Narcissism fueled by shame

DPG Institute Hamburg

The empty me

Lecture at the 3rd Psychoanalytic Autumn Academy of the DPG

on September 22, 2014 in Hamburg

by Klaus Grabska

Dear participants,

Dear organizers of this 3rd Autumn Academy,

I am pleased to be able to speak to you here and to discuss with you later.

After the divine self and its hubris in the morning, the empty self and its depressive despair will now be our topic. In doing so, I will first treat the empty ego as a cipher for a psychosocial phenomenon of modern subjectivity and then above all as a psychopathological syndrome to ward off depression, which in turn represents a defense against grief and anger, guilt and shame.

The empty self as a socio-cultural code

In the image of the empty ego, both the social and the personal side of a time-typical dimension of suffering and alienation are addressed. Both dimensions have in common the active denial of emotional conflicts, the intensive avoidance of deep emotional ties and the flight into the externality of functioning behavior that follows the ideal of self-optimization and whose constraints are compensated by the offers of a stimulating society and regulated away through the use of psychotropic drugs and drugs should.

Living in this fleeting modernity (Baumann 2008), people, especially the subsequent generations, see themselves increasingly forced to lead an accelerated lifestyle, smooth role changes and a mobile permanent flexibilization of the self (King 2011, Rosa 2013), although at the same time they are faced with increasing uncertainty the future planning, an increasing uncontrollability of the personal life situation and an increasing lack of commitment and unreliability of social and family relationships are confronted. On the one hand, the ability to separation and autonomy is required, on the other hand, the conditions that people need to develop these skills are undermined. The negative solution to this socially induced conflict tension can be understood socio-psychologically as the pathological shadow side of current socialization. It manifests

- Both in depression as a widespread and temporary illness, in which social scientists see the psychopathological key symptoms of contemporary society (Ehrenberg 2008, Rosa 2011) and which therefore increasingly generates social research and treatment interest (Leuzinger-Bohleber, M. et al. 2013 ; Psyche special issue 2010),

- as well as in the mass of unprocessed identity breaks, as they are reflected in the increase in ego-structural personality disorders and to which psychoanalysis reacted with an increasing expansion of its treatment spectrum to narcissistic, perverse, psychosis-related and borderline personality disorders.

The broken idol, the unbearable shame and a suicide:

“I'm at the end. ... mocked by their own fans

(Diary 08/11/2003)

A society's ideals are embodied in the idols (from the Latin idolum = idol). Even if we run the risk of being instrumentalized for social and economic purposes through their mass media mediation, we humans orientate ourselves in our striving for self-realization by our idols. That is why it hits us as a shock when an admired idol suddenly turns out to be a tragic person entangled in his mental suffering and at the mercy of him. The collapse of an idol affects the identity breaks and cracks in the ego of each and every one of us, for whom the idol has an emotional meaning and an inner-psychological function and in whom the individual believes for his own sake. The collapse of our idol also revives the memory of the first idols of our childhood, which are still in the first place today when people are asked about their idols: mother and father [1], and it touches on early emotional breakdowns in which as children we could not experience ourselves in the way we ourselves or our parents wished us to be ideally - situations in which we fail before our ego ideal.

Under the heading “The best man in the wrong job”, Christof Siemers wrote 2010) in his review of the biography “Robert Enke. An all too short life "by Ronald Reng (2010):" The suicide of the national goalkeeper on November 10, 2009 not only shocked football fans deeply, but also a society that is completely fixated on performance. "Together with him we can ask ourselves: What a 32- year old family man, an exemplary, well-loved thoroughbred professional, such an exceptional figure who has finally become number 1 in the goal of the national team and is now about to fulfill his dream of being in the goal in the next soccer World Cup in 2010, drives himself forward to throw a train? What may have rushed towards him inside that he saw no other way out?

From the biography it becomes clear that he felt himself haunted by a shame catastrophe shortly before the realization of his sporting dream in the media, that is, in front of millions of people, that he had to admit that he was suffering from the depressive fear of failure that he was already experiencing in 2003 had, despite having antidepressants under control to such an extent that he could not have filled the role of national goalkeeper and should have gone straight to inpatient clinic treatment. What rage for disappointment must have raged in him against himself and against the world? What threat of annihilation must he have emanated from a media public that commercially exploits people's weaknesses in order to increase circulation, reach and quota, especially if they previously raised the same people to the status of idols?

