The Primal Wound:
An Anti-Oedipal Consideration

This essay was originally published on in 2019. I am now extending it into a PhD project. Hoping to revisit it recently, I noticed the original page had gone down, so I thought I’d post it here for posterity and for my own reference.

The map has started tearing along its creases due to overuse
When in reality it never needed folds
                — “Smells Like Content”, The Books [1]

When I was 25 years old, I met my biological mother for the first time.

Our meeting was casual but secretive, taking place in a retail park coffee shop on the edge of a city in the north of England where, as it had turned out, we both still lived. An unspoken anxiety surrounded our reunion. Neither of us wanted to be seen by anyone we knew. Not out of shame at our situation—although this may have unconsciously been a factor—but rather out of a desire for privacy as we sought answers to a lifetime’s worth of questions, specifically the most basic question of all: “Who’s this?”

The meeting had not been arranged through official channels. Following two years of therapy and some fraught detective work on my part through which I had finally located my biological mother, my girlfriend agreed to reach out to her sister—my aunt—on Facebook, acting as a buffer in case my mother did not want to meet. Thankfully, she did, but it was here that all third-party mediation ended. The desire to meet was mutual, after all, and we were both adults, so we chose to ignore the professional—and, to my mind, overpriced—advice of the local council. [2] Nevertheless, it felt like what we were doing was dangerous.

I think we were both surprised to discover that it all felt very natural. There were tears, of course, and plenty of small talk too, but we spent most of the hour we had to ourselves happily absorbing each other’s company.

It was clear that we both wanted to get to know each other as people rather than make up for lost time. We were strangers. The recounting of our life-stories would not change that. That was just superficial information. We wanted to know each other’s mannerisms, habits, tics, gaits, tastes, and thought processes. We wanted to witness each other be. It became an experience that was largely internal, establishing an unavowable connection between us. Far more was exchanged than said.

I joked later that this hour together had felt more like an intense first date than a reunion but this was far closer to the truth than I felt ready to admit at that time. In the weeks that followed, I experienced an attraction to her that was disturbingly familiar, albeit in a context that was new to me. I felt an intense pull, a crush even, and I wanted to spend all of my time with her. It was an interpersonal desire that I had only ever experienced romantically but here it was felt with an unprecedented intensity.

This is what I imagined having a child was like, except I was the child—a 25-year-old child, feeling that hormonal and genealogical attachment, that love and warmth, for the very first time. I couldn’t make sense of it at first. It made me painfully aware of the childhood experiences I hadn’t had.

Did I feel I had missed out on these experiences? I don’t think so. How could I have? I was just newly aware of the gap, the displacement at the heart of my existence.

The reductive constellation of “mommy-daddy-me” that constitutes the standard Freudian model of the Oedipus complex is, for the adopted child, ungrounded by an earlier formation: that of the mother-child-mother.

Here, two mothers—one adoptive, one biological—attempt to share a post-natal relation and, as a result, create a moment of displacement wherein the child passes between two disparate points. A moment of egress presents itself as the genealogical container of the nuclear family opens outwards and finds itself distorted, unravelled by the introduction of an outsider. What is made possible by this unravelling? What—if anything—escapes?

This urtraumatic experience is the focus of Nancy Newton Verrier’s The Primal Wound—a book recommended to me by a friend shortly after this first encounter between lost mother and child. My meeting with this book was almost as affecting as the other. It is part psychological case study, part self-help book, shifting between different tones—at once academic and psychiatric, but also mystical and anecdotal. [3] It is a strange book about an even stranger experience. Regardless, I have found that The Primal Wound describes my own experiences as an adopted child with frightening accuracy, as well as—most interestingly—echoing the philosophies I have gravitated towards throughout my adult life.

Verrier describes the “primal wound” in terms of a postnatal separation that ruptures the bond between mother and child experienced in utero, going on to highlight “the resultant experience of abandonment and loss [that is] indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds” of adopted children—including the often-unacknowledged affects this event has on a person in later life. [4] However, this urtrauma is not simply the rupture of a single genealogical relation between one person and another. It is exacerbated by the introduction of a third: the adoptive parent.

