Civilization and its Discontents

Civilization & its Discontents

Civilization and its Discontents, published in 1930, follows a preceding paper entitled The Future of an Illusion that was itself written and published a few years earlier. Although I will offer here comments on the former only – Civilization and its Discontents – I nonetheless of course strongly invite people not to pass The Future of an Illusion, if only for the sheer power of argumentation in it with regard to religion.

The book was originally titled ‘Unhappiness and Civilization’ after Freud himself suggested to his translator the title ‘Man’s Discomfort in Civilization. This work is a clear reference to his earlier writings in which he exposes the irremediable antagonisms between the demands of the drives (and not instincts) and the restrictions brought to bear by civilization. Incest is de facto antisocial and civilization is nothing if it doesn’t consist of a progressive renunciation of it, as Freud argues in 1897. For him, it is civilization, and more precisely education, that is the main culprit for the spread of neurosis. It is easy to think after reading the book that the solution to neurosis is to let our instincts ‘go free’, as portrayed somewhere in the film A Dangerous Method. With Lacan, we will understand that what is important in tackling neurosis is of course not to go ‘wild’ but to principally use language as a means to symbolize the drive.

It is in this essay that Freud further explores his ideas on the nature of the sense of guilt. On p. 134 he declares his ‘intention to represent the sense of guilt as the most important problem in the development of civilization’. In turn, this paper will become the basis on which to build his reflections on the destructive instinct (Cf. my The Big Other, the Symbolic and Death). With Lacan again we will later see that, if indeed the origin of guilt in the restrictions imposed by civilization encapsulated in the Oedipus complex cannot be disputed, guilt is also seen as an injunction from the super-ego which commands the ego ‘to enjoy!’

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  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426769

Introductory Lectures, Part One and Two

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis Part1&2

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part_One_and_Two is where Freud gathers his insights collected from his work on dreams, as well as being seen as an introduction to his developments on the neurosis and, of course, the unconscious. For Freud indeed posits that his research on dreams, and more specifically on the dreamwork itself has given him the key to understanding the mechanisms of repression that form the unconscious. Early in his work he writes: “The obscurity in which the centre of our being is veiled from our knowledge and the obscurity surrounding the origin of dreams tally too well not to be brought into relation with each other(Freud, 1900:36)

For Freud dreams are first of all the means by which the mind handles a stimulus and the risk it may cause in interrupting that sleep. Something is irritating the sleeper who deals with it by producing a dream and thereby continue sleeping. One way to view this irritation experienced as a stimulus is effectively as a wish that needs to be rid of for the dreamer to continue sleeping. Of course the most radical and efficient way to get rid of a wish is to fulfil it. And so a dream for Freud is seen simply as a wish that the dream represents as having been fulfilled. Now it is also the case that different kinds of wishes may be fulfilled by the dream. The sailor who as been away for too long will surely be satisfied in his dream as he is enjoying himself with a sumptuous meal. But in his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part_One_and_Two Freud makes a point in explaining that not all dreams as so easily enjoyable. More disturbing and ‘evil’ wishes as he calls them most often find their ways into a dream by way of using the day’s residues. Those wishes, for instance the desire to murder one’s father or sleep with one’s sibling, are not admissible for the adult person. Sill, wishes such as those are still expressed and fulfilled in the dream, but in a way which is necessarily unintelligible to the dreamer who would otherwise wake up panic-stricken (the nightmare).

In his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part_One_and_Two Freud helps us make a clear distinction between the different parts forming a dream. There is the manifest content of the dream, the dream as remembered on waking up and produced by the actual dreamwork from the latent dream-thoughts that are not necessarily conscious before the dream. The dreamwork can be understood as the transformation the censorship operates in order for the wish to be acceptable and avoid anxiety to the sleeper. The mechanisms at work in the dreamwork are of only two characters: each elements forming the latent thought can be either displaced or condensed. Lacan will later assimilate those as the work of metonymy and metaphor respectively. But we also discover that the dream-work can easily make use of contraries to signify the same idea, adding to the complexity of interpreting dreams.


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  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426684

Enjoy Your Symptom! (now) – Žižek

Zizek - Enjoy your symptom!

Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out from the psychoanalyst and philosopher Zslavoj Zizek exposes a number of psychoanalytic principles via Zizek’s analysis of carefully selected hollywood films. Those briefly include:

  • Death and Sublimation
  • The Imaginary, Symbolic and Real
  • Woman as a Symptom of Man – Suicide, Freedom, the Sacrifice
  • The Lacanian Act and Repetition – Identity and Authority
  • The Phallus – The Real, The Synthom, The Thing, The Anal Father
  • The Humiliated Father
  • Multiple Reality – The Gaze, Perversion

Enjoy your Symptom! has for me been surprisingly helpful in clarifying those Lacanian theoretical concepts listed above. Zizek is obviously so comfortable and at home with psychoanalysis and philosophy that those analysis he offers in his book seem almost unimpeachable. Zizek’s way of illustrating his chosen psychoanalytical concepts makes those readers already versed in Lacan (that still needs to be said) go “So this is what Lacan meant!”. To use Lacan himself it would be appropriate here to evoke the notion of so many ‘points-de-capiton’ anchoring a particular concept  to its corresponding signifier (say, Sublimation, the Real, etc). I, for one, was most impressed by Zizek’s analysis about Sacrifice, and how tragic it may be for some to choose a life in which the Other has almost taken complete predominance, but also the bigger price for rejecting the sacrifice of alienation.

But this perhaps is going a little too fast. Zizek takes us first through the mechanisms of dialectic and how something and its opposite (its antagonism) is effectively constitutive of reality. One is defined in relation to the other and simply cannot exists without it. Enjoy Your Symptom! then takes us on an exploration of the Real and as a result produces something coherent and consistent, if not a little bit felt as a challenge to grapple with at first. Reading Enjoy you Symptom! may take you by surprised by its depth and steepness, but it also presented for me something of a riddle I felt the urge to crack. The reader can feel the desire of the author all throughout the pages. Just like a mountain the climber has scaled through sheer resilience to finally enjoy a well earned view, Enjoy your Symptom! may just be this invitation (an injunction, rather) from Zizek for his readers to effectively enjoy their symptom, the symptomatic act of not simply resting content with not knowing, but to enjoy the heap of transformative phallic Jouissance his analysis offer.

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  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (3 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780415772594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415772594

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part3

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 - the unconscious

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 is an essential part in the analyst’s arsenal. Written some 17 years after his Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and following up on his first Introductory Lecture on Dreams, Part 1&2 (Volume 15) Freud summarizes here for us his theoretical researches on:

  • the sense of symptoms
  • fixation to traumas, the unconscious
  • resistance and repression
  • the sexual life of human beings
  • the development of the libido and the sexual organizations
  • thoughts on development and regression – aetiology
  • the path to the formation of symptoms
  • the common neurotic state
  • anxiety
  • the libido theory and narcissism
  • transference
  • analytic therapy

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 (volume 16) is of significant help to those readers, analysts and therapists who wish to get to Freud’s foundational ideas and principles directly. If Freud had already began to develop most of those themes in his previous works, this is not to say that in this volume those subjetcs are not even more polished and consolidated. Freud’s writing is as always most illuminating to read. Reading Freud is already enough to be able to feel as if the effects of psychoanalysis are at play in the reader – transformative reading.

Each subjects treated in this Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 form the foundation of a Freudian practice. It would become the base upon which all the following psychoanalytic shools of thoughts would be built. In reaction to what eventually became a misguided use of his ideas, Lacan even declared his work was effectively a return to Freud. A brief glance suggests the bulk of Freud’s theoretical preoccupations centres around the notion of the symptom, its formation, aetiology, regression, the fixation and a regression of the libido to those traumatic moments that were psychically overwhelming for the subject. Lacan would later expand on what he called the order of the Real in his theoretical work on anxiety.

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  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426691


Playing and Reality – D. W. Winnicott

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Winnicott Playing & Reality

Playing and Reality from Winnicott investigates the origin and place of creativity in the earliest years of life. It is a book written by an influential British psychoanalyst who, as the story goes, happened to have participated in judging Lacan’s work ethics at the time when the latter was being excommunicated from the International Psychoanalyst Association.

Having begun his career as a pediatrician before embracing psychoanalysis, Winnicott was naturally well placed to developing theoretical views that are still considered significant today. Amongst several subjects of study the reader of Playing and Reality will discover Winnicott’s work on the Transitional Object – the equivalent of which would be found in Lacan’s object a, Creativity and its Origin and Mirror Role of Mother and Family in Child Development. Reading Winnicott regarding the latter will certainly provide a helpful contribution to understanding Lacan’s theory on the Mirror Stage.

