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On Freud's "Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety"

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Besides constituting a fundamental milestone in contemporary Western thought, Sigmund Freud's monumental corpus of work laid the theoretical-technical foundations on which psychoanalysts based the construction and development of the comprehensive edifice in which they abide today. This edifice, so varied in tones, so heterogeneous, even contradictory at times, has stood strong because of these foundations. Indeed, this book attempts to show, through its various chapters written by psychoanalysts from different parts of the world and sustaining varied paradigms, this enriching heterogeneity coupled with the invisible thread which strings together the diversity lent to it by its Freudian foundations. One of the characteristics of the Freudian opus highlighted in this context is the fact that when we are able to study it in perspective, it is possible to glimpse a path of incessant improvement, where ideas and concepts are constantly reformulated and become more complex as clinical facts and methodological and epistemological resources call for it. Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety is the irrefutable proof of this affirmation.

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1 - The Correlation between Anxiety and Danger: Vicissitudes of Mental Functioning

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The correlation between anxiety and danger: vicissitudes of mental functioning

Horacio Rotemberg

Introduction

Sigmund Freud reshaped his theoretical convictions throughout his work, in accordance with the impositions of his clinical exercises.

This way of conducting his research allowed him to develop various explicative models of the mind, all deriving from the same point of view: metapsychology. He gradually expanded the meaning of the underlying economic base—psychic energy—in these models and elaborated on their structure and psychic dynamics.

Some of his essays are clear proof of the moments he could epitomise his changing theoretical thinking. This can be especially seen in the essay Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (Freud, 1926d).

In this paper, the new structural model “ego-id-superego” relates to the issue of narcissism through situations that threaten subjective integrity. Also included in Inhibitions…are the unconscious processes that characterise the new elements of personality, promoting connections and interaction between them outside the conscious level of awareness. The topos of the unconscious, now more complex, still supports the Freudian view. The tension between Eros and Thanatos surrounds the dangers that threaten the ego. Moreover, this piece clearly presents external reality as an unavoidable reference of the psyche, comparable to a fourth element of personality.

 

2 - On the Complex, Relational Nature of Freud's Thinking on Primary Anxiety in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety: Differences from and Ties to Klein

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On the complex, relational nature of Freud's thinking on primary anxiety in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety: differences from and ties to Klein

Rachel B. Blass

In this chapter I point to the limitations of common accounts of the differences between Freud's ideas about anxiety, as he expressed them in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926d), and Klein's later formulations of anxiety. This leads to the clarification of Freud's complex and changing ideas on the nature of primary anxiety in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety and the Kleinian nature of his thinking in this regard. This clarification serves as a first step towards developing a better understanding of the grounds and significance of the actual differences between Freud's and Klein's views of anxiety.

Common attempts to account for differences between Freud's and Klein's views of primary anxiety

Melanie Klein was greatly influenced by Freud's thinking on anxiety and especially by the way he developed his thinking in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. As Hinshelwood (1989, p. 112) notes, Klein “repeatedly returned to [that text]…to help her with her own theoretical formulations”. Despite this direct influence, Klein's significant innovations not only advanced Freud's thinking on anxiety—they also directly opposed it on one crucial point. This regards the role that the fear of the death instinct plays in anxiety's emergence. Klein's opposition to Freud on this point is expressed most directly in her discussions of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety.

 

3 - Winnicott and Kohut: Their Theories of Anxiety

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Winnicott and Kohut: their theories of anxiety

Kenneth M. Newman

Introduction

Winnicott, writing in the forties and fifties, and Kohut, who entered the scene primarily in the sixties, shifted the focus of disturbances in the self from drive-centred fixations to arrests in development. The emphasis included a shift to earlier environmental failure and faulty parental attunement to the emotional needs of the child, and therefore required different explanations for the nature and causes of anxiety. That meant that the sources of anxiety would be located at the time of structural formation, when the infant's dependence on maternal care-taking to provide the atmosphere of security and the foundation for a safe internal environment was of central importance. Traditional explanations central to the structural model and ego psychology, that stressed the individual infantile drives in conflict with the superego, became somewhat subordinate. Since the pathognomonic points of fixation were now located in the prestructural period, the Oedipus and the conflicts attendant upon its faulty solution were no longer the focal point for anxiety.