As such, the traumatic assemblage of mother-child-mother takes in three grieving figures who find themselves in orbital syzygy: the biological mother who grieves a child given up; the child who grieves a mother unknown; and the adoptive parent who grieves their own limitations.[5] Together, they produce a living trauma that runs contrary to the Freudian understanding of it as a fault lodged in the memory of an individuated and stratified psyche. As a result, the adoptive triad constitutes a problem for Freudian psychoanalysis.

This is not to suggest that the adopted child somehow sidesteps Freud’s Oedipus complex. (To quote the Lacanian psychoanalyst Juan-David Nasio: “No child escapes Oedipus!”) [6] In fact, it is an issue that predates psychoanalysis itself but that is also already entangled with its unruly origins. The experiences of the mother-child-mother embody this preceding relation and, as such, confront psychoanalysis with its own process of development—indeed, with its own mirror stage.

In post-Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the mirror stage is an apperceptive process, first described by Jacques Lacan, through which an infant starts to observe themselves from outside themselves, thus beginning the broader process of psychological individuation that Freud first sought to describe. This process begins early in a child’s life—at around 6 to 18 months—preceding the Oedipus process that Freud observed as occurring around the age of 4. [7] It is, in some respects, literal—a child becomes capable of recognising themselves in a mirror—but also symbolic—in that a child becomes capable of recognising those around them as distinct Others. We can perhaps argue, in relation to this, that Lacan, as a central figure within the continued development of psychoanalysis as a discipline during the twentieth century, occasioned the beginning of psychoanalysis’s own mirror stage; in part considering psychoanalysis as an institution from outside of itself and further developing its potential implications for the world at large.

Considering Sophocles’ fifth-century Theban play Oedipus Rex—the inspiration for Freud’s theory—in light of this development, we should note that this myth does not simply describe the events of an incestuous rivalry and copulation. It also tells of how the events of Oedipus’ life are foretold prior to his birth in a prophecy, leading to his own abandonment by his biological parents, who feared said prophecy’s fulfilment. The trauma of this abandonment leads Oedipus to become a detective unearthing the secrets of his own genealogy; an interpreter of his foretold destiny. It is only after he has inadvertently wedded his mother and had children by her that, vowing to find the man who killed Laius, his predecessor and—unbeknownst to him—his father, he meets the blind prophet Tiresias who proclaims, to Oedipus’ initial disbelief and denial, that he has fulfilled the prophecy that first occasioned his abandonment, with Tiresias declaring: “you yourself are the murderer you seek.” [8]

Refusing to believe what he’s been told, Oedipus sets out on a quest to discover the truth for himself—a labyrinthine truth that, at its centre, reveals to him his own Self and results in the fallen king plucking out his own eyes, horrified by his once metaphoric blindness. This is to suggest that Oedipus’ experiences mirror not only the psychosexual birth of the Self and the Unconscious as Freud would describe them, but also the birth of psychoanalysis itself. It is here that the figure of the mother-child-mother highlights some of Freud’s blind spots.

Freud may have imagined himself as the Great Detective of the Unconscious but, for the adopted child, the traumatic experience described in Oedipus Rex is far more immanent and distressing. The adopted child, as Oedipus so tragically demonstrates, runs the risk of becoming both the analyst and the analysand of a fragmented I, embodying the very fissure in the familial form that the psychoanalytic couple seek to heal.

With this in mind, Nancy Newton Verrier notes how the adopted child’s primal loss entails that a splintering of psychosexual fluidity—which every child must at some point undergo—must be experienced and dealt with prematurely. At first, she emphasises the importance of a mother’s postnatal presence for her child, writing:

The nature of the relationship between mother and child is characterised, not by subject and object, but by a kind of fluidity of being, of mother/child/world transcending both time and space. The mother provides a container for the child’s developing ego, just as she had previously provided the container for his developing physical body. [9]

This is not to fetishize the importance of biological relation, [10] but rather to consider the reality of an interrupted development and its causal acceleration of an otherwise natural separation process, following the start of adoption proceedings [11] —potentially leading, Verrier warns, to a malformed sense of self.