Public opinion, this socio-cultural superego, can kill. It can wipe out a person's social existence. And when this external social threat is combined with a comparable inner-soul threat in us, in that a merciless super-ego cannot forgive us for not having our ego ideal as we wish to see ourselves and to be seen by others can fulfill, then we see ourselves radically questioned in our entire personal existence from the outside as well as from the inside. An act of suicide, like any less final self-harm, can then be understood both as inexorable self-punishment for failing the ego-ideal (I am not worth living) and as an expression of the individual's inherent destructiveness as well as the very last subjectively available possibility, To be able to change the outer as well as inner spiritual object for the better: "I kill myself so that you will regret what you have done to me and thereby become an object that is well disposed towards me" (Kind 1992, p. 21). Self-punishment and third-party punishment coincide. Self and object, love and hate are not as separate as they appear. The suicidal person therefore often has a regressive fantasy of merging with a good object in a state of paradisiacal indifference in which the question of the ego-ideal, how I wish to see myself and to be seen, cannot arise, nor can the questions of guilt and shame.

Professional athletes like Robert Enke live, increasingly on a global scale, a life that is characterized by an accelerated lifestyle, permanent flexibility of the self, self-optimization and the urge to perfect and thus embody something in the extreme, which in normal working and living conditions is much more gradual than the future interspersed. What shocked society was less his depression than his suicide exposing the psychological cost of this form of life with a suddenness that had something overwhelming to the world. It took public rituals to deal with it. With these public rituals, society demonstrated the guilty regret that the suicide had fantasized about and confirmed the temporary transformation of public opinion from persecuting to well-disposed object that renounces condemnation, exclusion and contempt. The dead Robert Enke receives the recognition, confirmation and appreciation that the living Robert Enke could not hope for [2]. However, insofar as this is connected with a re-idealization, we can legitimately doubt the social sustainability of this shock processing. There doesn't seem to have been a bad, disappointed, angry Robert Enke. The depressed person's pathologically bound hatred of internal and external conditions that make him depressed, and which could be turned against these conditions for the purpose of changing them, disappeared in the hole of idealization and, together with Robert Enke and his re-idolarization, became the hero of the Depression borne to the grave.

Coolness as a habitus of the empty self

Even if we don't know enough about his childhood, we do know that Robert Enke went through his first crisis with an intense fear of separation as early as 1999 when he moved abroad for the first time after an unhappy season at Borussia Mönchengladbach. After he recovered and had good years in Lisbon, he got into a deep life crisis after switching to FC Barcelona in 2002. He did not fit into the goalkeeper model idealized by the coach and saw himself rejected and sidelined in a humiliating way with no chance. At the same time, he didn't like conflict. He refused or was unable to enter into an aggressive confrontation for self-assertion with those on whom he found himself dependent, and he was unable to share his emotions and conflicts with his wife or friends . Instead he shut down and through this shut down he lost contact with his own emotional world and with himself. If his wife asked interested, all he could say was that he was empty, powerless, vaguely fearful to panic.

It is not surprising that Robert Enke tried to cope with his mental crisis with the psychological ability that distinguished him as a goalkeeper and what he was bought for as a goalkeeper: his coolness. One of the functional goalkeeping virtues is to be able to keep affects and feelings under control at the crucial moment so that they do not have a disruptive influence on one's actions. Robert Enke embodied this attitude of absolute self-control like no other goalkeeper in his time: "Nothing moved, no gesture, no movement, nothing distracted him, nothing brought him out of concentration" (Reng 2010, p. 99).

By coolness I mean a habitus of emotional self-discipline that aims at the strict control of one's own affects: one tries to hide fears, vulnerability, weakness, need, but also anger, aggression, envy, jealousy and love, i.e. the whole spectrum of one's own feelings, that distinguishes you as an unmistakable personality, and instead tries to demonstrate power, strength and concentration, but also to radiate calm, serenity and sovereignty, which should surround you with the aura of the unassailable.

