The Freudian terrain

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This chapter provides a brief account of some of the main ideas of Freud's theory. I will discuss the different ways Freud considered the human mind, the concept of repression, the Oedipus complex; dreams, slips, jokes; and psychoanalysis as a practice. This account is inevitably selective (I do not deal with the first phase when Freud was working with patients suffering from hysteria, nor with the last phase when Freud was speculating about society and human culture).1 At the end of the chapter I will focus on Lacan's main interests and the way he has refashioned Freudian theory. It has been said that Sigmund Freud contributed to something much wider than merely the growth of a scientific discipline. He has contributed to the whole cultural milieu of the twentieth century in that he has given us a way of seeing things. He fashioned a new image of what it is to be human. Freud, by the power of his writings and by the breadth and audacity of his speculations,' revolutionised the thought, the lives and the imagination of an age.2 Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) considered the human mind from three points of view: the 'dynamic', the 'economic' and the 'topographical'. These are not mutually exclusive interpretations but emphasise different aspects of the whole. All three are evidence of Freud's attempt to derive the mind from the body.3 The dynamic point of view stresses the interplay of forces within the mind, arising from tensions that develop when instinctual drives meet the necessities of external reality. What is necessarily given at the start are the needs of the body itself: these are inseparably connected to feeling~ of pleasure and pain. From the 'economic' point of view pleasure results from a decrease in the degree to which the body is disturbed by any stimulus.

CHAPTER ONE Introduction

The Freudian terrain

1 2 Jacques Lacan Unpleasure results from an increase in disturbance. In the interaction of the body with the external environment a part of the mind Freud calls the 'ego' evolves to mediate the actions of the J:>ody so as to achieve optimal satisfaction of its needs. The ego is particularly concerned with self-preservation. This implies that there has to be control of the basic instincts if there is to be adjustment to reality. Under the economic model this is viewed as a struggle between the 'reality principle' and the 'pleasure principle' in which the body has to learn to postpone pleasure and accept a degree of unpleasure in order to comply with social demands. The third point of view is the 'topographical', of which there are two versions. The psychic apparatus is here conceived of in a spatial metaphor as divided into separate subsystems. In the first of the two versions Freud sees the mind as having a threefold division, conscious, preconscious and unconscious. He equates consciousness with the perception system, the sensing and ordering of the external world; the preconscious covers those elements of experience which can be called into consciousness at will; the unconscious is made up of all that has been kept out of the preconscious-{;onscious system. From observations Freud posited that the unconscious system contained basic instincts and drives which he thought were primarily sexual - he called the energy behind these drives the 'libido'. Gradually, as Freud extended the range of phenomena subjected to his scrutiny, this topographical model began to appear simplistic.4 The second version of the topographical schema was introduced by Freud in 1923 when he came to view the mind as having three distinct agencies: the id, a term applied retrospectively to the instinctual drives that spring from the constitutional needs of the body; the ego as having developed out of the id to be an agency which regulates and opposes the drives; and the superego, as representative of parental and social influences upon the drives. The superego acts as a conscience constantly castigating the ego for failing to control the id. The ego is seen to be the vital arbiter between the conflicting demands of the id, the external world, and the superego. The ego's relation to the id might be compared with that of a rider to his horse. The horse supplies the locomotive energy, while the rider has the privilege of ~eciding on the goal and of guiding the powerful

