Essay // Psychoanalysis: History, Foundations, Legacy, Impact & Evolution

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Photographie: Danny D’Purb © 2008

History and Background

In contemporary psychology, the psychoanalytic movement’s place is both unique and paradoxical. Focussing on the study of the mind as a “software” running on the brain as the “hardware”, psychoanalysis remains the only discipline that truly focuses on the mechanism and processes behind our thoughts. Unlike empirical behavioural science and other “cogno-sciences” that can be fairly barbaric and obstinate in the forced application of the rigid mathematical and reductionist systematic procedures embedded in the classic scientific method when dealing with an entity as complex and organic as the human mind; psychoanalysis has remained focussed in understanding human psychology by capturing it in all its details, depths, dimensions and linguistic aspects.

The scientific method although a proven mathematical approach to inquiries in the hard sciences [e.g. biology, medecine, physics, chemistry, astrophysics, material science, astronomy, etc], shows its limitations when used as a tool for psychological inquiry in the measurement of variables that are incredibly hard to measure such as emotions, values, motives, desires, libidinous intensity or dreams. It is also fair noting that humans are different from simple organisms, molecules or robots, hence psychoanalysis remains the only discipline focused on the mind [the software] assuming that most human beings have a physiologically healthy brain [the hardware].

However, modern sciences have discovered how abnormalities in the brain’s physiology due to birth defects or injury may result in behavioural problems linked to a deficient mind due to the defective brain [hardware] at its disposal. Hence, nowadays most good intellectuals in the field of psychoanalysis would likely be a better psychologist with an in-depth knowledge of the physiology of the brain, i.e. the major areas affecting core functions such as speech [Wernicke and Broca’s], vision [the occipital lobe], and motor abilities [parietal lobe], etc.

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This is because some psychological problems may on rare occasion be caused by brain injuries or physiological abnormality due to virus, trauma, stroke or injury. In those cases where such a scenario materialises, the psychotherapist may refer the patient to a neurosurgeon who may be more appropriate to inspect the extent of the problems on the defective brain [hardware] which may lead to a clearer perspective of the limitations being imposed on the mind of the affected individual and how it impacts processes such as the conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious [based on Sigmund Freud’s 1st ground breaking theory of mental life, the Topographic Model, which was also adopted by Jacques Lacan who argued convincingly that post-Freudian psychoanalysts had swayed too far from the fundamental concepts and turned psychoanalysis into a confusing genre].

However, as we are in the developmental stages of conception of the organic theory, a theory that takes the focus on the individual organism’s creative ability to another level, we are going to remain focussed on the mind. The organic theory was inspired by the brain’s magnificent ability to learn any age, and thus give the individual human organism the ability and freedom to define, create, redefine, recreate and shape itself based on its inherited and acquired abilities, desires and personal constructionist developments throughout its life – yes, the individual does have choices and these impact the person’s internal working model of mental life and the person as a whole along with his or her environment.

While psychoanalysis remains one of the most widely known schools of psychology it is perhaps not universally understood. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud is perhaps one of the most famous psychologist of the last century even if his chosen discipline, psychoanalysis, has little in common with the other schools of thought and psychology.

Psychoanalysis views the mind as an active, dynamic and self-generating entity, and this is in the German tradition of mental life [it was also a founding assumption for Jean Piaget as he developed his Theory of Cognitive Development in Children]. Freud saw psychoanalysis as a revolution of the mind that had to disturb the consciousness of the world, and viewed the unconscious as a reservoir of impulsive force repressed in the biological depths of the soul.

Exploding Raphaelesque Head - Salvador Dali (1951) dpurb d'purb website

« Tête Raphaélesque Éclatée » par Salvador Dali (1951)

It is also important to note that Freud was trained in hard sciences, yet his system shows little appreciation for systematic and reductionist empiricism. As a physician, Freud used his observational skills to build his system within a medical framework, basing his theory on individual case studies. He did not depart from his understanding of 19th-century science in the effort to organise his observations, neither did he attempt to test his hypotheses rigorously through independent verification. As he testified, he was psychoanalysis and did not tolerate dissension from his orthodox views. Nevertheless, Freud had a tremendous impact on 20th century psychology, perhaps more importantly, the influence of psychoanalysis on Western thought, as reflected in literature, philosophy and art, significantly exceeds the impact of any other system and school of psychology.

The Active Mind

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Photographie: Danny D’Purb © 2012

Going back to the philosophical foundations of modern psychology in Germany during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, we found that the tradition of Leibniz and Kant clearly emphasised mental activity. This is in contrast to British empiricism, which assumed the mind to be a passive entity [such as a sponge that simply soaks in what is thrown at it]. The German tradition held the most logical and creative assumption that the mind itself generates and structures human experience in characteristic ways [being « active »]. Whether through Leibniz’s monadology or Kant’s categories, the psychology of the individual could be understood only by examining the dynamic, inherent activity of the mind.

Throughout the years, as psychology evolved into an independent discipline in the latter part of the 19th century under Wundt’s tutelage, the British model of mental passivity served as a guiding philosophy. Clearly, Wundt’s empiricistic formulation was at odds with German philosophical precedents, recognised by both Stumpf and Brentano. Act psychology and the psychology of non-sensory consciousness represented by the Würzburg School were closer to the German philosophical assumptions of mental activity than to Wundt’s structural psychology. The Gestalt movement encompassed these alternatives to Wundt’s psychology in Germany. Eventually, as the rational outcome guided intellectuals, Wundt’s system was replaced by Gestalt psychology, turning into the dominant psychology in Germany prior to World War II – one based on a model of the mind that admitted inherent organisational activity.

The assumptions underlying mental activity in Gestalt psychology were highly qualified, where construct for mind involves the organisation of perception, based on the principle of isomorphism, which resulted in a predisposition toward patterns of personal-environmental interactions. The focus on organisation meant that the way of mental processes, not their content, was inherently structured. In other words, individuals were not born with specific ideas, energies, or other content in the mind; rather, the organisational structure was inherited to acquire mental contents in characteristic ways. Accordingly, the Gestalt movement, while rightly rejecting the rigidity of Wundt’s empiricistic assumptions and concepts, did not reject empiricism completely [as a technique to study some basic and easily defined variables (such as traits) and their relation(s) to others]. Instead, the Gestaltists advocated a compromise between the empiricist basis of British philosophy and the German model of activity. Consequently, this opened psychological investigation to the study of complex problem-solving and perceptual processes.

