Times of growth are beset with difficulties. They resemble a first birth. But these difficulties arise from the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form...So too the superior man has to arrange and organize the inchoate profusion of such times of beginning, just as one sorts out silk threads from a knotted tangle and binds them into skeins. In order to find one's place in the infinity of being, one must be able both to separate and to unite....It is important to seek out the right assistants, but he can find them only if he avoids arrogance and associates with his fellows in a spirit of humility...
-- "Difficulty at the Beginning," I Ching (3)
Our long conversational journey began as a short trip. On December 3, 1995, my friend Faith Bethelard and I went to New Haven to celebrate the Centenary of Anna Freud's birth. The Child Study Center at Yale University was hosting a meeting of psychoanalysts from various American cities and a group from the Anna Freud Centre in London. I had been invited to address the gathering in my capacity as Anna Freud's biographer.
The weekend was to include many lectures, receptions and dinners, but the event we anticipated most eagerly was a case conference. A young American analyst was going to summarize a treatment he had concluded with a little girl, six years old when they began, and the Anna Freudians were going to respond, discuss, reflect. We would hear from the elders who dated their affiliations with Freud's daughter from the war years, and from the ones who were, like us, trainees of trainees, psychoanalytic grandchildren. The whole history of child psychoanalysis, represented by some of its most talented living practitioners, would reverberate, and we had been invited to partake in it. Having breakfast in the hotel dining room before this event, Faith and I were feeling like pilgrims at a shrine. And that Sunday morning, while we were in a state of deep expectation, we fell into a conversation.
Faith and I had had many psychoanalytic shoptalks in the preceding two years, while we had both, in the middle of life's way, set about training to be clinicians. Having sent her daughter off to college, Faith was starting a clinical psychology doctorate that had her doing therapy several days a week, first at a community mental health center and then in a hospital outpatient clinic. After twenty-some years as a professor and a writer, I was working at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital and training at the Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis. We shared a clinical language, which we spoke like eager emigrants as we mapped out the vertiginous tangle of our experiences in mental health. Getting oriented, acclimated, we were making a transition from being bookishly fluent in psychoanalysis to mixing it up with real people. Topics theoretical and technical had challenged us, but "What do you think I should do?" went through most of our talks like a drumbeat. That morning in New Haven had an entirely different feeling, though; we were not struggling to learn, not driven to do (hoping to do no harm). We simply came upon an emotional clearing and stood still there, wondering.
The conversation began on a familiar enough plane: a project was up for consideration. Faith, sipping her tea, staring out the window at the New Haven harbor, told me that she had been thinking about writing her dissertation on how therapy works; what are the various views existing in our business on "therapeutic action"? She laughed at herself for the audacity of this idea, knowing that the literature on therapeutic action is enormous, but even more, knowing that her own work as a psychotherapist was so new that she had, and would have, only a beginner's experience to draw on. "But," she said, "there is my analysis -- and that's a lot of experience!"
Faith told me that it had fascinated her to look back on the course of her own psychoanalysis, because it had had such distinct phases in it, and in each one such different shifts and changes had come about. A year into it, for example, she had found herself suspended in a peculiar state: "dreamy neediness," she called it. And while she was there, dreamily needy, her analyst took his summer vacation and she went off for two weeks in Bermuda. On a day when the Atlantic weather was gray and heavy, she passed up the beach and stayed in her cottage, reading and staring out the window at the ocean harbor below.
Her book was Michael Balint's The Basic Fault, and she was in a chapter called "Primary Love." Balint -- born, we later learned, on December 3, 1896, a year to the very day after Anna Freud -- was a Hungarian psychoanalyst, a student of Freud's friend Sandor Ferenczi. Best known for ideas about infants that were novel in the 1920s, Balint had held that newborns live in a condition of relation to people that is profoundly influenced by the undifferentiated quality of fetal existence, life in the "harmonious mix-up" of baby in mother, like fish in water. Our first bonds after birth are, Balint suggested, ones in which we have no sense that others might have wishes and expectations that are not our own, so there is no need for seeking power or making effort. A newborn is in a harmonious condition of passive expectation. If the unconditional dependence of primary love is disturbed more than it must be by the normal demands of living and growing, the baby responds desperately. In a baby who is unwanted, physically or emotionally neglected, abandoned, attacked, hatred is born, aggression springs up. A "basic fault" is a failure to feel primary love or an unrepaired, even irreparable, rupture of it.
Faith told me how she had floated past Balint's complex technical terminology, pulled by the current of his sensitivity to the emotional life of babies and his conviction that he was exploring an infant experience -- the primordial infant experience -- that psychoanalysis had neglected. Fundamentally, Balint said, each human being wants to return to "an all-embracing harmony with the environment, to be able to love in peace." With the phrase "to love in peace" reverberating in her mind, Faith halted at a nearby passage, an aside Balint had whispered to his reader.
Before going further, I wish to refer here to some clinical and linguistic observations of T. Doi (1962). According to him, there exists in Japanese a very simple, everyday word, amaeru, an intransitive verb, denoting "to wish or to expect to be loved" in the sense of primary love. Amae is the noun derived from it, while the adjective amai means "sweet." These words are so common that "indeed the Japanese find it hard to believe that there is no word for amaeru in the European languages." Moreover, in Japanese there is a rich vocabulary describing the various attitudes and moods that develop if the wish to amaeru is frustrated or must be repressed. All these attitudes are known in the West, but they cannot be expressed by simple words, only by complicated phrases like "sulking or pouting because he feels he is not allowed to show his wish to amaeru as much as he wants to, thus harboring in himself mental pain, possibly of masochistic nature," etc. etc. Doi adds that according to his information, the Korean and Ainu languages have equivalent words, as possibly has the Chinese.
From this passage, the two phrases written by this unknown Japanese psychoanalyst, T. Doi, jumped out and lodged in Faith's memory. She gave them to me by heart in New Haven: the one that translated amaeru as "to wish or to expect to be loved," and the one about frustration as "sulking or pouting because he feels he is not allowed to show his wish to amaeru as much as he wants to, thus harboring in himself mental pain, possibly of masochistic nature."