She goes on to describe the onset of a “premature ego development” whereby a child’s ego develops far earlier than normal and leads to a neurotic demand for self-sufficiency underpinned by a distrust of their primary caregivers, and a perpetual abandonment anxiety which persists into later life as the adoptee struggles to form lasting relationships with others. She also describes a kind of super-egoic hyperdevelopment through which this perpetual anxiety of future loss and recurring abandonment produces people-pleasing and overly coöperative adoptees. She summarises:

This wound, occurring before an infant has begun to separate its own identity from that of its mother, may result in a feeling that part of oneself has disappeared, leaving the infant with a feeling of incompleteness or lack of wholeness. That incompleteness is often experienced, not in the genealogical sense of being cut off from one’s roots, but in a felt sense of bodily incompleteness. [12]

The tragedy of Oedipus Rex is that this unconscious desire for wholeness leads unwittingly to an incestuous reconnection, through which the feedback loop of desiring-production is constituted negatively rather than positively. This is to say that, in making himself “whole” and learning the truth of this hard-won wholeness, Oedipus forecloses his own existence and sets in motion a series of tragic events that will continue to impact his children long after his death. He seems to recognise, with terror, his own capture in a genetic from which there appears to be no escape and so, in seeking to remedy his own incompleteness, he damns his family for a generation.

Faced with this tale of inevitable trauma at the heart of existence, the alternative for the adopted child is, perhaps, to do what Oedipus himself could not: to affirm our own displacement rather than attempt to fix it; to continue to be Oedipus, albeit another Oedipus, in contradistinction to the Oedipalising form of psychoanalysis—that dogmatic form that Oedipus has been consolidated into. The task is, then, to “become who you are”, as Nietzsche might say; to become, in his own near analogy, the anti-Christ when faced with the moralising and limiting dogmas of an institutionalised Christianity [13]—and what is Christianity itself if not a retelling of the Oedipus myth: a child, separated from his father, who dies for a supra-genealogical truth and finds his wholeness only in death, setting in motion a moralising desire for the same amongst his flock? As with Nietzsche’s anti-Christian subject, we must likewise vow to become anti-Oedipal when faced with the mental enclosure of the psychoanalyst’s cot.

This is the task undertaken by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their seminal 1972 work, Anti-Oedipus. Further problematizing Freud’s Oedipus complex, they argue that, if no child escapes Oedipus, then all figures in this complex network of interpersonal relations become potential starting points for a Freudian detective work. Rather than this plurality opening out onto an opportunity for healing, though, they argue that Freud reproduces the Oedipal error of foreclosure by trapping all relations within the locality of a familial—that is, institutional—structure. At no point does Freud affirm, as they think he should, the movement of this relation; its “plurality of centres”.

In light of this, Freud’s often parodied “tell me about your mother” becomes, for Deleuze and Guattari, an exercise in asking an egg about a chicken, exacerbating the negative feedback loop of the Oedipal complex that the excessive force of desire perpetually exceeds. [14] Desire is, of course, the fuel that powers the event of psychosexual becoming which Freud is attempting to describe, though it is an error, as far as Deleuze and Guattari are concerned, for him to try and contain it. For instance, one of the ways in which Freud attempts to confine this excess of desire to the restrictive mechanisms of psychoanalysis is through the concept of “transference”, plugging the desirous rupture of a primal wound with himself and producing the ephemeral figure of mother-child-analyst, pushed through the bottleneck of the therapeutic process, wherein the analyst adopts the position of the Other within the analysand’s own consciousness, leading—so says Freud—to the analysand’s application of external experiences and emotions to the locality of the therapeutic experience. [15] Such is the risk the analyst adopts by positioning him or herself as a surrogate.