The Freudian terrain 3 animal's movement. But only too often there arises between the ego and the id the not precisely ideal situation of the rider being obliged to guide the horse along the path by which it itself wants to gO.5 During the last phase of Freud's thinking, which coincides with the last twenty years of his life, it was the opposition of ego and id that was in the forefront of his attention. Freud described the change in his thinking as a shift in interest from the repressed to the repressing forces in the mind. Freud found that though the ego, as the repressing agency was called, was in large part conscious, in so far as it was responsible for repression it operated unconsciously. With this model of mind Freud saw psychoanalysis as having a quite specific task. He expressed the view that psychoanalysis was an instrument to enable the ego to achieve a progressive conquest of the id: Its intention is ... to strengthen the ego, to make it more independent of the superego, to widen its field of perception and enlarge its organization so that it can appropriate fresh portions of the id. Where it was, there ego shall be. It is the work of culture - not unlike draining the Zuider Zee.6 For Freud, psychoanalytical investigation was rather like archaeology. Just as an archaeologist investigates the buried remains of a city, the analyst investigates 'buried' childhood. He wrote: 'There is, in fact, no better analogy for repression, by which something in the mind is at once made inaccessible and preserved, than burial of the sort to which Pompeii fell a victim and from which it could emerge once more through the work of spades. '7 The id wants its wishes satisfied whether or not they are compatible with external demands. The ego feels itself threatened by the pressure of the unacceptable wishes. Memories of these experiences, that is images and ideas associated with them, become charged with unpleasurable feeling, and are thus barred from con= sciousness. This is the operation known as repression. Every human being has to undergo this repression of what Freud named the 'pleasure principle' by the 'reality principle'. (We are all repressed to some degree but for some of us the repression may become excessive and make us ill.) Repression 4 Jacques Lacan serves to keep guilt-laden wishes out of conscious experience. The symptoms, dreams and slips of the tongue that occur in everyday life represent the 'return of the repressed', a mechanism that marks both the emergence of the forbidden wish and the resistance to it. Unconscious wishes strive continually to break through against the counterforce exerted by the ego. The censorship of the ego can, however, be subverted; the drives or wishes can get through in disguise, as the so-called 'compromise formations' of the return of the repressed. The OediPus complex Freud maintained that infantile sexuality emerged 'spontaneously from internal causes'. Sexuality is undifferentiated in terms of both its object and aim; Freud called this condition the 'polymorphously perverse' state. From its unstructured state the child's libido develops through specific phases in which the sexual instinct is attached to, and finds release through, the various 'erotogenic zones'. Freud suggested that human sexual development follows a course through quite specific phases: the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage and the latency period. Freud regarded the discovery of the 'polymorphously perverse' nature of infant sexuality and the 'erotogenic zone' conception of development as two of the most fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis. Freud argued, in short, that sexual identity is not merely anatomically determined, but psychically constructed. Until this is achieved the infant's sexuality is 'polymorphous'; it is at the mercy of the component instincts, functioning independently and varying in their aim, their object and their source. The match of biological sex with the sexual role determined by society is achieved, not given. For Freud this matching is accomplished through the combined workings of the Oedipus complex and the castration complex. Freud sees the child's relationship with its parents as critical for the achievement of its proper sexual identity. Love of the mother is dominant in the early formative years. Later, the perception of'the father as rival becomes insistent for the boy-child to the point where he is drawn into phantasies of the killing of this rival and of possessing the mother. This is the Oedipus complex.8