Consistent with the Gestalt foundations, psychoanalysis was firmly grounded in an active model of mental processes, however it shared little of the Gestalt commitment to empiricism. Freud’s views on personality were consistent not only with the activities of mental processing suggested by Leibniz and Kant, but also with the 19th century belief in conscious and unconscious levels of mental activity. In acknowledging the teachings of such philosophers as Von Hartman and Schopenhauer [Read the Essay on our Review of « Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung »(The World as Will and Idea), Freud developed motivational principles that depended on energy forces beyond the level of self-awareness.

Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860)

Moreover, for Freud, the development of personality was determined by individual, unconscious adaptation to these forces. The details of personality development as formulated by Freud are outlined below; however, is also important to recognise the fundamental basis of Freud’s thinking. Psychoanalysis is based on the implication of mental activity further than any other system of psychology. As a major representative of a reliance on mental activity to account for personality, psychoanalysis is set apart from other movements in contemporary psychology. In addition, psychoanalysis unlike the other branches of psychology, did not emerge from reductionist empirical research that stubbornly tries to apply mechanical scientific methodology to measure complex non-physical abilities; rather it was the product of the applied consequences of clinical practice [i.e. it was a force that was born on the field to treat mental problems as they surfaced throughout human history].

The Treatment of Mental Illness

Besides being the founder of the psychoanalytic movement in modern psychology, Freud is also remembered for his efforts in pioneering the upgrade in the treatment of mental and behavioural abnormalities, and was instrumental in psychiatry’s recognition as a branch of medicine that specifically deals with psychopathology. Before Freud’s works in attempting to devise effective methods of treating the mentally ill, individuals who deviated from socially acceptable norms were usually treated as if they were criminals or demonically possessed. Although shocking controversies in the contemporary treatment of mental deviancy appear occasionally, not too long ago such abuses were often the rule rather than the exception.

The treatment of mental illnesses was never a pleasant chapter in Western civilisation and it has been pointed out many times that abnormal behaviour is often mixed up with criminal behaviour as with heresy and treason. Even during the period of enlightenment during the European Renaissance, the cruelties and tortures of the inquisition were readily adapted to treat what we nowadays qualify as mental illness. Witchcraft continued to offer a reasonable explanation to such eccentric behaviour until recent times. Prisons were established to house criminals, paupers, and the insane without any differentiation. Mental illness was viewed as governed by evil or obscure forces, and the mentally ill were looked upon as crazed by such weird influences such as moon rays. Lunatics or “moonstruck” persons, were appropriately kept in lunatic asylums. As recently as the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the institution of for the insane in Utica, New York, which was progressive by the standards of the time, was called the Utica Lunatic Asylum. The name reflected the prevailing attitude toward mental illness.

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« Dr. Philippe Pinel at the Salpêtrière », 1795 by Tony Robert-Fleury. Pinel ordering the removal of chains from patients at the Paris Asylum for insane women

Reforms in the treatment of the institutionalised insane were slowly introduced during the 19th century. In 1794, Philippe Pinel (1745 – 1826) was appointed the chief of hospitals for the insane in Paris, and managed to improve both the attitude toward and the treatment of the institutionalised insane. In the United States, Dorothea Dix (1802 – 1887) accomplished the most noticeable reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill. Beginning in 1841, Dix led a campaign to improve the condition of indigent, mentally ill persons kept in jails and in poorhouses. However, these reforms succeeded in improving only the physical surroundings and maintenance conditions of the mentally ill; legitimate treatment was minimal. [Even today, in 2019, the US seems to have more people with eccentric behaviours and with questionable mental stability, for example, Donald Trump, who has been singled out as being mentally ill by more than one. See: (1) The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, (2) Trump Is ‘Mentally Ill’ Says Former Vermont Governor and Doctor Howard Dean, (3) American psycho? Donald Trump’s mental health is still a question, (4) Psychiatrist: Trump Mental Health Urgently Deteriorating & (5) Stanford’s Zimbardo asks: Is President Trump mentally ill?

Confidence in US

Around the world, favorability of the U.S. and confidence in its president decline / Source: Pew Research Center

The US has more women in prison than China, India & Russia combined

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, nearly a third of all female prisoners worldwide are incarcerated in the United States of America. There are 201,200 women in US prisons, representing 8.8 percent of the total American prison population. / Source: Forbes

Most people in prison

Highest to Lowest – Prison Population Total / Source: World Prison Brief

Efforts to develop comprehensive treatments were plagued by various quacks, such as the pseudoscience developed by Mesmer that dealt with the “animal spirit” underlying mental illnesses [although it may be true today if expressed as a metaphorical description to some of the behavioural manifestations of some mental disorders in some individuals].

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« White Dogs and Tootsie Pops » by Marie Hughes

Similarly, the phrenology of Gall and Spurzheim advocated a physical explanation based on skull contours and localisation of brain functions – which was of course also wrong.

Gradually however, attempts were made to develop legitimate and effective techniques to treat emotional and behavioural abnormalities. One of the more productive investigations involved hypnotism and was pioneered by a French physician, Jean Martin Charcot (1825 – 1893). Charcot gained widespread fame in Europe, and the young Freud amazed by his abilities, studied under him, as did many other talented physicians and physiologists. He treated hysterical patients with symptoms ranging from hyper-emotionality to physical conversions of underlying emotional problems that the patient could not confront when conscious.

