Medium 9781780491684

The Still Small Voice

Views: 1265
Ratings: (0)

Whereas Freud himself viewed conscience as one of the functions of the superego, in The Still Small Voice: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Guilt and Conscience, Carveth argues that superego and conscience are distinct mental functions and that, therefore, a fourth mental structure, the conscience, needs to be added to the psychoanalytic structural theory of the mind. He claims that while both conscience and superego originate in the so-called pre-oedipal phase of infant and child development they are comprised of contrasting and often conflicting identifications. The primary object, still most often the mother, is inevitably experienced as, on the one hand, nurturing and soothing and, on the other, as frustrating and persecuting. Conscience is formed in identification with the nurturer; the superego in identification with the aggressor. There is a principle of reciprocity at work in the human psyche: for love received one seeks to return love; for hate, hate (the talion law).Like Franz Alexander and Sandor Ferenczi before him, Carveth views the therapeutic task as the disempowerment of the superego. But unlike his forebears he does not propose its replacement by the rational ego for, in his view, rationality cannot serve as the source of values. Following Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he finds the roots of morality not in reason but in feeling, in sympathetic identification or "pity." With Pascal, he holds that "the heart has reasons reason cannot know." Such "reasons of the heart" form the core of conscience. Unlike the torments inflicted by the demonic superego that merely uses transgression as an excuse to do what it wants-punish and torment the ego-the conscience, what Winnicott called "the capacity for concern," is genuinely troubled by failures to love. The author claims we must face our bad conscience, acknowledge and bear genuine (depressive) guilt, and through contrition, repentance and reparation come to accept reconciliation and forgiveness, or be forced to suffer the torments of the damned-persecutory guilt inflicted by the sadistic internal persecutor and saboteur, the superego.It is the author's view that in human history the damage done by id-driven psychopaths amounts to nothing compared to that brought about by superego-driven ideologists. Freud and subsequent psychoanalysis has largely whitewashed the superego while demonising the id, the alleged "beast" in man, when in reality animals are seldom beastly, at least not in the ways humans often are. While aware of its destructiveness in the clinical realm, psychoanalysts have largely ignored the ideologies of domination-the sexism, racism, heterosexism, classism and childism-that are internalised from unconscionable societies into the unconscionable superego.In the penultimate chapter, drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Terry Eagleton and others, Carveth critically reviews the concepts of psychopathy and evil. In the final chapter, he advocates a demythologising, deliteralising or deconstructive approach to the Bible as metaphor, but one that escapes Freud's derogation of this approach by acknowledging, with Hegel at his most honest, that its result is a humanistic ethic no longer to be equated with religion.

List price: $31.99

Your Price: $25.59

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

11 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

Chapter One: The Moral Ambiguity of Psychoanalysis

ePub

CHAPTER ONE

The moral ambiguity of psychoanalysis

For decades what Freud (1933a) himself regarded as “the preferred field of work for psychoanalysis”, namely “The problems which the unconscious sense of guilt has opened up, its connections with morality, education, crime and delinquency…” (p. 61), has been neglected in favour of a preoccupation with narcissism, shame, self, relatedness and, most recently, the neurological foundations of mind. But recently issues concerning the superego, guilt, and conscience appear to be returning from repression. No doubt this “comeback” amounts to a reflection in psychoanalysis of a shift in the wider culture: the “culture of narcissism” (Lasch, 1979) got us into hot water. What three decades ago Rangell (1980) described in The Mind of Watergate as the “syndrome of the compromise of integrity” led eventually to the 2008 crisis of “casino capitalism”. It is time we began rethinking the psychoanalytic theory of morality.

As early as my doctoral research (Carveth, 1977) I was struggling with what I saw as the grossly inadequate psychoanalytic position with respect to moral questions. In this connection, I remember being struck by Abram Kardiner's (1977, pp. 107–109) account, in My Analysis with Freud: Reminiscences, of one of his first clinical encounters after qualifying as a psychoanalyst and hanging out his shingle. A man presented with a work inhibition that he sought to have cured by analysis. It turned out he was a hit man, a professional killer, who was suddenly and inexplicably having trouble performing his job. After a few sessions in which both patient and analyst recognised the mutual threat they constituted to one another, the man did not return, leaving Kardiner wondering whether or not he had “cured” him.