As a socially compatible habitus of contemporary self-discipline, coolness offers itself on the one hand as a personal coping mode, because it promises absolute protection from shame and condemnation and the protection of our true self in an illusionary way by presenting a false self to others. On the other hand, the connection between coolness and emotional coldness, indifference, indifference and cool arrogance indicates that coolness can also be associated with a psychopathological withdrawal that can have autistic, schizoid or dissociative traits. Here an apparently impenetrable and insensitive self isolates itself externally from human relationships and internally from affects and feelings.

On the one hand, emotionally emptied and socially isolated, on the other hand, the ego remains capable of acting and thinking in such a way that it can cheat the other about his true state and thus deceive human relationships. Robert Enke's wife felt nothing when her husband said goodbye by saying that he was going to training now. Neither did the chief physician, whom he then canceled over the phone because of inpatient treatment. His attending doctor will later also say that there was no sign of suicide. Robert Enke will write in his diary: “I'm not being honest with him” (Reng 2010, p.380). In his suicide note, he will apologize to relatives and doctors for deceiving them about his true condition, but the truth would have jeopardized his suicide plans. Even if we have to understand that Robert Enke only believed that he could protect and preserve his true self in this self-destructive way, we should not deny the cold, almost technical destructiveness that showed in the affect-neutral "coolness" in the implementation of his plan and which then hit the relatives and doctors with full force.

The empty ego as a defense organization against trauma:

"I need an exit strategy"

In February 2010, the 44-year-old writer Wolfgang Herrndorf, who comes from Hamburg and lives in Berlin, learned that he was suffering from an incurable malignant brain tumor, a glioblastoma. He reacted to this catastrophe by intensifying his literary work. He started a digital diary, first as a message for his friends, then as a blog on the Internet for anyone who wanted to share in his fate. “Work and Structure” (2013), the title of the blog, is a disturbing and moving online document of how he coped with his illness until shortly before the moment he found himself with a revolver on August 26, 2013 at around 11:15 pm on the banks of the Hohenzollern Canal shot.

At the mercy of a stormy alternation of manic exhilaration and irregular attacks of fear of death and panic, which initially forced him to go to psychiatry in order to find a first stop, he quickly realized: “What I need is an exit strategy. ...... I have to know that I am the master of my own house ”(Herrndorf 2013, p. 50). The core of this exit strategy is a Walther PKK [3], which embodies his early decision to be able to shoot himself, and a coping mode based on splitting the ego to protect himself against overwhelming feelings and threatening affects by giving himself and the world the feeling - and withdraws affect cathexes: “Complete indifference before the MRI, complete indifference after the MRI [4]. ... leaving the Charité indifferent. Ten minutes later then collapse, crawled on the bank of the Spree, howled ”(ibid, p. 66). Again and again he will try to defend himself against the potentially overwhelming fear of death, resignation, anger for disappointment, despair and sadness by trying to split his ego between a cognitive and an emotional ego and emotionally emptying his ego experience. Everything becomes indifferent and meaningless to the empty ego, indifferent and void. On the one hand the ego survives, on the other hand it becomes lifeless. "Nihilism" is what Wolfgang Herrndorf later called this personal defense organization with which he tried to assert ego control over the inner psychological world against its affective overflow and against the inner danger of ego dissolution, while using the pistol to assert ego control over the inner world of the soul Hoped to win the reality of his external destiny.

Wolfgang Herrndorf recognized the self-deception in this defensive organization of the empty ego and initially thought that it “still worked” (ibid. P. 111). He noted:

“I imagine lying with my bed in a very tall, slender brick tower of the hospital, surrounded by black darkness and the infinite emptiness of space, and the forces of nature shake my tower and cannot enter. Not in the tiny second of the present in which I am inviolable. That night I repeat endlessly comforting sentences and thoughts to myself and use them to assemble a little evening prayer, which I repeat to myself again and again in the next few days and until today when I cannot sleep or the floor disappears. As I write it down, I think it's the greatest thing I've ever done.

Nobody can get to me

until the hour of death.

And even then no one will come.