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Une leçon clinique à la Salpêtrière (1887) » with Jean Martin Charcot in Front (A Clinical Lesson at the Salpêtrière) par André Brouillet à l’Université Paris Descartes

Another French physician in Nancy, namely Hippolyte Bernheim (1837 – 1919), developed a sophisticated analysis of hypnosis as a form of treatment, using underlying suggestibility to alter the intentions of the patient. Finally, Pierre Janet (1859 – 1947), a student of Charcot, used hypnotism to resolve the forces of emotional conflict, which he believed were basic to hysterical symptoms. However, it was Sigmund Freud who went beyond the techniques of hypnotism to develop a comprehensive theory of psychopathology from which systematic treatments evolved. Later, Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981) would pulverise the tradition inherited from hospital medecine which consisted of displaying  a patient before an audience of practitioners or students and asking questions whose deeper meaning was supposed to escape the patient. The actors in this ceremonial, the patients, trained by years of confinement, actually produced all the symptoms that the masters of the asylum expected of them. Lacan shattered this clinic with his gaze in order to give a voice to the mentally ill. Jean-Bertrand Pontalis said: « Lacan était extraordinairement courtois avec ses malades, les traitant pas du tout comme des patients d’asile – c’est la moindre des choses, mais ce n’est pas toujours le cas – comme des êtres humains et les amenaient peu à peu, créant une atmosphère de confiance, à les laisser parler très très librement. Pour l’anecdote, c’est assez savoureux, je me souviens qu’une fois il y avait une femme qui était paranoïaque qui se plaignait qu’on l’a suivi partout, « On me suit, on me suit, on me suit, on me suit partout… », Lacan à la fin lui dit, « Ne vous inquiéter pas chère madame, je vais trouver quelqu’un pour vous suivre » entendant par la, un médecin qui pourra lui traiter. Comme si lui-même, dans ces années-là était en train d’inventer et de s’inventer. Nous participions en accord avec lui en résonance avec lui à un mouvement inventif. » [French for: « Lacan was extraordinarily courteous with his patients, treating them not at all like asylum patients – to say the least but this is not always the case – like human beings and gradually, creating an atmosphere of trust, he led them to let them speak very, very freely. For the anecdote, it’s quite tasty, I remember that once there was a woman who was paranoid complaining that she was followed everywhere, « They follow me, they follow me, they follow me, they follow me everywhere… », Lacan at the end said to her, « Don’t worry dear lady, I’ll find someone to follow you » hearing by this, a doctor who will be able to treat her. As if he himself, in those years, was in the process of inventing and inventing himself. In agreement with him, we were participating in an inventive movement in resonance with him. »]

A Biography of Sigmund Freud

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Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) / Image: Freud Museum London

Since psychoanalysis as we know it today is hugely influenced by the foundations laid by Sigmund Freud, it is worthwhile to have an understanding about the major points in his life. Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) was born on the 6th of May 1856 in Freiberg, Moravia, at that time a norther province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today a part of the Czech Republic.

Freud was the eldest of 8 children, and his father was a relatively poor and not very successful wool merchant. When his business failed, Freud’s father moved with his wife and children [as many jews are accustomed to migrating to better places in the quest for a better life and income] first to Leipzig and then to Vienna when Freud was 4 years old. The young Freud remained in Vienna for most of the rest of his life, and his precocious genius was recognised by his family, and he was allowed many concessions and favours not permitted to his siblings. For example, young Freud was provided with better lighting to read in the evening, and when he was studying, noise in the house was kept to a minimum so he would not be disturbed.

Freud’s interest were varied and intense, and he showed an early inclination and aptitude for various intellectual pursuits. Unfortunately, Freud was a victim of the 19th century Jew-dislike which was obvious and severe in central and Eastern Europe after the numerous accounts of Jews being banished from places all over Europe due to their occult and violent religious practices on Christian infants [e.g. human sacrifices] along with their known habits in monopolising the majority of the press businesses to then distort news and heritage to their agendas and economic advantage.

However, although Freud was an atheist and more scientifically minded, his Jewish birth precluded certain career opportunities, most notably an academic career in university research. Indeed, medicine and law were the only professions open to Vienna Jews.

Freud’s early reading of Charles Darwin intrigued and impressed him to the point that a career in science was most appealing. The closest path that he could follow for training as a researcher was an education in medicine. Hence, Freud entered the university of Vienna in 1873 at the age of 17. However, because of his interests in a variety of fields and specific research projects, it took him 8 years to complete the medical coursework that normally required 6 years.

Eel

In 1881, he received his doctorate in medicine. While at university, Freud was part of an investigation of the precise structure of the testes of eels, which involved his dissecting over 400 eels. Later, he moved on to physiology and neuroanatomy and conducted experiments examining the spinal cord of fish. While at Vienna, Freud also took courses with Franz Brentano, which formed his only formal introduction to 19th century psychology.

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After waiting for Freud for about 4 years, his fiancée, Martha Bernays, a jewish girl from a business family and the grand-daughter of a famous Rabbi in Hamburg, married him. While she did not show great interest in Freud’s intellectual pursuits, her younger sister Minna became a very close intellectual partner of Freud. Carl Jung one of Freud’s intellectual ally who would become one of his firmest critic would even later say that he learned from Minna that Freud was in love with her and their relationship was very “intimate” – although we have no factual confirmation of such. She was so close to the young couple, that she moved in with them in the 1890s to set up was has been “jokingly” called a “ménage a trois”. As for Martha, she was also a charmer, intelligent, well-educated and fond of reading who as a married woman ran her household efficiently and was almost obsessive about punctuality and dirt. Firm but loving with her children, French analyst René Laforgue said that she spread an atmosphere of peaceful joie de vivre through the household. Shortly after Freud’s wedding, he recognised that a scientific career would not provide adequate income, since anti-Jewish sentiments were strong around Europe and this worked against Jewish advancement in academia even if Freud himself was not a practising Jew or had any religious sentiments. So Freud reluctantly decided to begin a private practice. Although the young couple were very poor in the early years of their marriage, Freud was able to support his wife and his growing family, which eventually included 6 children. The early years in private practice were very difficult, requiring long hours for a meagre financial reward that basically did not challenge him. Freud was also an atheist and did not want psychoanalysis to be seen as a purely Jewish endeavour, and his close network although were mainly Jewish later slowly grew to incorporate European intellectuals where some of the most significant would disagree with some of his assumptions and leave his circle after keeping only a few of his fundamental concepts about the theory of mental life.

