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Chapter Seven - Regret, Nostalgia, and Masochism

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Salman Akhtar

Certain affects have the peculiar quality of linking the temporal characteristics of the system Cs and the system Ucs (Freud, 1915e). They pointedly exist in the present but are content-wise totally involved with the past. Remorse is one such emotion and regret the other. The former, though often conflated with guilt (Klein, 1935, 1940), has received considerable attention from psychoanalysts. The latter has not. The index to the Standard Edition of Freud's complete works contains no entry on “regret.” The five major dictionaries of psychoanalysis (Eidelberg, 1968; Laplanche & Pontalis, 1973; Moore & Fine, 1968, 1990; Rycroft, 1968) also do not mention “regret”. The PEP Web, the electronic compendium of psychoanalytic literature spanning 116 years and containing nearly 90,000 entries, lists one single paper (Kavaler-Adler, 2004) with the word “regret” in its title. It is therefore clear that despite its being ubiquitous and troubling, regret as an emotion has received almost no attention within our literature.

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4: The work of the negative and hallucinatory activity (negative hallucination)

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André Green

Any proposal to introduce yet another notion into psychoanalytic vocabulary is usually met with reserve. It is feared that such an addition would simply further encumber a theoretical machinery which one would prefer to lighten if anything. This is especially true when the notion proposed can neither claim to be a novelty nor to meet a lack, but seems rather to emerge from the depths of what one thought had been definitively forgotten—a sanction for its unjustified claim of usefulness.

The notion of negative hallucination which I shall examine in this chapter can be traced back to the heyday of hypnotism, before the birth of psychoanalysis even. Nowadays, perhaps, psychoanalysts are less familiar with it than the public who have come across it in books or films, even though the term itself may not be familiar to them. Its posterity was ensured by Maupassant’s Le Horla written in 1887, a work whose literary filiation goes back to Hoffmann, Gogol, and Dostoevsky. We also need to take into account the part played in its conception by the demonstrations of Charcot and Bernheim, great masters in hypnotism, which the author witnessed, as did Freud. Barely three years later, in 1890, Freud mentioned negative hallucination for the first time in an article entitled “Psychical (or Mental) Treatment” (1890a). The hypnotist’s order was sufficient to suppress the perception of an object which “tried to impose itself” on the hypnotized patient’s senses. This was just the first of quite a long series of examples taken from hysterics as well as normal people. Occasionally, Freud cites one of his own experiences, the phenomenon appearing independently of any context of suggestion and in a thoroughly spontaneous manner. What may be surprising is the link established unhesitatingly between hallucination and a phenomenon of negation—since what is involved is the denial of an object’s existence. From the first, it was accepted that it was not enough to compare the observation with normal perception as being a simple lack, but that it should be compared with hallucination as its counterpart. In positive hallucination (“perception without an object”) there is something in excess [l’en plus] which corresponds to what is lacking [l’en moins] in negative hallucination (“non-perception of an object”). One must also note in the initial descriptions the common reference to a force which weighs upon the hypnotic subject from without, having the power to make him see what is not there or coercing him into remaining insensible—in the etymological sense of the term—to what is there. Yet, as we have already seen, the phenomenon can appear without the intervention of this external force. This extraneous will may also be replaced by an internal force which the subject does not recognize as being part of himself. Nor does he realize that it acts against his own will or without his knowing it, but the motive is always the same: to act against what he seems to want consciously. Breuer, who was less scrupulous than Freud with regard to the terms he used, speaks in this connection of a “negative attitude” (Breuer, in Freud, 1895d, p. 26).1 When the force acts from inside the subject there are clues which enable one to infer its existence indirectly—for example, hysterical conversion, which shows that it derives from outside the psyche; obsessive representation, whose content does not appear to account for its obsidian tenacity, leading us to look for the displacement which it was subject to; and, finally, hallucination which designates quite clearly the projection of its offshoots recognized in Freud’s earliest writings. The discovery of this internal force soon makes it clear what it is that resists its manifestation—that is, repression, which now becomes the focus of attention. These first investigations relied on an active investigative method, whether hypnotic or not.

