Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Psychoanalytic basics- the drive

Note: I've kept the original "instinct" of the translation in the quotations but it is always drive. In the SE when Freud actually used instinct there is a footnote.

update: I'm currently only referring to instances of aggression and affection as drives and the epistemophillic and other ego forms of drives here I now understand to be primitive forms of ego ideals.  


Freud’s positions on the drives became more complex and he began to introduce object relations as important for the psyche. The ego ideal for example was the internalization of the parents in On Narcissism and he writes soon after:

It is not our belief that a person's libidinal interests are from the first in opposition to his self-preservative interests; on the contrary, the ego endeavours at every stage to remain in harmony with its sexual organization as it is at the time and to fit itself into it. The succession of the different phases of libidinal development probably follows a prescribed programme. But the possibility cannot be rejected that this course of events can be influenced by the ego, and we may expect equally to find a certain parallelism, a certain correspondence, between the developmental phases of the ego and the libido; indeed a disturbance of that correspondence might provide a pathogenic factor (Freud, p.351-2 –Introductory Lecture XXII)

Freud’s mature position however is not one of instincts or object relations but the two combined in what he calls instinctual renunciation.

Now a case may arise in which the ego abstains from satisfying the instinct in view of external obstacles—namely, if it perceives that the action in question would provoke a serious danger to the ego. An abstention from satisfaction of this kind, the renunciation of an instinct on account of an external hindrance—or, as we say, in obedience to the reality principle—is not pleasurable in any event. The renunciation of the instinct would lead to a lasting tension owing to unpleasure, if it were not possible to reduce the strength of the instinct itself by displacements of energy. Instinctual renunciation can, however, also be imposed for other reasons, which we correctly describe as internal. In the course of an individual's development a portion of the inhibiting forces in the external world are internalized and an agency is constructed in the ego which confronts the rest of the ego in an observing, criticizing and prohibiting sense. We call this new agency the super-ego. Thenceforward the ego, before putting to work the instinctual satisfactions demanded by the id, has to take into account not merely the dangers of the external world but also the objections of the super-ego, and it will have all the more grounds for abstaining from satisfying the instinct. But whereas instinctual renunciation, when it is for external reasons, is only unpleasurable, when it is for internal reasons, in obedience
to the super-ego, it has a different economic effect. In addition to the inevitable unpleasurablc consequences it also brings the ego a yield of pleasure—a substitutive satisfaction, as it were. The ego feels elevated; it is proud of the instinctual renunciation, as though it were a valuable achievement. (Moses and Monotheism, p.116-7)

Instinctual renunciation isn’t simply a matter of a person using his will to renounce his sexual craving. It is as the very beginning of the child’s development of mind. The super-ego is” to great extent, for Freud and Klein after him, “a residue of the earliest object-choices of the id” (Freud, The Ego and the Id, p.34). Take Freud’s example of his nephew playing the fort-da game:

The interpretation of the game then became obvious. It was related to the child's great cultural achievement—the instinctual renunciation (that is, the renunciation of instinctual satisfaction) which he had made in allowing his mother to go away without protesting. He compensated himself for this, as it were, by himself staging the disappearance and return of the objects within his reach (Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, emphasis mine, p.15).

To understand this example and put it in its proper context we have to make a few distinctions here:

1. There is a homeostatic self-preservative instinct that makes a person feel hungry, thirsty, etc. according to needs and the health of the organism.

2. There is an aggressive instinct which reacts to having too much psychic tension, but which isn’t itself a drive which has a constant force. Like the self-preservative instinct it shows up based upon another factor (i.e. depletion of nutrients or stimulation from frustration). “Instinct” Freud writes, a “continuously flowing source of stimulation, as contrasted with a ‘stimulus’, which is set up by single excitations coming from without” (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 83).

3. In humans there is a displaceable energy in the id that is felt as an excess and comprises a pressure that can either be used in the self-preservative instinct and the motor function to go after food or the aggressive instinct. However, earlier than the genital (or phallic if you’d like) capacity for a sexual- desire for the object there are pre-sexual desires for connection with the object. This energy can also cathext a self-representation in narcissism. Freud early on calls this the sex drive with the assumption that the excess energy in the organism has come from sexuality.

