Excerpts from Must Read Books & Articles on
Mental Health Topics
Books, Part XXX
The Mind in Conflict
Chapter 7- Compromise Formation
The essential components of psychic conflict are drive
derivative, anxiety and/or depressive affect, and defense. Its consequence
is a compromise among its several components (Brenner, 1979b). It
is compromise formation one observes when one studies psychic functioning.
Compromise formations are the data of observation when one applies
the psychoanalytic method and observes and/or infers a patient's wishes,
fantasies, moods, plans, dreams, and symptoms. Each of these is a
compromise formation, as are, indeed, the entire range of psychic
phenomena subsumed under the heading of material for analysis.
The components of compromise formations
in adult life include various aspects of superego functioning in addition
to drive derivatives, anxiety and depressive affect whose ideational
content includes one or more of the calamities of' childhood, and
defense. All the components of adult compromise formations except
the superego have been discussed (Chapters 2-6), and it would be logical
to discuss the superego before examining the many consequences of
conflict in more detail, were it not for the fact that the superego
is itself a compromise formation. It is one of the most important
of the many, fateful consequences of the stormy conflicts of the oedipal
period of development--so much so, that Freud (1924c) referred to
the superego as the heir to the Oedipus complex. Thus the superego
is both a consequence of psychic conflict and, once it has come into
being, a component of subsequent conflicts.
It will be recalled (Chapter Two) that
ego functions serve both to gratify drive derivatives, i.e., id derivatives,
and to oppose them. If there is too much unpleasure, the result is
opposition, i.e., defense. If there is less unpleasure associated
with drive satisfaction, or none at all, the ego promotes the achievement
of satisfaction. More simply, if a wish arouses too much unpleasure,
ego functions appear as defense; if not, they appear as mediators
What I wish to add at this point is
that the balance between defense and drive gratification is a mobile
one, not a static one. For example, in a revery, a dream, or a slip
of the tongue, a drive derivative often emerges into conscious awareness
or is given verbal expression only to be forgotten, repudiated, or
ignored moments later. The same happens in joking, as Freud himself
noted (1915c, p. 151). Coprophagia, for instance, is not a source
of pleasure to most adults in our society, either in action or in
fantasy, yet coprophagic jokes are extremely popular and a great source
of amusement and pleasure to many. This means that, under certain
circumstances and for brief periods, coprophagic wishes give rise
to pleasure, while shortly thereafter they are again ignored and repudiated
or, if they do become conscious, give rise not to pleasure, but to
indifference or disgust.
When one looks at such phenomena from
the point of view of drive satisfaction, one can say that there are
special techniques, as Freud called them, for temporary abrogation
of repression, the word Freud (1915c) used for what he later called
defense. There is no doubt that drive derivatives which are opposed,
i.e., defended against, by the ego at one time can find satisfaction,
often via fantasy, at another. Looked at from the other side, from
the point of view of defense, one can say that such defenses as adopting
an attitude that a wish is only make-believe, something not to be
taken seriously, that one is not responsible because one is still
a child, that anything goes at carnival time, etc., can at times suffice
to reduce anxiety and/or depressive affect to such a degree that other
defenses, e.g., repression or reaction formation, are temporarily
unnecessary, with the result that a psychic element previously repressed
or replaced by a contradictory element, as happens in reaction formation,
emerges undisguised into consciousness.
However, this way of viewing conflict
and its consequence, first from one side and then from another, gives
too limited a picture of the psychic phenomena one is trying to describe
and to understand. It is better to formulate the matter thus. Shifts
like the one described above in the balance between defense and drive
satisfaction demonstrate that the mind functions so as to afford to
drive derivatives the fullest expression or satisfaction compatible
with a tolerable degree of anxiety and/or depressive affect. When
anxiety and/or depressive affect become too intensely unpleasurable,
defense is heightened to mitigate them. When they grow less intensely
unpleasurable, more drive satisfaction is achieved. It can even happen
that full satisfaction and intolerable anxiety--orgasm and panic--coincide,
as in the classic nightmare (Jones, 1931). Usually the results are
less dramatic and less paradoxical. Nevertheless, the guiding principle
is the same: as much satisfaction and as little unpleasure as it is
possible to attain.
It is important to bear in mind that
Freud did not conceive of defense as shifting in the way I have described
under normal circumstances. His view was that the balance between
defense and what is defended against is normally static and that shifts
are to be reckoned as signs of pathology. He expressed this most clearly
with respect to repression, the defense he discussed most often and
at greatest length. Since the formulation I offer does differ significantly
from Freud's views on repression (see Brenner, 1957a), I shall summarize
the aspects of Freud's concept of repression which I propose to alter.
Although my discussion will refer explicitly to repression, it is
equally applicable, with suitable and necessary changes, to what Freud,
after 1926, recognized as defense in general.
Freud believed the effects of' repression
to be twofold. In the first place, he thought, repressed drive derivatives
are excluded from the ego and consigned to the id. This meant, to
Freud, that as long as the repression is maintained, a repressed drive
derivative has no access to consciousness, produces no emotional consequences,
and does not give rise to any motor activity aimed at drive satisfaction.
However, the repressed drive derivative, according to Freud, persists
in the id and exerts pressure in the direction of emergence into consciousness
and of gratification. Consequently, there is a tendency for offshoots
of the repressed drive derivative to intrude into the functions of
the ego and to reach consciousness in dreams, jokes, fantasies, slips,
neurotic symptoms, and other, similar psychic manifestations, which
may, in general, be described as compromise formations.
Freud referred to such phenomena as
instances of a return of the repressed. By this he meant to
indicate that each is a result of a failure of repression. The failure,
according to Freud, may be either temporary or prolonged, it may be
either so direct as to be unmistakable or so disguised as to be hardly
perceptible, it may be either of such slight practical importance
in the life of' an individual as to pass quite unnoticed or of such
great importance as to be decisive for the whole future course of'
a person's life. Whatever its characteristics in any of these respects,
however, it is still a failure of repression, according to Freud,
which gives rise to a compromise formation in psychic life.
Still according to Freud, there are
three general conditions under which a return of the repressed may
occur: (1) a weakening of the defenses of the ego, as by illness or
during sleep; (2) a strengthening of the drives, as in puberty or
as the result of long-continued frustration and/or abstinence; (3)
a correspondence between the content of' current experience and of
the repressed drive derivative. To these should be added the influence
of current seduction, which presumably corresponds in part to each
of the three conditions just mentioned.
The main point I wish to make is that
in Freud's view compromise formations in which repressed drive derivatives
reach consciousness and influence behavior are failures of repression.
His view was that, insofar as repression is successful, whatever mental
elements have been repressed are effectively barred from access to
consciousness, which means the conscious recall of memories and emotional
expression, and from access to conscious behavior. It is only when
there is a return of the repressed, i.e., when there is a failure
of repression, that according to Freud, disguised and distorted derivatives
of what has been repressed appear in conscious psychic life.
My view differs from that of Freud as
follows (Brenner, 1966). The available psychoanalytic evidence indicates
that what has been and is repressed does have access to consciousness,
even when repression is successfully maintained. It is not true that
what has been repressed gains access to consciousness only if repression
fails. A strongly cathected drive derivative, even though it is repressed,
does not simply press for discharge or satisfaction, as Freud said.
It regularly gains access to consciousness and influences conscious
mental life and behavior while it is repressed. Put in another way,
the phenomena of our daily mental life, our fantasies, our thoughts,
our plans, and our actions, are compromises among the forces and tendencies
of id and ego and, later, of' the superego as well. This means that
the parts of' the id Freud called the repressed are among the determinants
of the phenomena of daily psychic life. I wish to emphasize that this
holds true of psychic functioning in general. It is not true only
for those relatively atypical phenomena called neurotic symptoms.
Compromise formation is a general tendency of' the mind, not an exceptional
one. Id impulses, including repressed ones, exert an influence on
conscious psychic functioning and on behavior, although their tendency
to do so is opposed by the ego's defensive activity.
What evidence is available for this
revision of Freud's theory of' repression and, more generally, of
defense? What are the data that support it?
The evidence which is most readily available,
most abundant, and, therefore, most convincing comes from the everyday
experiences of psychoanalytic practice. What makes analysis possible,
what accounts for the efficacy of' the psychoanalytic method, is the
fact that what is defended against, lest it arouse intolerable anxiety
and/or depressive affect, nevertheless contributes a substantial share
to those compromise formations which are called conscious thought:
speech, wishes, plans, fantasies, dreams and behavior. Psychoanalysts
rely on the fact that when a patient in analysis speaks, the conflictual
drive derivatives and superego manisfestations being warded off or
defended against constantly find expression in what the patient is
thinking and talking about. Depending on the extent to which individual
patients are able to refrain from editing their thoughts, they will
be giving more or less recognizable expression to strivings that arouse
unpleasure and defense as they talk. Were this not the case, the psychoanalytic
method would be useless and analysis itself, impossible.
By speaking freely, a patient reveals
to the analyst evidence of childhood drive derivatives. Although the
drive derivatives are defended against or warded off in various ways,
they constantly influence every patient's thoughts enough so that
they can be inferred with some certainty by the listening analyst.
The psychoanalytic method depends on the fact that, even when they
are strenuously warded off, drive derivatives play a determinative
role in conscious psychic life. They are not the only determinants.
Anxiety and depressive affect, defense, and superego functioning all
play their parts as well, but drive derivatives, no less than the
other components of psychic conflict, find constant expression in
conscious adult psychic life. Analytic material, so-called free associations,
afford readily available, abundant, convincing support for revising
Freud's theory of defense as I have done.
One can say the same about that other
pillar of' psychoanalytic: technique, the transference. The positive
value of recognizing and analyzing transference manifestations lies
in the fact that they are compromise formations determined in part
by tile childhood mental strivings against which each patient has
defended for his or her entire life after childhood, in order to eliminate
or to mitigate anxiety and/or depressive affect. Every transference
reaction reveals something of those childhood strivings or wishes.
No analyst will dispute that, in an
analytic situation, a patient's associations and transference reactions
always reveal something of the childhood drive derivatives which are
repressed or otherwise defended against. The objection may be raised,
however, that they do so because they are examples not of successful
defense against drive derivatives warded off to avoid unpleasure,
but of unsuccessful defense. It might be argued, therefore, that they
support Freud's idea of the fate of the repressed rather than the
idea I have advanced. It might be argued that they illustrate the
consequence of a failure of defense, as Freud believed, rather than
a balance between defense and drive derivative, as I have described.
The difficulty with this objection is
that, if one accepts it, one is forced to include under the heading
of failure of defense a very wide range of psychic phenomena ordinarily
as normal. Freud himself called attention to what he described as
a temporary failure of defense in the psychogenesis of certain normal
phenomena: dreams, jokes, and the slips and errors of
everyday life (Freud, 1900, 1901, 1905c). In connection with the last
of these, he went a step further and attributed to repressed complexes
a determinative influence on seemingly casual or chance ideas. He
presented examples to support the idea of psychic determinism in normal
psychic life as, for instance, when one chooses a number seemingly
at random. Shall one
maintain that the random choice of numbers represents a failure of
repression, i.e., of defense, in everyone, sick or well, or is it
more reasonable to recognize that no defense prevents the drive derivative
that occasioned it from exerting a substantial influence on conscious
thought and behavior, albeit an influence that is disguised, distorted,
or even vehemently disavowed?
Moreover, the normal phenomena to which
Freud referred as instances of a failure of repression are but a beginning.
Kris (1935) called attention to a great variety of normal psychic
phenomena and activities that afford pleasurable expression in adult
life for drive derivatives against which strong defenses have operated
ever since childhood. These he called examples of regression in the
service of the ego. They include intellectual and artistic creativity,
the enjoyment of works of art or of mere entertainment by the members
of an audience to whom they are directed, religious activities, etc.
One may add, as further examples sports and recreational games. If
all of these are to be considered instances of failure of defense,
one must wonder whether the idea of a successful defense as Freud
defined it is real or chimerical.
