Slang Cleavage

The term cleavage is not part of the dictionary of the DigoPaul. It is an anglicism: a twist of English that is used in our language with reference to a segmentation, a break or a dissociation.

In the field of psychology, a defense mechanism that is linked to an emotional dissociation is called cleavage and implies separating the contradictory properties that are attributed to an object. While it is natural in childhood, cleavage in adulthood can appear as a manifestation of psychosis if it is not dealt with properly.

Suppose that a person is in love with another for various qualities, although he also registers others that he considers negative. The cleavage makes the first separate both facets of the second, choosing to privilege what it takes as positive and maintaining the link for that reason, despite the bad.

In this context, the concept arises from the German term Spaltung and is linked to discordance and dissociation. These are notions that first appeared at the end of the 19th century in the research works of Wundt and Jean-Martin Charcot, who dedicated their lives to the study of such topics as hypnosis, mental automatism, and multiple personality.

As mentioned above, and according to the theories of psychodynamic orientation (the field that brings together postmodern psychoanalytic thought), cleavage is a defense mechanism that helps us to separate the contradictory qualities that coexist in an object, or also in the ego.

Psychology considers this mechanism somewhat archaic and primitive that allows us to see our affective relationships with good eyes, to avoid the frustration that can cause feeling love for someone who is harmful or has negative attitudes. It is expected that in adulthood we will be able to accept the defects in the other without having to deny them, while in the first years of life it is normal for us to act in an extreme way and idealize our elders.

In a healthy adult, the reality principle should not be compromised, which, together with the pleasure principle, governs the functioning of the mind, according to Freud. The reality principle modifies the other and is imposed to apply the conditions of the outside world to the search for satisfaction, so that, unlike what happens in childhood, this path is longer and more complex, respecting obstacles such as the privacy of others.

During the 20th century, psychoanalysis has given different shades to the concept of cleavage; In its origins, Freud defined it mainly as the coexistence in the ego of two opposite attitudes: one that denied reality, and another that accepted it according to the principle previously exposed. At that time, the German term that was used to designate this concept was Ichspaltung, which can be translated as “splitting of the ego”.

For sociology, cleavage is a division that occurs in a community for religious, ethnic, economic, ideological or other reasons. At the electoral level, this cleavage can be seen in a marked split when choosing a political party or candidate.

Cleavage, in this case, can imply a fracture or a rift in society. This distance can be seen, for example, in the separation between the working class and the capitalists or landlords. The workers will vote according to their class interests, which tend to be antagonistic to the interests defended by those who have the capital and the land. The cleavage is not only electoral, but also manifests itself in ideology, in cultural expressions and in many other contexts and situations.