During his hospital training, Freud had worked with patients with anatomical and organic problems of the nervous system. Shortly after starting private practice, he became friendly with Josef Breuer (1842 – 1925), a general practitioner who had acquired some local fame for his respiration studies. This friendship provided needed stimulation for Freud, and they began to collaborate on several patients with nervous disorders, most notably the famous case of Anna O., an intelligent young woman with severe, diffuse hysterical symptoms. In using hypnosis to treat Anna O., Breuer noticed that some specific experiences emerged under hypnosis that the patient could not recall while conscious. Her symptoms seemed to be relieved after talking about these experiences under hypnosis. Breuer treated Anna O. daily for over a year, and became convinced that the “talking cure”, or “catharsis”, involving discussion of unpleasant and repulsive memories revealed under hypnosis, was an effective method in alleviating her symptoms. Unfortunately, Breuer’s wife became jealous of the relationship; that would later be called positive transference of emotional feelings to the therapist”. This would later be explained as patients falling in love with the new object [in this case, the psychoanalyst] at which they redirect feelings and desires retained in childhood at characteristic stages of therapy. This looked suspicious to Breuer’s wife. As a result, Breuer terminated his treatment of Anna O. Freud was also very professional with his clients and never had any mistresses or took advantage of his female patients. In opposition to positive transference, the psychoanalyst may also face negative transference in treatment with patients, which refers to aggressive affects, definitions that would also be taken by Lacan who criticised Ego-psychology for defining transference simply in terms of a range of affects. Lacan explained that transference does not refer to any mysterious property of affect in patients, and even when it reveals itself under the appearance of emotion, it only acquires meaning by the virtue of that very precise dialectical moment in which it is produced; that is to say that transference with patients often manifests itself in the form of strong affects, such as love and hate, but it does not consist of such emotions, it is part of the structure of the intersubjective relationship of patients in praxis with the psychoanalyst at that very moment. Lacan saw the Symbolic aspect of transference, which is repetition, as a feature that helped the treatment of patients since it reveals the meaningful signifiers of the personal history of Subjects, while the Imaginary aspect (love and hate) during treatment acts as resistance to psychoanalytic praxis.

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Jean-Martin Charcot (1825 – 1893) / Charcot first began studying hysteria after creating a special ward for non-insane females with « hystero-epilepsy ». He discovered two distinct forms of hysteria among these women: minor hysteria and major hysteria. His interest in hysteria and hypnotism « developed at a time when the general public was fascinated in ‘animal magnetism’ and ‘mesmerization' », which was later revealed to be a method of inducing hypnosis.
Charcot argued vehemently against the widespread medical and popular prejudice that hysteria was rarely found in men, presenting several cases of traumatic male hysteria. He taught that due to this prejudice these « cases often went unrecognised, even by distinguished doctors » and could occur in such models of masculinity as railway engineers or soldiers. Charcot’s analysis, in particular his view of hysteria as an organic condition which could be caused by trauma, paved the way for understanding neurological symptoms arising from industrial-accident or war-related traumas.

In 1885, Freud received a modest grant that allowed him to go to Paris to study with Jean-Martin Charcot for 4 and half months. During that time he not only observed Charcot’s method of hypnosis [which he never managed to master as Charcot did] but also attended his lectures, learning about the master’s views on the importance of unresolved sexual problems in the underlying causality of hysteria. When Freud returned to Vienna, he gave a report of his work with Charcot to the medical society, but its cold reception left him with resentment that affected his future interactions with the entrenched medical establishment and its rigid and reductionist methods at understanding and solving the problems of the mind.

Freud continued his work with Breuer on hypnosis and catharsis, but gradually abandoned the former in favour of the latter, being not very gifted with hypnotic techniques, but also for 3 major reasons regarding its effectiveness as a treatment with general applicability. First, not everyone can be hypnotised; hence its usefulness is limited to a select group. Second, some patients refuse to believe what they revealed under hypnosis, prompting Freud to conclude that the patient must be aware during the step-by-step process of discovering memories hidden from their accessible consciousness. Third, when one set of symptoms were alleviated under hypnotic suggestibility, new symptoms often emerged. Freud and Breuer were moving in separate directions, and Freud’s increasing emphasis on the primacy of sexuality as the key to psychoneurosis contributed to their break. Nevertheless, in 1895 they published Studies on Hysteria, often cited as the first work of the psychoanalytic movement, although it sold only 626 copies during the following 13 years – perhaps due to the lack of sophistication and interest in the workings of the mind at that particular point in history, or the level of the academic discussions that may not have been adequate for the intellect of the average mind at the time.

Freud’s preferred method of treatment, catharsis, involves engaging with patients and encouraging them to speak of anything that comes [occupies] their mind, regardless of how discomforting or embarrassing it might be. This “free association” took place in a relaxed atmosphere, usually on the classic psychologist couch in a reclined position to promote comfort. The main reason behind the logic of catharsis and free association is that – like hypnosis – it would allow hidden thoughts and memories to manifest in consciousness. However, in contrast, to the method of hypnosis, the patient would be aware of these emerging recollections. Another ongoing process during free association is “transference”, which involves emotionally laden experiences that allow the patient to relieve earlier, repressed episodes. Since the psychoanalyst is often part of the transference process [as mentioned earlier where the repressed emotions are often redirected onto] and is often the object of his patients’ emotions, Freud recognised transference as a powerful tool to assist patients in resolving sources of anxiety. Lacan proposed that it is important to also understand that although the existence of transference plays an important part for psychoanalytic treatment, it is not enough by itself, it is also necessary for the psychoanalyst to deal with the transference in a unique way, this is what differentiates true psychoanalysis from suggestion because the psychoanalyst refuses to use the power given to him by the transference. Lacan believed like any other interpretation, the analyst must use all his « art » in deciding if and when to interpret the transference and must above all avoid gearing his interpretations exclusively to interpreting the transference; the analyst must know exactly what he wants to achieve by such an interpretation and it should not rectify his patients’ relationship to the vague concept of « reality », but instead maintain analytic dialogue. Transference is the displacement of affect from one idea to another and Freud viewed it as a positive factor that helps the progression of treatment since it provides a way for patients’ history to be faced in the immediacy of the present relationship with the analyst; the way patients relate to the analyst is revealing as they inevitably repeat earlier relationships with other meaningful others [especially those with the parents or parental figures] – this logic is underlined in the theory of attachment of John Bowlby. Jacques Lacan later remarked that if transference with most patients often manifests itself under the appearance of love, it is first and foremost the love of knowledge (savoir) that is concerned. Transference is the attribution of knowledge to the Other, the assumption that the Other is a Subject who « knows » [Le Sujet supposé savoir], and as soon as that « knowing » Subject appears, we have transference. Lacan used Plato’s symposium to illustrate the relationship between analysands (i.e. patients) and the analyst; Alcibiades compared Socrates to a plain box which enclosed a precious object, just as Alcibiades attributes a hidden treasure to Socrates so patients see the object of their desire in the analyst (i.e. « objet petit a » in Lacanian terms). The psychoanalyst must sometimes situate himself/herself as the substitute for objet petit a in the course of psychoanalytic praxis. Lacan also identifies the compulsion to repeat with the symbolic nature of transference, the symbolic determinants of all Subjects, and this helps the progression of treatment by revealing the meaningful signifiers of Subjects’ personal history; he also locates the essence of transference in the Symbolic and not in the Imaginary, although it clearly has powerful imaginary effects.