To put the matter simply, conflict and
compromise formation are not the hallmarks of pathological mental
functioning. They are equally important in normal functioning, as
we shall see in more detail in the chapters that follow. Conflict
is always dynamic, always mobile. A successful defense does not fetter
and immobilize a drive derivative. It does not render ineffective
the psychic striving to be warded off. The ego's function is to oppose
id derivatives to the extent necessary to eliminate or to mitigate
unpleasure. In their role as executants of the drives and, later,
of the superego, ego functions will grant to both the fullest expression
compatible with a tolerable degree of unpleasure. When anxiety and/or
depressive affect become too intensely unpleasurable, defense is heightened
to mitigate them. When there is less intense unpleasure, more satisfaction
At this point some explanation is in
order about terminology. Compromise formation was at first synonymous
with neurotic symptom. One of Freud's earliest discoveries was that
obsessional and hysterical symptoms express or represent simultaneously
the gratification of a drive derivative, an attempt to ward it off,
and moral condemnation or self-punishment (Freud, 1896, 1898). Another
early discovery was that more than one drive derivative, or unconscious
wish, can be expressed simultaneously by a single conscious phenomenon,
e.g., a dream. This Freud called overdetermination. Since both overdetermination
and compromise formation refer to multiple unconscious determinants
of conscious phenomena, the two have often been equated, though Freud's
original usage, at least, suggests a distinction between them.
Waelder (1930) introduced, as a special
case of overdetermination or compromise formation, what he called
the principle of multiple function. He proposed that the ego be thought
of as a central steering agency, i.e., an agency that solves problems
and/or performs tasks set for it by id, superego, external reality,
and the repetition compulsion (see Chapter 2). According to Waelder,
each sets two tasks for the ego: (1) to obey its demands or wishes
and (2) to master or control them. By this Waelder meant that the
ego must attempt, at one and the same time, to gratify id wishes and
to defend against or control them, to carry out the superego's demands
and prohibitions and to oppose or mitigate them, to submit to reality
and to exploit or modify it, and to submit to the compulsion to repeat
as well as to use it actively for the ego's own ends. As Waelder pointed
out, it is impossible to accomplish all eight of these tasks in equal
degree; the ego can only try.
The most serious weakness of this formulation
is Waelder's assumption that the ego is a steering agency--that it
is like a little man, a homunculus, in a sort of driver's seat of
the psychic apparatus. Waelder did not attempt to support this assumption,
he simply stated it as fact. The ego has its own interests, he said,
and manipulates id, superego, external reality, and repetition compulsion
as best it can, now yielding, now opposing, to achieve its aims. Though
he referred in his paper explicitly to "Inhibitions, Symptoms
and Anxiety" (Freud, 1926), Waelder made no special reference
either to anxiety or to psychic conflict. His idea of multiple function
was not that it is a result of conflict. He believed it to be a result
of a problem-solving activity of the ego. The ego is a steerer, a
problem solver, he thought, and multiple function or overdetermination
results froth the eight-fold nature of the problems which the mind
sets the ego to solve.
As a result, Waelder's picture of mental
functioning impresses the reader as passionless, intellectual, almost
mechanical. The ego he depicted could easily be replaced by a computer.
It is little wonder, therefore, that the principle of multiple function,
as Waelder presented it, attracted little interest and found almost
no clinical application in its original form. Nevertheless, it has
the great merit of clearly enunciating the idea that ". . . every
psychic act has a multiple meaning," so that, for example, ".
. . every act of man, including all his purposeful reactions directed
toward reality, must also yield to overinterpretation in regard to
its content of instinctual satisfaction," or, more generally,
"Each individual act or fantasy has its ego side, its id side,
its superego side ..." (Waelder, 1930, pp. 73-82, passim). Waelder
sensed clearly enough, despite the faults in his formulation, that
id, ego, and superego combine to shape thought and action, both normal
Brenman (1952) referred to Waelder's
paper when she pointed to the many functions served by masochistic
character formation. She noted that it serves the id as a source of
satisfaction for drive derivatives; the superego as a means of punishment,
of expiation, or of restriction of pleasure; and the ego as a defense
or as a means of adapation to external reality. At the same time she
suggested that masochistic character formation has specific determinants
as well. She asserted, in other words, that something more than compromise
among id, ego, and superego is involved in the genesis of a masochistic
character. She identified certain "underlying drives and defenses"
(p. 273) specific for characterological masochism. These are, (1)
from the side of the drives, an unusually strong need for
love, the aggression resulting from the frustration of the need for
love, and "an unusual disposition to anxiety" and (2) on
the side of the ego defenses, the large-scale operation of four mechanisms
of defense, namely, denial, reaction formation, introspection and
projection. Brenman thus took back, in her final summation, much of
what would otherwise have followed from her application of Waelder's
principle. She began by emphasising the multiple function of masochistic
character formation. She finished by suggesting that it is due principally
to an excessive fear of loss of love associated with aggressive wishes.
My own interest in the psychopathology
of moral masochism originated in my experience with analytic patients
in whom masochistic character traits were of considerable importance.
Stimulated by Brenman's paper, I gradually came to recognize, first,
that my patients' masochistic character traits and/or behavior were
compromises among drive derivatives, defenses, and superego trends
and, second, that "masochistic character formation is in no way
unique in this respect. On the contrary ... every psychic act may
be viewed as a compromise among the various parts of the psychic apparatus,"
i.e., among id, ego, and superego (Brenner, 1959, p. 211).
At that time I mistakenly attributed
this formulation to Waelder (1930), and used the term he had introduced,
the principle of multiple function, to refer to the consequences of
psychic conflict in psychic life. As a result, Waelder's term has,
since 1959, come to be rather widely used in both clinical and theoretical
discussions in referring to those consequences, a meaning Waelder
neve intended his term to have, as a reading of his origianl paper
In what follows, as in what has gone
before, I have used the term compromise formation to designate the
outcome of conflict and have avoided both the term multiple function
and the term overdetermination in describing that outcome or in referring
to it. There are several advantages to doing so. For one thing it
avoids ambiguity. What I call compromise formation is not the same
as Waelder's concept of multiple function or overdetermination. Multiple
function, as Waelder defined it, is not a consequence of psychic conflict.
Compromise formation, as I define it, is a consequence of psychic
conflict. Compromise formation is a term, moreover, which does riot
clash with common usage in psychoanalysis, since Freud introduced
it to refer to neurotic symptoms, phenomena attributed to psychic
conflict. Most important, by using a term which, though not new, is
at least novel in the context in which I use it, I call attention
to what is new in my evaluation of the role conflict plays in psychic
life, namely, that, wherever we look, what we see is a compromise
In addition to explaining my use of the term, I have, in this chapter,
called attention to the following points regarding' compromise formation.
1. The balance between defense and drive gratification is normally
a shifting or mobile one.
2. The balance is not, as Freud believed, mobile only when defense
has failed--when there is a return of the repressed, as he
put it--and static or steady when repression is normally successful.
3. The mind functions in such a way as to afford to drive derivatives
the fullest degree of satisfaction compatible with a tolerable degree
of anxiety and/or depressive affect.
Freud: The Mind of A Moralist
Chapter Three- The Hidden Self
Among Freudians, Freud's self-analysis remains singular. Psychoanalysis begins with a heroic exception to the rule that the self may not know the self, the subject not be its own object. Freud apparently suffered from neurotic crises throughout the decade of the nineties; in the summer of 1897, at the age of forty-one, he embarked upon an epic exploration of himself. "It is hard for us nowadays," exclaims Ernest Jones, "to imagine how momentous this achievement was, that difficulty being the fate of most pioneering exploits."1 Freud's self-analysis stands outside the tests of his own science; it is like the mystery of the unmoved mover. ". . . uniqueness of the feat remains. Once done it is done forever. For no one again can be the first to explore those depths."2 The amount of deference to Freud's singularity which analysts (minds, after all, trained to suspect father-images) allow themselves is perhaps warranted. Yet in effect, despite an overlay of belief in the impersonality of science, psychoanalysis is thus linked with Freud's personal development in a way in which scientific doctrines rarely are with the intimate lives of their founders.
One's own self is well hidden from one's own self; of all mines of treasure one's own is the last to be dug up.- Nietzsche
What justly gives The Interpretation of Dreams--his first psychoanalytic book, for which much of the material is taken from his self-analysis--its high place in the literature of self-reflection lies not so much in the energy and daring of the interpretations as in Freud's preponderantly theoretic interests and equable, detached mood. The Interpretation of Dreams is a great, undisturbed book about a most disturbing subject. While exposing the undignified sources of this or that dream, Freud is neither contrite nor defensive. Though the literature of didactic or Romantic confession yields insights perhaps as commanding, what is distinctive about Freud's writing is its dispassionate attitude toward the self, and especially toward illness, sex, the body. Freud is free from that egoism which improves on honesty. Rousseau, and, following him, many poets of the nineteenth century, laid the ground for the understanding of emotional ambivalence. But the assertive, intrusive ego of Rousseau's Confessions--as of confessional poetry in general--makes no claim to tell home truths in so calm a voice. Prior to the Romantic literature of the self, I know of only one writer who, in a mood of urbanity not unlike Freud's, may be said to have resolved the problem of being honest about himself: Montaigne. For their disinterested and pragmatic self-analysis,3 Montaigne's Essays deserve a prominent place among the predecessors of The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud's science completes Montaigne's humanism. It continues the strategic retreat of knowing men from a civilization of public authority to a civilized inspection of the private life.
With Montaigne begins the modern distrust of civilization; in Freud that distrust found its theoretician. Our civilization does not encourage introspection. Its emphasis falls on practical success, its popular manuals of self-examination are characteristically tools of trade; in a market economy, emotions too can become exchangeable commodities. Only as Science, made impersonal, does introspection still share the prestige of its older solitary or religious forms. It is as scientific research that Freud validates his own reflectiveness. Scientific good manners require that he apologize, cursorily, for exposing "so many intimate facts" of his own private life in The Interpretation of Dreams; the self-exposure is, after all, for the sake of throwing light on previously obscure scientific problems.4 In the earlier traditions of introspection, the value of such exposures was entirely personal; only thus did they become exemplary. Freud's self-exposure becomes exemplary only as it becomes impersonal. Here is a 180-degree divergence between the moral perspectives of religion and science. Until Ernest Jones wrote his biography, the public at large had little idea of the magnitude of Freud's personal achievement. If, after Jones, there is a tendency to overestimate what had been previously underestimated, this vacillation expresses both the indifference and respect of a culture which has exchanged introspective ideals for various programs of adjustment and action, toward its last great (though defensive) exponent of the introspective art. With Freud, this art takes on some of the qualities of science, and loses its merely personal voice.
Freud himself laid out the possible uniqueness of his self-analysis, with reasons more closely related to the technical character of his science. His effort was different both from the religious attempt to know the self as the body's restive tenant, and from the Cartesian construction of mind as exercising proprietorship over the body, as an extension of its substance. For Freud the mind is not so much that which dwells inside the body, speaking metaphorically, as that which forms a sheath for the body. It is mind--by means of its basic unit, the "wish"--which first defines the body's needs. The unconscious, or "primary system," as Freud sometimes calls it, "is unable to do anything but wish."5 But between the wish and its enactment lies a whole set of psychic snares--repression, partial amnesia, displacement, sublimation. Consequently not merely the neurotic but everyone suffers from "a sort of ignorance."6 As an object of the mind, the body is misunderstood and simplified in a variety of projective and symbolic ways. The complex schemes of mental anatomy which Freud first drew in Chapter 7 of The Interpretation of Dreams--and later redrew in The Ego and the Id--assert at least this: the instinctual forces are "obscure,"7 and an extensive portion of the unconscious, "the core of our being," will always remain inaccessible to consciousness.8 Only in his highly metaphoric notion of the "censor" does Freud suggest that there is a portion of the mind which can survey the psychic apparatus in its entirety, responsive to the commands from above yet privy to the permanent revolution below. Generally he stresses the mystery of the unconscious and the futility of trying to penetrate its depths.
Here is a passage Freud italicized to make his point:
The unconscious is the true psychical reality; in its innermost nature it is as much unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is as incompletely presented by the data of consciousness as is the external world by the communications of our sense organs.9
Freud is hardly so naive as to think that the senses are primarily conveyors of a message about the external world--a notion heavily qualified even in the eighteenth-century springtime of British empiricism. His notion was not of bodily sensation as a primary datum of experience. The message of bodily drives and sensations is never received directly but comes as an instinctual "idea," and in this form is more or less imperfectly transmitted.
