hell: and it is no small thing!
Translated by Linda De Nardo