In 1897, Freud began a self-analysis of his dreams, which evolved into another technique important to the psychoanalytic movement. In the analysis of dreams, Freud distinguish between the manifest content [the actual depiction of the dreams] and the latent content, which represented the symbolic world of the patient. In 1900, he published his major work, The Interpretation of Dreams. Although it sold only 600 copies in eight years, it later went through eight editions in his lifetime. In 1901, he published The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, the book in which his theory began to take shape. Freud argued that the psychology of all people, not only those with neurotic symptoms, could be understood in terms of the unconscious forces in need of resolution.

When his reputation as a pioneer in psychiatry started to grow due to his prolific writings, Freud attracted admiring followers, among them was the notable Carl Jung. In 1909, G. Stanley Hall, president of Clark University, invited him to the United States to give a lecture series as part of that institution’s 20th anniversary. The lectures were published in the American Journal of Psychology and later in book form, serving as an appropriate introduction to psychoanalytic thought for American audiences.

As psychoanalysis was perceived as radical by the medical establishment, early believers form their own associations and found the journals to disseminate their competing views. However, Freud’s demand for strict loyalty to his interpretation of psychoanalysis led to some discord within the movement [perhaps for the betterment of the field itself as many branches kept the fundamental concept of unconscious (Id), pre-conscious (SuperEgo), and conscious (Ego) but fused other theoretical and scientific perspectives to explain and treat a range of mental illnesses]. Carl Jung broke away in 1914, so that by the following year, three rival groups existed within the psychoanalysic movement. Nevertheless, Freud’s views continued to evolve. Impressed by the devastation and tragedy of World War I, Freud came to view aggression, along with sexuality, as a primal instinctual motivation. During the 1920s Freud expanded psychoanalysis from a method of treatment for mentally ill or emotionally disturbed persons to a systematic framework for all human motivation and personality.

In 1923, Freud developed cancer of the jaw and experienced almost constant pain for the remaining 16 years of his life. He underwent 33 operations and had to wear a prosthetic device. Throughout this ordeal however, he continued to write and see patients, although he shunned public appearances. With the rise of Hitler and the anti-Jewish sentiments that arose with his campaigns with the National Socialists, Freud’s works were unfortunately singled out as they were not seen as a scientific endeavour but rather as a Jewish science, and his books were burned throughout Germany. However, Freud resisted fleeing from Vienna. When Germany and Austria were politically united in 1938, the Gestapo began harassing Freud and his family. President Roosevelt indirectly relayed to the German government that Freud is an intellectual who must be protected. Nevertheless, in March 1938 some thugs invaded Freud’s home. Finally, through the efforts of friends, Freud was granted special permission, but only after promising to send for his unsold books in Swiss storage so that they could be destroyed. After he signed a statement saying that he had received good treatment from the police, the German government allowed him to leave for England, where he died shortly after, on September 23, 1939.

An overview of the Psychoanalytic System based on Freud’s Research

Before our in-depth examination of psychoanalytic theory, it is important to recognise that the theory has an unusually broad focus. Psychoanalysis contains a theory of personality, but it also offers theoretical tools for understanding culture, society, art and literature. It is also a clinical theory that aspires to explain the nature and origins of mental disorders, and that is associated with an approach to their treatment. To give some more sense to Freud’s breadth, consider that he wrote on topics as diverse as the meaning of dreams and jokes, the origins of religion, Shakespeare’s plays, the psychology of groups, homosexuality, the causes of phobias and obsessions, and much more besides. Even as a theory of personality, psychoanalysis is primarily an account of the processes and mechanisms of the mind, rather than an account of individual differences.

In addition to its breadth of focus, the psychoanalytic theory has many distinct components that have also been modified and explored by a range of skilled psychoanalysts, making it hard to integrate into a single unitary model of the mind since they are inter-connected in complex ways.

Freud’s views evolved continually throughout his long career in the collective result of his extensive writings as an elaborate system of personality development. Personality was described in terms of an energy system that seeks an equilibrium of forces. This homeostatic model of human personality was determined by the constant attempt to identify appropriate ways to discharge instinctual energies, which originate in the depths of the unconscious. The structure of personality, according to the psychoanalytic model consists of a dynamic interchange of activities energised by forces that are present in the person at birth. This homeostatic model was consistent with the prevailing views of 19th-century science, which saw the mechanical relations of physical events studied by physics as the term of scientific inquiry. Freud’s model for psychoanalysis translated physical stimuli to psychic energies or forces and retained an essentially mechanical description of how such forces interact.

As the writings on the dpurb.com website are the foundations for the Organic Theory of Psychological Construction, we are going to be focused not on the later structural model which repositioned the Unconscious, Conscious and Pre-Conscious across the Id, Ego and SuperEgo, but with the first topographic model (1900 – 1905) adopted by both Carl Jung and Jacques Lacan. This model, has been more influential and is more flexible in accommodating competing view points about the structure of mental life across individuals.

