Monday, February 18, 2013

Psychoanalytic Tradition and Tony Soprano

Over the weekend I started watching HBO’s Sopranos again with one of my favorite episodes Season 1, Number 5 College demonstrates more than any the idea of psychological splitting.

Psychoanalytic tradition that suggests that a horizontal splitting represents repression, and the vertical can be considered as a representation of denial.

A horizontal splitting, the barrier of repression, separates unconscious material from preconscious contents, while a vertical splitting basically partitions material that is more or less accessible to consciousness. While many are familiar with Sigmund Freud's ideas about repression and the forces that maintain it, the idea of vertical splitting is rather less well known.

Heinz Kohut (1971) characterizes vertical splitting by the existence, side by side, of attitudes operating on different levels — different structures of goals, aims, and moral and aesthetic values.

College sees Tony drive his daughter, Meadow, to Maine to look at schools that interest her. After her interview at Bates College Tony runs into a former colleague who ratted out members of his mob family and was given a new identity under the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Leaving Meadow to hang out with undergraduate girls she meets at a bar at Colby College, Tony tails his enemy home to assure himself he's got the right man. Despite the fact that his adversary has a wife and a young daughter and has been out of Tony's life for twelve years, Tony has no qualms about killing him.

In his recent book The Psychology of the Sopranos, Glen Gabbard discusses Tony Soprano in terms of Kohut's idea of the "vertical split" pointing out that Tony is that maintaining the vertical split is necessary for Tony to function effectively within his contradictory worlds so that the competing elements of his personality remain unintegrated rather than exposing him to "conflict, anxiety and psychic pain.

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