Thursday, April 18, 2013

"The Artist" pt. 2

Here is Freud on the artist:

Before I let you go to-day, however, I should like to direct your attention a little longer to a side of the life of phantasy which deserves the most general interest. For there is a path that leads back from phantasy to reality—the path, that is, of art. An artist is once more in rudiments an introvert, not far removed from neurosis. He is oppressed by excessively powerful instinctual needs. He desires to win honour, power, wealth, fame and the love of women; but he lacks the means for achieving these satisfactions. Consequently, like any other unsatisfied man, he turns away from reality and transfers all his [ego] interest, and his [object] libido too, to the wishful constructions of his life of phantasy, whence the path might lead to neurosis. 

The introversion of the libido references the moves I have spelled out from seeking to become a person who holds a place of status in one's community, to being someone who seeks to be one of the pillars of society (ruler, genius, etc.), to phantasy life in which one creates possible worlds. With the second move to the anal fathers there seems to be much higher expectations but, because the grandiose position that is sought is usually outside of one's community, one can have this goal with less immediate competition with others. People, if they discover your goal, can mock your immodesty and your illusions of being special but you have removed your interest in competing at work or school and the need to appear as top of the class or successful. You heart is now invested in a much bigger goal and you work on things bigger than what you learn at school or what your job entails.

There must be, no doubt, a convergence of all kinds of things if this is not to be the complete outcome of his development; it is well known, indeed, how often artists in particular suffer from a partial inhibition of their efficiency owing to neurosis. Their constitution probably includes a strong capacity for sublimation and a certain degree of laxity in the repressions which are decisive for a conflict. An artist, however, finds a path back to reality in the following manner. To be sure, he is not the only one who leads a life of phantasy. Access to the half-way region of phantasy is permitted by the universal assent of mankind, and everyone suffering from privation expects to derive alleviation and consolation from it. But for those who are not artists the yield of pleasure to be derived from the sources of phantasy is very limited. The ruthlessness of their repressions forces them to be content with such meagre day-dreams as are allowed to become conscious. A man who is a true artist has more at his disposal. In the first place, he understands how to work over his day-dreams in such a way as to make them lose what is too personal about them and repels strangers, and to make it possible for others to share in the enjoyment of them. He understands, too, how to tone them down so that they do not easily betray their origin from proscribed sources. Furthermore, he possesses the mysterious power of shaping some particular material until it has become a faithful image of his phantasy; and he knows, moreover, how to link so large a yield of pleasure to this representation of his unconscious phantasy that, for the time being at least, repressions are outweighed and lifted by it. 

In the literature the concept of sublimation that isn't abstract and useless is attached to defense and isn't positive. The person who "sublimates" has their work of art marred by the phantasy or idiosyncratic feature. For example, Bergler writes of an architect who always has to put a fountain in all his design plans in order to satisfy his urethral erotism. Similarly, a writer like Poe is compelled to write of the macabre and it can make his writing become 'too much'. If we want to keep sublimation as a positive concept then it would be more useful to think of it as introverting the libido from higher stages to lower ones without the defusion or foreclosure of the ideals. In this way the true artist is still in touch with the ego ideals of later stages and it is this feeling for common ideals with others that counteracts the phantasies that appear from the defusion and activations of repetition-compulsions. However, I believe that a more nuanced and interesting version of sublimation will ultimately have to appeal to psychic bisexuality and the combination of the active-egoistic and passive-altruistic.    

If he is able to accomplish all this, he makes it possible for other people once more to derive consolation and alleviation from their own sources of pleasure in their unconscious which have become inaccessible to them; he earns their gratitude and admiration and he has thus achieved through his phantasy what originally he had achieved only in his phantasy—honour, power and the love of women. (Introductory Lectures, p. 375-7).

This last sentiment of Freud, as shown by his own honour, power, and love, isn't something that the 'true artist' can enjoy. A Goethe who is a true artist and a statesman is very, very rare. Nietzsche often calls those who are just statesmen actors and he often criticizes the artist or scholar as 'hunchback' or 'burnt children' who falsify the world with their grandiose ideals instead of finding a way to see their ideals in something that resembles everyday life a little more. Many of Freud's followers tried to love him and were turned away by his coldness. His ceaseless work in the light of his physical illness showed the compulsion to work at play in him instead of striking a balance between work and leisure that would allow for self-regulation. Moreover, his need for recognition forced him to lose some talented pupils and to always have to go a step beyond the defector's contributions. He couldn't just accept Adler's aggressive drive but had to make it a death drive in order to outdo Adler.

Phantasy is tied to primary narcissism in which striving for perfection/restoration from death isn't attached to any demands of reality. Freud doesn't explicitly say it is an ego ideal but links it to the introversion of the phallic ego ideals for honour, power, wealth, and fame.

In a much earlier post I referred to 'id ideals' under the rubric of appreciating that the ego as something that registers the demand for perfection as attached to social reality/ontology appears at the anal stage (or the trito oral). However, as a structural relation of development the superego and ego are already present from the beginning of development.

Freud writes of an 'id-ego' in his late work and the concepts made by other schools: the self-representation and the ideal ego don't account for the social ontology found in his work so I'd rather rehabilitate the ego ideal instead of adopting terminology that was made to obscure it.

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