This “sexuality”, since it isn’t yet sexual qua genital (i.e. penis aimed at vagina and vice versa), is excess energy that has an anaclitic relationship with the object representation. This object representation is already there in the womb since analysis has shown womb trauma and the ego differentiating from the id is paired the successive stages of refinement that this representation of the other undergoes. The earlier the trauma the more generalized the transference will be and the more severe the inhibitions in the character will be. For example, the person fearing the end of the world has retreated to an early (classically oral) stage of development in which infant’s dependence on the object representation of the mother means that being left without her is like the whole world being threatening. As the child develops more ego from the id, it will have more of a sense of objects in the world and the transference will be not to the world but say to all people; then from here to idealized people as compared to peers, and then to authority figures (i.e. from abstract to more concrete). We see this movement in mythology when the mother and father show up as the world (mother earth- Gaia and father sky-Uranus) and then leave these cosmic abstractions to have more and more personality: Cronos to Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, to the second generation gods Ares, Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Athena, to the mortal heros: Perseus, Heracles, Antigone, Oedipus, Orpheus, etc. The more particular and human the later the stage of development represented [1]. This reflects the development of the ego and the enhanced perceptual consciousness. Parallel to this characterlogical inhibitions of one’s sensations or feelings or desire would be greater the earlier it is. So, for example anhedonia would represent an early trauma and so would general affect block or people who are unable to feel aggression towards any objects. In addition, since the mind is developing, at the earliest stages general inabilities to concentrate would be the earliest traumas, while having a mind for mathematics would come later. So early on it is body (ie. affect, pleasure, or aggression) that is affected or mind (adhd, alexithymia, bad at math, no receptivity to feeling states of others) while at later stages of secondary narcissism it is not the mind but the ‘image’ one wants to have before others and not the body but sexuality which will show the trauma and characterological adaptations.

4. Taking the fort-da game as a template the excess id energy is used to form a
primitive or narcissistic object-cathexis, that object cathexis because of fear or because of too much stimulation (as Freud wrote above) is given up and instinctually renounced. It is that renunciation of the object-cathexis which turns into a drive in which there is a constant pressure that aims at an object that is forever lost (i.e. the representation of the mother) and seeks to displace itself on substitute objects (in this case the binary functions of words here-gone, up-down, left-right, etc.) [2]. This will be a life-long pressure on the individual to towards language acquisition (as we’ll see Klein calls it the epistemophillic drive). However, the child who is so driven is also hoping that in satisfying the drive that it will bring it closer to its mother, but the child will necessarily have to be frustrated again. It is here that the child feels aggression towards its mother and that “aggressiveness is introjected, internalized; it is, in point of fact, sent back to where it came from—that is, it is directed towards his own ego” (Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, p.123). The aggression towards the ego splits it and it is through that splitting that the ego is developed. On one hand the split will mean that there is new way in which perceptual consciousness will function and take the caregiver as an object later, and on the other hand, that a narcissistic or primitive superego will cause anxiety with the failing of the drive.

Every language-speaking individual goes through this stage, dynamically, but economically and genetically it is only with a fixation of aggression (i.e. the child encounters a lot of frustration in relation to mother while driven to attain the ideal of the drive, and this aggression itself becomes over-stimulating and has to be split off to form a fixation). This is where we truly have an aggressive drive, but as long as it’s channeled into the drive created from instinctual renunciation it is serving an ego syntonic goal. It’s only when it is defused from the ideal of the drive that it returns as superego suffering or as goal-less aggression [3].

The importance difference here is that the average person will be driven towards language acquisition (i.e. making further binary distinctions) but the person with the fixation will have it as a major part of their character. However, there is no doubt an adaptational factor in which the pleasure in language is related to anxieties related to interacting in other ways. The “language nerd” who enjoys learning has social deficiencies and awkwardness in sports which show that the cathexis of language is at the cost of the relation to his own body (soma-psyche) or his body in relation to others). The latter also means that the person will have a greater likelihood of losing their ideal if they encounter a lot of frustration later and both internal and external pressures are at work (as opposed to the person without fixation who mostly has to worry about external pressures, though he can also lose the ideal as well).

This is the format which Klein follows. Her early Oedipus complex makes complete sense if we see the father as language itself (jealousy of the mother speaking and giving her attention to others when the child can’t use language yet) [4]. Klein talks about what I’ve been calling the binary of language acquisition ideal as the epistemophillic drive. She writes:

The early connection between the epistemophillic impulse and sadism is very important for the whole of mental development. This instinct, roused by the striving of the Oedipus tendencies, as first mainly concerns itself with the mother’s womb, which is assumed to be the scene of all sexual processes and developments. The child is still dominated by the anal-sadistic libido-position which impels him to wish to appropriate the contents of the womb. He thus begins to be curious about what it contains, what it is like, etc. So the epistemophilic instinct and the desire to take possession come quite early to be most intimately connected with one another and at the same time with the sense of guilt aroused by the incipient Oedipus conflict. This significant connection ushers in a phase of development in both sexes which is of vital importance, hitherto no sufficiently recognized. It consists of a very early identification with the mother. 169-70 Early Stages of The Oedipus Complex

