Wednesday, February 22, 2012

becoming and not-becoming; compulsion and impulsions

while the words are clunky and not as penultimate as being and nothingness they seem more realistic to me.

On one side is the enormous plasticity of the organism that can adapt to so many situations of life and is drawn onwards to take on more knowledge and wisdom. This is becoming.

On the other side there is the timeless unconscious in which drives remain or traumas reside as "narcissistic scars". From here the drives can reach out as compulsions and the traumas can be re-enacted as repetition-compulsions

I've wondered about the difference between compulsions and impulsions. When I think of compulsions I think of eating food to cover up anxiety vs. impulsions like having a diet and then breaking it to eat some dessert which could be initially very pleasurable but later causes one self-hate or feelings of hopelessness

Freud talks about the unpleasure of the drive but he never provides the examples to allow his work to be an easy starting point.

It seems like I have a few readers (besides Russian spambots) does anyone know some good work on this to share?

In the course of things it happens again and again that individual instincts or parts of instincts turn out to be incompatible in their aims or demands with the remaining ones, which are able to combine into the inclusive unity of the ego. The former are then split off from this unity by the process of repression, held back at lower levels of psychical development and cut off, to begin with, from the possibility of satisfaction. If they succeed subsequently, as can so easily happen with repressed sexual instincts, in struggling through, by roundabout paths, to a direct or to a substitutive satisfaction, that event, which would in other cases have been an opportunity for pleasure, is felt by the ego as unpleasure. (beyond the pleasure principle, p. 11)

As I have shown elsewhere, most of the repressions with which we have to deal in our therapeutic work are cases of after-pressure.1 They presuppose the operation of earlier, primal repressions which exert an attraction on the more recent situation. Far too little is known as yet about the background and preliminary stages of repression. There is a danger of overestimating the part played in repression by the super-ego. We cannot at present say whether it is perhaps the emergence of the super-ego which provides the line of demarcation between primal repression and after-pressure. At any rate, the earliest outbreaks of anxiety, which are of a very intense kind, occur before the super-ego has become differentiated. It is highly probable that the immediate precipitating causes of primal repressions are quantitative factors such as an excessive force of excitation and the breaking through of the protective shield against stimuli.

This mention of the protective shield sounds a note which recalls to us the fact that repression occurs in two different situations—namely, when an undesirable instinctual impulse is aroused by some external perception, and when it arises internally without any such provocation. We shall return to this difference later. But the protective shield exists only in regard to external stimuli, not in regard to internal instinctual demands.

So long as we direct our attention to the ego's attempt at flight we shall get no nearer to the subject of symptom-formation. A symptom arises from an instinctual impulse which has been detrimentally affected by repression. If the ego, by making use of the signal of unpleasure, attains its object of completely suppressing the instinctual impulse, we learn nothing of how this has happened. We can only find out about it from those cases in which repression must be described as having to a greater or less extent failed. In this event the position, generally speaking, is that the instinctual impulse has found a substitute in spite of repression, but a substitute which is very much reduced, displaced and inhibited and which is no longer recognizable as a satisfaction. And when the substitutive impulse is carried out there is no sensation of pleasure; its carrying out has, instead, the quality of a compulsion. (Inhibtion, symptoms, anxiety, p.94-5)

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