Winnicott’s work belonged to Object Relations Theory, and thus in this respect was joined by Melanie Klein. The association is less meant to produce a positive reaction than to evoke criticism. The shadow hovering above British psychoanalysis may be seen to be one of knowing, if not practically in advance, what the subject has formulated in his or her mind. Offering, if not altogether forcing interpretations onto patients is unethical in its alienating effect, if not potentially dangerous. Martin Heidegger reminds us here that, if anything, the subject (Dasein) is above all else, a question.

Regardless, Winnicott’s Playing and Reality belongs on the psychoanalyst shelf along with all the authors mentioned on this website. It is for the reader and analyst to make up his own mind regarding the significance of this analyst theoretical import.

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English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Winnicott

Melanie Klein, selected texts – J. Mitchell

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Melanie Klein Mitchell

Who is Melanie Klein? A pioneer of child analysis with the significance it attaches to the relationship with his caregivers, Melanie Klein is a direct descendant of Sigmund Freud’s work on psychoanalysis.

In her book, Juliet Mitchell regroups the most significant ideas from Melanie Klein that have established this Austrian-British author as an authority in her field. Questions regarding the early stages of the Oedipus Complex, the infant’s anxiety, the importance of symbol formation in the development of the ego, to cite the first half of the book only, are addressed using a form of imagery which may appear be quite surprising to the reader. Is this account really what a child may be imagining in those situations? could be one of the questions that keep haunting the reader.

Regardless, Melanie Klein’s work would eventually be commonly assimilated to object relation theory. As its name suggests, this specific theoretical edifice deals with the effect of the internalized relations with primary caretakers during infancy (i.e. objects), and their unconscious influence on the nature of future relationships. This school of thoughts would later include house names authors such as Otto Rank, Sandor Ferenczi, Ronald Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott, Harry Guntrip, and Scott Stuart.

One may argue that Jacques Lacan owes a debt to Melanie Klein. Seen by him as proposing a clinical approach that at times may be considered dangerous, Lacan uses object relation theory to lean against with the view to promote his own ideas. In this context, Lacan’s work may be viewed as almost an antithesis to Klein’s ideas. When she knows and interprets her young patient’s drawings with certitude Lacan would not approach the clinic with the same confidence about the truth.

Klein’s work is for Lacan situated in one of the three realms that constitute the Borromean knot, that of the Imaginary. In this respect, Klein’s developments de facto become only one dimension within a bigger ensemble that also comprises the Symbolic and the Real. If Klein’s views were that interpreting the child’s fantasies contributed efficiently to the treatment of her patients, for Lacan it is the Symbolic that heals.

Still, however much Lacanian analysts believe in the dangers in approaching the clinic via the Imaginary, one nonetheless feels obliged to acknowledge the debt owed to her in the sphere of psychoanalysis.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster; 1st American Ed edition (6 Feb. 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780029214817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029214817

Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Freud Pleasure Principle Group Psychology

Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other works (v18) left me with a deep impression, not only because those texts are nothing less than landmark writings in Freud’s work – which part of his work can be considered as secondary – but because of Freud’s style of writing. Perhaps this may explain why Freud was nominated for a noble price, in literature. Deciding not to read Freud is not based on a reputation for producing such vertical phrasings as to put anyone off from delving into it. The reason for avoiding Freud in the first place may just turn out to be more connected with what the reader is going to ultimately discover about himself, or herself; reading Freud is (almost) psychoanalysis in practice already.

Freud, in my experience as a reader, reassures, put the reader at ease, lead him by the hand, intuitively knows when to go back to some of what may have been misunderstood or felt to be confusing. In his Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud is alive, so rigorous yet honest that I would on occasions burst with laughter – how can anyone resist when, after a relatively lengthy and exhaustive description of a dream a woman had shared with him in connection with the subject of telepathy, he had remarked after her being so astonished about the fortune teller’s words ‘this man predicted you would be having a child by the age of 31, you are now 45’.

Again, it would be quite redundant here to use this space to simply emphasize the value of reading Freud. Any so-called therapists whose practice he claims to be psychoanalytical even though he has not read Freud if only to find errors, deserve to be legitimately questioned. Freud’s theoretical elaborations on the Death drive, Identification amongst group psychology based on his libido theory and his case of a homosexual woman will be found inside this specific volume.

Of the many insights Freud left me with after reading his ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ the following one has stayed with me in particular. Contrary to what some may seek in a fortune-teller, however mechanistic and materialistic some other may wish to view psychoanalysis, it will never predict anything in the future for you. It can only try to retrace and somehow make sense of the present. The reason is mind-bogglingly simple: it is impossible to know the extent to which we have invested ourselves in one thing or another.

See also The Interpretation of Dreams

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426738