"The antithesis of conscious and unconscious is not applicable to instincts. An instinct can never become an object of consciousness--only the idea that represents the instinct can. Even in the unconscious, moreover, an instinct cannot be represented otherwise than by an idea. If the instinct did not attach itself to an idea or manifest itself as an affective state, we could know nothing about it. When we nevertheless speak of an unconscious instinctual impulse or a repressed instinctual impulse . . . we can only mean an instinctual impulse the ideational presentation of which is unconscious, for nothing else comes into consideration." From "The Unconscious" (1915), SE XIV, 177
All messages, from inner as well as outer reality, become obscure and need decoding. Although Freud would have regarded a solipsistic attitude about the reality of other selves as neurotic, he does seem to sponsor a provisional and casuistical moral solipsism about inner reality; this provisional solipsism holds good until the mind of the analyst, acting as a supplement to the patient's own, aids the patient in decoding himself.
Psychoanalysis is the triumph in ethical form of the modern scientific idea. It is characteristic of modern science that nature, the object of knowledge, is seen as withdrawn and definitely unlike the way we experience it--this in contrast to ancient and medieval science, which presumed no disjunction between experience and the truth of nature. Freud carried the scientific suspicion of nature into ethics. It was as if, after all the pronouncements of theology and philosophy, after all the indications of experience, we had scarcely begun to understand ourselves. Not only is the external nature examined by the physical sciences basically deceptive, but even more so, Freud insists, our inner nature--the ultimate subject studied by all the moral sciences --lies hidden.
Against the conventional assumption that each knows himself best in his own heart, Freud supports the Nietzschean assumption that each is farthest from his own self and must journey through experience in search of it. He surpasses even the Romantics in his deprecation of mere intellect. He calls into question all self-insight, intuitive as well as intellectual. Not only does Freud anticipate that, when a patient offers a seemly account of his conduct, the analyst will be able to detect aggressive or erotic motives which the patient's account has concealed. More damaging to the pride of self-insight is the fact that, even as he charges that real motives are generally hidden behind some rationalization, Freud denies the importance of the conscious lie, the deliberate deception of others. It is for its continual self-deceptions that he reproves the ego:
In every case . . . the news that reaches your consciousness is incomplete and often not to be relied on. Often enough, too, it happens that you get news of events only when they are over and when you can no longer do anything to change them. Even if you are not ill, who can tell all that is stirring in your mind of which you know nothing or are falsely informed? You behave like an absolute ruler who is content with the information supplied him by his highest officials and never goes among the people to hear their voice. Turn your eyes inward, look into your own depths, learn first to know yourself! 10
The Freudian solution to the ego's fallibilities was to permit the self's knowledge to be directed by the professional acumen of an analytic "other." Despite Freud's own unaided introspective success, a physician is generally needed to play policy adviser to the overdignified sovereign ego, and with his knowledge to correct the ego's ignorance.
To "know thyself" is to be known by another. This was Freud's powerful revision of the Delphic injunction, and by which he intended to make psychoanalysis the most disenchanting of sciences. What Copernicus had done to man's universe, what Darwin had done to man's ancestry, Freud claimed to have done to man's ultimate resource--his reason.11 Yet no more than Darwin was misanthropic was Freud anti-rationalist. Rather, he was a cautious advocate of the rationalist tradition, registering a very modest claim on behalf of reason for its own sake: only understood as the frailest of mental powers does reason stand an outside chance of hegemony.
Freud appears as a defender of the beleaguered power of reason. Therapeutic intervention is defined as "an instrument to enable the ego to push its conquest of the id further still"12--in other words, the rationalist aim of reason vanquishing the passions. Elsewhere Freud describes the "struggle between physician and patient" as a conflict "between intellect and the forces of instinct."13 No champion of instinctual pugnacity, Freud was rather a critic of the passions. Yet, for the most part, his discounting of self-knowledge was due less to the muffled claims of instinct than to the sharp directives of conscience. He recommends that rational criteria replace, as far as possible, both the irrational indulgences of the id and the equally irrational aspirations of the super-ego. But according to his scheme of mental topography, only the super-ego, the moral faculty, is therapeutically accessible. The id is defined negatively, as the inaccessible portion of the psyche,14 for which nothing can be done except by indirection. By thus implicitly making the id not available to rational admonishment, Freud's therapy takes on a more anti-moral address than he may have intended.
The aim of reason may be either (1) to introduce or to buttress super-ego controls for purposes of efficiency, or (2) to break down rigid and superfluous moral controls. Freud's patients were invariably assigned aims of the second type. These patients were mostly bourgeois women, miserably ascetic, or bourgeois men, imperfectly libertine. They were evidently late Victorians, in the still pejorative sense of the word. Unsuccessfully repressed, they suffered under moral laws in which they still half believed, their neuroses resulting from a genuine punishment by the frayed taboos of conscience. Freud thus concentrates his criticism mainly on the burdens of conscience, not on the hindrances of desire. The first aim, to work toward greater rather than lesser moral engagement, seems therapeutically more common now than in Freud's time. Warnings sounded in recent psychoanalytic literature against the analyst's being too "moralistic" indicates that patients are no longer so ascetic--perhaps a little too free with their desires. In the case of either aim, however, reason's assigned task is to revise the moral faculty, the super-ego.
Far from being wholly a burden, conscience can become a means of self-approval. No doubt in many instances Freud's patients, even as they confessed their moral shortcomings, were ready to discount them. He could not, however, foresee the final twist of the dialectic--that the criticism of criticism could itself become complacent. Freud was wary of the competence of his literate and cooperative patients when they inclined to prove psychological theories instead of themselves. But he seems unresponsive to the ways in which the jargon of a doctrine criticizing self-criticism might itself be used apologetically or aggressively to protect cherished new illusions about the self-indeed, that psychological explanation is peculiarly liable to such uses.
Freud's critique of conscience derives from his conception of it as a deposit of inhibitions and ideals expressive of authority, originally located in the parents. This he formulated in the proposition that the super-ego is the heir of the Oedipus Complex.16 As his term implies, Freud sees super-ego as imposed or superinduced on the real individual (ego). Given the disparity between the aims of conscience and the instinctual realities disclosed in dreams, all disapproval of the self stands revealed as the blind defensiveness of the super-ego. "Like Oedipus, we live in ignorance of these wishes, repugnant to morality, which have been forced upon us by Nature."17 Even after their unveiling, the super-ego tries to avert our gaze from the harsh facts of the self. Conscience, not passion, emerges as the last enemy of reason. True self-awareness is impossible until the moralizing voice is retrained, or at least controlled. Freud presumes it is impossible otherwise to be truly self-aware. By destroying what he thought to be the illusion of self-knowledge, he particularly criticized self-criticism, thus defining the scope of analytic intervention. The analyst must teach the
patient, product of an ascetic culture, how to keep from censoring himself. Against the rigid moralizing tyranny of conscience, Freud posed a flexible but highly limited administration by the rational ego.
Thus narrowly defined, reason makes a weak champion. Because reason exists at the modifiable superficies of the psyche at the same time that the psychoanalyst seeks to encourage it, his science aims to expose its limits. The kind of intelligence the ego would ideally manifest is modest and practical, not prideful and aspiring. Equipped with a Freudian sagacity about ourselves, we do not hope to abolish the constraints from which we suffer; such hopes are moralizing and utopian, not rational and realistic.
Because it must inevitably criticize the source of super-ego restraints (the parents and, behind them, society), psychoanalysis is compelled, by the turns of its genetic analysis, to be a reformist doctrine. But Freud, the critic of Victorian hypocrisy, is not identical with Freud, the therapeutic pedagogue. Granting an occasional opportunity for opposing reality, the Freudian therapy remains mainly a tutorial in the managerial virtues of prudence and compromise. Healing, in Freud's view, is an empiric art, not a dogmatic one. The psychological expert, whom he proposed as the ego's ally in the world outside, may define for each case that point at which the dangerous variety of drives and impulses can be combined in efficient balance--even as the task of reason itself is to be reasonable, to avoid conflict by compromise.
If Freud's theoretic contraction of reason is initially patronizing, his therapeutic use is rich and enthusiastic. How vigorously intellectual are the Freudian case histories in their labors of extracting "the pure metal of valuable unconscious thoughts" from "the raw material of the patient's associations."18 Even including the didactic analyses of his later years, when he sometimes exhorted his student-patient, rapping on the couch if the right associations were not forthcoming,19 Freud's therapies could be brilliant intellectual encounters.
A quality of intellectuality is already present in the cases Freud contributed to the volume written with Breuer, Studies on Hysteria. The third of these cases, that of an English governess in the family of a widowed Viennese factory superintendent, is characteristic. Besides the usual depression and lassitude, "Lucy R." suffered from delicate but concrete symptoms: recurrent nasal catarrh (with total analgesia) and tormenting subjective sensations of smell. Freud decided these symptoms commemorated the occasion when the patient's employer had severely rebuked her for a trivial leniency with his children. "Lucy R." had, it was plain, a Jane Eyre complex. Freud's aim in treating her was to advance toward the explanation that the girl herself needed to admit to consciousness: her infatuation with her employer. Light dawned on "Lucy R." more quickly than Freud had anticipated. After only nine weeks' treatment, the patient arrived one day, looking
as though transfigured. She was smiling and carried her head high. I thought for a moment that after all I had been wrong about the situation, and that the children's governess had become the Director's fiancee. But she dispelled my notion. "Nothing has happened. It's just that you don't know me. You have only seen me ill and depressed. I'm always cheerful as a rule. When I woke yesterday morning the weight was no longer on my mind, and since then I have felt well."--"And what do you think of your prospects in the house?"--"I am quite clear on the subject. I know I have none, and I shan't make myself unhappy over it."--"And will you get on all right with the servants now?"--"I think my own oversensitiveness was responsible for most of that."--"And are you still in love with your employer?"-- `Yes, I certainly am, but that makes no difference. After all, I can have thoughts and feelings to myself."
I then examined her nose and found that its sensitivity to pain and reflex excitability had been almost completely restored. . . .32
The confrontation of the matter-of-fact patient and the too sympathetic analyst is a paradigmatic comedy of the Freudian encounter, with reconciliation to things as they are as its classic final scene.
All four of Freud's cases in this volume differ significantly from Breuer's case of "Anna O." Freud's patients were not dramatically disabled by their symptoms. The severest torment of "Lucy R." was a persistent imagining of the odor of burnt pastry; Freud interpreted it as a "memory symbol" of an event which she had forgotten because it was painful. Moreover, while Freud considered himself as still following Breuer's method, his cure proceeded less by the venting of emotion than by the patient's coming to acknowledge the hopelessness of her life-situation. The difference is clear in the most intricate of Freud's early clinical studies, the case of "Dora." (Her analysis was conducted in 1893, though not written down until 1899.) None of the extreme symptoms of hysteria--cutaneous insensitivities, partial paralysis, impairment of vision--such as had afflicted Anna O., trouble Dora. Hers is the symptomology of a more recent psychoanalytic clientele: a tedium vitae attributable to the wearing disorder of her family life, a nervous cough, some fainting spells, and fits of crying. Further, while Breuer had diagnosed the sickness of Anna O. as a failure to express her emotions, Freud diagnosed the sickness of Dora as her failure to understand her emotions.
From the beginning Freud's word--"analysis"--carried a rationalist promise that distinguished it from cathartic procedures. To this was added the precaution of recommending analysis only to especially able minds,21 as they would have to engage in intellectual combat with Freud. As the case of Dora took its course, Dora would propose explanations of her wretchedness which Freud criticized, countering with his own; or Freud would spin out his arguments, ending with a fair challenge to his patient "And now, what have your recollections to say to this?"22 But it was not just Dora's intellectual gifts, remarked by Freud, that made disputation possible. The discursive web of treatment was spun to suit not merely this precocious girl. It characterized the method long after Freud's own stated preference for intelligent patients dropped out of the canon. Regardless of the intellectual facility of the patient, psychoanalysis makes a procedural assumption which necessarily exaggerates the import of the patient's present talk and her understanding of it: that is, it equates the events of the patient's life with her verbal account of them. Freud himself does not listen to what the brute symptom might be trying to say. Because he saw all behavior as symptomatic, he could concentrate entirely on Dora's statement. To track down a dream, or any actual event, was inessential. As evidence, the recollection of the dream seemed to Freud relevant as the dream itself, since it was, however distorted, merely a further distortion. A dream, the further twist of recollection --these were equally valid documents, forgeries published by the motivations lurking in the background. Thus, in the analytic setting, the event reported is assimilated into its narration. Any point of recall --a day, a year, ten years after--is as good as any other. For the idea that all dreams may be treated contemporaneously, see The Interpretation of Dreams, SE V, 522: "I had long been in the habit of getting my patients, who sometimes tell me dreams dating from earlier years, to interpret them--by the same procedure and with the same success--as though they had dreamt them the night before." Old dream thoughts are anyway included among the new.