Nothing will come and it's in my hand "

(ibid, p.110 f)

Emptying the ego:

Destruction of panic-inducing ideas, ego-splitting and omnipotent denial

The emptiness of the ego is not given. It is only created through an active process of emptying. The fear of death and the thought of death must be removed. Otherwise the panic threatens to flood the ego, since the inner soul possibilities of normal repression are no longer sufficient.The Walther PPK that Wolfgang Herrndorf obtained becomes an inner psychological object that his ego uses to destroy panic-inducing thoughts of death.

“This time a simple decision of will is not enough, and I have to install a very vividly presented Walther PKK in my head in order to shoot every thought that arises: bang, bang. Two balls and I think of something else ”(ibid, p. 118). Then: “With ever greater reliability, it shoots away the thoughts of death without a trace. .... Walther becomes independent. ... It clicks and pops in my head without any action on my part, and the thought of death hardly appears on the surface ”(ibid, p.119).

With Wolfgang Herrndorf we can now see the inner soul side of what we described earlier as the social habitus of coolness. His ego tries to install something that we admire in the media in the coolness of a killer in the film [5] or as an ego shooter [6] in the computer game, as an inner survival mechanism: the retreat into an omnipotence fantasy, utterly sole ruler over his own To be thoughts and feelings and to be able to protect oneself from existential annihilation threats alone and absolutely. The side of the ego, which believes it is protected in an omnipotent sense of self, has to radically split off from the side of the ego, which as a realistic sense of self knows about the threat of death and its own powerlessness and could feel both and aggressively deny this side of itself, shoot away.

From the empty self to the beginning of an inner conflict in the self:

Dialogue of the inner objects

Wolfgang Herrndorf did not have this defensive organization of the empty ego based on omnipotent denial under control as it was perhaps the case with Robert Enke. He remarked: “At about the same time as the Walther, her opponent materializes. At first only in the form of a disruptive entity, and I mean I can feel it pretty precisely where it is in my head: in the center at the back. Something is sitting there and calling out: You are dying. When trying to support Walther, who was already successful in her struggle, I personify the disruptive authority first as a disruptor, then as Wilhelm Störer. I try to speak to him and note his reactions. In contrast to Walther, he hardly reacts at all and likes to do the opposite of what I want ”(ibid, p. 120).

With the Walther and the Wilhelm, Wolfgang Herrndorf has created two inner conceptions of objects. With these conceptions of objects he was able to show his inner turmoil and the conflict between a dominant, omnipotent denial self-esteem associated with self-preservation, and a split-off, realistic self-esteem, mixed with the threat of annihilation, as an inner defensive drama in front of his inner eye bring it and talk to it. One side of his self was able to retain the ability to objectify and symbolize internally. This makes it possible for him to regain a certain inner stability, to perceive himself again, to think about himself and to communicate with others.

Overcoming the empty self:

Open up to the compassionate and supportive other

But the recovery of an integrated ego and a coherent sense of self remained fragile for Wolfgang Herrndorf. She could collapse again at any time. For example, by calling an emotionally close friend and giving her sympathy: “There is something in her empathy that I cannot process, a message about my true, sad state, .... I ask Jana to go off the line. She argues ... and tries to clear things up. Then I go crazy. I scream and yell at them and slam the phone down and hit the wall in fear of death ”(ibid, p. 120). So attacked by the sympathetic response, he can no longer write the name of his friend. His body fails: “It's bizarre. ... As soon as I try, my arms fly off the keyboard, my head pops and twitches, ... I cannot write your name, which is contaminated by fear of death ”(ibid, p.121).

The compassionate resonance object that the friend stands for has not yet become an inner object. It is still too contaminated with destruction. Like the body, the psyche defends itself to take it in and must extinguish it full of anger, dis-objectalize and de-symbolize it: It must not have a name because it brings back the panic of death, and at the same time the fear of death remains a nameless horror the ego persecuted mercilessly (cf. also Bion 1962, p. 132).