During the rest of that vacation in Bermuda, Faith could see herself in the mirror of these phrases from the East. She wrote wildly in her journal, day after day, about her expectation to be loved and how it had been so inconsistently met when she was a child, leaving her in a state of great anxiety, sometimes sulky, in mental pain. At that juncture in her analysis, she realized, her expectation to be loved was all directed to her analyst: "dreamy neediness" was her amae tuned on him. She was hatefully angry at feeling so needy. The bewildered questions that all people have when a therapy or an analysis has really engaged them gripped her: "What can be happening to me?" "What is this?"
The mysterious Japanese psychoanalyst, then, made an appearance in a dream she had on returning home, returning to her analyst. T. Doi was a Japanese beetle, shimmeringly blue-green.
I dreamt that from my bed I saw a large creature come in through the window. I couldn't imagine how it got in through a crack. Its feathered wings were folded, but I could see it was a peacock. It looked very unfriendly, and I had feared that it would find me. So I got down under the covers, but just as I did it was all over me -- walking on my face and head, with just the thin sheet between us. And then it latched onto my head and took hold just like a tick. I was very afraid. Finally, I got it away from me by brushing it frantically off my head. But when I looked onto the bed where it went, it had become a harmless little Japanese beetle.
When she told her analyst this dream, feeling again in its "watery colors," her associations went to the theme of attachment, and she talked about her intense attachment to her daughter -- how could any mother endure the loss of her child? Then about being frightened of attachments, frightened of becoming attached to her analyst. She wanted to brush him, as the peacock, out of her head. But she herself was also the peacock, beautiful and dangerously angry. Attacking as it was, though, the peacock could also metamorphose into the harmless Japanese beetle, which reminded her of an Egyptian scarab, symbol of death and rebirth, spiritual regeneration. This redeeming presence was the theorist of amae, T. Doi.
Almost a year earlier, Faith had told me about her Bermuda sojourn with The Basic Fault. I had a vague recollection, too, of having responded at that time with ruminations on the mother tongue of psychoanalysis, German, and on how oddly scientific Freud's everyday expressions had become in the English of the Standard Edition. I had also wondered then if a word for "the expectation to be loved," for amae, was embedded in Freud's simple adjective anlehnung, "leaning on," which Freud's translator James Strachey had rendered with the esoteric "anaclitic." An anaclitic type of love is one that involves, literally, leaning on, touching on, being dependent on, a person. It is the opposite of a narcissistic love choice, in which a person loves himself or herself in another person. Back then, I had had one of my characteristically scholarly responses. Everything in its linguistic and historical context. Speaking from the library in my head.
But when "the expectation to be loved" -- Doi's amae -- came to my ears again in New Haven as Faith presented it to me again, I heard it differently. I heard it in my feelings. My own expectation to be loved reached up inside me like two small beseeching hands about to go around my mother's neck. Faith interpreted the difference correctly: "You see, you have been in your analysis to that same point, your own neediness is painfully exposed, so you recognize it in Doi's word, amae." We wondered at the simple power of the phrase, "the expectation to be loved."
After reflecting a little while in silence, Faith came back to the start of our conversation. "I have such a strong intuition now that there is some kind of deep connection between this amae, this expectation to be loved, which sits like a kernel in everyone's self, and how therapy works. That's what I want to write about. Somehow, the therapy -- the tie between you and your analyst -- has to reach deeply into that core expectation, beneath all the defenses you've erected around it, and release its warmth to go like rays throughout you, relax you, grow you, allow you to feel again the expectation of love -- from your therapist and, slowly, somehow, more generally."
"I know what you're talking about, and I also know that this is not the way -- not any of the ways -- 'therapeutic action' is talked about in the psychoanalytic literature. Many writers speak of some kind of 'corrective emotional experience' happening in therapy, along with interpretations and reconstruction of the patient's past, but you are talking about restoring a capacity for emotional growth, reconnecting with a basic expectation." Even then, we both sensed that Faith's intuition pointed toward something elemental, elementary, but also something hard to express in words -- certainly hard to express in psychoanalytic words.
There was a long pause in our talk. Finally, as we were walking over to the Child Study Center and the case conference, Faith said: "Be the scholar and tell me, Elisabeth, is it true that there is no word in the West for wishing or expecting to be loved in this way? I never found it -- the experience had to go on through dream language in my analysis. And is Balint right that psychoanalysis does not speak about amae?" I couldn't answer. But I had an uncanny feeling that we were standing by a great silence. The silence is a condition, expectant baby loving, which is wordless because it is preverbal. But the silence is also a condition in the listeners to childhood, the psychoanalysts, of being wordless because of a story of repression. Psychoanalysis has not let the expectation to be loved into its theory, although it has certainly let it into its therapy. And in "the West" and contemporary Western languages, more generally, there is also a barrier keeping amae out; there is a critical, even condemning, attitude toward dependency. Even the word "dependency" has negative connotations. Sharing as they do the general cultural admiration for activism and autonomy, psychoanalysts would not speak positively of an ability to be dependent or to be an expecter of love.
Amae. Amaeru. How could we translate this noun and this intransitive verb into everyday English, much less into psychoanalysis? Since that conversation in New Haven, Faith and I have pondered the language problem again and again. Sometimes we just use the Japanese words, having asked an East Asian Studies colleague for the correct pronunciations: ah-mah-eh and ah-mah-eh-ru. But more often we use an old English noun -- unfortunately, one without an intransitive verb -- that is, we have come to think, closest in meaning and emotional tone to amae: "cherishment." For the verb, we use "getting cherished," or "expecting cherishment."
"Cherishment" derives from the French cher ("dear") and the Latin caru, which comes from caritas, a word that means love, but of a special sort: benevolence, well-wishing, presuming goodwill. Caritas has a history in the Christian concept of charity, too, but "cherishment," as we use it, does not imply any moral obligation to give love or be altruistic; cherishment is spontaneous affection. It also does not imply any saintly transcendence or asceticism or selflessness, but is located right in the roil and broil of emotional life, in the growth and development of a self. And, besides, it is not so much about giving love as it is about receiving love and being able, because receiving, to be benevolent, kind, considerate, indulgent. When you come to think that the precondition for giving is receiving, or talk about how a baby wishes to be wished well, expects to be cherished, to get cherishing, it is natural to say "That child has cherishment" or "That is a well-cherished child" or "There is a child who wants cherishing." We now easily think of cherishment as the emotional equivalent of nourishment. Soul food.