The Freudian terrain 5 The early dyadic or two-term relationship between infant and mother now opens up into a triangle consisting of child and both parents; and for the child, the parent of the same sex will come to figure as a rival in its affections for the parent of the opposite sex. What persuades the boy-child to abandon his incestuous desire for the mother is the father's threat of castration. The father is experienced as the source of all authority. The threat need not necessarily be spoken; but the boy, in perceiving that the girl is herself 'castrated', begins to imagine this as a punishment which might be visited upon himself. The boy thus abandons his love for the mother and moves towards identification with the father, with the understanding that he too can in time occupy such a position of power. The trajectory fonhe girl-child is not so straightforward. In her case the complexes work in reverse, and the castration 'complex ushers in the Oedipus complex. She interprets the absence of a penis as a failure in provision on the part of the mother. Under the influence of this disappointment she turns away in hostility from her mother, but in the unconscious the wish for a penis is not abandoned; it is replaced by the wish to bear the father a child. Hence the girl becomes the rival of the mother for the father's love. Freud saw the fading of the Oedipus complex in the girlchild as a more uncertain process, because the identification with the father's law, facilitated by the anticipation of power, is not so secure. I want to emphasise the centrality of the Oedipus complex because it is the nucleus of desire, repression and sexual identity. It is the point at which we are produced and constituted as subjects. The Oedipus complex represents for Freud the beginnings of morality, conscience, law and all forms of authority. The father's real or imagined prohibition of incest is symbolic of all the higher authority to be later encountered; and in introjecting this patriarchal law the child begins to form what Freud calls ~the 'superego', the punitive voice of conscience within it. Maturity and growth are conceived by Freud in terms of the successful resolution of the Oedipus complex. The struggle to overcome the complex, however, is never quite resolved, and one of its residues is a life-long ambivalence towards the keeping and breaking of taboos and laws. 6 Jacques Lacan Lacan's main themes Having given an account of the principal ideas of Freud, I now want to signal some of the ways Lacan has developed the Freudian heritage. Lacan's work is a strikingly original attempt to 'rewrite' Freudianism in ways relevant to all those concerned with the question ofthe human subject, its place in society, and above all its relationship to language. One of the things Lacan has done is to reinterpret Freud in the light of structuralist and post-structuralist theories of discourse. Lacan emphasises the importance of an intense and personal reexamination of Freud's original texts. He has emended our understanding of Freud's work and, some would say, his reading of Freud has created a new version of psychoanalysis. Lacan's psychoanalytical ideas have made possible new theorisations of the individual and society, and new forms of social criticism. Lacan, taking from Freud his desire to establish a system of knowledge, has made use of (and criticised) ethology, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, logic and mathematics. He has put psychoanalysis in touch with other disciplines, with new areas of thought.

The Freudian terrain 11 He has, for example, revised Freudian theory by the use of Saussure's structural linguistics, a discipline not available to Freud. Lacan has made people aware of language in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. Lacan has made a radical critique of the psychoanalytic institution itself. There is considerable controversy over Lacan's unorthodox ideas. He sees psychoanalysis more as a calling than as a career. He personifies a conception of analysis not as a quasimedical technique focused on 'cure' but as a scientific discipline and a process of individual research and self-discovery. (If a cure comes at all in psychoanalysis it comes as a kind of bonus or secondary gain.) For Lacan, psychoanalysis is not a system of cure, it is not a method of explaining or guaranteeing knowledge, but is a series of techniques for listening to and questioning desire. One interesting point is that the reception given to Lacan's theory has varied from country to country; each set of circumstances has emphasised different aspects of his work. In France, and in Latin countries in general, the influence of Lacan has been mainly clinical and closely linked with psychoanalytic practice. In AngloSaxon countries the clinical aspect has, to a large extent, been absent and the influence of Lacan has been crucial in the areas of feminism, film and literature. We should also bear in mind that there are many interpretations of Lacan's work. For example, in France, there are differences between the older and younger 'generations'. On the one hand there is the approach of the old school, or first generation, of Lacanians (Octave and Maud Mannoni, Serge Leclaire, Moustafa Safouan and others) who emphasise clinical problems and the - crucial role of language in the psychoanalytical process - an approach largely based on Lacan's writings in the 1950s, the era of high structuralism. On the other hand, the younger generation, led by Jacques-Alain Miller, have emphasised the formalisation of Lacanian psychoanalysis into mathematical statements ('mathemes'), and have pointed out the differences between the different stages of his teaching. I While Freud's work is haunted by biology, Lacan's work, on the other hand, has a strong anti-biological tendency. Lacan wants to focus on what is distinctively human in the human mind, on the cultural rather than the 'natural' determining forces, and on anthropology and sociology rather than on biology. 12 Jacques Lacan In Anglo-Saxon countries the dominant interpretation of Freudian thought is that the unconscious is close to the basic instincts or the b.iological needs of human beings. This viewpoint is derived from Freud's later works. Lacan's 'return to Freud' is essentially a return to the spirit of the earlier works, the three books which show Freud's fascination with language and the unconscious: The Interpretation of Dreams, The Psychopathology of Everyday Lift, and Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. IS In Lacan's work there is also an emphasis on language, but it is not the usual notion oflanguage which involves the understanding and consciousness of a subject. Inspired by the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson (whose ideas were not available to Freud), Lacan's view of language is different: it is not only man who speaks, but that in man and through man it speaks. By reinterpreting Freudianism in terms of language, Lacan permits us to explore the relations between the unconscious and human society. He makes us realise that the unconscious is not a private region 'inside' us, but is an effect of our relations with one another. The unconscious exists 'between' us, as our relationships do. The unconscious surrounds us and weaves itself - rather like language - through us. Indeed, Lacan regards the unconscious as structured like a language. For Lacan the unconscious is a particular effict of language, but this language, for Lacan as for the structuralists, is never something entirely within our individual control. In England it was assumed for a long time that Lacan was a structuralist. This impression was fostered by influential studies like Anika Lemaire's Jacques Lacan.16 She discusses Lacan only in linguistic terms and prioritises the influence of Ferdinand de Saussure, Roman Jakobson and Levi-Strauss. Lemaire takes the systematicity of Lacan's work for granted and reads it in purely synchronic terms. Structuralist references dominate everything; Lacan's debts to Hegel and Kojeve, Heidegger, Sartre and others simply disappear. There are, then, many problems in trying to understand Lacan's life-work. Was he a poet or a mathematician? Was he, basically, a surrealist or a structuralist? I think it is wrong to polarise his work in a dichotomous, 'either/or' way. Perhaps it is better to think of his work as having different periods or phases. There are