But with the spontaneous outburst of anger against the compassionate object of resonance, something very significant happens in two directions at the same time, which was first recorded by Winnicott (1974; 1979). First: The ego regains its own aggressiveness as a source of its true self and thus comes back into contact with itself as loving and hating, i.e. being able to have feelings and affects. And secondly: if the other survives the annihilation fantasized with anger in the sense that he has to endure the destructiveness and does not have to return it in the form of retribution or revenge, then he can be perceived both as a real object with emotional significance and as a psychological object internalized with real meaning.

I think we can use Wolfgang Herrndorf's entire online blog “Work and Structure” as a struggle for this compassionate, support and structure-giving object of resonance as part of one's own self and self-esteem, stimulated and supported by his friends as a compassionate and supportive companion understand. Despite all the increasing signs of disintegration, he held out this struggle to the end and thus created the opportunity for himself to feel sad for himself and to mourn his fate again and again.

What Robert Enke and Wolfgang Herrndorf have in common is that they were exposed to psychological fears of annihilation that were triggered either socially by an impending disaster of shame or somatically by the cancer catastrophe. How people react and deal with such socially or somatically induced fears of annihilation is understandably dependent on how they have coped with psychological fears of abandonment, annihilation and loss of love in their personal development up to now. People who come to us as psychoanalysts in practice have at least not given up hope of finding in us a person who is capable of resonance, gives support and enables change, who they fundamentally lacked in their past as children and whom they are in still not found in the present as an adult or which they lost again.


Re-enactment of the trauma of being undesirable in the first analytical interview

Kristina, a young woman with the cool charisma of a model, comes to the first meeting. As soon as she has sat down, tears spring to her face. She cries sobbing, something eruptive breaks out. Finally she begins to tell about having got into a crisis after finishing her studies. Quite unexpectedly, her parents turned the money off. She couldn't find a job. Everything got worse. She developed tinnitus. All the noises became unbearable. She pulled back and pulled herself together. Nothing should come close to them. She really wanted to do it on her own. Now she has no more energy, is hopeless and loses the desire to live.

I now say: “It is really a dilemma that, on the one hand, you urgently need help and, on the other hand, you sometimes seem so ashamed and feel so guilty about it. As if it only helps to get away. ”She seems very touched by my perception of her inner conflict situation and relaxes. Kristina can now draw a connection to her life story. She now tells me what is essential about herself and her mother as the most important person in her emotional world. Her associative memories revolve around having felt primarily as a burden for her mother as a child. She thought that her mother didn't really want her. At this point an analytical contact was made. She can now speak of good previous experience with behavioral therapy when she suffered from a bulimic phase and a feeling of emptiness as a 19-year-old.

But the first conversation is not quite over yet. I'm still talking about which hours I have free. Thereupon she collapses and says in desperate tears that she definitely cannot come at these times. Her boss, who she has been working for recently, won't let her go before that. There is nothing that can be done. Hopelessness, desperation and being at the mercy of this impasse are so present that at first I feel the same way as you. Resigned, I think it's all in vain. We are helpless and powerless at the same time, share this emotional state. The analytical contact that had been established collapses at the moment when it comes to letting go and separating from myself as an understanding and affectionate person. It's a crucial 4-5 minutes. It is not only in question whether it will continue for Kristina for me, but also whether I can affectively keep this breakdown of the analytical contact in me and give it such an emotional turn that we can transform the break back into a contact, it for, so to speak can 'heal' this current situation. It saves me the idea that what happens has to do with what she told me about her mother, namely that she didn't want her as a child. I finally say, “I understand that you are now feeling desperate because there doesn't seem to be any room with me for you. At the same time, my experience is that there are usually ways to solve the time problem if you agree to do an analysis with each other. ”Kristina can then regain her composure enough that we can first arrange the next lesson. In four further preliminary discussions, we clarify that we want to do an analysis.

Kristina's lifelong struggle against her need for love and help:

Reconstruction of shame-guilt conflicts

Kristina and I were able to work out that her fears of the boss, who would not allow her to come to the analysis, also represented a projection of her own super-ego. On one side she feared a complete lack of understanding for having to leave her job a little earlier, and was afraid he would hold her against the fact that she needed something entirely to herself. With another side, she also hoped that her boss would save her from getting into the analysis. How so? Over time it became increasingly clear that it represented a disaster comparable to that for Robert Enke to experience herself in need of help and dependent on another person and his love for them. To be in need of help and love, to be dependent and dependent, contradicted her ego ideal and her ideal of herself to the extent that she was not only ashamed of herself for it, but also condemned herself mercilessly for it. Dependence, the need for love and help were signs of their existential failure and provoked self-damnation. Inwardly, Kristina found herself in a negative shame-guilt spiral.