When our language questions first arose, we felt very awkward with them, just as we felt reluctant to speak without qualification, as Balint and Doi had, of "the West" and "the East," for these abstractions have such complex cultural and political histories. We also became aware that evaluations of cherishment change as historical conditions change. Many contemporary Japanese do not have the same appreciation for amae that Takeo Doi and his generation had, before the recent Westernizing trend in Japanese family life, and many contemporary Americans are exploring cherishing child-rearing ideas and practices without a specific lexicon. So, as we have built up our understanding of "the expectation to be loved," we have stopped relying on existing dictionaries. Amae is, all at once, an instinct, a need, an emotion, an attitude, a behavior, a philosophy, and what might be called a cultural mood; there is no translation for it.
Further, we slowly learned that the only way to be able to speak about cherishment was to become receptive to it and to become more consciously cherishing, to cultivate in others and ourselves what we call cherishment consciousness. Now we know that to talk about cherishment one must follow the principle held to be fundamental in both Eastern and Western aesthetics: as Dante expressed it, Chi pinge figura, si non può esser lei, non la può porre. ("Who paints a figure, if he cannot be it, cannot draw it.") If you cannot expect love, you cannot give it -- or get it!
Walking to the case conference that day in New Haven, Faith and I had no vocabulary or expressions of our own as we do now, but we were in a strangely pre-tuned state, like concertgoers who, still soaked in sound, go out into the city with remembered music playing on through the chatter and bustle of the street, the traffic charging by. When we settled into our chairs at the Child Study Center, we were both listening -- we could feel each other listening alike -- to an amae story. When we heard how the six-year-old patient had brought her analyst a snack, making it plain that she herself needed a snack from him, we heard this as the currency of her frustrated baby wish for indulgent, sweet love. My wish and your wish must be one! She was imploring, sulky and pouting. The little girl's story was a story of thwarted expectation, amae unfulfilled and desperately seeking fulfillment.
The Anna Freudians at the conference, old and young, went over the little girl's gesture, its meaning, the analyst's response, the role in her life of her mother's eating disorder, the general question of whether or not it is ever a good idea to eat snacks a child offers -- all with loving attention to every detail. But they spoke in a language, the lucid, the illuminating language of Anna Freud, which had no words for amae in it. To us, as we reflected on the conference later, it seemed, however, that their whole conversation was an amae conversation: each of them was expecting to be loved, appreciated, listened to. Cherished. At the celebration of Anna Freud's birthday, they were playing out their wish to be an Anna Freud family, bundled safely in her devoted spirit, her legacy, and far from the contentiousness and faction that so frequently, so typically, mark meetings of psychoanalytic colleagues. They were all having a conversational snack together, even though psychoanalysis itself does not have a conceptual language to present the need they were satisfying for each other. The talk went lapping and rippling quietly around the room and they -- we -- were fishes in its water.
"Why don't we go find the Japanese beetle?" I suggested to Faith when our train pulled into 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, at the end of that day. I didn't want to let go of the conversation -- I needed it. "T. Doi must be in the library. The Psych Lit database is not exactly a place you would expect to find a sage or a sage's everyday word, amae, but maybe there will be a clue." She offered to run a computer search the next morning, for she knew that I, the one with the library in my head, have no skills fit for contemporary library technologies. Thus our "research" phase began.
Going East, and West
Takeo Doi, trained as a psychiatrist during the War in Tokyo, and then just after the War in America, had felt fortified by reading Michael Balint's work, just as Balint had by reading his. While Doi was slowly formulating his ideas about amae, he had come across an essay collected in Balint's Primary Love and Psychoanalytic Technique. "As I was reading it," Doi remembered, "I gradually realized with surprise and pleasure that what the author referred to with the forbidding name of 'passive object love' was in fact none other than amae...His remark, too, that 'all the European languages fail to distinguish between active love and passive love' seemed to me to underline still more strongly my conviction that the existence of an everyday word for passive love -- amae -- was an indicator of the nature of Japanese society and culture."
An epistolary conversation began between the two men in 1962, and then they met -- just once -- in London. "I had the good fortune," Doi wrote in his restrained, polite, deferential English, "to discuss the matter with him personally when I went to London in 1964. I was furthermore delighted that he honored me later by citing my work in his last book, The Basic Fault."
Balint died suddenly of a heart attack on December 31, 1970, just at the time when Doi, after some twenty years of reflection, felt ready to publish his Amae no kozo, translated soon afterward into English as The Anatomy of Dependence. This book was instantly a best-seller, going through twenty-five printings in its birth-year, and launched a whole intellectual movement in Japan. For two decades, "Amae psychology" was virtually synonymous there with Japanese national consciousness.
Among anthropologists, we discovered, there is now a voluminous literature on amae. Japanese child-rearing has been studied extensively, with European and American anthropologists marveling -- sometimes marveling enviously -- over how Japanese mothers have indulged their babies, particularly their sons. Debates have arisen: Doesn't indulgence produce spoiled children, children who cannot separate from their parents, boys who have overbearing senses of privilege and prerogative with respect to women? Amae has also become the measure, in this literature, of how Japanese society has been changing since the end of the War, and of how Western child-rearing assumptions have been adopted in many Japanese households, particularly in the last decade.
Anthropology has had an extended period of reflection on amae. But the conversation that Takeo Doi and Michael Balint started was never so fruitful for psychoanalysis. "Amae psychology" did not become part of psychoanalysis in the West. Occasionally, a European or American psychoanalyst would come forward to say, as the British analyst J. O. Wisdom did in 1987, that amae has "not been sufficiently acknowledged in the West." But this claim has never really been argued except by Takeo Doi himself, who was invited for the first time in the same year, 1987, to address an International Psychoanalytical Congress.