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9. A Hindu reading of Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Salman Akhtar Karnac Books ePub

Ashok Nagpal

Freud's celebrated if controversial work Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g) inaugurated a radical revision of his earlier theory of dualism between the pleasure principle and the reality principle. With the introduction of the death-instinct concept, Freud moved away from a theoretical position he had built up with painstaking care. That this was not a whimsical idea is evident in the consistency with which references to the death instinct appear in his post-1920 writings (Freud, 1923b, 1930a, 1940a [1938]). Beyond the Pleasure Principle also reveals a Freud who seems to muster every source at his command-clinical, biological, and philosophical-to persuade the reader of his new discovery.

In his work, Freud reassesses the pleasure principle and places it amidst a new matrix where unpleasure comes about not only through the reality principle but also in the very dynamics of the mental apparatus through its necessary conflicts and dissensions. In the early post-Freudian era, the fiercest battle was over the death instinct. Though Melanie Klein (1933, 1935) and her followers (Joseph, 1982-chapter 7, this volume; Segal, 1956, 1974; Spillius, 1988a, 1988b) championed it, others (Hartmann, 1939; Lear, 2005; Marcovitz, 1973; Waelder, 1956) constituting the majority opinion in psychoanalysis, saw the death instinct as a speculative philosophical effort by an aging Freud that was insufficiently rooted in clinical experience and bypassed the need for a psychoanalytic postulation on human aggression. Could it be said that Freud “jumped over” an obstacle here by letting his intellect over-think without the necessary engagement within a relational frame such as is availed of in clinical work? In other words, if Freud had had an analyst take care of the anxieties erupting in his life, would he still have propounded the death instinct?

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Chapter 6 - A Journey with Homo Aves through the Human Aviary

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                   In memoriam,

Theodore A Parker, 3rd (April 1, 1953–August 3, 1993),
           ornithologist extraordinaire:

“He knew birds better than any living person.” [John O'Neill, quoted in Sullivan, 1993].

Let us now suppose that in the mind of each man there is an aviary of all sorts of birds—some flocking together apart from the rest, others in small groups, others solitary, flying anywhere and everywhere…. We may suppose that the birds are kinds of knowledge, and that when we were children, this receptacle was empty…[Plato, Theaetetus, The Dialogues, quoted in Beck, 1968].

As we contemplate that sanderling [Calidris alba], there by the shining sea, one question leads inevitably to another, and all questions come full circle to the questioner, paused momentarily in his own journey under the sun and sky [Matthiessen, 1973].


Human proclivities toward our avian fellow-travelers are not unlike those we harbor toward other members of the animal kingdom: either we befriend, love, and care for them; fear, hate, and extirpate them; clothe or decorate ourselves with their vestiges; introduce them as characters in our fantasies, myths, stories, heavenly bodies, dreams, poems, music, artworks, and movies—not to say, to discover them lurking in our nightmares, phobias, delusions, and perverse imaginings.

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CHAPTER 7 Snakes and Us

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Snakes and Us


Throughout history, the relationship of man and snake has been complex and paradoxical. On the one hand, the snake has been emblematic of wisdom and empowerment, procreation and longevity, even the hope of rebirth and immortality. On the other hand, it has represented death and disease, sin, lecherous temptation, and cunning duplicity. Thus the golden, snake-intertwined heraldic staff of Hermes or Mercury constitutes the caduceus, signifying healing power and medical art in ancient Greek and

Roman mythology, whereas Medusa, the mortal daughter of the

Gorgons, in venerable legend dallied with Poseidon in Athena's temple whereupon the outraged goddess changed the offender's hair into serpents framing a viperous malevolent face so awful to behold that any viewer would tum to stone. As far back as the

Old Stone Age, man was already fascinated with the shape of the snake. Thus at the Dome of Serpents at Rouffignac in central

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