In the further course of the analysis, much later, we were able to reconstruct bit by bit that she had experienced various levels of inadequately coped shame-guilt conflicts as a child in her relationship with the mother (see also Tiedemann 2013). She remembered bitter quarrels with her mother and she inwardly torn conflicts of ambivalence, in which she wavered between hate and love, between the mother and want to destroy and remorseful reparation back and forth. In the context of these conflicts with her mother that were not really solvable for her, she experienced dependency on the mother as an enormously offensive need to submit to and subject to blackmail. She felt ashamed of her unbearable dependency, which she saw as the reason for her defeat and for her feeling of being small. At the same time, she felt guilty for being such a bad burden on her mother.

The mother herself suffered from depression and hidden alcoholism, which everyone in the family knew about, and tended to suddenly and suddenly turn away from Kristina when she was hurt or disappointed or simply emotionally overloaded. Then Kristina came into contact with a much deeper shame, with a shame for her need for love. She was tormented by this in such situations of maternal aversion and she processed it in such a way that she herself experienced her childlike need for love as a personal defect. By treating her need for love as a defect and fighting against it, she was able to maintain hope and faith, if she could only fight it enough, get her need for love under control or eliminate it, then she could avoid the withdrawal of love from the turning mother or her devotion regain. You just have to pull yourself together enough and produce this emotional ego performance.

If she failed in this self-imposed performance claim, the mother remained in her aloofness and Kristina got into a traumatogenic situation of abandonment and forlornness, then Kristina came into contact with an even deeper shame. Wurmser (1990) calls it a primal shame. The dismissive motherly message, as one is, not to be lovable, is experienced very early in childhood as a message to be fundamentally undesirable and not welcome, so that a feeling arises of being without value and without any right to exist. For the child, a death wish of the mother can be conveyed, which internalized and turned against itself as a deeply anchored self-denial and existential guilt like a death instinct and can become part of its identity (Ferenczi 1929). The deepest unconscious motive for suicide is found here.

On the dynamics of the analysand-analyst relationship:

The analytical work on the psychological conflicts

As already indicated in the first interview, Kristina tended to projectively shift her inner conflicts to the outside world and then to protect herself against the return of the conflicts to her inner world by withdrawing from the outside world. In the beginning, the analysis offered her a place of retreat, in which she accepted herself with her shame and guilt, and in her rage for disappointment about herself and her degrading job, but then also about her incompetent boss and her unsuccessful partner, experienced it held and understood. After a while, the analytic relationship became more ambiguous and its conflicts carried over more and more to our therapeutic relationship. We call this process transfer. Increasingly, she kept me at a distance with silence and seclusion when she did not need me acutely for emotional relief. In a way, in my inner emotional reaction to it - we call it counter-transference - I could sense what it feels like for a child with an emotionally unreachable, distant mother. I suggested that her seclusion might have something to do with a suspicion of falling into an emotional disappointment with me that she knew from her mother.

Now she started to open up to me more. But still, there were always emotional withdrawals in which I felt excluded. I gradually came to understand that this happened to her when she felt weak and needy. I suggested that it might be very difficult for her to confide in me with pages that would not correspond to the wishes she would like to experience herself, and for which she would be ashamed of it. She then appeared relieved, more approachable, and more communicative. External reality broke into this good development in the form of a dismissal by her employer, which she experienced as an emotional catastrophe and led to a collapse of her self. She turned all her frenzy of disappointment about her boss against herself and made herself so down with merciless self-reproach that she fell into a deeply suicidal crisis.

I mentioned that my possibilities to protect them from overpowering suicidal impulses were limited in the analytical setting and that we should also consider the possibility of temporary inpatient treatment. She reacted extremely anxiously to that. It turned out that she was afraid that she had become too much of an emotional burden for me - as it was for her mother as a child. She feared that I would ultimately want to get rid of her. We could now begin to talk about how desperate and how abandoned she felt as a child and now towards me in the face of this deep rejection. I said that I could understand if she had hoped to never fall into this desperation again in life and therefore tried to completely control the emotional situation with her boss, with me and earlier with the mother and no emotional relationships and allow conflicts to get close.When she now spoke in a merciless and self-judgmental way about the fact that she was an absolute failure, we could start talking about the fact that she was deeply disappointed not only in herself, but also in the analysis and in me. She now came into contact with her intense anger for disappointment.

In a longer phase she fluctuated back and forth between self-devaluation and devaluation of me and the analysis. She was now able to experience these emotional conflicts, in which current and infantile disappointments were mixed up, in the relationship with me as her analyst, without me experiencing a rejection of her being angry or retaliation for her destructive and aggressive impulses . This made it possible for her to work through these disappointment conflicts with me to a certain extent and to accept the denied being disappointed and angry as a state of herself and to integrate it into her ego.

For moments she was able to experience feelings of acceptance and security in the relationship with me, which she had previously looked for and missed in her mother. Then it was also possible to feel her need for someone who could hug her lovingly. Since this was combined with a painful feeling of missing, she quickly experienced herself again as an emotional weakling and closed herself to her longing to be loved. If it was possible to address her about this withdrawal from the emotional relationship with me and with herself as an emotional being, she could sometimes become sad about herself and about the fact that at this moment she could not help it and that she had to experience limited current emotional abilities .

The described working through of the conflicts about disappointment and shame and about anger and guilt continued in further recurring runs. On the one hand, these were fueled by external reality. She experienced a humiliating dependence on Hartz IV and was forced to expose herself to humiliating application procedures. On the other hand, she made the experience of not being left alone by me in these external and internal conflicts, but of being held and accepted with understanding. This enabled them to stay in emotional struggles with themselves, with myself and with others, and withstand them instead of fleeing from them. She could take better care of herself emotionally and stand by herself with her need for help and love and the associated problems. After all, she was able to gain the love of a new partner and the interest of a company in which, at the end of the analysis, she could finally take on her long-awaited “dream job”.

In her last analysis lesson, Kristina reiterated the relationship with me as her analyst: “I wasn't in the mood for this lesson today, but I think you were right. I am sad that something will pass. Often I don't like to come, but I still like to talk to you. And I don't know if I can do it alone and without you. It's not my way of saying I'm this scared at all. ”She cries. Not all is well at the end of the analysis. But Kristina can and I can experience Kristina more truly. Kristina no longer has to deny herself and her need for love and help.

The empty self in retrospect and contemporary psychoanalysis

I initially described the emptying of the ego of all perceptible emotional conflicts and emotional connections with other people as a socio-cultural habitus in the form of coolness in the sense of indifference. With it, people try to cope with social constraints on flexibility, mobility, variability and self-optimization in order to be able to function as desired. Then I described the emptying of the ego as a psychological defense against denial from unbearable shame-guilt conflicts and from traumatic states of destruction, abandonment, helplessness and need for love.

On the one hand, coolness and resistance to denial help to survive a little socially and psychologically, on the other hand, the emptying of the ego of all perceptible emotional conflicts and emotional connections with other people undermines and destroys the affective basis of psycho-social relationships and the human personality embedded in them. We can see this self-destructive turn in the fate of Robert Enke. He got into a spiral of increasing isolation, the more he actually needed the help and attention of others, because out of shame and guilt he fought against it until the end and only saw the way out in suicide.

Unlike the goalkeeper Robert Enke, the writer Wolfgang Herrndorf had the ability to communicate something to others and to us in personal words from the inner perspective of the emptying self as a psychological defense formation and thereby to work out of the danger of self-destructive isolation. He was able to perceive himself emotionally, to observe his psychological reactions and to integrate the threatening into his emotional and inner world. In this way, the emptying of the ego is embedded in a self-experience that has the struggle with the deadly disease as its content. Although this emotional self-experience is a very personal and private self-experience, it reaches the other, touches us emotionally and enriches one very personally, despite all the horror that the subject of having to die has in itself.