At the Congress -- the 35th such Congress, held then in Montreal -- Doi made a number of specific suggestions about how the psychology of amae could permit reformulations of some of the most vexed and difficult psychoanalytic notions, particularly narcissism and identification. He turned his attention to therapy by presenting amae as "the kernel of transference," by which he meant that when a patient replays in analysis and with the analyst childhood love feelings, those love feelings are not just the erotic feelings Freud had emphasized, but the even earlier expectation to be loved. Given her intuition about amae and therapeutic action, Faith was not surprised to find Doi suggesting that "amae constitutes the underlying unconscious motive in seeking psychoanalytic treatment," no matter what specific illness or dilemma or crisis the patient may present. And then, in the treatment, amae is always there as the person seeks cherishment and, eventually, seeks to be cherishing.
Pulling the threads of his brief lecture together, Doi concluded with a grand hope modestly phrased: "Somebody might raise an objection that I have overemphasized the universality of the concept of amae, that I have tried to explain too much by it. Certainly I have related the concept of amae to many psychoanalytic concepts that are usually dealt with separately. But it is not that I have simply equated them all. My point is that if the concept of amae can be related in a meaningful way to other psychoanalytic concepts not usually related to one another, that fact could only suggest that it can unify them into more satisfactory theory. I shall be happy indeed if this paper contributed toward this end."
Only two instances of Doi's wish being fulfilled have come about. In May 1997, there was a conference of American and Japanese clinicians and anthropologists speaking on "Amae Reconsidered" at the annual meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Earlier there had been a symposium of researchers, published by the journal Infant Mental Health in 1992. This symposium connected Doi's work to the emergent trend within psychoanalytic studies of infancy that has been stimulated by Daniel Stern's book The Interpersonal World of the Infant, a trend called interpersonalism. Both the Japanese and the American contributors stress the interpersonal nature of amae -- that is, they view it as a love between baby and mother, interactional. How a baby relates to and mentally represents its mother cannot be understood apart from how a mother relates to and mentally represents her baby, her expectation of the baby's love. Amaeru-ing is a mutual pleasure.
This kind of adapting of Doi's work to an emergent trend is very important, and instructive about how psychoanalysis itself has been changing in recent years. Stern has pioneered, for example, in doing treatment with mothers and babies together -- couples work. In theory, more and more attention is being paid by analysts to mother-child relations in the first years of life, and to the ways in which both patients and analysts may be re-creating together their individual stories of mother-child interaction. This is territory that Freud did not survey. But, making Takeo Doi into a contemporary interpersonalist or intersubjectivist theorist does not really address his aspiration to be a revisionist of Freudian theory; nor does it hear his hope that a more satisfactory psychoanalytic theory might grow from a cross-cultural conversation of the sort he and Michael Balint had initiated.
As we read our way through the anthropological and psychological writings generated by amae, Faith and I found ourselves imagining that unfinished, hardly begun conversation. We found ourselves having it, playing with it. "You be Takeo, and I will be Michael," I joked with her one evening while we were talking about Balint's background in the Budapest School, where infant research was undertaken in the 1920s that has lost none of its relevance for today.
Playing Michael, I prepared to weave notes on the experiments with psychoanalytic technique initiated by Michael's colleagues, especially Sandor Ferenczi, into my spring 1996 undergraduate lectures. I wanted to track the Hungarian concern with "primary passive love" up into the work of émigré Budapest School analysts in America -- like Franz Alexander, who originated the phrase "corrective emotional experience," and in Great Britain, where the pediatrician-analyst D.W. Winnicott so creatively adapted "primary love" into his work with mothers and babies. Faith filled up her journal with amae images from her therapeutic work, from everyday life and from the history of art, her original field of training. As Takeo, she wanted us to be able to see amae everywhere, breathe it in. She wanted to find this Japan in "the West," and find ways to present it in English.
While we were getting to know each other better in these conversations, Faith admitted to me -- shyly, as though expecting my disapproval -- that she was accustomed to think in visual images of situations because she had been taught to do so by the I Ching: The Book of Changes. When she was in her late teens, she had begun to educate herself with this ancient Chinese book of trigrams (three-line figures), hexagrams (six-line figures) and commentaries. It, we came to think, is an amae book, a book built up over centuries on a base of preverbal gestures -- moving around the lines that make up the book's original trigrams to divine the meaning of situations, which were later interpreted or glossed in the Chinese language.
Faith had been reluctant to tell me how thoroughly she has been involved since her adolescence with the I Ching because she had often been teased and taunted. "People who have no idea what the book is take you for a fortune-teller or some kind of cult member or a flake. I was afraid you would be judgmental." I certainly did not feel critical of Faith's education -- it awed me. But I did feel very ignorant of her teacher, this book. So Faith showed me how to read the sixty-four six-line figures, or hexagrams, of the I Ching, which represent all the situations that may ever come up in life. A reader can seek their counsel in judging the "right conduct" for any situation, and also inquire of the hexagrams what the deeper meaning or the heart -- the Tao, the Way -- of any situation is. It's a book you interact with; you ask things of it, coax it, and interpret its care-taking replies. But Faith seldom actually consults the book, because she knows it by heart. I was stunned to discover that by the time she was nineteen she was able to recite, like a Homeric bard, the two hundred and fifty pages of the text and was quite at home in the four hundred pages of materials explicating the text. She has a whole world in her head. When she feels safe, her talk is woven through with images and phrases from the I Ching.
Learning from Faith, reading the I Ching commentaries, so beautifully translated into English from the German of Richard Wilhelm, and studying Carl Jung's appreciation of Wilhelm, I was drawn as she had been by the idea that all of life, all people, all situations, are the interplay and complementarity of the two principles that underlie the whole hexagram system. These two principles are The Creative, Heaven (six undivided Yang lines) and The Receptive, Earth (six divided Yin lines), which look like this:
Everything is driving, powerful, expansive, untiringly strong Creativity, which needs taming, at play with holding, sustaining, inclusive, perseveringly open Receptivity, which needs to be devoted. I was moved to hear from Faith how this philosophy had been generated around the original hexagrams in the twelfth century B.C.E. by the legendary sage King Wen and his son the Duke of Chou, when they were imprisoned by the last Shang emperor, isolated and always under the threat of execution. This was their book of insights into the misery of their times, the horrors of a tyranny, and it was the book of their expectation that change would come. They believed that redemption was in the nature of things and could be expedited by a superior person, a wise prince, one who cultivates kindness. Kindness -- the human-heartedness, or jen, so much discussed in all of the later Confucian commentaries on King Wen's book -- is the primary virtue in the I Ching.