As Maurice Blanchot writes in his 1974 work, The Infinite Conversation, in theorising the process of transference Freud may have sought “the proof that what occurs between the two persons who are brought together involves either obscure forces or the relations of influence that have always been attributed to the magic of the passions.” [16] Instead, this experience becomes “one of a fundamental insufficiency” whereby each attempt to account for the whole of a patient’s experiences only exacerbates the lack contained within. Blanchot continues, through the telling analogy of childbirth: “To be born is, after having had everything, suddenly to lack everything, and first of all being, inasmuch as the infant exists neither as an organized, self-contained body or as a world.” As such, it is “always around lack, and through the exigency of this lack, that a presentiment of the infant’s history, of what he will be, is formed.” [17]

In an attempt to reintroduce this excess that psychoanalysis so often excludes back into its own processes, Deleuze and Guattari highlight Freud’s therapeutic practice of free association—one strategy he uses to attempt to guard against the negative effects of therapeutic transference—but, again, “rather than opening onto polyvocal connections,” Deleuze and Guattari note that Freud still only succeeds in confining psychoanalysis “to a univocal impasse.” [18]

This polyvocality, which remains both desired and required, is an important consideration for Deleuze and Guattari. Echoing Blanchot, they would argue that the “magic of the passions”—the drive; the Will that constitutes desire—damages all attempts to account for it, and so desire itself—and the amorphous forms through which it flows—must be radically rethought. To do this, the pair would argue for a newly cartographic conception of psychoanalysis—a schizoanalysis—in opposition to the excavations of layered strata preferred by Freudian psychic archaeology. Deleuze would instead speak of maps, superimposed on top of each other “in such a way that each map finds itself modified in the following map, rather than finding its origin in the preceding one: from one map to the next, it is not a matter of searching for an origin, but of evaluating displacements.” [19]

Here we might observe that, in being born-displaced, the adopted child underlines a difference produced from within the socially “given” presuppositions of genealogical repetition, and so we might reimagine parents, as Deleuze does, as “a milieu that children travel through”, passing over their “qualities and powers [in order to] make a map of them.” [20] This reorientation means that “the unconscious no longer deals with persons and objects, but with trajectories and becomings; it is no longer an unconscious of commemoration but one of mobilization, an unconscious whose objects take flight rather than remaining buried in the ground.” [21] Deleuze continues:

The father and mother are not the coordinates of everything that is invested by the unconscious. There is never a moment when children are not already plunged into an actual milieu in which they are moving about, and in which the parents as persons play the roles of openers or closers of doors, guardians of thresholds, connectors or disconnectors of zones. The parents always occupy a position in a world that is not derived from them. [22]

The most profound aspect of my post-adoption experience came a few years prior to our first meeting.

Shortly after my 18th birthday, my adoptive mother gave me what looked like a battered family album. Sky-blue with a faded gold trim, the book was overflowing with photographs but also letters, mementos and documents, all gathered together around the time of my adoption.

The photographs documented my first few weeks alive, in the company of a rotating roster of social workers and foster families; and, later, the post-adoption bonding of new parents with their child.

The documents were official photocopies of procedural interviews, including an incomplete family history. Loosely collected papers, already faded and falling apart, these documents were later lost over the course of various house moves. Today, I only remember certain details and oddities contained within: maternal grandfather dead in his forties, brain aneurysm; mother too young, wants to stay in school, become a hairdresser; father unknown, mother tight-lipped. It is official procedure that the father is informed of the decision the mother is making, if only so that adoption services can be made aware of any hereditary medical issues that father and child might share. Regardless, she would not comment on his identity. The few identifying responses she does provide are related to his interests and hobbies, but even these are comically vague. He wears jeans, goes to the pub with her friends, and works in an abattoir.

The letters were written by my adoptive mother: an attempt at writing the story of us. All scribbles, erasures and false starts, they were included all the same. Perhaps she had forgotten they were even there. Piecing together the narrative, I found a futile attempt to explain middle-aged infertility and teenage pregnancy to a child far too young to understand but nonetheless expressed in the condensed and simplified tone of a children’s book. “Matthew’s mummy and daddy could not have children of their own.” Taken together, the whole was at once beautifully endearing and unspeakably tragic.