The topographic model refers to the levels or layers of mental life. Freud proposed that mental content – ideas, wishes, emotions, impulses, memories, and so on – can be located at one of the three levels: the Conscious (later known as the Ego), the Preconscious (SuperEgo) and the Unconscious (Id), . It is important however, to understand that Freud use these terms to describe degrees of awareness and unawareness, but also to refer to distinct mental systems with their own distinct laws of operation. Unconscious cognition is categorically different from Conscious cognition, in addition to operating on mental content that exists beneath awareness. To convey this point, the three levels of the topographic model was referred to as the ‘systems’ Cs., Pcs., and Ucs.

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The Topographic Model


The Conscious (which would later be known as Ego with a partial unconscious side, and also “Le Moi” in Lacanian Theory)

Consciousness is merely the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ of mental activity. The contents of the Conscious are simply the small fraction of things that the person is currently paying attention to: objects perceived, events recalled, the stream of thought that we engage in as a running commentary on everyday life. [This is the main focus of most other branches of Psychology such as Biological Psychology and Cognitive Psychology]

The Preconscious (which would later be known as the Super-Ego, le « Grand Autre » in Lacanian Theory)

Of course, not all of all mental life happens under the spotlight of awareness and attention. There are many things to which we could readily pay attention to but do not, such as ideas or plans we have set aside or memories of what we were doing last week or yesterday. Without any great effort these things or events, which in the present are out of consciousness, can be made conscious. Those form the domain of the Preconscious.

The boundary between the Conscious (Ego) and the Preconscious (Super-Ego) is a permeable one. Thoughts, memories and perceptions can cross without great difficulty according to the momentary needs and intentions of the individual. They also share a common mode of cognition, which in psychoanalysis is known as the ‘secondary process’. Secondary process cognition is the sort of everyday, more or less rational thinking than generally obeys the laws of logic.

The Unconscious (which would later be known as the Id, L’inconscient or the « Ça » in Lacanian Theory)

The Unconscious (Id) is perhaps one of the most celebrated theoretical concepts in psychoanalysis’ legacy. However, Freud did not invent or discover the unconscious as is sometimes claimed – versions of the unconscious had been floating around intellectual circles for some time – but Freud gave it a much deeper theoretical analysis than anyone before him. Freud distinguished between mental contents and processes that are descriptively unconscious and those that are dynamically unconscious. The descriptively unconscious simply exists outside consciousness as a matter of fact, and therefore include Preconscious material that can become conscious if it is attended to. Freud’s crucial contribution was to argue that some thoughts, memories, wishes and mental processes are not only descriptively unconscious, but also cannot be made conscious because of a countervailing force keeps them out of awareness. In short, mental life that is dynamically unconscious is a subset of what is descriptively unconscious, one whose entry to consciousness is actively thwarted. The Freudian unconscious corresponds to the dynamic unconscious in this sense.

Freud held that the Unconscious contains a large but unacknowledged proportion of mental life that operates according to its own psychological laws. The barrier between the Unconscious (Id) and the Preconscious (SuperEgo) is much more fortified and difficult to penetrate than the border between the Preconscious (Super-Ego) and Conscious (Ego). In addition, it is policed by a mental function that Freud likened to a “censor”. The censor’s role is to determine whether the contents of the Unconscious would be threatening / objectionable or socially unacceptable to the person if they became conscious. If the censor judges them to be dangerous in this type, the person will experience anxiety without knowing what caused it. In this case, these thoughts become wishes and so on, and will be normally be repelled back into the Unconscious, in a process referred to asRepression” [it is fundamental and very important to understand that Repression is something else than a conscious judgement which rejects and chooses]. Unconscious material, by Freud’s account, has an intrinsic force propelling it to become conscious. Consequently, repression required an active opposing force to resist it, just as effort is required to prevent a surf board made of white foam to rise to the surface when it is submerged in the ocean. Under the constant pressure of Unconscious material bubbling towards the Preconscious, the censor cannot possibly bar entry to everything. Instead, it allows some Unconscious material to cross over the barrier after it has been transformed or disguised in some way so as to be less objectionable and more socially acceptable. This crossing might take the form of a relatively harmless impulsive behaviour, or in the form of private fantasy, the telling of a joke, or in a slip of the tongue, where the person says something ‘unintentionally’ that reveals to the trained eye and mind the repressed concerns and wishes [such as that of a psychoanalyst – as Jacques Lacan proposed: repression can take the form of a metaphor and the skilled psychoanalyst must be able to decipher a chain of clues with a great deal of verbal dexterity where crossword puzzles may help in training. Lacan also viewed the Grand Autre (Preconscious/Superego) as the discourse of the Unconscious]. Psychoanalysis focuses on how phenomena such as these can be interpreted, the process that involves uncovering the unconscious material that is concealed within their “disguises” [i.e. forms].