 

Chapter Two: On the Nature and Varieties of Guilt

ePub

CHAPTER TWO

On the nature and varieties of guilt

…for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Archaic Torso of Apollo

At a roundtable (Carveth, Cavell, Eigen, Greenberg & Lewis, 2007) addressing the question “What is guilt?” at the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination in New York, philosopher/psychoanalyst Marcia Cavell opened the discussion with the admission that “This awful subject has been on my mind for many years, beginning consciously, oh, some thirty years ago when my analyst said to me, ‘If only you could feel the right kind of guilt!’ I didn't know what she meant and I don't think I ever asked her what she meant, but I was deeply puzzled.” Had she asked her analyst for clarification, I doubt she would have received a very illuminating answer, at least not one likely to satisfy a philosophic mind. In alluding to important distinctions between different types of guilt her analyst was, I suspect, operating more on intuition than reasoned understanding. From the beginning of the discipline, psychoanalysts have been as puzzled as Professor Cavell or anyone else in this area.

 

Chapter Three: Conscience vs. Superego and the Bestialising of the Id

ePub

CHAPTER THREE

Conscience vs. superego and the bestialising of the id

In his neglected classic, Freud, Women and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil, the psychoanalytic sociologist Eli Sagan (1988) elaborated a theory of conscience and superego as distinct psychic functions developing in different ways and at different times. Whereas Freud (1933a, p. 65) viewed conscience as one of the three functions of the superego (the others being self-observation and maintenance of the ego ideal) and saw it as arising at around five or six years of age with the shattering of the Oedipus complex due to fear of castration by the rival, Sagan posited a pre-Oedipal origin of conscience grounded in the infant's love for and identification with the primary nurturer. For Sagan, conscience and superego frequently conflict. As we have seen, he cites Mark Twain's (1885). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to illustrate his point: “Huck's dilemma” is that while his conscience requires him to protect his beloved runaway slave companion, Jim, the racist superego he has internalised from his culture demands that he turn him in to the authorities. After an agonising mental struggle, Huck finally comes to accept that he is “going to hell” and defies his punitive superego in favour of his loving conscience. From this example alone, we may suspect that while often associated with divinity, the superego that threatens “hell-fire” may more accurately be viewed as demonic and the conscience as the opposing power of love—as Thanatos and Eros respectively. As Paul Gray (1994, p. 110) pointed out, Freud (1920g) himself characterised certain types of severe resistance as having a “hint of daemonic power” (p. 36), even referring to a superego that can at times amount to “a pure culture of the death instinct” (Freud, 1923b, p. 53). Erikson (1958) described the scrupulosity driven by the overweening superego of Young Man Luther that led him through a series of crises to the final, liberating “revelation in the Tower”: that we are justified not by works intended to satisfy the demands of the law (superego), but by faith in the forgiving power of love (conscience).

 

Chapter Four: Self-Punishment as Guilt Evasion

ePub

CHAPTER FOUR

Self-punishment as guilt evasion

In the final section (VII) of Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud (1930a) states that the primary intention of this work is “to represent the sense of guilt as the most important problem in the development of civilisation and to show that the price we pay for our advance in civilisation is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt” (p. 134). According to Freud, “Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved, and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked,” but are, on the contrary, “creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness…” (p. 111). It follows that if a Hobbesian “war of each against all” in which life is, of necessity, “nasty, brutish and short” is to give way to civilised order, such “cruel aggressiveness”, this “primary mutual hostility of human beings” (p. 112), must in some way or another be inhibited.

As I point out in Chapter Six, it was only in the face of the devastation of the war and his growing clinical experience of masochistic self-destructiveness that Freud (1920g) finally overcame his resistance to acknowledging aggression as an equally fundamental part of human nature as sexuality and announced his final dual drive theory of Eros and Thanatos. He then proceeded to project the naive optimism he had earlier shared with Enlightenment thought onto the Bible, arguing that the idea of an aggressive drive “contradicts too many religious presumptions and social conventions. No, man must be naturally good or at least good-natured” (Freud, 1933a, p. 103). Here Freud fails to recognise that the optimism of his own earlier thought which he now mocks belongs not to the Bible but to the anti-religious Enlightenment his own loyalty to which had prevented him from seeing what the Bible had recognised all along, namely that human beings are “fallen” creatures perpetually torn between the forces of love and hate, construction and destruction. As to whether our hate and destructiveness are innate or acquired, I have elsewhere (Carveth, 1996) advocated an existentialist position that, while acknowledging the influence of both nature and nurture, views aggression as irreducible to either factor or even to their combination. The frustration arising from the birth of a sibling can generate hostility causing intense guilt or guilt-evading self-punishment, yet such hostility can hardly be viewed as a simple drive (however biologically based the aggressive reaction to frustration may be), or attributed to environmental failure, although parental behaviour can either mitigate or intensify it.