By its indiscriminate acceptance of the relevance of every statement, (At least, theoretically. For obvious practical reasons, of course, all elements of the patient's account cannot be subjected to an equally intense scrutiny; although all are equally relevant, those which are stressed by the analyst are hardly selected indiscriminately. Cf. Otto Fenichel, Collected Papers: First Series, p. 324.) the Freudian technique of interpretation shows itself to be based on a logic of the coherence behind contradiction to which we are perhaps more accustomed in modern art. Take, for example, the Merz paintings put together by the Dadaist Kurt Schwitters during the early twenties. In the attempt to shed conventional aesthetic restraints, Schwitters selected deliberately unartistic materials. One collage of his, of extraordinary brilliance, is assembled from the gutter-pickings in a single city block; I am reminded of Freud's stricture that his method divines things from "the rubbish-heap . . . of our observations,"23 from the collation of the most insignificant details. (Freud found no contradiction between his assertion that "dreams are never occupied with minor details" and the equally acceptable "contrary view that dreams pick up indifferent refuse left over from the previous day" [Interpretation of Dreams, SE V, 589]. Cf.. also [same page] where Freud explains how, because of "censorship," the dream process finds it easier to transfer psychic intensity to "indifferent ideational material.") Schwitters made another collage by tearing up a sheet of heavy blue paper, then dealing out the pieces at random on a sheet of white, pasting these where they fell. In these efforts he meant to demonstrate--and was successful, I think, in doing so--that there is nothing necessarily unartistic within the arbitrary and unplanned.
A similar assumption supports Freudian therapy. As a time limit the analyst's daily hour is no less arbitrary than the space limit of one block from whose gutter the rubbish was collected. If "Dora" had come for treatment in the afternoon hour between 3:00 and 4:00 instead of between 10:30 and 11:30 every morning, the matter of her associations would have varied somewhat; so would the analyst's interpretations. But the likelihood of such discrepancies left Freud unperturbed. As I have shown in the previous chapter, only in the earliest period of his thinking--when he accepted tales of childhood seduction as literally true--did he assume that some actual event behind the associations and memories was properly within the therapist's grasp. After the initial dismay of recognizing that these seduction anecdotes were mere fantasies, Freud ingeniously put this recognition near the center of his interpretive scheme. Fantasy became psychologically real and therefore as legitimate an invitation to analytic exertion as any actual event. The patient's associations, not the event around which the associations may be woven; the memory of the dream, not the dream remembered--these are the subjects of therapeutic scrutiny.
As certain modern artists have found any combination of materials aesthetically serviceable, so Freud discovered that for a depth psychology the most trivial event, the blankest nonsense has a discoverable, often a profound, meaning. Everywhere motives lie embedded, true meanings are necessarily hidden. Judged by its fanatic search behind all statements for a hidden and therefore truer meaning, the Freudian technique of introspection may be said to measure all communication from the standpoint of pathology. Dada dissolved the line between art and non-art; Freud's determinism merges what is normal, straightforward, to be taken at the surface, with the pathological event whose hallmark it is to conceal and be concealed. The very title, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, reports Freud's annulment of the distinction between normal and pathological. Slips of the tongue, pen, memory; mislaying of objects; fiddling or doodling; random naming and numbering--the most ordinary trivialities may become symptomatic, meaningful, according to Freud's interest in meanings that both conceal and betray some deeper motive. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life is actually a study in the psychopathology of communication, in the "double meaning"24 by which we transmit both what we have to say and what we would like to say.
By dissolving this distinction, Freud broke through the established barriers of intelligibility into rich and largely unworked veins. At the same time, however, his achievement encourages an excess of digging, in which what is significant becomes simply what is underneath. The psychoanalytic expectation is of the sinister; the signposts all point downward, into the dark. Though Freud enriched our conception of what is pathological by allowing the "manifest content" to serve merely as a pointer to what is underneath, he narrows his idea of the meaningful to that which is hidden and dynamic. Yet meaning may not be always coiled and ready to unwind, under analytic probing or at the stronger touch of time. Motives easily and directly expressed, lying on the conscious surface of the mind, may be still more revealing.
Even where manifest content fails to do justice to latent sense, there are, conceivably, explanations other than that the latent sense has been forcibly suppressed. Freud nowhere gives a proper estimate of the liabilities of purely verbal analysis. Yet therapy takes place entirely through the verbal medium; the classical couch posture is designed to deny the patient the distracting sight of the analyst 25 and to confine their interchange to words. But thought is notoriously richer, more various, less distinct than words--especially those mental experiences most highly prized by psychoanalysis, the recollection of dreams and of the events of early childhood. The incompleteness of the manifest account may testify not only to the specialized psychic censorship but, more generally, to the unavoidable lag between sensations and thoughts as experienced and their transaction on the verbal level. (After writing this passage, I came across a similar formulation by the Marxist critic Christopher Caudwell in Illusion and Reality (London: 1937), p. 211. Caudwell's extended discussion of Freud is very much worth reading. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud declares that the "forgetting of dreams depends far more on the resistance [to the dream thoughts] than on the mutually alien character of the waking and sleeping states." But these are not contradictory explanations for why we forget, or for why, when we do remember, it is with such distortions. One may posit a "resistance" operative in the person awake, not only against this or that socially proscribed intention as expressed in dreams and other symptoms, but an intractability inherent in the language itself to the whole quality and complexity of our intimate feelings. Cf. Ernst G. Schachtel, "On Memory and Childhood Amnesia," Psychiatry, Vol. 10, 1947, pp. 1-26). For Freud, however, it is "resistance" to specific elements in the dream that produces a distortion or ellipsis on the manifest level; hence the meaning of their symptoms is beyond even the most intellectually skillful patients. In fact, resistance itself may be a major intellectual skill.
Freud's definition of meaning may be partly discounted as one of the preconditions of therapeutic effectiveness. What he himself characterized as the "heads I win, tails you lose" method26 wins arguments. And the patient needs to be convinced if he is to be cured. Defeat in the analytic encounter may lessen defeat in life. Scarcely a foundation for objective inquiry, Freud's method is justified by the fact that he aimed, first, not to inquire but to cure. Moreover, his appeal to a dialectical and reconciliatory notion of language (both yes and no, either and or, true and false) ought to be taken seriously. Though, as a logic, it rehabilitates the ambivalences of the primitive mind, as a therapy it claims to cure them.
Primitives, Freud noted, may use the same word for opposites--the same word for strong and weak, young and old, sacred and profane. He gave an example borrowed from philology:
Since the concept of strength could not be formed except as a contrary to weakness, the word denoting "strong" contained a simultaneous recollection of "weak," as the thing by means of which it first came into existence. In reality this word denoted neither "strong" nor "weak," but the relation and difference between the two, which created both of them equally.26a
Put genetically: our ideas arise through comparison, and language retains this burden of double meaning. Put logically: every word, univocal at the superficies, actually combines two emotional valences. (Freud cites the Scots philosopher Alexander Bain [quoted by Abel]: "The essential relativity of all knowledge, thought, or consciousness cannot but show itself in language. If everything that we can know is viewed as a transition from something else, every experience must have two sides; and either every name must have a double meaning, or else for every meaning there must be two names" [SE XI, 159].) Therefore, the ostensible meaning for a word would indicate to trained observer that its complementary other had remained latent and must be ferreted out. Linguistic ambiguity is transformed into the inevitable fact of ambivalence. Language is the prison of feeling, Freud implies. It is impossible to avoid thinking in emotional pairs, for our language and our feeling merely refine ur-words and ur-opposites.27
Because treatment is administered entirely through the linguistic medium, the ambience of language becomes a main clue to the contrasts which lurk in the psychic depths. Freud is less than convincing when he claims it is the dreams themselves,28 not his interpretations, that are witty and ingenious, even playful, in their manipulation of verbal tones. No one who has sampled the unrelenting brilliance of The Interpretation of Dreams can doubt that much of Freud's analysis of dreams and other symptoms reflects his own, not merely his patients', intellectual virtuosity. In search of the means utilized by the dream to express its "hidden meaning,"29 he constructs the dream itself as a kind of word pun. He could infer a hidden sexual meaning from the apparently quite asexual "violets" which figured in the dream of a woman acquaintance, on the basis of the "chance similarity" of "violets" with the English word "violate," which was one of the dreamer's associations." An entire neurosis can take the form of an elaborate pun. This was the case with the patient known in the psychoanalytic literature as the "Rat Man," so called because one of his symptoms was an obsessive fantasy that a horrible Chinese punishment, in which the person is tied down and rats allowed to bore their way into the anus, was being carried out on his father and on a lady whom he admired. Freud solved the enigma of his patient's sadistic obsession by "unpacking" the word rat--i.e., amplifying it by means of a number of words allied to "rat" in sound which the patient produced, associating Ratten (rats) with Spielratte (gambler), with Raten (installments, money), with heiraten (to marry), etc.31
This recognition of the ambiguity of language leads, it is true, to a rather one-sided expansiveness. Thus, in the "violets-violates" example, Freud sees the dream as employing a guileless word to express a sexually weighted thought; it is never the reverse. This view of language, which so constrains the patient's emotional ambience, protects the analyst's interpretative venturesomeness. Such dialectics of emotion and language make it hard to pin Freud down to a single, sexual sense. Even in his most questionable venture in rendering the meaningless intelligible--the dictionary of dream symbols--he always maintained an escape clause. On the principle of verbal ambivalence, he refused to claim that symbolic equations are altogether invariant.32
In exposing the underside of the obvious, the Freudian strategy assumes that what is hidden contradicts the obvious; in order to save time it can, therefore, be "inferred" rather than "detected." Freud loved the dialectical Jewish joke with its arrogance of inferring. Psychoanalysis itself has much of the cerebrally playful temper of the Middle-European Jew, which Freud evokes in his Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious. In this book, with its store of Jewish jokes, (Of the two kinds of jokes which Freud tells, the Jewish and the non-Jewish, notice that the Jewish jokes are the non-sexual ones--mostly about food, or forms of social evasion [begging, traveling free, not bathing, laziness], or the comedy of marriage) we get sharp exemplifications of the personal encounter and struggle for intellectual supremacy sublimated in the logic of Freud's therapy. The model analytic dialogue is between those two Jews who meet on a train. "Where are you going?" one asks. "I'm going to Pinsk," the other replies. To which the first answers, "You say you are going to Pinsk, because you want me to think you are going to Minsk. But I know you are going to Pinsk. So why are you lying to me?" 33
Ingenuity of inference, however, can lead into crude errors as well as refined truths. In the case of "Dora," one piece of evidence indicating the nature of her neurosis was the girl's unresponsiveness to the sexual advances of "Herr K." Freud assumed that, despite her refusal, Dora wanted to accept K. "We never discover a `No' in the unconscious."34 Sexual distaste, like other forms of rejection, may be a dishonest emotion, a defensive tactic of conscience against desire. Negation is for Freud (Bergson held a view very similar) a purely "psychological" fact. A denial expresses that revision which follows the disappointment of some expectation. Because a "negative judgement" is simply the "intellectual substitute for repression,"35 each denial masks an affirmation. A "No" from the patient is "confirmation" of what the analyst has proposed.36 Thus, when an explanation of his "was met by Dora with a most emphatic negative," he could consider that this "No"
does no more than register the existence of a repression and its severity. . . . If this "No," instead of being regarded as the expression of an impartial judgement (of which, indeed, the patient is incapable), is ignored, and if work is continued, the first evidence soon begins to appear that in such a case "No" signifies the desired "Yes." 37
By presuming the patient incapable of an impartial judgment, the therapist is empowered to disregard the patient's denials, substituting a positive feeling for the subject matter of the association. A patient says: "You may think I meant to say something insulting but I've no such intention"; or: "The woman in my dream was not my mother." From this the analyst must conclude: So, she does mean to say something insulting; So, it was his mother.38 This suspicion of dislikes can sweep dislike away. We are urged to attend to all cases of vehement moral reproof, what people despise and what they loathe. As Georg Groddeck wrote: "You will never go wrong in concluding that a man has once loved deeply whatever he hates, and loves it yet, that he once admired and still admires what he scorns, that he once greedily desired what now disgusts him." 39 But to charge that all aversions betray their opposite is as misleading as to accept all aversions at face value. Rejection is a proper activity of the super-ego. To uncover an acceptance beneath every rejection is to be incredulous of human goodness.