Slowly, as we talked about The Creative and The Receptive in the Chinese philosophy of change, we asked ourselves: Is this Receptivity, in its play with Creativity, is this cherishment? Is this amae? Is this primary love and care-taking devotion?
While we pondered this question, with its suggestion that there may be words or pictures for amae that are not translations in the dictionary sense, but other ways of saying amae, I also came to understand more about why the cherishment conversation we had started meant so much to Faith. She identifies herself with King Wen, and "cherishment" gave a name to her expectation that King Wen's "Joyous Lake" of conversation could be the antidote to life in the court of any form of tyrants.
A lake evaporates upward and thus gradually dries up; but when two lakes are joined, they do not dry up so readily, for one replenishes the other. It is the same in the field of knowledge. Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating intercourse with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. In this way, learning becomes many-sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught. (58)
While she was teaching me about the I Ching, Faith asked me about the books that had been my friends when I was young, the books toward which I had turned for nourishment. I told her that in college I had had teachers who convinced me that any educated person should know ancient Greek. Immediately, I had felt at home in the Introduction to Greek textbook because the first sentence by a classical author that I was asked to translate had captured my whole desire: To sopho xenon ouden, wrote Antisthenes, "Nothing is foreign to a wise person." The next one was by Aristotle: Koina ta ton philon, "The goods of friends are held in common." To this day, I enjoy advising myself in Greek -- my conscience speaks it. And I easily become didactic in it. "Look," I told Faith in a little tutorial we held on the similarities of sensibility so evident in her Chinese mentors and my Greek ones, "look, how the same word, philophrosune, means kindliness and friendliness. The word literally means loving-mindedness, an emotional state. It's cherishment, isn't it?"
The whole of ancient Greek literature had become my pasture when I was a graduate student in philosophy. But I also began to travel intellectually around the ancient Mediterranean, and spent months of wisdom-quest on a super-serious essay linking the philosopher Heraclitus to the world in India of the Vedantic Upanishads -- my first excursion into texts of the I Ching commentary's vintage. The books to which I always returned, however, were the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. "These," I told Faith, "are poems in which there is everything -- nothing was foreign to Homer. They have in common with the I Ching both the idea that throughout the cosmos everything changes, cycling, rising and falling, and the idea that all the situations of human life can be represented as variations on fundamental forces. War and Peace. Strife and Love."
It wasn't until six months later that Faith had time to read the Homeric epics through systematically in Robert Fitzgerald's wonderful translations, propelled both by my descriptions and by her memories of an earlier trip to Greece -- and especially to Delphi -- during which she had felt strongly that there was something in Greek culture that she needed, something that belonged to her because of her mother's Greek lineage. But when she first acquired the Homeric texts in the winter after our conversation began, she behaved in the manner familiar to her and let The Iliad fall open, as though consulting it on chance, like the I Ching. She found before her eyes one of the most beautiful cherishment images in any literature.
Hearing her magnificent and doomed son Akhilleus as he cries in pain at the death of his friend Patroklos, the water nymph Thetis rushes from her deep sea cave to comfort him, taking his head between her hands. A pietà. Before Akhilleus goes into the battle where he will kill Hektor and then be killed himself, Thetis indulges him with brightly shining armor and an immortal shield made by the smithy god Hephaistos, to whom she tells her story, lamenting:
Our son, bestowed on me and nursed by me,
became a hero unsurpassed. He grew like a green shoot;
I cherished him like a flowering orchard tree,
only to send him in the ships to Ilion
to war with Trojans.
There was our word, "I cherished him." The idea began to grow in us that amae might be in the early languages of the West, the languages at the root of Western civilization. Many 19th- and early 20th-century European philosophers and philologists -- Richard Wilhelm among them -- who had sponsored a renaissance of Greek traditions in modern European thought, had worked with the idea that Greek culture was the childhood of the West, as modernity is the adulthood of the West, recapitulated in each adult reaching maturity. Such an evolutionary philosophy is quite specific to that modernist historical moment, but maybe it points to something individuals and cultures do have in common: elemental amae feelings can, in both individuals and cultures, including languages, get covered up, transformed, obscured, over time. amae can also get contorted inside individual and cultural forms that are contradictory; forms suggesting, for example, as the very patriarchal I Ching does, that Yang is in "superior men" and Yin is in inferior women, while at the same time saying, on a deeper level, that both Yang and Yin are universal, in both men and in women, and "spontaneous affection" is common to all people. amae needs archeologists -- feminist archeologists.
Out of our play with our favorite books came our first feeling that these familiar texts -- both achieving their written form during the 800 to 500 B.C.E. period of cultural flowering that the German philosopher Karl Jaspers has named "the Axial Age" -- were going to teach us not only about cherishment but about how to speak what we were learning. They were going to be our Japanese.
The Book as a Baby
Through the winter and spring after our New Haven initiation, Faith and I kept up this Takeo and Michael, East and West, hexagrams and epics conversational play, renewing it with each episode in our psychotherapeutic work that seemed to be "an amae moment." Clinically, we were listening for how the desire to be cherished appears in the transference. But everywhere our amae ears were like fishing nets pulled along behind us as we went from our homes to our clinics, to classes taken and classes taught, gatherings of friends, workshops, movies, museums, business trips.
We started a common notebook -- "the goods of friends are held in common." In it we put reflections, but also stories. A friend told us about her eighteen-month-old daughter, a child who was right in the midst of that exciting transition from one-word exclamations to two- and three-word sentences. One evening when the child was suffering from a bad case of diaper rash, her mother left her diaperless, distracting her and calming her by cooing "Honey, honey," words the mother reserved for moments of great intimacy. The child was impressed, obviously, because later, when she had to have a diaper put on again, she cuddled up to her mother saying "Honey, honey." And the next day, when she had to leave her mother to be delivered to her day care by her father, she waved, smiling, and said "Bye-bye, honey." A perfect cameo of how cherishing, received, becomes cherishing given.
