In this interview we revisit the complicated female oedipal constellation, as New Books in Psychoanalysis speaks with Dr. Lucy Holmes about her book The Internal Triangle: New Theories of Female Development (Jason Aronson, 2007).
According to Holmes, the “Internal triangle” is the cornerstone of the female psyche. All of us, male and female, need to separate from our mothers if we are to move beyond narcissistic merger as a way of life. Many theorists see the little boy’s “possession” of a penis as enabling him to see himself as absolutely different from his creator, whereas the little girl often has a harder time. She needs to be like her mother and yet also needs to be different from her in order to mature. According to Holmes, little girls create what she calls an “elegant solution” to the problem of separation by internalizing both mother and father. Yet, Holmes argues, this dual-internalization solution can lead to great problems later in life. Some women feel “both sides” to greatly and become hyper-empathic. Such a woman is in the dark about her own wants and needs and without a clue about how to finesse them. The wants and needs of others rule her world.
Throughout a woman’s life, according to Holmes, women come face to face with their mothers through bodily changes–menstruation, pregnancy, birth, lactation, and menopause paramount among them. Each bodily and developmental encounter provides an opportunity for a woman to refine her relationship to the mother within. How each encounter goes is fateful for a woman. Holmes brings together long separated schools of Modern Analytic thought on the issue of female development, uniting the Drive Theory of Spotnitz and Meadow and the Object Relations Theory of Ormont in order to examine how women distort aggression so as to overshadow themselves, placing the comfort and connection to others above their own well being.
Holmes is engaging, warm, and direct. In many ways one senses she has worked through for herself the three sides of the internal triangle and has, therefore, integrated her life as a woman, an analyst, a scholar, a teacher, and a mother and wife.