It encourages too easy a cynicism, this principled suspicion of our dislikes. Dora could have turned down Herr K. for several good reasons. Perhaps, at fourteen, she had not yet quite the aplomb to relish an affair with the man who was, after all, the husband of her father's mistress. Possibly she did not find him attractive. What Freud saw was that this female did not respond to the sexual advances of an attractive male; he had seen Herr K. and noted that he was "prepossessing." 40 But, if argued to its conclusion, this logic could make neurosis a sort of hubris of distaste; the neurotic makes too many rejections. In rare moments of libertarian sentimentality Freud arrives at such conclusions; mainly, however, he never confuses the sovereignty of personal taste, in love or work, with the slavery of neurotic rejection.
As a therapist Freud had to suspect Dora's prudish objections to erotic games; they had offended her too deeply. Thus, at one time, "the sharp-sighted Dora" was overcome by the idea that she had been virtually handed over to Herr K., her middle-aged admirer, as the price of tolerating the relations between her father and Frau K.41 Freud admired Dora's insight into this over-intricate affair. He countered with his own more intricate researches into the tangle of her motives. He insisted that, unknown to herself, Dora had got her libido engaged on all the possible levels: that she was at once in love with (of course) her mother, her father, the would-be seducer Herr K., and, at the deepest level, even with Frau K., her father's mistress; this last Freud called "the strongest unconscious current in her mental life"42 because it was not in any way overt. Dora expressed disbelief. Freud applauds his own persistence; he speaks of using facts against the patient43 and reports how he overwhelmed Dora with interpretations, pounding away at her argument, until "Dora disputed the facts no longer."44 But, despite this victory, Freud still had to face the difficulty that if the patient has spun her own "sound and incontestable train of argument . . . the physician is liable to feel a moment's embarrassment." Dora was a brilliant detective too, parrying Freud's own brilliance. Her interpretation of her situation was often so acute that Freud could not help asking himself why his was superior.
In this earnest debate Freud's tactic was not to dispute Dora's logic but to suspect her motives. "The patient is using thoughts of this kind, which the analysis cannot attack, for the purpose of cloaking others which are anxious to escape from criticism and from consciousness."45 Dora reproaches her father and Herr K. because she wishes to conceal self-reproaches. Her logic covers a deeper passion. Thus Freud by-passed the patient's insight into her environment as part of the misleading obvious; he suspected her reasonableness as an ideological instrument of her neurosis. Years later Freud was to call this the most tenacious of all forms of resistance--"intellectual opposition." 41,
To relax Dora's intellectual tenacity, Freud's tactic was to insinuate a set of self-suspicions until he managed to convince her that she was too logical and reasoned too closely for her own good. Here his skepticism toward intellectual self-understanding is most apparent: let there be insight, yes, but not too much or too soon, for this endangers the credulity basic to cure. He made more allowances than usual for Dora's insight acting as a hedge around her emotions; as it turned out, it was just her intellectual verve that threatened and upset her. Dora's acumen was obsessive. She could not let go of her interpretations; she persisted too much in them, while "a normal train of thought, however intense it may be, can be disposed of."47 Her exaggeration of rationality was no longer rational.
For the patient Freud advocated a balanced, flexible standard of reason; persisting too long in any train of thought, one resigns "omnipotence" to it. In a curiously exact way, Freud's own therapeutic habits--spinning out beautiful and complicated lines of argument meet all the requirements of neurotic brilliance; he had, therefore, to exempt at least himself from his critique of obsessive ratiocination. (* The relentless quality of their "Freudian labors" upon themselves is reported by Freud's early disciples. Cf. A. A. Brill, Basic Principles of Psychoanalysis [New York: Doubleday and Co., 1949], p. 48. In an interpolation in his English translation of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life [Modern Library edition, p. 57], Brill reports the flavor of "the pioneer days of Freud among psychiatrists. . . . We made no scruples, for instance, of asking a man at table why he did not use his spoon in the proper way, or why he did such and such a thing in such and such a manner. It was impossible for one to show any degree of hesitation or make some abrupt pause in speaking without being at once called to account. We had to keep ourselves well in hand, ever ready and alert, for there was no telling when and where there would be a new attack. We had to explain why we whistled or hummed some particular tune or why we made some slip in talking or some mistake in writing. But we were glad to do this if for no other reason than to learn to face the truth.") Esoterically, he approved a self-insight which would be tolerant even of its own conclusions. But these liberal virtues disappear before his own intellectual zealotry. Freud detected meaning in everything, even in the fact that the florin notes with which an obsessional patient paid for his consultations "were invariably clean and smooth." 48
He saw little contradiction in his double standard of reason. He derogated conventional insight for tending to suppress unauthorized trains of thought--in sum, for harboring all sorts of discriminatory refinements that confused the burdens of conscience with the burdens of consciousness. Whatever the intensities of reasoning allowed the analyst, among his patients Freud discouraged speculative excess as an analogue to paranoia.49 Reason is championed as the chief "mechanism of defense," to recall the conceptual equivalence suggested in the title of Anna Freud's important book, Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936). Reason aspires to no final solutions, but is capable of engineering a judicious easing of overwrought moral--and intellectual--demands. The daily therapeutic session is designed as a uniquely permissive oasis in the patient's life, and part of its liberating intent, as we have seen in the case of Dora, is aimed at the fanaticism of reason itself.
From the limited and special kinds of rationality that Freud encouraged in his patients, diverse implications may be drawn. They were to be relaxed and self-permissive intellectually--what he called his "fundamental technical rule."50 The frame of mind which Freud wished his patients to suppress is that of the "man who is reflecting" and exercising "his critical faculty." A critical temper does not help cure a sick psyche. On the contrary, it leads a patient
to reject some of the ideas that occur to him after perceiving them, to cut short others without following the trains of thought which they would open up to him, and to behave in such a way towards still others that they never become conscious at all and are accordingly suppressed before being perceived.
The patient is to replace such a self-critical attitude, stemming from the agency of the super-ego, with the self-explorations conducted by the ego, exchange the sort of insight Freud called "reflection" for a more impartial sort he called "observation."
The self-observer on the other hand need only take the trouble to suppress his critical faculty. If he succeeds in doing that, innumerable ideas come into his consciousness of which he could otherwise never have got hold.51
This implicit contrast between the "effort" or "exertion" of consciousness and the ease of mind receptive to the "play" of unconscious thoughts52 may, however, be exaggerated. Freud charges the patient not to "hold back any idea from communication, even if . . . he feels that it is too disagreeable . . . nonsensical . . . unimportant or . . . irrelevant to what is being looked for."53 But can one ever renounce selective thinking spontaneously? To abandon the restrictions of logic and theme, the patient must learn an arduous technique. Therapy is both an effort of will and an effort to relax the will. Here is a paradox of the Freudian re-education: only by a strict introspective discipline can the capacity for instinctual pleasure be restored. Freud's program for the recovery of instinctual aptitudes is oddly cerebral. The recovery of the natural proceeds through an intellectualization of nature itself.
The relaxed state which Freud commends is said to be analogous, as regards the "distribution of psychical energy," to "the state before falling asleep."54 The patient's thoughts are to be as involuntary and unpremeditated as the images which tangle in the mind before sleep. To help approximate this state, Freud advised that the patient be literally, mimetically "restful." The patient was to recline comfortably on a couch, so that he would be free from distracting visual sensations and fully "to concentrate his attention on his self-observation."55 (* Freud also says that it is "an advantage" for the patient to "shut his eyes," but, as his editors say, "the stress upon the advisability of shutting the eyes [a remnant of the old hypnotic procedure] was very soon dropped." See also "Further Recommendations in the Technique of Psychoanalysis," Collected Papers II, p. 354. Also the paper "Freud's Psycho-analytic Method," from Lowenfeld, Psychische Zwangserscheinungen Collected Papers I, p. 266: by reclining, the concentrating patient is to be "spared every muscular exertion and every distracting sensory impression which might draw his attention from his own mental activity.") Here Freud suggests solicitude for the patient's uninterrupted thoughtfulness. But there are other meanings implicit in the rules of treatment. Posture has been an essential strategy of all spiritual exercises. To be prone (even face up) also suggests submission, a postural analogue to the demand that the patient become intellectually "completely passive."56 The analytic rule against the patient's exercising his critical faculty greatly augments the physician's authority to shape the patient's raw verbal profusion.
I do not mean to overstate Freud's claim for the analyst's authority. A successful analyst must not press his creative aims too hard; the material easily becomes recalcitrant. Freud had occasion to reproach himself for just such excess of intellectual zeal when Dora abruptly broke off treatment after only three months, while his "hopes of a successful termination . . . were at their highest." Coming at a time when he lacked confidence that he could cure his patients at all, Dora's "unmistakable act of vengeance" needed explaining, for he knew the failure was his perhaps more than Dora's. Freud could accept therapeutic failure with the hauteur of a new Prospero ruling unthanked over the old anarchic human nature. "No one," he writes, "who, like me, has conjured up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed." In this case, however, the half-tamed demon was not evil, but only Dora's neurotically overdeveloped sense of good. The fact that it escaped, only half tamed, evidently rankled. Freud asked himself whether he had been too exacting, too coldly scientific, whether a show of "warm personal interest" might have thawed Dora's resistances, and avoided an abortive ending to the case.57 A regrettable miscalculation. He had thought he "had ample time. . . and the material for the analysis had not yet run dry."58
If excessive argumentation had been the difficulty in the case of Dora, Freud took the lesson to heart. Gradually he closed the gap, open since the period of the hypnotic and abreactive techniques, between such rational standards as he authorized for the patient and those for the analyst. In papers on technique written between 1912 and 1915, two decades after the Dora case, he warned analysts, as they must warn their patients, against intellectualizing the encounter. Both were to let their minds wander in conscientious illogicality. Despite the didactic tendencies of his own therapeutic habits, (* Cf. the interpretative forcing of Dora's two dreams, and his later, hortatory training analyses as reported by Joseph Words, in Fragments of an Analysis with Freud, New York: 1954.) Freud warned his physicians against the strict application of reason. The analyst must not only urge the patient "to communicate everything that occurs to him without criticism or selection," but also Freud suggests
he surrender himself to his own unconscious mental activity, in a state of evenly suspended attention, to avoid so far as possible reflection and the construction of conscious expectations, not to try to fix anything that he heard particularly in his memory, and by these means to catch the drift of the patient's unconscious with his own unconscious.59
In another passage, Freud says that the analyst "must bend his own unconscious like a receptive organ towards the emerging unconscious of the patient, be as the receiver of the telephone to the disc."60 Forbidden any intellectual aids, "even of note-taking,"81 the analyst is to learn, like the patient, the high intuitive art of concentrating on nothing in particular. (Freud tells us his own memory was so acute --actually photographic during his school years--that he never needed to take notes.) 82 The required feeling tone for this pedagogy is not a "deliberate attentiveness," which might induce an unbearably professional "strain." It is the "calm," "quiet," "evenly-hovering" awareness best suited to the pursuit of one unconscious by another. (Collected Papers II, 325, 327: "A conscious effort to retain a recollection of the point would probably have resulted in nothing... The most successful cases are those in which one proceeds, as it were, aimlessly, and allows oneself to be overtaken by any surprises, always presenting to them an open mind, free from any expectations." The analyst must avoid "speculation or brooding" during the analysis itself, although, after the case is concluded, he can of course submit it to conscious examination and scientific formulation.
Ibid., p. 324: "The principle of evenly-distributed attention is the necessary corollary to the demand on the patient to communicate everything that occurs to him without criticism or selection." Attentiveness only creates expectations, and then "there is the danger of never finding anything but what is already known.") Baudelaire's demand that the poet should be hypnotist and somnambulist combined translates perfectly into Freud's demands upon the psychoanalyst.