“the epistemophilic impulse arising and co-existing with sadism [whose object is] is the mother’s body with its phantasied contents” 26 The Importance of Symbol Formation

“Thus what had brought symbol-formation to a standstill was the dread of what would be done to him (particularly by the father’s penis) after he had penetrated into the mother’s body. Moreover, his defences against his destructive impulses proves to be a fundamental impediment to his development. He was absolutely incapable of any act of aggression, and the basis of this incapacity was clearly indicated at a very early period in his refusal to bite up food… the defense against the sadistic impulses directed against the mother’s body and its contents— impulses connected with phantasies of coitus— had resulted in the cessation of fantasies and the stand-still of symbol formation. Dick’s further development had come to grief because he could not bring into phantasy the sadistic relation to the mother’s body. 29-30 The Importance of Symbol Formation

…the deeper insight was the result of an advance in the development of his ego which followed from this particular piece of analysis of his threatening super-ego. For, as we know from our experience with children and with very early cases, analysis of the early stages of super-ego formation promotes the development of the ego by lessening the sadism of the superego and the id. 213 A Contribution to the Theory of Intellectual Inhibition

Freud is talking about drives which are ego syntonic and are aimed at lost objects that will never be recaptured. He captures this best in talking about the drive of perfection:

What appears in a minority of human individuals as an untiring impulsion towards further perfection can easily be understood as a result of the instinctual repression upon which is based all that is most precious in human civilization. The repressed instinct never ceases to strive for complete satisfaction, which would consist in the repetition of a primary experience of satisfaction. No substitutive or reactive formations and no sublimations will suffice to remove the repressed instinct's persisting tension; and it is the difference in amount between the pleasure of satisfaction which is demanded and that which is actually achieved that provides the driving factor which will permit of no halting at any position attained, but, in the poet's words, ‘Presses ever forward unsubdued.’. The backward path that leads to complete satisfaction is as a rule obstructed by the resistances which maintain the repressions. So there is no alternative but to advance in the direction in which growth is still free—though with no prospect of bringing the process to a conclusion or of being able to reach the goal. (Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, emphasis mine, p. 42).

Freud never replaced the simple schema of the sex drive resting on the self-preservative drive to form fixations based upon the pleasure of the organ (the eye, mouth, etc.) in a formal and total way (as shown in his later works). Thus we still have a problem of how to conceive of these bodily or organ zones and the pleasure which they ultimately can give.

Firstly, I want to say that if Freud was right about the pleasure of these zones then we should find polymorphisms in animals who similarly must derived their ego qua perceptual-consciousness system out of the id through the same dynamic process of instinctual renunciations and the splitting of the ego. Instead we find that animals don’t have polymorphic pleasure until very late in the evolutionary chain in Bonobos:

Perhaps the bonobo's most typical sexual pattern, undocumented in any other primate, is genito-genital rubbing (or GG rubbing) between adult females. One female facing another clings with arms and legs to a partner that, standing on both hands and feet, lifts her off the ground. The two females then rub their genital swellings laterally together, emitting grins and squeals that probably reflect orgasmic experiences. (Laboratory experiments on stump- tailed macaques have demonstrated that women are not the only female primates capable of physiological orgasm.)

Male bonobos, too, may engage in pseudocopulation but generally perform a variation. Standing back to back, one male briefly rubs his scrotum against the buttocks of another. They also practice so-called penis-fencing, in which two males hang face to face from a branch while rubbing their erect penises together.

The diversity of erotic contacts in bonobos includes sporadic oral sex, massage of another individual's genitals and intense tongue-kissing. Lest this leave the impression of a pathologically oversexed species, I must add, based on hundreds of hours of watching bonobos, that their sexual activity is rather casual and relaxed. It appears to be a completely natural part of their group life. Like people, bonobos engage in sex only occasionally, not continuously. Furthermore, with the average copulation lasting 13 seconds, sexual contact in bonobos is rather quick by human standards. De Waal, ‘Bonobo Sex and Society’.