Slowly, as our notebook grew, we came to the idea that we would use it to write...something. Considering cherishment, we were often in the position Freud described so well in one of his last fragments (23:275): "I find myself for a moment in the interesting position of not knowing whether what I have to say should be regarded as something long familiar and obvious or as something entirely new and puzzling." We wanted to convey both our wonderment and our sense of familiarity. Also, we wanted to picture cherishment -- to show it, draw it with all kinds of stories -- but at the same time to explore its implications for psychoanalytic theory and therapy. A task of representation and a task of exposition.
Finally, we decided to assemble at my office our notebook and all the books and papers we had been reading, and make a work schedule to launch the writing, which we imagined as our conversation continued by other means. We had agreed just to see what would happen, to set out, and to give it up if it seemed that we were either reinventing psychoanalytic wheels or losing what seemed precious to us in the conversation by writing it. Our first working session, our first scheduled conversation, was set for a Wednesday afternoon. I arrived in a strange state.
Between my first analytic patient and my own analysis that morning, I had an hour to use for looking up in the Standard Edition of Freud's work all the instances of the word "anaclitic." I felt compelled, even as I was trying to get away from psychoanalytic language, to test my old idea that "anaclitic object choice" reflected an amae level of feeling. Following the Index around, I came upon the associated phrase "affectionate current of love," which Freud had contrasted to "sensual current of love." Particularly striking was a passage about the two currents in a 1912 essay "On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love" (11:180):
The affectionate current is the older of the two. It springs from the earliest years of childhood; it is formed on the basis of the interests of the self-preservative instinct and is directed to the members of the family and those who look after the child. From the very beginning it carries along with it contributions from the sexual instincts -- components of erotic interest -- which can already be seen more or less clearly even in childhood and in any event are uncovered in neurotics by psychoanalysis later on. It corresponds to the child's primary object choice. We learn in this way that the sexual instincts find their first objects by attaching themselves to the valuations made by the ego-instincts, precisely in the way in which the first sexual satisfactions are experienced in attachment to bodily functions necessary for the preservation of life.
Freud called "the affectionate current" an ego instinct, not a sexual instinct, and described it as the original guide for all love relations -- or "object relations," as analysts say when they are stressing how the lover mentally represents or makes a mental object of the beloved. Yes, I said to myself, this "affectionate current" is "the expectation to be loved" and it is the ego's drive. It is a self-preservative drive in the sense that it pushes the ego to develop: the child attaches herself to the caretaker who will preserve her, perpetuate her newborn pleasures and make her ego strong, so it becomes possible for her eventually to care for herself and for others. Cherish me! means Make me pleasurably safe, make me strong! Tend this green shoot! The expectation is not sexual, but it comes to involve the sexual instincts and to lay the conditions for their later development and for sexual object relations.
I had this simple thought, and then, in rapid succession, one thought after another came rushing through my mind. Telegraphic. Bursting like firecrackers. I could hardly grasp them, they made little or no sense to me. Dizzied, dazed, I wrote down a cluster of phrases and went off to see my analyst.
On the preceding Sunday night, I had had a dream that I had intended to relate on Monday morning, but had not. And not on Tuesday either. Instead, I had rattled on during those two sessions about how the anxiety and suspense surrounding my decision to commit myself to this piece of writing with Faith had finally abated, so that I could go ahead. I was full of reflections on an exhibition I had visited a week before at the Museum of Modern Art, "Picasso and Portraiture," and on what kinds of forces move an artist along from one preoccupation, one painting, to the next. I sounded like a biographer -- of someone else.
Wednesday I came back to the dream. It had a reference to Picasso in its single image:
There was a kind of a keyboard with all white keys, but not rectangular, more square, like white kitchen tiles, like white teeth. Milk teeth. A hand reached out and slowly stroked along these keys, making them soft and pliant, a lovely feeling. As I woke up, I understood that these keys were my genitals, and I said to myself, with some embarrassment, "Well, I will have to tell this dream to J [my analyst]."ar
At the Picasso show, a curator's careful note had explained quite psychoanalytically that the portraits of Nusch Eluard and Dora Maar in which these women had huge, frightening teeth, jaws like vises, repeated a vagina dentata image that Picasso had also used in other periods of fear and debasement of his women. The rigid jaw was described as a "rictus," a word I had never seen before. When I related my dream fragment to my analyst, I called the white keyboard a "rictus." And I said that in the dream I had been turned into the woman who preceded these two in Picasso's life: Marie-TherÞse Walter, who was softy beautiful, round; who had a baby girl named Maya. Picasso's amae woman. I was this woman, and I was also Picasso.
When I arrived at my office in the middle of the day, I was exhausted, but I took out the little piece of paper on which the morning thoughts were written and explained them all to Faith. Suddenly, I knew what each of the cryptic phrases meant and methodically went through them as though they were lecture notes. Afterwards, Faith asked me "What happened to you?" To my surprise, I told her that I had had a dream in which I was both The Receptive and The Creative. I used this I Ching language, not the one that I had used with my analyst: I was both the Yin woman and the Yang man.
Then I went on to tell Faith that bursts of thoughts come to me now and again, under very specific conditions, so that, if I am able to catch them, whole sections of manuscript are forecast. Out of a questioning, anxious state, feeling unloved, even rejected, struggling tensely to stay on an even keel, to avoid depression, a resolution comes to me. I relax, as I did in the dream. And in the relaxation, I am flooded with ideas. They are my relief. I can sustain such a creative surge in my thoughts, such a growth spurt, and the disorganization it produces, only if I feel safe, receptively ready. This was, we agreed, my version of turning into a harmless little Japanese amae beetle: a condition of expecting cherishment. "But you write books out of it!" Faith laughed.
So, by that summer day in 1996 we had Faith's dreamy encounter with Takeo Doi, my morning of automatic writing, and six months of conversation to make into a little book. At the very beginning of the writing, we produced passages of exposition and passages of memoir, pieces of case studies, anthropological reflections, meditations on the I Ching and the Homeric epics, excursions into the history of psychoanalysis, conversations real and imaginary that others have had. It was "mixed grilled vegetables" as my friend from graduate school Jerome Kohn commented when he read some of our pieces and urged us to consult his favorite essay by the philosopher Michael Oakeshott, "The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind."