 

4 - Primordial Anxiety, Drive, and the Need for the Progressive Movement

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Primordial anxiety, drive, and the need for the progressive movement

Luciane Falcão

Inhibitions (Hemmung), Symptoms (Sympton) and Anxiety (Angst) is a complex text, but at the same time essential. We must read it now bearing in mind that the father of psychoanalysis had just proposed the second topic and that there were many consequences of that new psychic structure which still remained unclear.

One of those consequences—the death drive theory—seems to me to stand out in this text from 1926 through its relation to what Freud called automatic anxiety, understanding that the action of death drive reinforces the experience of psychic chaos. Freud forwards the idea that, when connected energies become disconnected, it results in a detachment of the energy coming from the disconnected organisms. This self, or being, these organisms, turn against each other and there is a constant debate with the id and the external world. The resulting loss of structure of the libido is the first signal of danger and has as a consequence the emergence of a perception of the most primordial affect, anxiety. Therefore, I use the term primordial anxiety as a synonym for this traumatic anxiety, which is primordial in the ontogenetic sense.

 

5 - Clarifications and Comments on Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety from a Lacanian Perspective

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Clarifications and comments on Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety from a Lacanian perspective

Leonardo Peskin

Up to now we have been living in anxiety, now we are going to live in hope

Tristan Bernard, the day he was arrested to be taken to the camp in Danzig, cited in Lacan (1953, p. 477, free translation)

Introduction

Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety is a text written by Sigmund Freud (1926d) in the maturity of his thought. This involves a series of theoretical reconsiderations that are embodied in this work with the typical Freudian style of giving “a new twist” on old ideas, enriched with new proposals without abandoning those that came before.

Some of the themes reformulated in this book are: the two theories of anxiety, both topical, the introduction of narcissism as a new concept of ego, different theories about the drives, the theoretical system of resistances in relation to the psychic models, and, in particular, the three clinical dimensions in the title: inhibitions, symptoms, and anxiety.

 

6 - Psychoanalytic Theory of Anxiety: Proposals for Reconsideration

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Psychoanalytic theory of anxiety: proposals for reconsideration

Edward Nersessian

It is important to keep in mind that from its inception, psychoanalytic theory has been about unconscious conflict. From early on, in Studies in Hysteria (1895d), Freud writes, “The patient's ego had been approached by an idea which proved incompatible, which provoked on the part of the ego a repelling force of which the purpose was defence against the incompatible idea.” While his understanding of the adversaries involved in conflict changed, and he repeatedly modified the concept of anxiety, psychic conflict remained the central most important element of Freud's theory. Similarly, the proposition that a symptom is the outcome of a struggle between opposing urges and the establishment of a compromise dates back to the early days of Freud's discoveries. By 1900, with the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), he essentially laid the foundations of a theory based on conflict, defence, and compromise, using dreams as a template for all mental functioning.

 

7 - Traumatic Seduction and Sexual Inhibition

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Traumatic seduction and sexual inhibition

Elsa Schmid-Kitsikis

I now watch from a distance the symptomatic reactions that are accompanying the introduction of psycho-analysis into the France which was so long refractory. It seems like a reproduction of something I have lived through before, and yet it has peculiarities of its own. Objections of incredible simplicity are raised, such as the French sensitiveness is offended by the pedantry and crudity of psycho-analytical terminology…. Another comment has a more serious ring (a Professor of Psychology at the Sorbonne did not think it beneath him): the whole mode of thought of psycho-analysis, so he declared, is inconsistent with the génie latin.

Sigmund Freud, An Autobiographical Study, (1925d, p. 62)

From the very beginning of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926d), Freud recalls the obsession and phobic acts in relation to sexual and traumatic experiences. He writes: “Some inhibitions obviously represent a relinquishment of a function because its exercise would produce anxiety. Many women are openly afraid of the sexual function. We class this anxiety under hysteria, just as we do the defensive symptom of disgust which, arising originally as a deferred reaction to the experiencing of a passive sexual act, appears later whenever the idea of such an act is presented. Furthermore, many obsessional acts turn out to be measures of precaution and security against sexual experiences and are thus of a phobic character” (p. 88, italics in original).