Tucked away at the back of this strange collection of documents was a stiff, brown envelope. Inside: a professional studio portrait of a young woman, eighteen years old, as I was when I received it. Holding it for the first time, I felt nothing. It’s your mother, I was told. “Huh—so that’s her.” I carried it around with me all the same, oddly attached to it. Everyone I would subsequently show it to would see the likeness immediately. Some cried at the sight of it. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. They all pointed to her “T-Zone”—her nose, eyes, eyebrows, and forehead. It’s yours, they would say and, after a while, I saw it too. It’s mine.

Whether in the flesh or in photographic form, each meeting with my biological mother was defined, for me, by the same sensation: an encounter with the same. Never before in my life had I experienced that kind of recognition. Never before had I seen another human being and found my face in theirs.

I would later meet the extended family. Watching her son, not yet ten years old, I saw myself at his age—a figure from my own childhood photos made flesh. I would catch my maternal grandmother looking at me with a haunted look of love. She would tell me that I was the spit of her late husband. Her sister saw a nephew with the same curly hair as she has, a trait that my mother was spared—and, again and again, that same T-Zone. As I look at them, even today, I still don’t know what I see. I see the same, but through our differences—acquired through a space and time we did not share.

I think about my adoptive mother, now a reclusive schizophrenic, following a breakdown some years ago, who knows nothing about any of this; who I’m sure would be supportive but heartbroken if she knew and was still in good health; who would be happy for my gain, even though it might remind her of her original loss. I’m not sure how she’d react now. It’s hard to predict how she’ll react to anything.

The mirrored parental figures within the mother-child-mother constitute a “revolving door” through which the adopted child passes, extending and problematizing a traumatised space-time between them.

I’m reminded here, perhaps surprisingly, of Kerans, the protagonist in J.G. Ballard’s 1962 novel, The Drowned World, who is all too aware of the difference between the world he once knew—through cultural memory if not immediate experience—and the world as it is now, as he passes over its newly amorphous and anonymous surface.

Drowned, the floodwaters of a planet in the throes of its own heat-death have covered over the world as it once was. Kerans wonders, early on, if he is in—or rather, on top of—London. It is hard to tell. Iconic skylines, protruding from the depths, are all he has to surmise his location. They are less landmarks and geographic signifiers, more anonymous protuberances, like faded obelisks in a graveyard commemorating events now forgotten by memory. The maps of the old world are irrelevant and so Kerans exists in perpetual displacement.

The exploratory unit of which Kerans is a part attempts to navigate this new world; to understand it. Adrift—both literally and psychologically—a strange madness has begun to affect various crew members. Kerans is reminded, in observing the “growing isolation and self-containment” that this madness incurs, “of the slackening metabolism and biological withdrawal of all animal forms about to undergo a major metamorphosis.” [23]

It seems that while, on Kerans’ Earth, both cartography and psychology face imminent redundancy, this psychogeographic displacement has nonetheless opened up previously unknown avenues of mental and spatial travel. Ballard writes: “Sometimes he wondered what zone of transit he himself was entering, sure that his own withdrawal was symptomatic not of a dormant schizophrenia, but of a careful preparation for a radically new environment, with its own internal landscape and logic, where old categories of thought would merely be an encumbrance.” [24]

In AntiOedipus, published a decade after The Drowned World, Deleuze and Guattari position their own hypothetical schizoid, a displaced Kerans-like subject, at a similar intersection between the death of the old and the birth of the new. They write:

The schizo knows how to leave: he has made a departure into something as simple as being born or dying. But at the same time his journey is strangely stationary, in place. He does not speak of another world, he is not from another world: even when he is displacing himself in space, his is a journey in intensity, around the desiring-machine that is erected here and remains here. For here is the desert propagated by our world, and also the new earth, and the machine that hums, around which the schizos revolve, planets for a new sun. These men of desire—or do they not yet exist?—are like [Nietzsche’s] Zarathustra. They know incredible sufferings, vertigos, and sicknesses. They have their specters. They must reinvent each gesture. But such a man produces himself as a free man, irresponsible, solitary, and joyous, finally able to say and do something simple in his own name, without asking permission; a desire lacking nothing, a flex that overcomes barriers and codes, a name that no longer designates any ego whatsoever. He has simply ceased being afraid of becoming mad. He experiences and lives himself as the sublime sickness that will no longer affect him. Here, what is, what would a psychiatrist be worth? [25]

