The Language of Psychoanalysis

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Sigmund Freud evolved his theories throughout his lifetime. This entailed many revisions and changes which he himself never tried to standardize rigidly into a definitive conceptual system. The need for some sort of a reliable guide which would spell out both the pattern of the evolution of Freud's thinking, as well as establish its inherent logic, was felt for a long time by both scholars and students of psychoanalysis. Drs. Laplanche and Pontalis of the Association Psychoanalytique de France succeeded admirably in providing a dictionary of Freud's concepts which is more than a compilation of mere definitions. After many years of creative and industrious research, they were able to give an authentic account of the evolution of each concept with pertinent supporting texts from Freud's own writing (in the Standard Edition translation), and thus have endowed us with an instrument for work and research which is characterized by its thoroughness, exactitude and lack of prejudice towards dogma.The Language of Psychoanalysis has already established itself as a classic, and will long continue to be indispensible guide to psychoanalytic vocabulary for both student and research-worker in psychoanalysis.

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A

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= D.: Abreagieren.–Es.: abreacción.–Fr.: abréaction.–I: abreazione.–P.: ab-reação.

Emotional discharge whereby the subject liberates himself from the affect* attached to the memory of a traumatic event in such a way that this affect is snot able to become (or to remain) pathogenic. Abreaction may be provoked in the course of psychotherapy, especially under hypnosis, and produce a cathartic* effect. It may also come about spontaneously, either a short or a long interval after the original trauma*.

The notion of abreaction can only be understood by reference to Freud’s theory of the genesis of the hysterical symptom, as set out in his paper ‘On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena’ (1893a) (la, a). The persistence of the affect attached to a memory depends on several factors, of which the most important is related to the way in which the subject has reacted to a particular event. Such a reaction may be composed of voluntary or involuntary responses, and may range in nature from tears to acts of revenge. Where this reaction is of sufficient intensity a large part of the affect associated with the event disappears; it is when the reaction is suppressed* (unterdrückt) that the affect remains bound* to the memory.

 

B

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= D.: Bindung.–Es.: ligazón.–Fr: liaison,–I.: legame.–P.: ligação.

Term used by Freud in a very general way and on comparatively distinct levels (as much on the biological level as on that of the psychical apparatus) to denote an operation tending to restrict the free flow of excitations, to link ideas to one another and to constitute and maintain relatively stable forms.

Although the term ‘binding’ ought to be seen in connection with the contrast between free energy and bound energy*, its meaning is not exhausted by this purely economic connotation. Beyond its strictly technical use, the expression–which occurs at different points in Freud’s work–answers a permanent conceptual need.

Rather than enumerate its uses, we have chosen to outline its importance at three stages of Freud's metapsychology where it plays a cardinal role:

I. In the ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’ (1950a [1895]), Bindung denotes primarily the fact that the energy of the neuronal apparatus proceeds from the free to the bound state, or else that it is already in the bound state. For Freud, this binding implies the existence of a mass of neurones which are well connected and which have good facilitations between them–in other words, the ego: ‘…the ego itself is a mass like this of neurones which hold fast to their cathexis–are, that is, in a bound state; and this, surely, can only happen as a result of the effect they have on one another’ (la).

 

C

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= D.: kannibalisch.–Es.:cannibalístico.–Fr.: cannibalique.–I.:cannibalico.–P.:canibalesco.

Term used, by analogy with the cannibalism practised by certain peoples, to qualify object-relationships and phantasies correlated with oral activity. It is a figurative description of the various dimensions of oral incorporation*: love, destruction, preservation within the self of the object and the appropriation of its qualities. The name ‘Cannibalistic stage’ is sometimes given to the oral stage* –or, more specifically, to Abraham’s second oral stage (oral-sadistic stage*).

Although the first edition of the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d) does contain one allusion to cannibalism, it is not until Totem and Taboo (1912–13) that this idea is developed. Freud brings out the belief that is implicit in this practice of ‘primitive races’: ‘By incorporating parts of a person’s body through the act of eating, one at the same time acquires the qualities possessed by him’ (la). The Freudian conception of the ‘murder of the father’ and of the ‘totem meal’ invests this idea with great importance: ‘One day the brothers […] came together, killed and devoured their father and so made an end of the patriarchal horde. […] In the act of devouring him they accomplished their identification with him, and each one of them acquired a portion of his strength’ (lb).

 

D

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= D.: Libidostauung.-Es.: estancamiento de la libido.-Fr.: stase libidinale.-I.: stasi della libido.-P.: estase da libido.

Economic process which according to a hypothesis of Freud’s may underlie the subject’s lapse into neurosis or psychosis: deprived of an outlet towards discharge, libido collects on intrapsychic formations; the energy thus accumulated is put to use in the constitution of symptoms.

The economic notion of the damming up of libido originates in the theory of the actual neuroses* as expounded by Freud in his earliest writings: he deems the aetiological factor in these neuroses to be an accumulation (Anhäufung) of sexual excitations which, in the absence of an adequate specific action*, are unable to find any path towards discharge.

In ‘Types of Onset of Neurosis’ (1912c) the notion of the damming up of libido becomes very broad in that the process is said to take place in all the various forms of entry into neurosis that Freud distinguishes; these forms are ‘different ways of establishing a particular pathogenic constellation in the mental economy-namely the damming up of libidio, which the ego cannot, with the means at its command, ward off without danger’ (1). All the same, important reservations are made about the aetiological function of damming up:

 

E

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= D.: ökonomisch.–Es.: económico.–Fr.: économique.–I.: economico.–P.: econômico.

Qualifies everything having to do with the hypothesis that psychical processes consist in the circulation and distribution of an energy (instinctual energy) that can be quantified, i.e. that is capable of increase, decrease and equivalence.

I. Psycho-analysis often evokes the ‘economic point of view’. Thus Freud defines metapsychology* as the synthesis of three standpoints–the topographical*, the dynamic* and the economic. The last ‘endeavours to follow out the vicissitudes of amounts of excitation and to arrive at least at some relative estimate of their magnitude’ (1). The economic point of view consists in taking into consideration the cathexes*– their movement, the variations in their intensity, the antagonisms that arise between them (cf. the notion of anticathexis*), etc. Economic considerations are brought forward by Freud throughout his work; in his view, there can be no complete description of a mental process so long as the economy of cathexes has not been assessed.

 

F

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=D.: Bahnung.–Es.: facilitacion.–Fr.: frayage.–I.: facilitazione.–P.: facilitagao.

Term used by Freud at a time when he was putting forward a neurological model of the functioning of the psychical apparatus (1895): the excitation, in passing from one neurone to another, runs into a certain resistance; where its passage results in a permanent reduction in this resistance, there is said to be facilitation; excitation will opt for a facilitated pathway in preference to one where no facilitation has occurred.

The notion of facilitation is central to the description of the ‘neuronal apparatus’ proposed by Freud in his ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’ (1950a [1895]). Jones points out that the idea played an important part in Exner’s book published a year previously, Project for a Physiological Explanation for Psychical Phenomena (Entwurf au einer physiologischen Erkldrung der psychischen Erscheinungen,1894) (1). Though he had not abandoned it, Freud makes scant use of the concept in his metapsychological writings. It does recur, however, when he is brought once again-in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g)-to use a physiological model (2).

 

G

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= D∴ primärer und sekundärer Krankheitsgewinn.– Es∴ beneficio primario y secundario de la enfermedad.– Fr∴ bénéfice primaire et secondaire de la maladie.– I∴ utile primario e secondario della malattia.– P∴ lucro primário e secundário da doença.

In a general sense, ‘gain from illness’ covers all direct or indirect satisfaction that a patient draws from his condition.

The primary gain has a hand in the actual motivation of a neurosis: satisfaction obtained from the symptom, flight into illness*, beneficial change in the subject’s relationship with the environment.

Secondary gain may be distinguished from the primary kind by:

a. Its appearance after the fact, in the shape of an extra advantage derived from an already established illness, or a new use to which such an illness is put.

b. Its extraneous character relative to the illness’s original determinants and to the meaning of the symptoms.

c. The fact that the satisfactions involved are narcissistic or associated with self-preservation rather than directly libidinal.

 

H

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= D.: Hilflosigkeit.-Es.: desamparo.–Fr.: incapacité à s’aider.–I.: l'essere senza aiuto.–P.: desamparo or desarvoramento.

This common word has a specific meaning in Freudian theory, where it is used to denote the state of the human suckling which, being entirely dependent on other people for the satisfaction of its needs (hunger, thirst), proves incapable of carrying out the specific action necessary to put an end to internal tension.

For the adult, the state of helplessness is the prototype of the traumatic situation which is responsible for the generation of anxiety.

The word ‘Hilflosigkeit’ constitutes a permanent reference-point for Freud, and it deserves to be signalled out and translated consistently. This state of helplessness is an essentially objective datum–the situation of impotence in which the newborn human infant finds itself. The baby is incapable of undertaking co-ordinated and effective action (see ‘Specific Action’); Freud calls this state of affairs motor helplessness (motorische Hilflosigkeit) (la). And, from the economic* point of view, this situation results in an increase of the tension brought about by need–an increase which the psychical apparatus is as yet unable to control: this is what is meant by psychical helplessness (psychische Hilflosigkeit).

 

I

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= D.: –Es.: ello.–Fr.: ça.–I.: es.–P.: id.

One of the three agencies* distinguished by Freud in his second theory of the psychical apparatus. The id constitutes the instinctual pole of the personality; its contents, as an expression of the instincts, are unconscious, a portion of them being hereditary and innate, a portion repressed and acquired.