In this sense it is clear that the oral and other zones are receiving a displacement upwards from below from the new emerging genital energy which these higher primates have and share with humans and chimps who are closer to humans than to other apes [5] [6]. Additionally, Fenichel and other analysts have noted that later sexuality and aggression is displaced onto the organs or bodily zones once repressed later in life. He writes

Let us begin with the first problem. When looking has become libidinized, so that the aim of the person who looks is not perception but sexual gratification, it differs from the ordinary kind of looking. Libidinal looking often takes the form of a fixed gaze, which may be said to be spastic, just as the act of running, when libidinized, is spastic. (Libidinization has the effect of impairing an ego-function.) (Fenichel, O. (1937). The Scopophilic Instinct and Identification, p.13)

Very often sadistic impulses enter into the instinctual aim of looking: one wishes to destroy something by means of looking at it, or else the act of looking itself has already acquired the significance of a modified form of destruction. Thus, for instance, the compulsion so frequently met with in women to look at the region of a man's genitals is really a modified expression of active castration-tendencies. It seems then that there are two tendencies which always or often determine the goal of the scopophilic instinct: (a) the impulse to injure the object seen, and (b) the desire to share by means of empathy in its experience.

In the sense that organs or body zones are objects of displaced sexualization or aggression there is no need to presume that they initially were pleasure-granting themselves. Fenichel comes across this problem when he writes about how the libidinization of an organ and the restriction of motility in an organ don’t go hand in hand.

It is a well-known fact that when an organ is constantly used for purposes of erotogenic pleasure, it undergoes certain somatic changes. It happens that Freud was speaking of the eyes of persons in whom the scopophilic instinct is specially developed, when he said, 'If an organ which serves two purposes overplays its erotogenic r├┤le, it is in general to be expected that this will not occur without alterations in its response to stimulation and in innervation', i.e. of the physiological factors in general. From the point of view of research it is probably more useful, when studying myopia, to consider the somatic changes which take place in the eye in consequence of its being used for libidinal purposes than to regard the incapacity to see at a distance as a symbol of castration. We have an additional reason for thinking that we shall discover somatic-neurotic relations when we read further in Freud: 'Neurotic disturbances of vision are related to psychogenic as, in general, are the actual neuroses to the psychoneuroses; psychogenic visual disturbances can hardly occur without neurotic disturbances, though the latter surely can without the former.'(ibid. p.50)

The question is this. We have seen that the constant use of the eye for the libidinal gratification of scopophilic impulses causes it actively to strain in the direction of objects, in order psychically to incorporate them. Is it not possible that this may finally result in a stretching of the eyeball?

We recognize that this is putting the problem very crudely. Of course an exact knowledge of the ways in which such stretching may occur would be necessary to explain why many people in whom the scopophilic instinct is peculiarly strong are not in the least short-sighted. There is no difficulty about the converse fact, namely, that many short-sighted people (often those in whom the symptom is most pronounced) show no sign of a marked scopophilic tendency. There is no reason to suppose that every case of myopia is psychogenic. And, while the stretching of the eyeball may sometimes be due to the attempt to incorporate objects at the bidding of scopophilic impulses, in other cases the origin of the disability is undoubtedly surely somatic. (ibid. p.33-4) Fenichel, O. (1937). The Scopophilic Instinct and Identification

Fenichel can’t have it both ways here, and say that scopophillia has a psychogenic cause while the tense musculature that causes myopia is somehow constitutional. Analysis has shown that poor eyesight, asthma, and other things that have been called consitutional have been amenable to treatment (though by no way is analysis consistent enough to bill oneself as capable of curing such ailments). Rather, this problem between the short-sighted people and the scopophiliacs can be overcome if we follow Freud’s consistent line of thought and dismiss his early model of polymorphus pleasure and its fixation and simply stick to the clinical facts that these organs are libidinized later in life. There is no reason we must assume that these early zones in fact give a sexual gratification overtop of the later displacement of sexuality or aggression to them. What I have in mind is a very simple materialist concern:

In repression, repressed emotions or desires must materially be suppressed (i.e. the child most hold them back) before they can be split off from consciousness. Therefore, instead of the fixation being one of pleasure concerning the sex drive leaning on the self-preservative. It is, as I have shown, an instinctual renunciation concerning a narcissistic object-cathexis and he organ or bodily zone (mouth, anus, etc.) must be suppressed to repress anger or out of fear of the caregiver. It is these suppressing muscles which can leave the eyes, for example, near sighted but not necessarily mean they are libidinized. Scopophillia would come from the repression of later sexuality which is displaced onto the tense muscles which are the remnants of the original suppression.