The Freudian terrain 13 numerous differences between the many periods of his work and it is difficult to define his concepts because they are always changing. It will be argued that Lacan integrates feeling and reason, that he is both poet and mathematician, surrealist and structuralist. I want to stress that Lacan's early philosophical roots are in phenomenology and that he was particularly influenced by Kojeve's reading of Hegel. Later, in the early 1950s, Lacan drew heavily on linguistics and structuralism. Those commentators who focus largely on the structuralist aspects tend to stress Lacan's antagonism to humanistic philosophy and psychology, disciplines that treat man as an actor who wills his action. In contrast, Lacan sees man as a submitting object of processes that transcend him. Structuralist theories emphasise the possibility of discovering universal laws about man and society. Lacan's affirmation of the centrality oflanguage to thought and his emphasis on logical and mathematical formalisation is meant to lay the groundwork for a unification of knowledge. Though Lacan often spoke of the primacy oflanguage he always believed that there was more to experience than language. He never accepted the pure priority of language. Lacan was always concerned with the interface of experience and structure. Lacan stresses the role of language and the role of desire. For Lacan, once the child has the capacity for language there is a qualitative change in his or her psychical structure - s/he becomes a subject. We are speaking subjects. However, in language, we can never completely express what we want. There is always a gap between what we say and what we mean. Language is linked with desire. Desire is a fundamental lack, a hole in being. The desire of die subject is in perpetual movement but it can never find fulfilment. Lacan, in short, wants to cOl\vert our feeling of powerlessness to an understanding of logical impossibility. But even if you find some of these' reasons for studying Lacan convincing there is still the problem of reading. Lacan's style is difficult. It has been called incomprehensible, esoteric, and obscure. His style belongs to a French tradition that can be traced back to poets like Mallarme. Indeed, Catherine Clement has written of Lacan not only as a founder of a new psychoanalytic theory but as she experienced him, a shaman, a sorcerer possessed by a poetic inspiration. 17 . One characteristic of Lacan's style is his use of jokes and puns. 14 Jacques Lacan As Freud taught us, jokes are an expression of the unconscious; puns contain many nuances of meaning. Lacan uses puns to demonstrate how the analyst works: to interpret is to play on words. Early in his career, Lacan wrote poems and articles in the surrealist Minotaure. In this journal appeared the work of Breton, Eluard, Dali, Masson, Picasso and many others. He saw a great deal of the surrealists. As everyone knows, the surrealists were heavily influenced by Freud's work. They loved language and playing with words. They liked the Freudian idea that when you use the wrong word, when you say a word other than the one you meant to say, it is not really you who are speaking. You are spoken. In trying to understand a new theory it is often helpful to know what the theorist is against. Lacan is fundamentally antagonistic to the Anglo-Saxon philosophical tradition. Within this tradition the British, in particular, emphasise the virtues of 'common-sense'. It is assumed that common-sense is, in some way, real. It is taken for granted that we can act rationally on the basis of common-sense. In the field of psychoanalysis the British tend to stress the ability of the analyst. Such beliefs are contested by the Lacanian school, who see these ideas as ideological. These ideological views are expressed most clearly in the work of the ego-psychologists. Ego-psychology, a powerful movement, began in Vienna in the 1920s and 1930s. Heinz Hartmann, Ernst Kris and Rudolph Loewenstein, the most famous members, were supported by Anna Freud in London. Looking at mental conflict, they held that there was a conflict-free zone in the ego. In their, view, patients came to the analyst because they had a weak ego, and had to model their ego on the strong one of the analyst. The aim of analysis is to enable patients to love and to work. When the ego-psychologists emigrated to the United States it became particularly noticeable that they stressed adaptation to group norms. There was pressure to conform; for example, the egopsychologists stressed genital sex as being the only 'wholesome' form and implied that other forms of sexual activity were deviant. Ego-psychology fitted in with the dominant sociology of the time, the consensual structural functionalism of Talcott Parsons. One of Lacan's achievements is that he has made us aware that psychoanalysis should not be used for the purpose of social adjustment, it should not be an apparatus for the regulation of the human subject and its adaptation to 'reality'.