But then something very interesting began to happen while we continued to make the transition from talking to writing-and-talking. First, I became the narrator, our initial effort to write together and to speak as "we" having felt to both of us too merged, not reflective enough of our very different personalities and ways of thinking and talking. We had to assert our distinctness in order to be able to listen to each other more freely. This done, we noticed that the conversation changed. We had a third, we were a triangle. The writing -- both what actually came to be on paper and the idea or image of the book -- became like a child that we were parenting. A green shoot. We returned to this baby metaphor again and again, and linked it to how our friendship had begun several years before as a collaboration over teaching a whole classroom full of college-age green shoots.
The book made demands. It was a very greedy, eager baby, wanting our time and attention and thought, preoccupying us, getting into everything. And it pulled us, with its clamoring, into a second order of conversation: to the conversation about it and its form and content, we added one about us and our creativities, our book-parenting styles, which had turned out to be so very different and not always easy to harmonize. From our different creativities, we were always searching for common ground, complementarity. We became self-conscious, self-reflective, in relation to each other and to the baby.
The book similarly gave us a common world, an in-between-us, to link our concerns and our reflectivities. We discovered that our most basic task was to arrange ourselves in relation to this work so that we could do what we are writing about: cherishing. We -- Faith in her way, and I in my way -- cherished the book as it grew; this sharing then became our understanding of what our ways of cherishing have in common, and so of what cherishing is generally. The cherisher says to the cherishee: "I care for your growth; I am good to you that you may grow; and it is good and pleasurable for me that you grow as is your want -- so I will help you know your want."
When friends cultivate a common ground together, they are like coworkers with a common work, teachers and students with a common discipline, patients and therapists with a common conviction. The talking people develop together has in it, as Michael Oakeshott so beautifully shows in the essay Jerome Kohn gave us, all kinds of discourses -- practical, moral, scientific, poetic -- and these commingle in the conversation:
In a conversation, thoughts of different species take wing and play around one another, responding to each other's movements and provoking one another to fresh exertions. Nobody asks where they have come from or on what authority they are present...There is no symposiarch or arbiter; not even a doorkeeper to examine credentials. Every entrant is taken at its face-value and everything is permitted which can get itself accepted into the flow of speculation. And voices which speak in conversation do not compose a hierarchy...As civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an inquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves.
As our conversations got longer, broader, more crowded with entrants, we found ourselves on a third level: we had been talking about cherishment, then we had talked about how we were each talking about cherishment, and finally we found ourselves talking about how the conversation was changing us by cherishing us. As we grew, it grew; as it grew, we grew. A series of dreams that Faith had had at the beginning of the writing suddenly made sense to her.
She had begun reading Homer's Iliad out loud, chapter by chapter, and talking about it with the people in a discussion group she attends, where she had also recently heard a presentation on Michelangelo. She told her colleagues that she was thinking about the transition from oral to written poetry, and that she was, generally, thinking about herself as someone who was exercising her voice, making a transition from talking to writing, which was a "coming unhidden, coming to light." As she said this, she felt a desire to go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York to look at one of her favorite paintings, Rembrandt's "Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer." Promptly, funnily, she got there in a dream that night:
In the Museum to see "Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer." There were partitions up, couldn't see it. But then looked around the partitions, and the painting was in animation. Aristotle was dressing in his robes, colorful, deep colors, purples, blues. Then people pushed forward to see the painting; there were some French women viewing with me.
As Faith associated to this dream, it flowed into one from the night before in which a lamp had turned into a sculpted male, a Greek figure, who began to move. He came to life, was animated -- literally, en-souled, given an anima. The French women watching Rembrandt's painting were Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff, two French writers whose essays on The Iliad Faith had recently received from me, read and loved; in their essays, they were animators of The Iliad for modern readers. Both of Faith's dreams were variations on the motif of Pygmalion.
And then, with her usual artistry enhanced by more art-historical free associating, Faith's unconscious produced another dream, a single magnificent revisionist image:
Woke up having dreamt the image of Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling hands. Just God's and Adam's hands. But the hand was female. Mine.
She was aware when she awoke of being embarrassed that her hand had been audaciously in this painting -- so she could not even remember whether her hand was God's or Adam's. But then, when she reflected on the ambiguity, she realized that she had been both The Creative and The Receptive in her image. She could see in this dream and the whole series how she was becoming animated as she let herself talk about herself with me and let herself contemplate and be receptive to Homer, who symbolized for her a person completely attuned to his world, receptive to it in every detail, infinite detail.
Those dreams of Faith's expressed her wish to be able to take in everything that came her way in her life -- no partitions keeping her from seeing. She was doing what we have since observed our patients doing when they begin to grow in therapy, when their need for cherishment can be expressed. "Developmental dreaming," we call it. Dreams begin to supply images of the dreamer coming to life, animating, images of the sort that also make up what Freud called "the ego ideal," the wished-for self. In our conversations, dreams became the means, along with analytic work, of considering and relating the changes in ourselves. We were being created, while creating.
I, not as prolific or as witty a dreamer, registered our conversation chiefly in one dream, which used only the baby metaphor to which I had grown accustomed:
In an airplane that was sitting at the airport, awaiting takeoff, a young woman got up from her seat and came toward the crew. She cried out to them for help, and they realized that she was about to give birth to a baby. They very efficiently made the front seats into a couch, and one of them delivered the baby. When this woman -- the midwife -- put the baby on her bosom and patted it, I recognized her as Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke. Then I somehow knew the young woman was me the summer I first visited Katerina on Aegina, almost fifteen years ago.
My unconscious had me on a couch -- very analytic -- being delivered of a baby by a Greek poetess, my old friend, on my way to Greece. Remembering that summer, I had an image of myself sitting on a rickety canvas chair in an olive grove, cicadas noisily everywhere, reading Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams and anticipating the start of my first go at psychoanalytic training that fall, 1983, in New Haven, the site of the beginning of my conversation with Faith. I associated to the training analyst I saw then, Hans Loewald, who, in addition to being my analyst was one of the psychoanalytic writers whose reflections on the mother-infant duo meant most to me. So I knew that our conversation baby was my psychoanalysis continued, continuing. amae as the kernel of the transference.