Anti-Oedipus, like The Drowned World before it, demands a new cartography for this new earth, but perhaps it is an earth like the one Kerans already inhabits. He, too, wonders what a psychiatrist is worth in these new environs, and what use is a geologist on a world that is nothing but ocean; nothing but change; a world of new depths which cannot be dug; a world of trajectories without destinations?

We still talk sometimes. I am bad at emails. We live six hours apart but I try to call her on her birthday and she calls me on mine.

I’m unsure how much our reunion has changed me, if at all. I withdraw from it, no longer frequently in touch with either adoptive or biological family. I, too, feel adrift.

Previously, perhaps trying to compensate for something, I took a great deal of interest in the genealogical history of my adoptive parents, particularly on my father’s side. His mother, like so many grandparents these days, treats her own genealogy as a hobby.

Both sets of adoptive grandparents have shoeboxes full of photographs going back generations. My mother’s parents have in their possession a small and undoubtedly rare daguerreotype portraying some now-unknown relative that I have long been fascinated by. With a keen interest in photography, shared with my adoptive father and his mother, I relish every opportunity to see his own genealogy in photographic form; to rummage through the appropriately disorganised documentation of his milieu.

A year after our first encounter, I meet my biological mother once again, in another somewhat anonymous location—a pub just off the motorway, close to a city to which nobody present has any connection. It is less a destination than a waypoint. This time, I travel to see her with my girlfriend, and my mother arrives with the rest of her biological family in tow.

My maternal grandmother brings her own shoebox with her, containing photographs of persons to whom I have no social connection. I see the face of my maternal grandfather for the first time. We do indeed look alike: same hair, same build. Once again, I’m surprised to find that this experience means less to me than looking through my adoptive family’s photographs, which depict persons with whom I have no genetic relationship. I understand their significance to my own life better. I understand the role of these unrelatives as the openers and closers of doors; as the guardians of thresholds.

Looking upon this newly disparate collection of images, I appreciate that I already have a map of my own existence, but here I am, presented with an alternative one; a map that could have been. We eat, drink and then part ways. They travel back east and we travel back west. I continue to travel further onwards, always somewhere between the two, forever becoming what I am—a displaced third.

I would like to thank Max Castle, Tobias Ewe and Robin Mackay for their feedback, comments and conversation throughout this essay’s gestation.

[1] The Books. Lost & Safe. Köln: Tomlab, 2005, track 4.

[2] Having contacted a charity that dealt with reunions between adopted children and their biological relatives, working closely with but independently of the local council authority, I was informed the entire process of reconciliation would cost me around £700 to cover administrative fees and the cost of therapy before, during and after our first few meetings. Whilst appreciating the caution and professional risk evaluation on offer, I nonetheless took great offence at learning I could not afford to get to know my own mother.

[3] There are numerous occasions throughout the book where Verrier defers to recurring anecdotes that appear within her case studies and speak to an experience wholly other to the psychiatric discipline she is otherwise adhering to. She refers to these stories as the “mystic aspect” of the adoptive experience, noting how many adoptees speak of “meaningful coincidences” when they are reunited with their relatives—that is, things held in common between them despite a lack of the social contact that one might assume is necessary for the transference of such information. She likens these experiences to the Jungian concept of “synchronicity”. In my own experience, I discovered that my biological mother and I both shared a fantasy of packing up our bags and moving out to the American Midwest to become storm-chasers—the synchronicity of this fantasy between us was both unsettling and hilarious in its specificity. Verrier, Nancy Newton. The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. London: CoramBAAF Adoption and Fostering Agency, 2009.

[4] Ibid., 1.