The Freudian terrain 15 Lacan stresses the fact that psychoanalysis is about human sexuality and the unconscious. For psychoanalysts sexuality can never be equated with genitality, nor is it the simple expression of a biological drive. It is always psychosexuality, a system of conscious and unconscious human phantasies involving activities that produce pleasure beyond the satisfaction of any physiological need. The psychosexual drive arises from various sources, seeks satisfaction in many different ways, and makes use of many diverse objects for its aim of achieving pleasure. Some analysts, like Ernest Jones, described the acquisition of sexual identity in terms of ego development. Lacan is strongly against this; in his view, the unconscious never ceases to challenge our apparent identity as subjects. In contrast to the ego-psychologists, Lacan stresses the unconscious. He insists that the unconscious is governed by its own laws. Its images do not follow each other as in the sequential logic of consciousness but are condensed into each other or are displaced on to something else. Because it is unconscious, direct access to it is impossible, but, nevertheless, its manifestations are apparent most notably in dreams, everyday slips of the tongue, jokes, in neurotic and psychotic behaviour, and in symptoms. It needs to be emphasised that all psychoanalytic practice is based on the ability to hear something other than what the patient says, on the capacity to hear, within the conscious message enunciated by the speaker, the patterns produced by the unconscious. Lacan is antagonistic to all those who assume that the human subject (the individual) exists from the beginning. For Lacan neither sexuality nor the unconscious are pre-given facts; they are constructions. The human subject is constructed in and through language. Language does not arise from within the individual; it is always out there in the world outside. In short, the human animal is born into language and it is within the terms oflanguage that the human subject is constructed. Lacan's thought disrupts and challenges many assumptions about knowledge and subjectivity common to the social sciences and humanities as well as in everyday life. Lacan's fusion of language-like processes with Freud's notion of sexuality and the unconscious are very useful to thinkers in a wide variety of disciplines in which questions of subjectivity, desire, reading and interpretation are usually ignored. His interest in psychoanalysis as Introduction: The aims and asPirations of the movement 16 Jacques Lacan a science of interpretation gives him an appeal far beyond the psychoanalytic community itself. Writers in many domains are now making extensive use of Lacan's concepts and considerable developments are taking place in feminist thought, literary studies and film criticism through the use of Lacanian theory. Indeed, I want to argue that Lacanian thought has stimulated important intellectual advances throughout cultural studies. What is identity and how are subjects constituted? What is the relationship between the political and the personal? What are the functions of language in everyday life? What is the nature of desire? These are all questions about which Lacan has something interesting to say ..