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Supplemental Essay: Examples of Fragmentation and Projection

This supplemental essay contains quotes and expanded explanations as background for the material in the main essay. You can skip this supplemental essay if you're not interested in the details.

In the main essay I said, Fragmentation peels off aspects of the parents that may be difficult for the ego to handle for various reasons and places them in the newly-formed unconscious where they are free to be projected outward.


An example of this process: 


At the N level, the separation-individuation process caused the infant to distinguish itself from the Great Mother. The early Son-lover remained immersed in the Great Mother and largely registered her as "the Good Mother." But the later Struggler registered her painful punishing side as "the Terrible Mother."


The onset of the S level leads to the discovery of opposites and the repression/suppression into the unconscious of fears and desires that run contrary to the contents of the conscious ego. The Great Mother and her attributes (Good Mother and Terrible Mother) are fragmented and split up accordingly. From Erich Neumann: "With this, the great revaluation of the feminine begins, its conversion into the negative, thereafter carried to extremes in the patriarchal religions of the West. The growth of self-consciousness and the strengthening of masculinity thrust the image of the Great Mother into the background; the patriarchal society splits it up, and while only the picture of the good Mother is retained in consciousness, her terrible aspect is relegated to the unconscious."[1]

In a footnote, Neumann goes on to describe how fragmentation works in neurotics: The neurotic carries a picture of the Good Mother in consciousness, but the Terrible Mother hides in the unconscious like a witch who "gobbles up little children and grants them, as a reward, a passive, irresponsible existence without an ego."[2]

This is just one example, of course. In fact, quite a lot of material finds its way into the unconscious: The Terrible Mother is stored there and haunts us in the form of witches and evil stepmothers; sexual desires toward the mother go there as well and are projected in our fears as vampiric "femmes fatales" or into the heavens as nurturing protective goddesses who are comfortably remote so that we don't have to acknowledge their base origins in the mother directly in front of us; and the newly discovered Great Father is similarly fragmented as needed and projected into heaven and hell.


Thus, nothing is ever lost. The Terrible Mother and matriarchal castration* (as well as the Terrible Father and patriarchal castration) remain present in the unconscious, ready to ambush us under stress. Erich Neumann says that the struggle is between ego and the unconsciousness, and the fear for the ego is "[t]he disintegrative forces of the unconscious" and possession by unconscious contents: "The tendency of unconscious contents to swamp consciousness corresponds to the danger of being 'possessed'; it is one of the greatest 'perils of the soul' even today."[3]


* I referred to the idea of parental "castration" in the chapter on Intuition in the section entitled "Son-lover versus Struggler": Freud said that infants show evidence of unfocused pleasure/libidinal drives, a state that he called "polymorphous perversity." [...] But if pleasurable experiences are perceived as sexual, then unpleasant experiences are registered as deprivation of sexual excitement, in other words castration.

Link: Return to Sensing (S)

~Posted October 19, 2023


[1] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XLII (Princeton University Press, 1954, First Princeton Classics edition, 2014), p. 94.

[2] Ibid., p. 94

[3] Ibid., p. 300

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