To Freud, dreams represent a particularly good example of the disguised expression of the Unconscious wishes. They offered, he wrote, “the royal road to the Unconscious”. One reason for this is that during sleep, the sensor relaxes and allows more repressed Unconscious material to cross the barrier. This material, transformed into a less threatening form by a process referred to as the “dream-work, then takes the shape of a train of images in the peculiar form of consciousness that we call dreaming. It is believed, that each dream has a “latent content” of Unconscious wishes that is transformed into the “manifest content” (or dream narrative) of the experienced dream. In psychoanalytic praxis with patients, the interpretations of dreams takes the same road, but in reverse, in order to decode the transformations rendered by the dream work so as to bring out the latent content based on the manifest content. Freud described the « latent contents » as made up of « latent thoughts« , a term that was always used in the plural form and never precisely described, but the context of its usage seems to suggest that it connoted representations, affects, wishes and conflictual patterns that are all profoundly marked by infantilism and fantasy [e.g. having super powers and flying while dressed in a nylon costume]. Latent thoughts also contain whatever supplies the dream’s « raw material »: the days residues, somatic sensations, and excitations that directly impact instinctual impulses. The transformation carried out by the dream work has to allow the Unconscious wishes during the wake state to be fulfilled during the dream while concealing the elements of threat they contain. If the latent content is not concealed sufficiently through the “dream-work” process, the sleeper will register the threat and be awoken [sometimes in shock and sweat], and to avoid this shock the dream-work may alter the identities of the people represented in a wish, for example, if an individual has an Unconscious wish to harm a loved one, the dream work might produce a dream in which the individual instead harms someone else or in which the loved one is harmed by another person, neutralised in this way, the unconscious wishes find conscious expression in the dream. Freud explained that « latent thoughts » were generally preconscious; they are used by the dream work because they are a relay point and medium for unconscious cathexes [i.e. objects (or ideas) that have a quantity of psychical energy attached to them; to say that an object or idea is « libidinally » cathected means that it is charged with sexual energy deriving from sources internal to a patient’s psyche; the Id (Unconscious) or the instinctual pole of personality is said to be be the source all types of cathexes]. Dreams also showcase the distinct form of thinking that operates in the Unconscious: Primary processthinking, which unlike the secondary process than governs the Conscious (Ego) and Preconscious (Super-Ego), shows no respect for the laws of logic and rationality. In primary process thinking, something can stand for something else, including its opposite, and can even represent two distinct things at once. Contradictory thoughts can coexist and there is no orderly sense of the passage of time or of causation. Basically, primary process thinking captures the magical, chaotic qualities of many dreams, the mysterious images that seems somehow significant, the fractured storylines, the impossible and disconnected events. To Freud, dreams are not simply night-time curiosities, but reveal how the greater part of our mental life proceeds beneath the shallows of conscience.

Foundations of the later “Structural” model: concepts to consider and synthesise with the Topographic Model

We are now going to have a look at the later version of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory where the Unconscious [this time referred to as the Id] is still the fundamental concept, however decades later in 1923, another 3-way dissection of the mind was proposed. This time Freud called it the Psychic Apparatus and the 3-way dissection of the mind was defined in terms of distinct mental functions instead of levels of awareness and their associated processes.

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The Structural Model of the Psychic apparatus

In original German, the terms Es (Id), das Ich (Ego) and Über-ich (Super-Ego) were used. As we take a look at these structures, it is important to remember that they were not proposed as real underlying entities, but rather as a sort of conceptual shorthand for talking about different kinds of mental processes. Our aim here is to synthesise the logical concepts of the Structural Model with the earlier Topographic Model of the Unconscious (Id), the Preconscious (Super-Ego) and the Conscious (Ego), however although it is convenient to talk about the Id, Super-Ego and Ego “doing” such-and-such or being “in charge of” so-and so, it is important to remember that they were not intended to refer to distinct sub-personalities within the individual.

The Id (Unconscious, das Es / Inconscient / Le Ça)

The Id [completely/dynamically unconscious] represents the part of the personality that is closely linked to the instinctual drives that are the fundamental sources of motivation in Freudian theory. According to Freud, these drives are chiefly sexual and aggressive in nature. On one hand we have the “life instincts” concerned with preserving life and binding together new “vital unities”, the foremost expression of this concern being loving sexual union. Opposed to these life instincts, on the other side, we have the set of “death instincts”, whose corresponding concern is with breaking down life and destroying connections, its goal is a state of entropy or nirvana, where there is a complete absence of any form of tension [motivation] – the most obvious form of these instincts were aggressiveness expressed inward towards the self or outward towards others. Freud proposed that these instinctual biological drives were powered by a reservoir of instinctual “psychic energy” grounded in basic biological processes; the sexual form of this energy was referred to as libido. Although the unconscious Id is a biological underpinning, its contents are manifested in psychological phenomena such as wishes, ideas, intentions, and impulses. These phenomena are therefore sometimes described as “instinct- derivatives”. Some of these phenomena are innate, whereas others have been consigned to the Id by the process of repression. All of the Id’s contents, however are unconscious. Freud proposed that the Id operated according to what he called the “pleasure principle” which states that the Id’s urges strive to obtain pleasure and avoid “unpleasure” without delay. Unpleasure results from increased accumulated excitation and pleasure results from its reduction. Lacan used the term « Jouissance » to describe an excessive quantity of excitation that has the potential to take the Subject to that extreme point where the erotic borders upon death and where subjectivity risks extinction; the « pleasure principle » tries to prevent such savage scenarios [To Lacan, the pleasure principle is a commandment — which can be phrased — « Enjoy as little as possible. » The pleasure principle leads the subject from signifier to signifier, by generating as many signifiers as are required to maintain at as low a level as possible the tension that regulates the whole functioning of the psychic apparatus]. One of Lacan’s contribution to the debate on feminity advances the concept of a specifically feminine jouissance which goes beyond the phallus: a jouissance of the order of the infinite like mystical ecstacy where women may experience this without being conscious about it. Therefore the pleasure principle serves to reduce tension and to return the psyche to a state of equilibrium or constancy. Pleasure, in Freud’s understanding, represented a discharge of libido or instinctual energy which is accompanied by a release of tension. The Id is not in contact with the rules or structures of individuals’ environment [i.e. the Symbolic rules of civilised society], but rather relates to the other structures of personality, the Ego & the Superego [conscience] that in turn must mediate between the Id’s raw instincts and the external world; immune from reality and social convention, the Id which is guided by the pleasure principle, seeks to gratify instinctual libidinal needs [that are simply biological] either directly through a sexual experience, or indirectly by dreaming or fantasizing. The latter, indirect gratification was called the primary process [governed by the pleasure principle] and has its own « rules » [e.g. allowing contradictions in logic] that differ from Ego functions and conscious thought. The exact object of direct gratification in the pleasure principle is assumed to be determined by the psychosexual stage of the individual’s development [as explained in 3rd part of the essay on The 3 Major Theories of Development], however the legitimacy and precision of this theory has been questioned and revised over the years and it gave way to the more empirical Theory of Attachment of John Bowlby. In short, the Id strives to satisfy its drives enabling immediate, pleasurable release of instinctual energy. It is the most primitive and least accessible structure of personality. As originally described by Freud, the Id is psychic energy of an irrational nature, and in the form of libido, it can manifest itself and be of a sexual character that is incestuous, uninhibited, savage, irrational and boundless, which instinctually determines unconscious processes. In psychoanalysis, this natural, wild and irrational urge is assumed to be present in all human beings. Elisabeth Roudinesco pointed out that Freud had distinguished that in humans it is the desire for incest and not the horror of it, that eventually leads individuals to forbid themselves from expressing it while also rejecting it; that is to say that in healthy, civilised and psychologically stable individuals with a well developed conscience [i.e. Superego] there is a respect for the symbolic laws that govern human relationships ethically [Lacan proposed that these symbolic structures are primarily governed by language] and which involve abiding by a structure that respects shared social values that sustain a functional human civilisation, i.e. the passage from raw and savage nature [Id] to civilised culture [Super Ego]. Many modern psychoanalysts believe that repression, masturbation and sublimation are inescapable in order to manage the raw and wild instincts of the Id and to channel them in more productive endeavours that are in the best interests of individuals and civilised society.