Kristina was caught in a spiral of isolation similar to Robert Enke, but managed to make the step to me as an analyst, perhaps because of her previous therapeutic experience as a teenager. Kristina belonged to the group of non-neurotic patients with identity breaks and a fragile ego structure, which has been growing since the 70s / 80s. They represented a great challenge for traditional psychoanalysis as a clinical discipline. The development of contemporary psychoanalysis, including its diversification into different currents [7] and its exchange with neighboring approaches [8], can be understood as an answer to this challenge.

On the one hand, psychoanalysis preserves the core of the Freudian approach, which is about making the unconscious and imparting insight; on the other hand, contemporary clinical psychoanalysis expands its practice to include other essential dimensions. You now consider more

- Affect and emotional states as well as the intolerance for

- the importance of relationship and relationship problems as well as their actualization in the interaction between analysand and analyst,

- early developmental trauma and related ego deformations,

- the level of psychological processing skills for emotional experiences and the psychological ego resources for change,

- the here and now of the analytic situation and the countertransference, i.e. the analyst's emotional response to the analysand's transference, and

- the role of the analyst as a person who, with his attention, empathy and resonance, with his support and understanding, enables the analysand to experience new experiences that stimulate and promote self-change that extends into the depths of his personality.

In the case of Kristina, this meant that repressed and denied emotional conflicts, which stood for an early developmental trauma of abandonment, and split-off affect states that were intolerable for the ego, emerged in the relationship with the analyst as relationship conflicts in the here and now of the analytical situation. Working through these actualized emotional and relational conflicts together with the analyst, aimed at understanding, promoted affect tolerance and the ability to process symbolically, deepened and differentiated the self-image of the analysand and made it possible to experience a form of motherhood that the analysand had in decisive situations that shaped her self early childhood were absent.

This analytical working through of the updated emotional and relational conflicts allowed their gradual re-integration into the analysand's personality and took away the damaging effect of the early abandonment trauma. The ego is then no longer forced to empty itself and to flee from itself, but can feel at home again in its own emotional and inner world and stand by itself. True love and hate, life and work becomes possible and a certain resistance to social compulsions of expectation and the associated threats of shame and guilt, to be socially and personally a failure and a nothing, can be developed. Truthfulness is strengthened against alienation.

Thank you for your attention.


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According to a survey by Stern magazine in 2003 on the 200 idols of the Germans, “my mother” (35.00%) comes first, followed by “Mother Teresa” (34.90%) second and then third Place "my father" (32.50%).

[2] Memorial service / funeral service with Margot Kässmann on 11.11.2009 one day after the suicide with all football celebrities around 700 people in the church, more than 3000 people in front of the church and with a subsequent funeral procession through Hanover with 35,000 participants; Commemoration ceremony on Sunday November 15th, 2009, which coincides with the day of national mourning; with 35,000 participants and in the presence of the German national team and coaching staff, the deceased's coffin is laid out in the stadium of Hannover 96. In January 2010 establishment of the Robert Enke Foundation (DFB, DFL, Hannover 96); the start-up capital was 150,000 euros plus 850,000 euros in donations, primarily through the DFB charity game and national team players / coaches.

[3] The Walther PPK is a self-loading pistol from the German gun manufacturer Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen. The model name "PPK" stands for Ppolicepistole Kriminal. The compact design of the weapon predestined it for use by the criminal police and for concealed carrying.

[4] MRI = magnetic resonance imaging

[5] For example, Pulp Fiction (1994) by Quentin Tarrantino

[6] Ego shooters are a category of computer games in which the player acts from the first person perspective in a freely accessible, three-dimensional game world and fights other players or computer-controlled opponents with firearms. Ego shooter is a word creation from the German-speaking area, in the English-speaking area one speaks of First-person shooter.

[7] The most important ones would be: modern ego psychology or structural theory; Object relationship theory (Klein, Winnicott, Bion, Sandler); Self psychology; relational, intersubjective or interpersonal psychoanalysis.

[8] The most important would be: infant and toddler research, attachment theory, mentalization approach, neurosciences.