 

Chapter Five: Less Recognised Manifestations of Guilt: The Old and New Hysterias

ePub

CHAPTER FIVE

Less recognised manifestations of guilt: the old and new hysterias*

One of the many important lessons Freud learned from Charcot during his period of study at the Salpêtrière (Oct. 1885–Feb. 1886), was that male hysteria exists. “What impressed me most of all while I was with Charcot”, Freud (1925d) writes in his An Autobiographical Study, “were his latest investigations of hysteria, some of which were carried out under my own eyes. He had proved, for instance,…the frequent occurrence of hysteria in men….” (p. 12). But when Freud brought the news of male hysteria back to Vienna he got a cold reception. He writes: “One of them, an old surgeon, actually broke out with the exclamation: ‘But, my dear sir, how can you talk such nonsense? Hysteron (sic) means the uterus. So how can a man be hysterical?’” (p. 15). But the fact is that men certainly can be hysterical, as Freud knew from the case with which he was most familiar: himself (his famous hysterical fainting episodes provide merely one example). Although he often tried to conceptualise his persistent symptoms as arising from what he called an actual as distinct from a psychoneurosis, a condition of an essentially somatic order supposedly without psychological meaning, the concept of the actual neurosis was dropped by subsequent psychoanalysis because no cases of it were found. At other times, Freud was able to acknowledge both to himself and others the hysterical and psychoneurotic nature of certain of his symptoms.

 

Chapter Six: Harry Guntrip: A Fugitive from Guilt?

ePub

CHAPTER SIX

Harry Guntrip: a fugitive from guilt?

Amajor contributor to the de-moralising trend in post-Freudian and post-Kleinian psychoanalysis is Harry Guntrip. Guntrip's Harry Guntrip: a fugitive from guilt? (1969) descriptions of the “in-out programme” resulting from the schizoid person's experience of connection as engulfing and separation as abandonment are vivid and useful up to a point. But in focusing upon the roots of the “schizoid problem” (Guntrip, 1971, Chapter Six) or the “disordered self” (Kohut, 1977) in defective early object-relations he, like Kohut, obscured entirely the role of guilt and the need for punishment in these conditions and promoted a cure based on reparative re-parenting rather than analysis and resolution of inner conflict (in this connection see also Hantman, 2004, 2006).

The guilt evasion that characterises both our “culture of narcissism” (Lasch, 1979) and the types of psychoanalytic thought it has generated is mirrored in my view by that of Guntrip himself. In my hypothesis, despite his background as a Christian minister and his years of analysis with two of the most creative analysts in the field, Guntrip managed by the end only a paranoid understanding of himself as a victim of a murderous mother, rather than a man crippled by a need to punish himself for his disowned murderous wishes towards a brother who died and towards the mother he hated and blamed. In the following I offer an admittedly speculative interpretation of Guntrip's pathology. I have not analysed him, nor do I claim to have thoroughly studied all available data pertaining to his case. I do not claim that my interpretation is true, only that it is a plausible account—and one that Guntrip himself, despite his expertise in analytic theory, notably failed to consider.

 

Chapter Seven: Two Case Studies

ePub

CHAPTER SEVEN

Two case studies*

The case of Mr. D

During the second year of his analysis, Mr. D, a thirty-year-old academic with a flamboyantly rebellious cultural and political outlook who entered analysis owing to work inhibitions, relational problems, and diffuse anxiety and unhappiness, suddenly started experiencing dizzy spells. For example, he might be in a supermarket when, suddenly, the lights would appear to dim and his field of vision would shrink almost to nothing and he would have to clutch his cart to keep from falling over as the store seemed to slowly begin to move, like a merry-go-round starting up. Although suspecting hysteria, the analyst recommended a complete neurological investigation which yielded nothing. As the analysis continued evidence accrued that the symptoms amounted to a kind of body language in which D communicated the defensive message that he was not at all a phallic, competitive, Oedipally aggressive male but, on the contrary, something rather like the swooning woman of Victorian stereotype. As this interpretation got worked through in his analysis the dizzy spells disappeared, never to return.

 

Chapter Eight: Modernity and its Discontents

ePub

CHAPTER EIGHT

Modernity and its discontents

We live in curious times and amid astonishing contrasts: reason on the one hand, the most absurd fanaticism on the other…a civil war in every soul

—Voltaire (1789)

The phenomenon of guilt evasion cannot be adequately comprehended exclusively from the standpoint of the psychology of the individual. To attempt to do so would entail a failure of the sociological imagination which seeks to reveal the degree to which private troubles are grounded in public issues (Mills, 1959). Human beings have always been reluctant to face and bear guilt. But economic and sociocultural forces create conditions that may either encourage or discourage conscience and responsibility. I have argued that from the very beginning psychoanalysis sought to cloak its intrinsic moral ethic beneath a positivist, de-moralising façade, but in recent decades the de-moralising trend intensified leading to neglect of the concepts of guilt and the superego, concepts through which psychoanalysis had earlier managed to address moral issues even while seeking to obscure the fact.