 

8 - Freud's Writing in the Twenties: Theory Construction and Clinical Research in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety

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Freud's writing in the twenties: theory construction and clinical research in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety

Giovanni Foresti

Can we succeed in understanding the differences between these various un-pleasurable affects?

Freud, 1926d, p. 132

That my last book would cause a stir in the millpond was to be expected. After a while it will subside again. It does no harm for people to realize that we have not yet earned the right to dogmatic rigidity and that we must be ready to till the vineyard again and again.

Freud to Andreas-Salome, 13th May 1926; quoted in Gay, 1988

Reading Freud's work is a process of interaction between the text and the reader, which is influenced by differing and sometimes excessive poles of interpretation. When we consider the debt we owe Freud, in fact, our thoughts tend to organise themselves in the middle ground between two extreme and contrasting attitudes: on the one hand, reverential for the continuity and consistency of Freud's research; on the other, critical on account of the at times perceived contradictions and scattered conceptual aporias (Bollas, 2007; Derrida, 1987, 2007; Ferro, 2005, 2010; Grubrich-Simitis, 1997; Mahony, 1987, 2002; Quinodoz, 2004). The former attitude can result in theoretical reconstructions that are too systematic and tend both to minimise the conceptual discontinuity, and to ignore the open or unresolved aspects of Freudian theorisation. At the other extreme, the latter attitude can focus too closely on the author's personal life or on the turmoil of the movement he founded and belonged to, and can therefore neglect the conceptual structure of the texts and their theoretical complexity and clinical meaning (Assoun, 1997; Civitarese, 2010; Momigliano, 1987; Ogden, 2009; Riolo, 1991, 2010).

 

9 - The Death of an Adult Child: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Models of Mourning

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The death of an adult child: contemporary psychoanalytic models of mourning

Jorge Schneider

In Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926d) Freud discusses the phenomenon of mourning from two points of view. In the first, he attempts to differentiate inhibitions from symptoms. He defined inhibitions as restrictions of the ego due to the need for protection or the result of an impoverishment of energy. In mourning, the difficult and painful psychical task involved drains energy from the ego. In the second point of view, he addresses the origin of anxiety. He raises the question of when the loss of an object creates anxiety, and when it brings about mourning. For him, the infant missing the mother is traumatic, and therefore originates mourning when the infant feels a need that the mother is supposed to satisfy. On the other hand, if the need is not present at the moment, it turns into a danger situation that originates anxiety. He further elaborates on the issue of mourning when he establishes that it occurs under the influence of reality testing. The ego demands from the bereaved person that he/she separate him- or herself from the object that no longer exists. This last formulation became the basis of his 1917 paper “Mourning and melancholia” (1917e).

 

10 - An Unexpected Clinical Experience: Rethinking Affects

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An unexpected clinical experience: rethinking affects

Samuel Arbiser

Introduction

Psychoanalysis was born at the end of the nineteenth century, in the heyday of the microscope and of the promise of certainty offered by a medicine rooted in the positivist approach to science; it originated in the unexpected discovery of “ordinary unhappiness” (Breuer & Freud, 1895d), concealed behind a heterogeneous series of somatic symptoms known as “hysterical conversion”. Despite expectations, neither cellular lesions nor bacteria could explain these disorders (Freud, 1888). Therefore, it was not easy to categorise the aforementioned unhappiness within the framework of positivist science; rather, it was vaguely described as “the circumstances and events of one's life” (Freud, 1895d). Very soon, a wide array of nosological entities with an evident organic incidence and an uncertain or unknown aetiology joined the ranks of ailments incorporated in the young science under the name of psychosomatic disorders. These successive steps led to drastic modifications in contemporary medical conceptions which could not disregard psychoanalysis in the process of understanding not only the doctor-patient relationship but also its psychopathological explanations. Psychoanalysis, in turn, profited from the enriching experience derived from these new fields; and the scientific and philosophical debate on the nature of the mind and the psyche-soma relationship grew and was revitalised (Rabossi, 1995).

 

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