The collection of metaphors and images we were making worked on us. That is how a psychoanalysis works, too: a collection of metaphors is made by the patient and the analyst together; experiences past and present are registered in them; and then, like water, they wear away your stone. That was the poet Lao-tse's favorite metaphor, rendered in Stephen Mitchell's beautiful translation of the Tao Tê Ching, a collection of poems contemporary with the I Ching commentaries:
The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action.
Teaching without words,
performing without actions:
that is the Master's way.
The ancient Taoist texts themselves are known to permeate the consciousnesses of their contemplators and awaken them into pliant receptivity. "Receptivity," we thought, is really a much more suggestive way than "expectation" to interpret the amae concept. Not just "expectation to be loved," but receptivity to love or cherishment. And lack of receptivity, we came to think, is the condition that stops growth cold, that petrifies the openhanded baby inside people and in their projects.
Thinking along these lines about how our conversation was changing us, we decided to make a review of our patients, noting the kinds of stoniness or growth stoppage we had encountered working with them. We wondered whether we could sketch a psychopathology, a catalogue of mental illnesses as states of unreceptivity. Getting expansively theoretical, we synthesized Freudian descriptions of the neuroses with Takeo Doi's "amae psychology" descriptions of the neuroses -- West meets East in the domain of psychopathology.
Out of our initial conversations and the growth spurt of setting out to write, the baby book's theory took shape. During the first year of writing, which we gradually made into chapters two, three and four of this book, we explored the interplay of ego instincts and sexual instincts as the basic human instincts. We argued that this early theory of Freud's is a more satisfactory basis for psychoanalytic theory than the instinct theory to which Freud turned in his later years, which features a dualism of the life instincts and the death instinct. The ego instincts and the sexual instincts seem to us to be The Receptive and The Creative in conscious and unconscious psychic life, so that we were, in effect, describing the early Freudian psychoanalysis that is, we think, a very Chinese philosophy. As a place where East meets West in a general psychology of normal development, the psychoanalysis we have written about has this I Ching beginning:
Affection as the essential principle of relatedness is of the greatest importance in all relationships in the world. For the union of heaven and earth is the origin of the whole of nature. Among human beings likewise, spontaneous affection is the all-inclusive principle of union.
From this beginning, we think many features of the psychoanalytic landscape look different. We described the ego ideal as the main product of the ego instincts, and compared this to the superego as the psychic structure stemming from the sexual instincts in their development. The ego instincts seem to us to follow what we will call the Growth Principle, while the sexual instincts fit themselves -- more or less -- to what Freud called the Reality Principle, which tames the sexual instincts, teaching them limits and realism. The Growth Principle does not teach limits to the ego instincts, it shows them pathways, teaching self-preservation through relatedness, reciprocity. As we envision it and, as Freud insisted, psychoanalysis explores being with others for sex and pleasure, but also being with others for cherishment and growth.
Growing Up Is Hard to Do
In retrospect we realized that this year of intense work, on the book and with our patients, in which we loosened up and became so much more pliant and receptive in ourselves, had brought us, eventually, to theoretical clarity but also to a great deal of turbulence and confusion and questioning. We had gotten ahead of ourselves. We could see where we were going, we had a vision, but we did not know how to integrate it into our lives, how to take it into our worlds, how to work with it outside of the relationships we had with our patients and outside of our own conversation. We were like patients who have gotten to the point in a therapy where their problems are clear and they share with the therapist a working image of a future. They can see that it is no longer necessary for them to be ill in the old way, but the old way is still the only way. A time of "working through" has to come.
Becoming more receptive, we had become more troubled -- and more permeable to the troubles of people around us. We had not developed the means to assimilate in ourselves or in the conversation the flood of experiences and ideas that had come over us. And our conversation, then, took on yet another form. It became explicitly therapeutic. We had to help each other. And we specifically had to help each other with making our ideas worldly, with taking them -- and the book -- out into the world. With working through.
When we could get our bearings on what had happened to us, we concluded that after a receptivity spurt, as after a physical growth spurt, comes a constriction, a period of getting used to your new shape. All that you have taken in mingles with all that holds you back -- all your history of cherishment neediness -- and getting a new balance takes time and lots of effort. We were like adolescents who had suddenly discovered in the mirror that we were transformed. Big receptivity had meant big change. And our book, too, was in its adolescence, no longer a baby but an awkward half-child-half-adult thing with no clear identity. We knew, too, that by putting so much of our attention to receptivity, to Balint's "primary passive love" and Doi's amae, we had tipped our thought away from The Creative. Trying to speak to a silence in psychoanalytic theory about "the affectionate current," we had neglected "the sensual current" and the interplay of these two currents.
The adolescence of our book threatened to be like contemporary adolescence: very prolonged. But once we got some perspective on it, realizing that our book was like a teenager, clamoring and sulky, demanding parental patience, competing for our attention, we gave it guidance. "The book is about cherishment," Faith reflected one evening over the telephone, "but the book is also about our creative processes, individually and together. We have to make that more explicit, and we have to let the chapters follow our creative course over time, while they are following the topical outline, the developmental outline that presents cherishment's growth over the life course, from infancy to adulthood. We have to present our ideas, but also make it clear when and how we came to them. They are not doctrine, they are our reciprocity and the reciprocity we want to establish with our readers. Everybody in discovery mode." So, the fifth and sixth chapters of the book were focused on adolescence and on adulthood, and both contain our reflections on how cherishment develops over time into adult relationships, how it goes out into the world in its mature forms. Adolescence repeats the cherishment story of infancy, not in the closeness of the child-and-caretaker duo, but rather out in the world, in the search for adult relationships.
We converged on and through this big organizing thought of Faith's. And as we analyzed it, we realized that it had grown up from a desire she had not been conscious of: she wanted the book to be like an I Ching hexagram, in six chapter parts. Unconsciously, she had wanted her book to be like her teacher-book and reflective of what her teacher-book had given her, what she could give in a teaching