 

Chapter Nine: Psychopathy, Evil, and the Death Drive

ePub

CHAPTER NINE

Psychopathy, evil, and the death drive

In the late 1960s and ’70s a romantic sensibility emphasising the themes of instinctual liberation, de-repression, and the validation and indulgence of narcissistic needs was influential in popular culture and psychoanalysis alike. For the latter, this entailed a relative de-emphasis of its classical concern with themes of guilt and self-punishment—that is, with the dynamics of the superego—in favour of a preoccupation with promoting the patient's “transmuting internalisation” (Kohut, 1977) of the analyst's “empathic responsiveness” (Bacal & Newman, 1990) and related “relational” dynamics thought to contribute to the healing of psychological defects and deficits in the “self”. In Kohut's (1977) view, “Guilty Man” had been replaced in our culture by the “Tragic Man” who, far from suffering from a self riddled with conflict and guilt, was increasingly unsure of his or her possession of any viable sort of “self” at all. The flight from conscience and superego was to continue for several decades, despite attempts by Menninger (1973) and Rangell (1974, 1976), among others, to remind us that intrapsychic conflict often results in compromises between ego and superego as distinct from those between ego and id—that is, in corruption of conscience and character as distinct from neurosis (though we generally see complex combinations of these phenomena). Rather than comprehending the “fragmentation-prone self” of “Tragic Man” as in part at least an outcome of the fragmenting unconscious operations of a sadistic superego, such self-states were understood as resulting entirely from failures of provision of essential “holding” and “responsiveness” from the past and present “selfobject” milieu. Intraspsychic dynamics were, in other words, displaced by a focus upon intersubjective and interpersonal relations.

 

Chapter Ten: Resurrecting “Dead” Metaphors in Psychoanalysis and Religion

ePub

CHAPTER TEN

Resurrecting “dead” metaphors in psychoanalysis and religion

…not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

—II Corinthians 3:6 KJV

As early as 1895, in the Studies on Hysteria (Breuer & Freud, 1893–95), Josef Breuer expressed a prescient concern regarding a tendency towards the literalisation of metaphor in psychoanalytic theory. Influenced, no doubt, by the more general apprehension regarding the abuse of language shared by many leading Central European thinkers of that period (Steiner, 1969; Szasz, 1976), Breuer wrote:

It is only too easy to fall into a habit of thought which assumes that every substantive has a substance behind it—which gradually comes to regard “consciousness” as standing for some actual thing; and when we have become accustomed to make use metaphorically of spatial relations, as in the term “sub-consciousness”, we find as time goes on that we have actually formed an idea which has lost its metaphorical nature and which we can manipulate easily as though it was real. Our mythology is then complete. All our thinking tends to be accompanied and aided by spatial ideas, and we talk in spatial metaphors…. If, however, we constantly bear in mind that all such spatial relations are metaphorical…we may nevertheless speak of a consciousness and a subconsciousness. But only on this condition. (pp. 227–228)

 

Chapter Eleven: Dead end Kids: Projective Identification and Sacrifice in Orphans

ePub

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Dead end kids: projective identification and sacrifice in Orphans

Non vos relinquam orphanos, alleluia. Vado, et venio ad vos, alleluia. Et gaudebit cor vestrum, alleluia.

After decades of mutual ignorance and suspicion in more recent years an increasingly interesting and sophisticated dialogue between psychoanalysis and theology has been developing (Fromm, 1950; Homans, 1968, 1970; Jacobs & Capps, 1997; J. W. Jones, 1991; Küng, 1990; Lake, 1966; Leavy, 1988; Meissner, 1968, 1984; Ostow, 2007; Rizzuto, 1979; Spezzano & Gargiulo, 2003; Symington, 1994; Wyschogrod, Crownfield & Raschke, 1989). Since Lyle Kessler's (1987) play Orphans lends itself to both psychoanalytic and theological interpretation, the present essay is intended both as an exercise in applied psychoanalysis in the field of literary and cinematic studies and, at the same time, as a demonstration of the complementarity that may sometimes exist between hermeneutic perspectives often considered antithetical. The play opened in Los Angeles in 1983 and has subsequently been performed in Chicago, New York, and London. Kessler himself wrote the screenplay for the 1987 film version directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Albert Finney as Harold, Mathew Modine as Treat, and Kevin Anderson as Philip. Although faithful in most respects, the film differs from the play in a number of ways that provide significant evidence of authorial intention.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000021160
Isbn
9781781812716
File size
516 KB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata