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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Apr 24, 2022

“The father carries the separation function which is very important in terms of progressive differentiation from the mother rather than forceful opposition. It rests on something else that I think that we in psychoanalysis don’t take seriously enough - though Peter Blos did when he talked about the isogender attachment. The father also has to be an attracting object to the little boy - not just the separating object, but the attracting object. The little boy wants to desire the father and the love of the father - the whole homoerotic connection with the father, wrestling with the father, touching the father’s beard - all the beautiful sensual aspects of the male to male relationships that are inherent in the early dyadic father - son relationship.”  


Episode Description: We begin by distinguishing analytic data from social and cultural theorizing. Michael walks us through the early history of psychoanalytic understandings of masculine development. He describes the ‘third wave’ of conceptualizations to which he contributed. This  recognizes the formative aspect of the mother’s relationship with her internalized masculinity and its reverberations towards her son. He discusses the challenge the little boy faces in acknowledging his gender difference from his mother, a task made more manageable by the dependable presence of his dyadically available father. He presents clinical material that demonstrates the power of the homoerotic transference/countertransference to “activate” a secure masculine identification. This grows into the discovery of “a man’s inherent receptivity” which he is careful to distinguish from female receptivity. We close with his sharing with us a bit of his personal history that has led him to be interested in this work. 


Our Guest: Michael J. Diamond, Ph.D., is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies. His major publications are on psychoanalytic technique and analytic mindedness; masculinity, femininity, and gender theory; fathering and the paternal function; trauma and dissociation; hypnosis and altered states; and group processes and social action. He has written five books including today’s featured book on Masculinity and Its Discontents: The Male Psyche and the Inherent Tensions of Maturing Manhood. His forthcoming book on applied psychoanalysis is Ruptures in the American Psyche: Containing Destructive Populism in Perilous Times. His other major books include My Father Before Me: How Fathers and Sons Influence Each Other Throughout Their Lives My and an edited book on The Second Century of Psychoanalysis: Evolving Perspectives on Therapeutic Action (with Chris Christian). He has a full-time clinical practice in Los Angeles, California where he remains active in teaching, supervising, and writing. 


Recommended Readings: 


Blos, P. (1985). Son and Father: Before and Beyond the Oedipus Complex. New York: Free Press. 


Corbett, K. (2009). Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 


Diamond, M. J. (2004). The Shaping of Masculinity: Revisioning Boys Turning Away from Their Mothers to Construct Male Gender Identity. Int. J. Psychoanal., 85:359–380. 


Diamond, M. J. (2006). Masculinity Unraveled: The Roots of Male Gender Identity and the Shifting of Male Ego Ideals Throughout Life. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 54:1099–1130. 


Diamond, M. J. (2007). My Father Before Me: How Fathers and Sons Influence Each Other Throughout Their Lives. New York: Norton. 


Diamond, M. J. (2015). The Elusiveness of Masculinity: Primordial Vulnerability, Lack, and the Challenges of Male Development. Psychoanal. Q., 84:47–102. 


Diamond, M. J. (2017). The Missing Father Function in Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique: The Analyst’s Internal Couple and Maturing Intimacy. Psychoanal. Q., 86:861–887. 


Diamond, M. J. (2020). The Elusiveness of “The Feminine” in the Male Analyst: Living in Yet Not Being of the Binary. Psychoanal. Q.,89:503–526. 


Diamond, M. J. (2021). Masculinity and Its Discontents: The Male Psyche and the Inherent Tensions of Maturing Manhood. London: Routledge. 


Freud, S. (1905). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. S. E., 7:130–243. 


Friedman, R. C. & Downey, J. L. (2008). Sexual Differentiation of Behavior: The Foundation of a Developmental Model of Psychosexuality. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 56:147–175. 


Glasser, M. (1985). The “Weak Spot”—Some Observations on Male Sexuality. Int. J. Psychoanal., 66:405–414. 


Laplanche, J. (1997). The Theory of Seduction and the Problem of the Other. Int. J. Psychoanal., 78:653–666. 


Lax, R. F. (1997). Boys’ Envy of Mother and the Consequences of This Narcissistic Mortification. Psychoanal. Study Child, 52:118–139. 


Moss, D. (2012). Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man: Psychoanalysis and Masculinity. London: Routledge. 


Stoller, R. J. (1985). Presentations of Gender. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.