From the economic* point of view, the id for Freud is the prime reservoir of psychical energy; from the dynamic* point of view, it conflicts with the ego and the super-ego-which, genetically speaking, are diversifications of the id.

The term ‘das Es’ is first used in The Ego and the Id (1923b). Freud borrows it from Georg Groddeck (α), citing the precedent set by Nietzsche, who apparently used the expression ‘for whatever in our nature is impersonal and, so to speak, subject to natural law’ (1a).

The word attracted Freud’s attention because it evokes the idea, developed by Groddeck, that ‘what we call our ego behaves essentially passively in life, and that […] we are “lived” by unknown and uncontrollable forces’ (1b, β); this notion is consistent, moreover, with the language used spontaneously by patients: ‘“It shot through me,” people say; “there was something in me at that moment that was stronger than me.” “C’était plus fort que moi”‘ (2).

 

L

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= D.: Latenzperiode or Latenzzeit, or occasionally Aufschubsperiode.–Es.: periodo de latencia.–Fr.: période de latence.–I.: periodo di latenza.–P.: periodo de latência.

Period which extends from the dissolution of infantile sexuality (at the age of five or six) to the onset of puberty, constituting a pause in the evolution of sexuality. This stage sees a decrease in sexual activity, the desexualisation of object-relationships and of the emotions (particularly the predominance of tenderness* over sexual desire), and the emergence of such feelings as shame and disgust along with moral and aesthetic aspirations.

According to psycho-analytic theory the latency period has its origin in the dissolution of the Oedipus complex; it represents an intensification of repression which brings about an amnesia affecting the earliest years, a transformation of objegt-cathexes into identifications with the parents, and a development of sublimations.

 

M

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= D.: manifester Inhalt.–Es.: contenido manifiesto.–Fr.: contenu manifeste.–I.: contenuto manifesto.–P.: conteúdo manifesto or patente.

Designates the dream before it receives any analytic investigation, as it appears to the dreamer who recounts it By extension, we speak of the manifest content of any verbal product—from phantasies to literary works—which we intend to interpret according to the analytic method.

The expression ‘manifest content’ was introduced by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a) as a correlate to ‘latent content’*. The unqualified ‘content’ is often used to refer to the same thing and contrasted with the ‘dream-thoughts’ or ‘latent dream-thoughts’. For Freud the manifest content is the product of the dream-work*, while the latent content is the product of the opposite type of work–interpretation*.

This account has been criticised from a phenomenological point of view: Politzer holds that the dream, strictly speaking, can only have one content. On his view, what Freud understands by the manifest content constitutes the descriptive narrative that the subject puts forward at a time when he does not have the full meaning of his dream at his disposal (1).

 

N

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= D.: Narzissmus..–Es.: narcisismo.–Fr.: narcissisme.–I.: narcisismo.–P.: narcisismo. By reference to the myth of Narcissus, love directed towards the image of oneself.

I. The term ‘narcissism’ (α) appears in Freud’s work for the first time in 1910, when it is called upon to account for object-choice in homosexuals, who ‘take themselves as their sexual object. That is to say, they proceed from a narcissistic basis and look for a young man who resembles themselves and whom they may love as their mother loved them’ (la).

The discovery of narcissism leads Freud–in the Schreber case (1911c)–to posit the existence of a stage in sexual development between auto-erotism* and object-love. The subject ‘begins by taking himself, his own body, as.his love-object’ (2), which allows a first unification of the sexual instincts. This view of the matter is again put forward in Totem and Taboo (1912-13).

II. Thus Freud was already making use of the concept of narcissism before he ‘introduced’ it in a paper devoted to the topic: ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’ (1914c). It is this text, nevertheless, which integrates the notion into the psycho-analytic theory as a whole, particularly by relating it to libidinal cathexes. It now becomes clear that the possibility of the libido’s recathecting the ego while withdrawing cathexis from the object is illustrated by psychosis (‘narcissistic neurosis’*); the implication of this is that ‘an original libidinal cathexis of the ego […] fundamentally persists and is related to the object-cathexes much as the body of an amoeba is related to the pseudopodia which it puts out’ (3a). Basing himself on a sort of principle of conservation of libidinal energy, Freud postulates a seesaw balance between ego-libido* (i.e. libido which cathects the ego) and object4ibido: ‘The more of the one is employed, the more the other becomes depleted’ (3b). ‘The ego is to be regarded as a great reservoir of libido from which libido is sent out to objects and which is always ready to absorb libido flowing back from objects’ (4).

 

O

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= D.: Object.–Es.: objeto.–Fr: objet.–I.: oggetto.–P.: objeto.