[5] “The adoptive parents, who have been waiting for a baby and who feel ready to love and nurture him, come into the picture at a disadvantage. In fact there are four areas of concern about which they may not have been made aware: 1) the mother has not had the benefit of the 40-week preparation period of gestation, 2) neither parent may have been alerted to the fact that their baby has suffered a trauma upon having been separated from his biological mother, 3) most adoptive parents have not dealt with their own feelings about their own losses, including the loss of fertility, and 4) those who already have biological children may not have adequately explored their reasons for wanting to adopt or the impact this will have on their family life.” Ibid., 43-44.

[6] “This legend [of Oedipus] concerns all children, whether they live in a traditional family, with a single parent, in a family composed of previously divorced parents, whether they grow up with homosexual parents, or whether they are abandoned, orphans, or wards of the state. No child escapes Oedipus! Why? Because no four-year-old child, boy or girl, escapes the flood of erotic drives that surges through them, and because no adult in his or her immediate surroundings can avoid being the target of these drives and of having to resist [endiguer] them.” Nasio, Juan-David. Oedipus: The Most Crucial Concept in Psychoanalysis (trans. David Pettigrew and Francois Raffoul.) Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010, xix.

[7] See: Lacan, Jacques. “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function”. In Écrits (trans. Bruce Fink.) London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006.

[8] Sophocles. The Theban Plays: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone (trans., eds. Ruth Fainlight and Robert J. Littman.) Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2009, 16.

[9] Verrier, 23.

[10] It should be acknowledged that Verrier does articulate a concern around the politicisation of the act of surrogacy. She is not overtly critical of this process but recognises that, like the process of adoption itself, it is an insufficient solution to a very complex social problem. In many cases, however, it is the only solution we have. Her issue with surrogacy is, then, that we do not always consider the inadvertent affects and traumas to which her book is dedicated, and that these must be considered anew if we are to fully embrace a politics of expansive and communal care that works for all. We must take care—in seeking the abolition of the family—not to throw out the baby (quite literally) with the bathwater.

[11] This separation is an event common to all children, and it is this process that Juan-David Nasio points to when he declares that no child escapes Oedipus. With this in mind, we might note that the Oedipal complex is only one phase within a broader process of psychological individuation.

[12] Verrier, 30.

[13] See: Nietzsche, Friedrich. “The Anti-Christ”. In The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols and Other Writings (trans. Judith Norman, ed. Aaron Ridley.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[14] Discussion of this “movement” is taken up again in the pair’s second collaborative work, A Thousand Plateaus. They argue that the innate nomadism of such a movement is anti-institutional in allowing itself moments of escape from standardised and, in the case of psychoanalysis, arguably reductive, limiting and inadvertently oppressive models. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. Brian Massumi). Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

[15] “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg—but also the father and the mother, or the child? Psychoanalysis acts as if it were the child (the father is sick only from his own childhood), but at the same time is forced to postulate a parental pre-existence (the child is sick only in relation to a father and a mother). … Oedipus itself would be nothing without the identifications of the parents with the children…” Deleuze, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus (trans. Robert Hurley and Mark Seem.) London/New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013, 313.

[16] Blanchot, Maurice. The Infinite Conversation (trans. Susan Hanson.) Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, 231. Emphasis added. Here, it is worth noting that Blanchot is emphasising that a child’s very being must be (re)established following its separation from the mother postpartum, beginning the process of becoming that Deleuze and Guattari would later make central to their own philosophy.

[17] Ibid., 231–232.

[18] Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 70.

[19] Deleuze, Gilles. “What Children Say”. In Essays Critical and Clinical (trans. Michael A. Greco). London/New York: Verso Books, 1998, 61-62. Guattari would write elsewhere, using a rather more abstruse analogy, that this ontology of difference shared between them is an attempt to “construct a science in which dishcloths and napkins would be mixed up, along with other things that are more different still, in which dishcloths and napkins could no longer even be encompassed under the general rubric of linen.” Guattari, Félix. Schizoanalytic Cartographies (trans. Andrew Goffey.) London/New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013, 18.

[20] Deleuze, “What Children Say”, 62.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World (London: Fourth Estate, 2012), 14.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 131. 

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