This dialectical materialist stance (as compared to the idealist stance which ignores the physiological suppression involved in repression and doesn’t take the body to be as dynamic as the psyche) leads us to a place that many analysts are fearful of going. It sets the body, as I’ve shown, in a equal or parallel relation to the mind and makes salient that characterology can also be proposed based upon the body of an individual and that body-psychotherapy as a form of working with repression as it shows up in the body becomes a theoretically justified option. There have been many body-based disciplines (yoga, mindfulness, tai chi, etc.) throughout history and there have been many characterologies which deal with the body (Ayruveda, Kretschmer: schizothymic, cyclothymic, Sheldon and ectomorphs, endomorphs, mesomorphs, on to Wilhelm Reich (and his students Alexander Lowen, Charles Kelly, John Pierrakos etc). and their body-based characterologies.

To some extent, the question of sublimation rests on the muscular constrictions which represent the repression of sensations, feelings, desires. The singer, for example, might have a tense throat which she compensates for by developing an increased ability. Body-psychotherapists note that ballerinas have some of the most rigid bodies even though, through hard work, they make them lithe and weightless at moments. So, sublimation in the most general sense should be considered as the spontaneity and surplus of expression in the pre-oedipal development (in parallel to the excess of sexuality which comes at the later phallic development). In its more particular sense, the musculature constrictions of certain zones as well as the bodily secretions of those zones (urine, saliva, feces, tears, semen, etc.) form the more particular instances of sublimation. The latter, has examples in the person with urethral erotism wanting to be around water (urine), the person with castration anxiety performing circumcisions, the person who works with clay (feces), etc.

1. I think abstract to particular is a good general rule but I also think that the story of Icarus and Deadalus, for example, in that it involves the sun, which is so general and important, means the myth is about an early form of consciousness even though humans and not the earliest gods are in it.

2.Freud is clear that the drive has an object which is not itself

“The object of the scopophillic drive… is not the eye itself; and in sadism the organic source, which is probably the muscular apparatus… points unequivocally at an object other than itself “ (Instincts and their Vicissitudes, p.132).

This object is one sense used to designate the contemporary objects with which the drive satisifies its aim, but Freud also points out that there was an original object that the drive can adhere to very closely and therefore the contemporary objects won’t be so various:

A particularly close attachment of the instinct to its object is distinguished by the term ‘fixation’. This frequently occurs at very early periods of the development of an instinct and puts an end to its mobility through its intense opposition to detachment (ibid. p.123). Thus, for example, in some men’s object-choice there might be an eerie resemblance to their mothers. Again, the key is that the drive is going after a lost object and that no contemporary object will satisfy it completely or forever.

3.And indeed the super-ego, originating as it does from the id, cannot dissociate itself from the regression and defusion of instinct which have taken place there. We cannot be surprised if it becomes harsher, unkinder and more tormenting than where development has been normal. (Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety, p. 115-6, emphasis mine).

4. Saying the father is language is somewhat misleading in the sense that many animals would have gone through this stage and renounced the object-cathexis to the mother as well. The child’s use of language is based upon labeling a mimetic impression at this stage and it can’t, for example, give definitions of words. When it says ‘doggy’ it doesn’t recognize it as a 4 legged mammal with a tail but perceives it based upon it’s movement pattern. Fenichel writes:

The original mode of seeing cannot be divorced from motility: there is as yet no sharp distinction between perception and ideation seeing is a piece of active behaviour by means of which one enters into the object seen. When we say that seing cannot be divorced from motility, we mean, of course (since the control of the motor function depends on the deep-seated sensibility which directs it) that the visual perception cannot be separated from kinesthetic perception; in seeing our whole body undergoes change… All primitive perception is a taking part in what is perceived (Fenichel, The Scopophillic Instinct and Identification, p.14).

So, it’s more precise to say that children, along with animals, have to deal with the mother’s lack of motility and movement. They have to learn to not move and are frustrated by the mother for her being able to relate in a way that is less frenetic or bodily based than the way they would like to relate.

5. Chimps don’t have the polymorphus perversity that bonobos do but they do have much more sophisticated sexuality than other apes in the sense that males may rape females (i.e. have sex with them with the aim of punishing them for infidelity, as opposed to just having sex with them and ignoring their resistance).

6.Of course, animals can have behaviours which don’t follow the homeostatic pleasure principle and thus show that they can endure trauma and its repetition and have syndromes or “diseases’ in which they over-eat for example. However, if it was not a displacement of a pre-genital energy that started it off in these syndromes then it should be universal in the species and not a syndrome in individual animals.

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