Freud's rules for procedural calm issue from a tension made familiar by historians of the Romantic movement--that between reason and spontaneity. It puts us onto something important about Freud's thought to recall that the opposition of reason and spontaneity gained currency as a notion explaining artistic genius. In England the idea appears as early as Addison (see the Spectator, Number 160) and is definitively set forth in Young's "Conjectures on Original Composition" (1759). In France related formulae occurred to Rousseau and, earlier, to Diderot. In Germany the tension appeared in the Critique of Judgment, underlying Kant's distinction between scientific and artistic imagination, again in Schiller's Aesthetic Letters, and especially in his famous essay "On Naive and Sentimental Poetry" (1769), this last a document which sheds an immense light on the critical nerve of Freudianism. All these various constructions unite in extolling true art as original and spontaneous, and condemning art practiced by mere intellection. Though the argument flourished first in the arts, in reaction to the strait jacket of neo-classical decorum imposed by critics during the eighteenth century, it can be and has been used against the activity of intellect as such.
After a suggestive passage in Schiller's correspondence with Korner was pointed out to him, Freud explicitly likened "the essential condition of poetical creation" to the regimen of mental relaxation necessary for psychiatric treatment. Freud quoted the passage at unusual length in the second edition of The Interpretation of Dreams:
Schiller (writing on December 1, 1788) replies to his friend's complaint of insufficient productivity: "The ground for your complaint seems to me to lie in the constraint imposed by your reason upon your imagination. . . . It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work of the mind if Reason makes too close an examination of the ideas as they come pouring in--at the very gateway, as it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but it may be made important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn out to form a most effective link. Reason cannot form any opinion upon all this unless it retains the thought long enough to look at it in connection with the others. On the other hand, where there is a creative mind, Reason--so it seems to me--relaxes its watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it look them through and examine them in a mass. . . . You complain of your unfruitfulness because you reject too soon and discriminate too severely."
The relaxation of meddling reason which Schiller recommends, "the adoption of an attitude of uncritical self-observation," Freud comments, "is by no means difficult." Revived as science, the poet's advice need no longer be limited to a few unusually gifted, if unproductive, creative writers; it describes a state of mind to be sought by everyone. "Most of my patients," Freud adds, "achieve it after their first instructions." 63 Thus the aesthetic attitude of the eighteenth century is rationalized in the psychological attitude of the twentieth.
Of course Freud did not arrive at his own techniques through the study of aesthetics. Even more revealing than the citation of Schiller is a paper which Freud published anonymously, "A Note on the Pre-History of the Technique of Analysis" (1920), in which he named for free association a more immediate forerunner than Schiller(The occasion of the paper was to answer an uncharitably intended comparison, made by Havelock Ellis, between Freud and the Swedenborgian poet and physician C. J. Garth Wilkinson, who had composed [in 1857] a volume of mystic doggerel. Answering Ellis, Freud disclaimed any pretense of originality; the merit of discovery went to him who saw how to use what others had merely handled.). A volume of essays by the German-Jewish essayist and short-story writer Ludwig Borne was the only book from his childhood that survived in Freud's library. Until it was pointed out to him in 1920, he did not remember the satiric essay in question, "The Art of Becoming an Original Writer in Three Days," nor Borne's specific instructions:
Take a few sheets of paper and for three days on end write down, without fabrication or hypocrisy, everything that comes into your head . . . what you think of yourself, of your wife, of the Turkish War, of Goethe, of Fonk's trial, of the Last Judgment, of your superiors--and when three days have passed you will be quite out of your senses with astonishment at the new and unheard-of thoughts you have had.64
Freud notes, as if to make a scientific point about his lack of originality, that other essays in the same volume kept recurring to his mind, apparently "for no particular reason," over the years. Having acknowledged elsewhere his well-known scientific predecessors in free association techniques--Vives, Wundt, Kraepelin, Bleuler, Jung (For brief notices of the scientific precursors of free-association techniques, cf. Introductory Lectures, p. 98; SE XIV, 28.) here Freud recalls his older debt to a man of letters; before he was aware of it, he had become heir to the Romantic insight that equated artistic creativeness with the process of unconscious truth-telling in general.
Free association is one technique, among others familiar in the arts, for inducing spontaneity. As the mantic poets of primitive communities needed to put themselves in a state of possession, modem secular poets have tried in all sorts of ways to dull the watchfulness of the conscious mind and to entice upward, as art, the suppressed powers of the unconscious. De Quincey, for example, used opium. He wanted to show there is no such thing as forgetting, that "traces once impressed upon the memory are indestructible," + and to prove the existence of a kind of hyper-creativity which would dissolve the line between art and dream (Thomas De Quincey, Selected Writings [New York: The Modern Library, 1937], p. 847. The Confessions of an English Opium Eater were published in 1822; in a sequel , De Quincey insists they were written "to reveal something of the grandeur which belongs potentially to human dreams," and only with the "slight secondary purpose of exposing this specific power of opium upon the faculty of dreaming," pp. 870, 872.) The self-imposed task which ostensibly led to his taking up the opium habit-that of becoming a talented dreamer -sounds very Freudian. Elsewhere De Quincey remarks that he had heard that Dryden ate raw meat "for the purpose of obtaining splendid dreams: how much better, for such a purpose, to have eaten opium." (Ibid., 851. It does not matter that the claim of De Quincey, as well as that of Coleridge, to open through opium a whole new world of experience for literary treatment may be disproved. Elizabeth Schneider has shown, for instance, that Coleridge's `literary `opium dreams' . . . actually differ little, save in elaborateness, from an entry made in his diary in 1803 before his use of opium began . . ." See Rene Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature; New York: 1948, p. 81. The analogue with psychological techniques best explains why this is so. The technique of free association--which Freud took over from its limited use by Bleuler and Jung--has also opened up a whole new world of experience for psychological investigation. But no one contends that it is the technique, free association, which produces these contents. Free association is not itself [any more than the artist's drugs or alcohol need be] a means of psychic derangement. It is a tool for laying bare already existent, conventionally deranged expressions of the mind.) On how to manipulate the creating mind, few artists in the last century and a half have not ventured an opinion. Creating under the influence of drugs, twilight states of consciousness, the aesthetics of chance ("the creative accident"), have been intensively discussed as well as practiced. It remained for Freud systematically to translate techniques for eliciting aesthetic sincerity and the free flow of poetic images into a technique of eliciting psychological sincerity and the free flow of therapeutic insight.
One special quality in Freud's posing of the Romantic antipode of reason and spontaneity ought to be noted. In an earlier view, children, more accessible to daily observation than other primitives, were hailed as representing authenticity amid the artificialities of culture. Spontaneity in the child was held superior to the gray deliberateness of the mature individual. On this Freud differed: his opposing of reason and spontaneity belongs to our century and not to the nineteenth, and reflects a change that can be seen in adult art itself. The stress on spontaneity, the mistrust of intellect, persists in contemporary art. But special homage to the child, in the manner of Wordsworth and Coleridge, has plainly waned. Modern prophets of the irrational--from D. H. Lawrence to Henry Miller--are uninterested in the irrational as a regressive capacity. On the contrary, modern primitivism is for adults only, and among adults for only the tough-minded and unnostalgic. Freud is similarly tough-minded. He no more renews the cult of the child than he encourages primitivism in painting. While psychoanalysis has helped democratize art, admitting the art of primitives, children, and even the insane, Freud had no Rousseauian reverence for the irrational and childlike. He did not rediscover the noble savage in the nursery. Thanks to him, we are in fact kinder to children and far less sentimental about them than earlier generations. In contrast with the wistful earlier view of childhood as a golden age of innocence and happiness, psychoanalysis has disclosed in childlife an adult-sized fierceness of sexual desire and frustration. In Freud's transcription of the romantic polarities, the child becomes the problem of the adult, no longer his exemplar.
Freud's great case study of infantile sexuality, "Little Hans," seems as much a study in infantile intellectuality. There is clever Hans tracking down the mystery of how babies are born, despite the frustrating lies of his parents and the baffling intrusions of a professor who likes to collect his stories. Hans's mother and father, determined to bring up their son in the light of psychoanalytic doctrines, had a stolid respect for the traumatic sequence. Freud describes scenes in which "our young investigator" was confused with the conventional lies--stork, God, and all-regarding the sexual facts of life. Apparently the parents (whom Freud reports as among his "closest adherents" 65) felt duty bound to give Hans the benefit of normal traumas, lest their special know-how untie too quickly the requisite knots in his line of development. This pedant's respect for the inevitability of the traumatic sequence Freud himself shared--if one may surmise from a comment which he made on an incident Hans's father reported. (The "analysis" was conducted by correspondence.) When Hans's mother found the child fondling his penis she dutifully threatened, "If you do that, I shall send for Dr. A. to cut off your widdler. And then what'll you widdle with?" Hans's unregenerate reply was, "With my bottom." On this Freud comments heavily: "He made this reply without having any sense of guilt as yet. But this was the occasion of his acquiring the `castration complex,' the presence of which we are so often obliged to infer in analysing neurotics, though they one and all struggle violently against recognizing it." 66
The boy did what he could to help. When his parents appeared to falter, little Hans manfully shouldered the burden of their analytic labor. "We'll write to the Professor," he announced. Dictating some excremental fantasy, he interrupted himself to explain, "I say, I am glad. I'm always so glad when I can write to the Professor."67 Having grasped the principle that the Professor collected sex stories, Hans took to analysis as an intriguing game complete with rules. When his father gave him a cue with some moralizing reproof ("A good boy doesn't wish that sort of thing"), Hans retorted with theoretic exactitude, "But he may THINK it." To his father's counter-thrust, "But that isn't good," Hans offered, more ingenuously, a new rule: `If he thinks it, it is good all the same, because you can write it to the Professor."68 It was fine sport, this: "Let's write something down for the Professor." 69 The entire case history has an unintended droll effect, partly because Freud himself seems unaware of the drollery.
Little Hans's cure followed the rationalist Freudian pattern. Remission of his difficulty (a phobic fear of horses) followed upon "enlightenment," as Freud calls it. All Hans's anxieties and questions except the one about the female genital--were evaded, his fears allowed to ripen until the case reached its peripety: the brief single consultation in which child and father sat before Freud and "the Professor" revealed to the long-prepared Hans that Horse stood in his mind for Father. Directly after the visit with Freud, Hans's father noted the first real improvement: the child played in front of the house for an hour, even though horses were passing by. Henceforth Hans's anxiety steadily abated. When, in their trained incapacity, Hans's parents still hesitated to supply the long- overdue information about the mechanics of birth, Hans took "the analysis into his own hands" by means of the "brilliant symptomatic act" of ripping open a doll.70 Thereupon his parents were ready to enlighten him. As the case ended, the father wrote, there was just one "unsolved residue." Hans kept "cudgelling his brains to discover what a father has to do with his child, since it is the mother who brings it into the world."71 On this Freud comments that, had he had full charge, he would have explained the father's sexual task to the child, and thus completed the resolution.
While upsetting the Romantic valuations of childhood, Freud maintained the Romantic view of reason. To think of him as a Romantic despite his ardent faith in science involves no contradiction, for though he insisted on the pre-rational core of human nature, Freud remained a rationalist. Indeed, there is a peculiar convergence of the two notions--of the scientific ideal of rational neutrality and the romantic debunking of reason.
Yet Freudianism is not a brand of Romanticism that repudiates mindfulness. Instead, Freud transformed what the Romantics had held as the vice of reason--its power to blight spontaneity--into a therapeutic virtue. Anna O. was wrongly if completely cured by venting her emotions. Little Hans was correctly cured--by rational enlightenment. When he was enlightened as to his real motives, his emotions were checked. No attitude could be farther from the Romantic regard for consciousness as a necessary "disease" (to use Carlyle's word), stunting the neutral instincts, stifling the voice of the blood. With the Romantics, Freud agrees this far: made conscious, the unconscious wish is irremediably tamed.72 Simply by the act of being brought to consciousness, Freud presumes, the spontaneity of desire will be weakened. On just this Romantic pessimism Freud based the curative hope of his therapy. "After all," he writes, defending the sexual enlightenment of the young Dora,
the whole effectiveness of the treatment is based upon our knowledge that the affect attached to an unconscious idea operates more strongly and, since it cannot be inhibited, more injurously than the affect attached to a conscious one.73
Psychoanalysis has not sullied Dora's "innocence of mind," Freud protests. Sexuality is far more dangerous when it is seething below the floor of consciousness, out of the regulative reach of conscious judgment. But when the patient is made conscious of her fantasies "to their fullest extent," then she can "obtain command of the interest which is attached to them."74 Exposed to consciousness, the contradictions of sexual desire lose force. They may be sorted out and, when necessary, prudently conciliated by the ego.