Psycho-analysis considers the notion of object from three main points of view:

I. In correlation with the instinct: the object is the thing in respect of which and through which the instinct seeks to attain its aim* (i.e. a certain type of satisfaction). It may be a person or a part-object*, a real object or a phantasied one.

II. In correlation with love (or hate): the relation in question here is that between the whole person, or the agency of the ego, and an object which is itself focussed upon in its totality (person, entity, ideal, etc.).

III. In the sense traditional to the philosophy and psychology of knowledge, in correlation with the perceiving and knowing subject: an object is whatever presents itself with fixed and permanent qualities which are in principle recognisable by all subjects irrespective of individual wishes and opinions (the adjective corresponding to this sense of ‘object’ is ‘objective’).

 

P

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= D.: Gegensatzpaar.-Es.: par antitético.-Fr.: couple d’opposés.-I.: coppia d’opposti.-P.: par antitético.

Term often used by Freud to designate great basic antitheses, either on the plane of psychological or psychopathological phenomena (e.g. sadism/masochism*, voyeurism/exhibitionism) or else in the realm of metapsychology (e.g. life instincts*/death instincts*).

In the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), Freud uses this term to point up a basic characteristic of certain perversions: ‘ We find, then, that certain among the impulses to perversion occur regularly as pairs of opposites; and this […] has a high theoretical significance’ (1a). The study of sadism, for instance, shows up the presence, alongside the dominant sadistic tendencies, of a masochistic pleasure; similarly, voyeurism and exhibitionism are closely coupled together as the active and passive forms of the same component instinct*. Though especially visible in the perversions, such pairs of opposites are also regularly met with in the psycho-analysis of neuroses (1b).

 

Q

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= D.: Affektbetrag.-Es.: cuota or suma de afecto.-Fr.: quantum d'affect.-I.: importo or somma d'affetto.-P.: quota or soma de afeto.

A quantitative factor postulated as the substratum of the affect as this is experienced subjectively. The ‘quota of affect’ is the element that remains invariable despite the various modifications which the affect* undergoes–displacement*, detachment of the idea* and qualitative transformations.

The term ‘quota of affect’ is one of a number that Freud uses in framing his economic* hypothesis. This same underlying quantitative factor is given various names, such as ‘cathectic energy’, ‘instinctual force’, ‘pressure’ of the instinct or, when the sexual instinct alone is under consideration, ‘libido’. This particular term is most often employed by Freud when he is dealing with the fate of the affect and its autonomy vis-à-vis the idea: ‘…in mental functions something is to be distinguished–a quota of affect or sum of excitation–which possesses all the characteristics of a quantity (though we have no means of measuring it), which is capable of increase, diminution, displacement and discharge, and which is spread over the memory-traces of ideas somewhat as an electric charge is spread over the surface of a body’ (1).

 

R

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= D.: Rationalisierung.-Es.: racionalización.-Fr.: rationalisation.-I.: razionalizzazione.-P.: razionalizacao.

Procedure whereby the subject attempts to present an explanation that is either logically consistent or ethically acceptable for attitudes, actions, ideas, feelings, etc., whose true motives are not perceived. More specifically, we speak of the rationalisation of a symptom, of a defensive compulsion or of a reaction-formation. Rationalisation also occurs in delusional states and tends towards a more or less thoroughgoing systematisation.

This term was brought into common psycho-analytical usage by Ernest Jones in his article on ‘Rationalisation in Everyday Life’ (1908).

Rationalisation is a very common process which occurs throughout a broad field stretching from deliria to normal thought. Since any behaviour is susceptible of a rational explanation, it is often difficult to decide when such an explanation is spurious-not in what it says but in what it neglects to say. In psycho-analytic treatment, specifically, all the intermediary stages between two extremes are to be found. At one pole, it is easy to show the patient the artificiality of the motives he claims and so to discourage him from being content with the account he has given. In other cases, on the contrary, the rational motives are especially well founded (the resistances that can be dissimulated by the ‘appeal to reality’, for example, are particularly well known to analysts); but even here it may be of use to place these motives ‘in parentheses’ in order to uncover the satisfactions or unconscious defences which are additional motivating factors.

 

S

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= D.: Sadismus.–Es.: sadismo.–Fr.: sadisme.–I.: sadismo.–P.: sadismo.

Sexual perversion in which satisfaction is dependent on suffering or humiliation inflicted upon others.

Psycho-analysis extends the notion of sadism beyond the perversion described by sexologists: in th first place it identifies numerous more embryonic forms–especially infantile ones; secondly, it makes sadism into one of the fundamental components of instinctual life.

For a description of the different forms and degrees of the sadistic perversion, the reader is referred to the works of the sexologists–particularly those of Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis (α).

As regards terminology, it should be noted that Freud tends for the most part to reserve the term ‘sadism’ (cf. for example Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality [1905d]) or ‘sadism proper’ (1) for cases where there is an association between sexuality and violence used against others.

 

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