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9 Splitting of the ego and perversion

Thierry Bokanowski Karnac Books ePub


Louise Carignan

Freud's views on perversion evolved through successive stages. In the Three Essays (1905d) he conceived of perversion as the persistence in adult life of untamed components of childhood, or “pregenital” sexuality, at the expense of adult genital sexuality. Perversion was contrasted with neurosis, in which these pregenital or perverse impulses were censored. By the 1920s, however, he had modified his views, seeing perversions as regressive defensive formations in relation to the Oedipus complex (Freud, 1919e). Finally, in his late works on fetishism and the splitting of the ego in the process of defence (Freud, 1927e, 1940a [1938], 1940e [1938]), he described disavowal-a mechanism that allows the fetishist to maintain his belief that his mother has a penis and negate the perceptual reality, side by side with acknowledging the fact of sexual differences and drawing the correct conclusions from it. The disavowal of female castration protects the fetishist from the fear of losing his own penis. Rather than hallucinating the missing female penis as would a psychotic, he only transfers the importance or value of the penis onto another part of the female body or another object called a fetish, which then renders the woman tolerable as a sexual object. Freud noted that the “artful” way of dealing with reality at work in disavowal, where two contradictory attitudes coexist without influencing each other, was, however, achieved at the price of a rift in the ego, which persists or increases over time.

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CHAPTER FIVE. The sexual sphere and the work of the analysis

Thierry Bokanowski Karnac Books ePub

I The Devil religion

Freud freely admitted that, though he felt considerable admiration for the great Russian writer Fiodor Dostoevsky, he did not care much for his personality. In a letter to Theodor Reik dated 14 April 1929, Freud wrote:

You are right, too, in suspecting that, in spite of all my admiration for Dostoevsky’s intensity and pre-eminence, I do not really like him. That is because my patience with pathological natures is exhausted in analysis. In art and life I am intolerant of them. Those are character traits personal to me and not binding on others. [Reik, 1940, quoted in Freud, 1928b, p. 196]

In his paper on Dostoevsky and parricide, Freud (1928b) stresses the fact that Dostoevsky was “[a] neurotic, [a] moralist and [a] sinner” (ibid., p. 177). For Freud, these three epithets were enough to summarize the whole personality of the Russian writer; he used them to paint an extraordinary psychological portrait of Dostoevsky that brought together the latter’s epilepsy (with the hypothesis that it was hysterical in origin), his moral masochism, and his strong bisexual tendencies (latent homosexuality and the negative form of the Oedipus complex) in an attempt to explore and to analyse the theme of parricide:

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7 Splitting and trauma: their relationship with après-coup and historicization

Thierry Bokanowski Karnac Books ePub


Luis Kancyper

The concept of splitting of the ego is of great significance within psychoanalytic theory and leads to a profound restructuring of both metapsychology and clinical practice. Indeed, this concept has different meanings in the writings of Freud: at the beginning he uses it in a descriptive fashion and later, in his last essays, as a conceptual instrument.

Freud uses “splitting of the ego” as a descriptive term in particular in order to point to the fact that the psychic apparatus is divided into systems (unconscious, preconscious, and conscious systems) and psychic agencies (ego, id, and superego) and also to describe the case when one aspect of the ego observes while the other is observed.

In addition, Freud uses this term in order to point out the splitting between two different sexual currents in an individual's love life: the sensual current and the affectionate current. “The whole sphere of love in such people remains divided in the two directions personified in art as sacred and profane (or animal) love. Where they love they do not desire and where they desire they cannot love” (Freud, 1912d, p. 183).

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1 - Freud's Basic Assumptions on “Constructions”

Thierry Bokanowski Karnac Books ePub


Freud's basic assumptions on “constructions”

Mikael Sundén

Let me begin with the difficulty of commenting on one article by Freud, since his writings are all intertwined with each other. In that respect they are like any noun or concept in language: part of an ever-expanding web of meanings. Freud does not write systematically, with thought and structure coming first: he lets the writing be part of his thinking. That should allow us corresponding freedom as readers, both in trying to understand the text and also using the text in our own thinking/practice.

What sort of article is this? Is it really about psychoanalytic technique? Some editors of Freud's collected works have put it in the volume on technique. My view is that it is more about constructions in the grand psychoanalytic theories of culture and religion. I think especially of the murder of the primal father as it is told in Totem and Taboo (Freud, 1912–13) and of the description of Jewish religion, its origin and development under Moses, in Moses and Monotheism (Freud, 1939a [1937–39]).

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6 The “splitting/trauma” pairing: Ferenczi and the concept of trauma

Thierry Bokanowski Karnac Books ePub


Thierry Bokanowski

If, in the analytic situation, the patient feels hurt, disappointed or left in the lurch, he sometimes begins to play by himself like a lonely child. One definitely gets the impression that to be left deserted results in a split of personality. Part of the person adopts the role of father or mother in relation to the rest, thereby undoing, as it were, the fact of being left deserted. In this play …we get glimpses into the processes of what I have called the “narcissistic split of the self” in the mental sphere itself.

Ferenczi (1931), pp. 475-476

Sándor Ferenczi [1873-1933] contributed many ideas that have had a remarkable impact on the construction of the psychoanalytic corpus, none more so than those he put forward concerning his exploration of the metapsychology of trauma and went on to develop gradually between 1927 and 1933. These were not only ahead of their time; they remain, to this day, remarkably modern in outlook. The hypotheses he suggested-mainly concerning a re-formulation of the concept of traumatic seduction that had been a feature of Freud's work from the very outset-made it possible to specify both the clinical nature of trauma and its structural effects on the mind when splitting (and in particular what he calls in the above extract the “narcissistic splitting of the self”) becomes the principal means of defence.

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