In the Introductory Lectures, Freud writes: "Symptoms are not produced by conscious processes; as soon as the unconscious processes involved are made conscious the symptom must vanish."75 And, a few pages later: "The task of the psycho-analytic treatment can be summed up in this formula: everything pathogenic in the unconscious must be transferred into consciousness."76 Thus did Freud formally preserve--in his idea that the goal of therapy is consciousness --a
strain of Platonic-Enlightenment optimism concerning rational insight: that, knowing what is right, one will do it (The crux of the therapeutic process, even for the revisionist schools of Adler, Homey, Fromm, Sullivan, etc., remains this development of insight, though of course it is added that this does not mean "mere intellectual appreciation of the complex of conscious and unconscious patterns operating in one's personality" but an "actual experiencing of them."- Frieda Fromm-Reichmann has described the process in these words [ "Recent Advances in Psychoanalytic Therapy," in P. Mullahy, ed., A Study of Interpersonal Relations; New York: 1949, p. 122 f.]: "The aim of psychoanalytic therapy is to bring these rejected drives and wishes, together with the patient's individual and environmental moral standards, which are the instruments for his rejections, into consciousness and in this way place them at his free disposal. In doing this the conscious self becomes strengthened, since it is no longer involved in the continuous job of repressing mental content from his own awareness. The patient can then decide independently which desires he wants to accept and which he wishes to reject, his personality no longer being warped or dominated by uncontrollable drives and moral standards. This process permits growth and maturation.") But the strain is a faint one. It is conceivable that a patient might make a rational decision for a neurotic value, even after gaining insight into his neurosis and its sources. A patient who is a businessman, after coming to understand that he is "anal" and "compulsive," might decide that these neurotic trends are responsible for his success, and that therefore he would prefer to stay the way he is. Freud never discusses such a possibility, but he implicitly recognizes it by making analysis more than insight--rather, an intellectual conversion, an erotic acceptance. Insight is so personal, so necessarily laden with confirmative emotion that it cannot be called rational.
For yet another reason the psychoanalytic view of insight is only superficially Socratean. To Freud, reason is without content, a technical instrument. Psychoanalytic therapy proposes no substantive program to the ego. The ego's aim is exploration itself, without any set policy except self-consciousness. (I am aware that, throughout this chapter, I have been equating analogous parts from schemes of mental anatomy which Freud worked out at different stages of his thought. The "ego" is, of course, not identical with "consciousness," according to Freud-although that part of the ego which is conscious is all there is of consciousness [cf. Chapter Two, p. 61]. Freud makes it clear that a large part of the ego is unconscious [The Ego and the Id, pp. 1517]. Nevertheless, I think the present equation justified. Cf. Freud's remark in the Introductory Lectures, p. 315: "Notice how closely connected the libido and the unconscious, on the one hand, and the ego, consciousness, and reality, on the other, show themselves to be, although there were no such connections between them originally.") Indeed, since reason is a mediating aptitude and not an inclusive end, Freud even intimates that, so long
as it is of equal intensity, any rational commitment can be as healing as any other. (This position was later explicitly developed by Freud's student Otto Rank in his idea of a "will therapy." Rank frankly proposed to cure by replacing neurotic belief with the authority of analytic conviction.' In a similar argument the English analyst Edward Glover has urged the high curative value of deliberately inexact interpretations as offering artificial substitute symptoms, which may make the spontaneous symptoms superfluous.')
Freud presumed there was something more therapeutic than belief itself--he proposed a self-canceling conviction, a therapeutic unbelief. To insist on the tentativeness of reason and the modest gratification of needs is not to install a substitute conviction but to advance unbelief to its logical conclusion. Reason remains a peculiarly instrumental category in the psychoanalytic scheme. Abhorring psychic chaos, Freud does tend to advocate control for the sake of control, its validity confirmed by neurosis--the failure of control. The gain in consciousness and self-control thus becomes its own justification. For rational self-consciousness prohibits self-reproach; if it neutralizes the more violent emotions, and achieves "the restful expression of a self-observer," 79 the powers of reason have been exercised in the best possible way.
Psychoanalysis--at least programmatically--does not aim at achieving a more critical view of the self, as does existentialism, for example, which has sponsored a heightened introspection in order to validate a more negative and critical view of both self and world. Rather psychoanalysis seeks to ease the burden of responsibility and engagement. "Hence arose the technique of educating the patient to give up the whole of his critical attitude," Freud says.80 Self-criticism is to be replaced by neutral probings. But is this what actually happens? I think not. Here we are at the paradoxical heart of Freud's therapeutic pessimism about the limits of self-knowledge, and his dubious strategies for freeing the self from tyrannies of which it is ignorant. Due to the emphatic setting in which they are placed, all the Freudian liberation tend to be at odds with themselves. The command to let the mind wander must be at odds with the painstaking technique (free association) on which this command is modeled. Similarly, the desire to emancipate the patient from painful memories, obsessive symbolizings, neurotic anxieties, may be undermined by the vivid concentration upon them. While enjoining a person to be less severe with himself, Freudian analysis may also develop in the patient new qualities of self-suspicion. This medicinal self-knowledge was not intended to serve an ambition higher than the decorous one of psychic harmony or balance. Nevertheless, while aiming to annul the discriminatory powers of conscience, analysis may itself hurt and excoriate. The therapy manufactures a new sort of conscience, one which demands a more accurate and yet more scrupulous self-centeredness.
That the self cannot fully know itself appears, on the one hand, to display a laudable modesty, a new respect for the unfathomable depths of personality. On the other hand, from this deprecation of the possibilities of self-insight issues whatever we might term authoritarian in Freud's own therapeutic posture. Freudianism involves analyst and patient in a cooperative search for insight. But there is every theoretic encouragement for the analyst to assume a monopoly of insight and responsibility for moral direction.
Although he began with an austerely intellectual aim for his therapy--to exhibit to patients their errors and unacknowledged feelings, leaving the life decisions up to them--in time Freud became convinced of the need for more authority on the analyst's part.81 In the important papers on therapeutic technique published between 1912 and 1915, a main theme is that analysis may not be thought of as a colloquy between equals; it "presupposes . . . a superior and a subordinate."82 Here Freud projects an image of the analyst as a figure of authority--indeed a rather old-fashioned figure, definitely aristocratic and ascetic. He must fulfill "very exacting requirements";83 a "long and severe discipline and training in self-discipline" is necessary; he must have "courage";84 his character must be "irreproachable."85 Even more important than what the analyst really is as a person are the emblems necessary to his office. Before patients he is never to let down his guard. He must appear "impenetrable to the patient." He must cultivate "coldness in feeling." He is to show nothing, except as a "mirror."86 There is a place for Socratic irony in the analytic encounter. Although Freud did not recommend that analysts feign equality with the patient, they may begin modestly, as if they did not already know where the talk will lead. In classical Freudian pedagogy, the analyst knows all almost before he begins. He is the relentless detective, with the main outlines of the crime already in his dossier before the victim comes in to lodge his complaint.
As an explanation for patients' not accepting the details which in time fill out the dossier, Freud offers the important concept of "resistance." Built into the therapy, through this notion of resistance, is disavowal of the patient's critical judgment. Indeed, the concept of resistance is itself a mode of attack for the therapist. The entire success of the treatment, Freud declared, rests on breaking down the resistances. Because "the discovery of the unconscious and the introduction of it into consciousness is performed in the face of a continuous resistance on the part of the patient," the psychoanalytic therapy may in general be conceived of as "a re-education in overcoming internal resistances."87 It is the presence of resistance that is the test of significance, the best clue to the importance of the material under consideration. Whatever was important, the patient "resisted." Whatever the patient "resisted" was important.88 Freud applied his theory of resistance not only to the strategies and compliances of patients, but to the general public's reception of his science. Time has weakened this invincible explanation Freud gave of why his ideas meet objection. It is at least debatable that "no one is desirous of becoming acquainted with his unconscious, and it is most convenient to deny altogether its possibility." 89
Freud's rhetoric when addressing congresses of psychoanalysts contains, as addresses to professional conventions must, some advice to the profession. See the address of 1910, "The Future Prospects of Psychoanalytic Therapy," where a major theme is: everyone resists us with objections that are ostensibly intellectual but really shield emotional objections (SE XI, 141-151). Many "lonely discoverers," Freud wrote, are "tormented by the need to account for the lack of sympathy or the aversion of their contemporaries, and feel this attitude as a distressing contradiction to the security of their own sense of conviction. There was no need for me to feel so; for psychoanalytic theory enabled me to understand this attitude in my contemporaries and to see it as a necessary consequence of fundamental analytic premisses. If it was true that the set of facts I had discovered were kept from the knowledge of patients themselves by internal resistances of an affective kind, then these resistances would be bound to appear in healthy people too, as soon as some external source confronted them with what was repressed. It was not surprising that they should be able to justify this rejection of my ideas on intellectual grounds though it was actually affective in origin. The same thing happened equally often with patients ..:' (SE XIV, 23-24).
Nowadays significant numbers of Americans are willing to make the acquaintance of their unconscious. The waiting lists of psychoanalysts are not composed exclusively of desperate cases, nor is the interest of those on these lists to be dismissed as specious curiosity. Freud has made definite progress in his mission of re-education. But he did not take his popularity more seriously than the antagonism which his doctrines aroused. Not only did he treat serious intellectual objections to his work as essentially emotional resistance.90 Since he held that psychoanalytic theories, just because they refuse to flatter human nature, must be received with hostility, he could repudiate assent to his theories when it was merely "intellectual" as yet another form of resistance. Very properly, he feared detached or partial praise as a resistance even more difficult to overcome than quick blame.
Such a tight connection between insight and conviction explains some of the considerable antipathy psychoanalysis has aroused among champions of differing psychologies. While respecting Freud's insistence that his therapeutic method remained unmodified, practitioners of other methods have understandably balked at his suggestion that his theory is somehow exempt from the sort of rational criticism and partial incorporations all theory invites. Psychoanalysis holds itself apart from other theories of the mind, which can be judged impartially; these statements are about you, and you are bound to "resist" because you don't want to admit them. Only someone who has been analyzed--i.e., has undergone the extra-intellectual process of learning that comprises analysis--is considered even potentially fit to judge and report the theory.91 Neither objections nor assent to psychoanalysis are recognized as valid, made from outside the analytic conversion experience.
It is mainly Freud's conception of memory that adds further authority to the role of the analytic pedagogue, already powerfully enhanced by the transference. Memory is, in the most significant sense, not in the possession of its carrier. While not instinctual as among other animals, human memory is nearly as inaccessible to reason as are the instincts. Indeed, Freud insisted, it is the significant memories which tend to sink below the surface of consciousness. (* Thus Freud says "those pieces of a dream which are at first forgotten and are only subsequently remembered are invariably the most important from the point of view of understanding the dream" [Collected Papers III, p. 121].) But even if Freud is right to say that much of our past is shielded by amnesia, there is no reason to assume that what is forgotten and presently unknown is therefore more relevant to the present.
Freud's attack on the veracity of memory took in not only what was not remembered. The analyst gains tremendous interpretive latitude through Freud's insistence that memories need not be literal to express psychic reality. To him, as we have seen, the emotion that accompanies the thing remembered gives false memories, fantasies, imagined relations an equal share of psychological truth. Nowhere more than in his consideration of memory does Freud's genius for interpretation lead him toward the danger of overinterpretation. The events he discerned were always curiously ideal: his case histories relate not to an objective past, as in history commonly understood, but to consensus arrived at through an interpretative decision.
Freud acknowledged the suggestive potency of the interpretation in his remarks on dreams which "as it were, lag after the analysis." Sometimes, even with competent patients, "these are the only dreams that one obtains." That is, what has been forgotten is reproduced only after one has constructed the dreams from symptomatic, associational, and other materials. After the interpretation has been "propounded" to the patient, "then follow the confirmatory dreams."92
Thus Freud had the courage to understand the cure as possibly circular. Confirmatory dreams, he admits, may well be "imagined in compliance with the physician's words instead of having been brought to light from the dreamer's unconscious." The "very latent dream thoughts that have to be arrived at by interpretation" may be suggested by the analyst. "This ambiguous position cannot be escaped in the analysis," Freud concluded. After all, "unless one interprets, constructs, and propounds, one never obtains access to what is repressed."83 Elsewhere he remarks: "The reconstruction of forgotten experience always results in a tremendous therapeutic effect, no matter whether such reconstructions may be objectively confirmed or not."94
If what matters is chiefly the subjective confirmation, does not analysis become a self-confirming process? What defenses against "the suggestive influence . . . inevitably exercised by the physician" can shield both patient and physician from the power of suggestion intrinsic to the analytic situation? Though adhering to the rationalist faith in science as truth, Freud had no illusions about the emancipative power of truth unaided by emotional conviction, or what Newman called the "illative sense." It is through an emotional bond with the physician--the "transference"--that the patient submits himself to the physician's findings about his own life.
The procedural powers of suggestion granted the psychoanalyst should not be overstressed. Although he believed the patient needed to feel the full weight of the emotional authority of the analyst, Freud presumed this necessary and implicit coercion would gradually fade away. Ideally, the suggestive authority incarnated in the transference would spend itself in interpretative self-insight. In therapy, interpretation is chiefly a weapon of ideological reconstitution. Yet, as we shall see, interpretation has a wider validity for Freud than is suggested by its curative task. Even in therapy, interpretation is not merely an agency of suggestion. The analyst's interpretation, although administered authoritatively, acts as a rational counterbalance to the less controllable, irrational procedure of transference. The personality of the physician will fade; the interpretation must remain.
1. Ernest Jones, Life and Work, I, 319.
2. Ibid., 319.
3. Montaigne, Essays, Book III, Chapter 2.
4. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 105.
5. Ibid., SE V, 600.
6. "Observations on `Wild' PsychoAnalysis," SE XI, 225.
7. "Psychoanalysis and Religious Origins" (1919), Coll. Papers V, 93.
8. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE V, 603.
9. Ibid., 613. Freud's italics.
10. From "A Difficulty in the Path of Psychoanalysis" (1917), SE XVII, 143.
11. See Coll. Papers IV, 350-52; Coll. Papers V, 173; Introductory Lectures, p. 252.
12. The Ego and the Id, p. 82. Elsewhere (New Introductory Lectures, p. 106) Freud raised as the motto of his new pedagogy: "Where id was, there shall ego be."
13. "The Dynamics of the Transference," Coll. Papers II, 322.
14. See New Introductory Lectures, p. 78.
15. See "Recommendations on Treatment," Coll. Papers II, 332.
16. Autobiographical Study, p. 109; New Introductory Lectures, p. 104; Coll. Papers II, 264; Coll. Papers V, 256; The Ego and the Id, pp. 39, 42-46; An Outline of Psychoanalysis, p. 78. 17. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 263.
18. "The Case of 'Dora,' " SE VIII, 112.
19. See Tribute to Freud, by H.D. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1956), pp. 21-22; Joseph Wortis, Fragments of an Analysis with Freud (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955), pp. 76, 155.
20. Studies on Hysteria, SE II, 121.
21. On the intelligent patient: "Emmy von N.," one of Freud's earliest patients (1888), "revealed an unusual degree of education and intelligence" (Studies on Hysteria, SE II, 49). See also The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman (1920), SE XVIII, 154, where Freud speaks of his patient's remarkable "acuteness of comprehension and her lucid objectivity." Cf. SE VII, 254: "A certain measure of natural intelligence and ethical development" are required of the patient. "Anna O." was "markedly intelligent, with an astonishingly quick grasp of things and penetrating intuition. She possessed a powerful intellect . [and] great poetic and imaginative gifts" (Studies on Hysteria, op. cit., 21). Cf. SE XVIII, 235: Anna O. was "a person of great intelligence."
22. "The Case of 'Dora,' " SE VII, 72.
23. From "The Moses of Michelangelo" (1914), SE Xf, 222. Cf. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 217: "I need not explain to a Viennese the principle of the 'Gschnas.' It consists in constructing what appear to be rare and precious objects out of trivial and preferably comic and worthless materials (for instance, in making armour out of saucepans, wisps of straw and dinner rolls)--a favourite pastime at bohemian parties here in Vienna. I had observed that this is precisely what hysterical subjects do: alongside what has really happened to them, they unconsciously build up frightful or perverse imaginary events which they construct out of the most innocent and everyday material of their experience."
24. "Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of Truth in Courts of Law" (1906), Coll. Papers II, 20.
25. "Freud's Psychoanalytic Procedure" (1904), SE VII, 250.
26. "Constructions in Analysis," Coll. Papers V, 358.
26a. From Freud's review-discussion of Karl Abel's "The Antithetical Sense of Primal Words" (1910), SE XI, 157-58.
27. Cf. Totem and Taboo, SE XIII, 176-77.
28. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 298 fn.
29. Ibid., SE IV, 96: "Every dream has a meaning, though a hidden one." Also, "Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of Truth in Courts of Law," Coll. Papers II, 20; on "the interpretation of dreams, i.e. the translation of the remembered dream-content into its hidden meaning"; and Introductory Lectures, p. 78.
30. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE V, 375. Freud is chiefly on the look-out for such puns hidden in verbal associations, the "switchwords" or "verbal bridges" crossed by the paths leading to the unconscious." Cf. "The Case of 'Dora,"' SE VII, 65 fn., 90; Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, pp. 640-42; The Interpretation of Dreams, SE V, 339-41. For a discussion of the resemblance between dreams and puns, cf. Introductory Lectures, pp. 210211.
31. "Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis" (1909) in SE X, 213-20. Cf. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE V, 340-41: "Words, since they are the nodal points of numerous ideas, may be regarded as predestined to ambiguity; and the neuroses (e.g. in framing obsessions and phobias), no less than dreams, make unashamed use of the advantages thus offered by words for purposes of condensation and disguise." Cf. SE V, 471: "Every element in a dream can, for purposes of interpretation, stand for its opposite just as easily as for itself."
32. But see Introductory Lectures, p. 134; and Coll. Papers II, 58, on "the bisexual meaning of the symptom."
33. Freud tells a version of this joke in Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, p. 707.
34. From the essay on "Negation" (1925), Coll. Papers V, 185.
35. Ibid., 182.
36. "Case of 'Dora,' " SE VII, 57. This point was augmented in a footnote added in 1923.
37. Ibid., 58-59.
38. "Negation," op. cit., 181: "In our interpretation we take the liberty of disregarding the negation and of simply picking out the subjectmatter of the association."
39. Georg Groddeck, The Book of the It (New York: Nervous and Mental Diseases Monograph, 1928), p. 72.
40. "Case of 'Dora,' " SE VII, 29. Cf. p. 28, where Freud declares that anyone who doesn't respond positively to an occasion for sexual excitement is neurotic. Such a person is "hysterical."
41. Ibid., 34.
42. Ibid., 62, 120 fn.
43. Ibid., 59.
44. Ibid., 104.
45. Ibid., 35.
46. Introductory Lectures, p. 255; "Recommendations on Treatment" (1912), Coll. Papers II, 332. Cf. Otto Fenichel, "Psychosomatic Method," The Collected Papers of Otto Fenichel, First Series (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1953), p. 325.
47. "Case of 'Dora,"' SE VII, 54.
48. "Case of the 'Rat Man,"' SE X, 197.
49. "On Narcissism: An Introduction" (1914), SE XIV, 96.
50. SE XVIII, 238. Cf. also "Recommendations on Treatment," op. cit., 324.
51. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 101-102.
52. "Recommendations on Treatment," op. cit., 324-25.
53. "Psycho-Analysis," SE XVIII, 238.
54. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 102.
55. Ibid., 101.
56. "Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of Truth in Courts of Law," Coll. Papers II, 18.
57. "Case of 'Dora,' " SE VII, 109.
58. Ibid., 119.
59. "Psycho-Analysis," SE XVIII, 239. Freud's italics. On the idea that one unconscious can communicate directly with another, see also Otto Fenichel's paper "Concerning Unconscious Communication" (1926), in op. cit., pp. 93-96. Cf. also Coll. Papers II 125.
60. "Recommendations on Treatment," op. cit., p. 328. Perhaps the most extreme version of the demand for spontaneity, both it therapy and in esoteric theoretical discussions among therapists is to be found in the writings o1 Wilhelm Reich, the most sectarian of Freud's heirs. Cf. his Character Analysis, third edition (Nevi York: Orgone Press, 1949), pp 6, 21 ff.
61. Cf. "Case of 'Dora,"' SE VII, 10 "Case of the 'Rat Man,"' SE X 159.
62. Psychopathology of Everyday Life, p. 96; New Introductory Lectures, ix.
63. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 103.
64. "A Note on the Prehistory of the Technique of Psychoanalysis" (1920), SE XVIII, 263-65.
65. "Case of `Little Hans,"' SE X, 6. 66. Ibid., 7-8.
67. Ibid., 56.
68. Ibid., 72. Freud's italics. 69. Ibid., 97.
70. Ibid., 86.
71. Ibid., 100.
72. For a simple example, see "Clark Lectures," SE XI, 23-24.
73. "Case of 'Dora,"' SE VII, 49. Cf.
"Clark Lectures," SE XI, 53. 74. Ibid., 52.
75. Introductory Lectures, p. 247.
76. Ibid., p. 250. Cf. also, "Freud's Psychoanalytic Procedure," SE VII, 253.
77. Otto Rank, Will Therapy and Truth and Reality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1945).
78. Edward Glover, "The Therapeutic Effect of Inexact Interpretation," International Journal of Psychoanalysis, XII (1931), 4, 397-411.
79. The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV, 101.
80. "Psycho-Analysis," SE XVIII, 238.
81. See, for example, SE XI, 141-42, 144-45, 286, 288-89; Coll. Papers II, 313-14 et pass.
82. "On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement," Coll. Papers I, SE XIV, 49.
83. "Analysis Terminable and Interminable," Coll. Papers V, 352.
84. "On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement," SE XIV, 26.
85. "On Psychotherapy," ibid., 262.
86. "Recommendations on Treatment," Coll. Papers II, 327, 331. Cf. Otto Fenichel, "Psychoanalytic Method," op. cit., p. 327.
87. "On Psychotherapy," Coll. Papers I, 261-62. Freud's italics. Cf. also "Clark Lectures," SE XI, 52-53, 55-56; "'Wild' Psycho-Analysis," SE XI, 225-26; and the entire Lecture 19, Introductory Lectures, pp. 253 ff.
88. "Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of Truth in Courts of Law," Coll. Papers II, 19.
89. Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, p. 748.
90. "Future Prospects of Psycho-Analytic Therapy," SE XI, 147. Cf., further, New Introductory Lectures, pp. 177-78.
91. Cf. New Introductory Lectures, pp. 93-94; "Case of `Little Hans,"' SE X, 103; and the introductory note to An Outline of Psychoanalysis.
92. "Remarks Upon the Theory and Practice of Dream Interpretation" in Coll. Papers V, 142. Freud gives no concrete examples. For an instance of a confirmatory dream which apparently was not recognized as such by the analyst, see Otto Fenichel's paper, "The Appearance in a Dream of a Lost Memory," op. cit., pp. 34-38. Cf. also "The Employment of Dream-Interpretation in Psycho-Analysis," Coll. Papers II, 311.
93. Ibid., V. Cf. "Future Prospects of Psychoanalytic Therapy," SE XI, 141-42: "The mechanism of our assistance is easy to understand: we give the patient the conscious anticipatory idea [the idea of what he may expect to find] and he then finds the repressed unconscious idea in himself on the basis of its similarity to the anticipatory one. This is the intellectual help which makes it easier for him to overcome the resistances between conscious and unconscious."
94. Cf. "Case of 'Dora,' " SE VII, 117, on the "sense of conviction of the validity of the connections which have been constructed during the analysis," following the resolution of the transference. Cf.,
too, a remarkable passage on the polemical intention characteristic of psychoanalysis. "For a psychoanalysis is not an impartial scientific investigation, but a therapeutic measure. Its essence is not to prove anything, but merely to alter something. . . . The physician always gives his patient . . . the conscious anticipatory ideas by the help of which he is put in a position to recognize and to grasp the unconscious material" (SE X, 104).