The Ego (Conscious & partially unconscious, Ich / Le Moi)

The Ego, is a mental function and complicates the picture of immediate gratification that the Id strives for. The Ego, a “psychic agency”, arises over the course of development as the child learns that it is often necessary and desirable to delay gratification. The bottle or breast does not always appear the instant that hunger is first experienced, and sometimes it is better to resist the urge to urinate at the bladder’s first bidding if one is to avoid the unpleasure of wet pants, embarrassment, and a parent’s howls of dismay. The Ego, often called the “executive” of personality because of its role in channeling Id [unconscious] energies into socially acceptable outlets [ego is believed to start developing between the ages of 1 and 2 as the child confronts the environment]. The Ego crystallises out this emerging capacity for delay, and in time becomes a restraint on the Id’s impatient striving for discharge. However, it cannot be an inflexible restraint. Its task is not to delay the fulfilment of wishes and impulses endlessly, but to determine when and how it would be most sensible or prudent to do so given the demands of the external environment at a particular time. It operates, that is, on the “Reality principle”, which simply requires that the Ego regulate the person’s behaviour in accordance with external conditions [at a given time or place according to certain rules or laws or conventions, and of course this changes as society redefines “reality” in terms of what it acceptable and not]. Freud emphasized that the Ego is not the dominant force in the personality [unlike Ego psychologists in the US state], although he believed it should strive to be. A famous statement of Freud regarding the goal of Psychoanalytic treatment is “Where Id was, there Ego shall be”. By his account, the Ego not only emerges out of the Id in the course of development – beforehand, the infant is pure Id [instinctive and irrational] – but it also derives all of its energy from the Id. Freud had a gift for metaphor, and he likened the Ego’s relation to the Id as a rider’s relation to a wilful horse. The horse [Id] supplies all of the pair’s force, but the rider [Ego] may be able to channel it in a particular direction. Fortunately, this “rider” [Ego] has a repertoire of skills at its disposal. Freud proposed that the Ego could employ a variety of “defence mechanism” in the service of the reality principle. These mechanisms come in a diverse range, and all represent operations that the Ego performs to deal with the threats to the rational expression of the person’s desires, whether from the Super-Ego or the external environment. These Ego defence mechanisms are common processes in everyday mental life, and many of them are carried out by the Ego unconsciously, showing that there is an unconscious part in the Ego. The Ego being governed by the reality principle, is aware of environmental demands and adjusts behaviour so that the instinctual pressures of the id are satisfied in acceptable ways, and the attainment of specific objects to reduce libidinal energy in socially appropriate ways was called the “secondary process” [the “primary process” being the Unconscious (Id)]. Some of the most well known defence mechanisms are denial, isolation of affect, projection, reaction formation, repression and sublimation.

The Super-Ego (Conscious & partially unconscious, Über-ich / Le Surmoi / L’Autre / Le Grand-Autre)

The differentiation of the structures of personality, called the Super-Ego, is believed to start appearing by the age of 5. In contrast to the Id and Ego, which are internal developments of personality, the Super-Ego is an external imposition. That is the Super-Ego is the incorporation of moral standards perceived by the Ego from some agent of authority in the environment, usually an assimilation of the parents’ views as the child develops – both positive and negative aspects of these standards. The Super-Ego’s emergence complicates the task of the Ego in regulating the expression of the Id’s impulses in response to demands and opportunities of the external environment. The Super-Ego represents an early form of conscience, an internalised set of moral values, standards, and ideals. These moral precepts are not the sort of flexible, evolving, reasoned, and discussable rules of conduct that we tend to imagine when we think of adult morality, however, instead they tend to be relatively harsh, absolute and punishing; adult morality as refracted through the immature and fearful mind of a child. The Super-Ego therefore represents the shrill voice of societal rules and restrictions, a voice that condemns and forbids many of the sexual and destructive wishes, impulses and thoughts that emerge from the Id. The positive moral code is the Ego ideal, i.e. a representation of behaviour for the individual to emulate. The conscience embodies the negative aspect of the Super-Ego, and determines which activities are to be taboo. Conduct that violates the dictates of the conscience produces “guilt” in healthy individuals. Hence, the Super-Ego and the Id are in direct conflict, leaving the Ego to mediate. The Ego now becomes the servant of three masters: the Id, the Super-Ego and the External Environment [Societal Rules]. It is now not enough to reconcile what is desired with what is possible under the circumstances because now the Ego also needs to take into consideration what is socially prohibited and impermissible. Instinctual drives must still be satisfied; which is a constant, however the Ego now attempts to satisfy them in a way that is flexibly “realistic” – that is, in the person’s best interests under current conditions – but also “socially” permitted. These prohibitions are often very unreasonable and inflexible, rejecting any expression of the drive with an unconditional “NO”, either because the moral structures of a particular “culture” are intrinsically rigid, atavistic or unsophisticated, or because the child’s internalisation of these structures is simply black-and-white, without any grey area to compromise for an adequate expression of the drive. Thus, the Super-Ego imposes a pattern of conduct that results in some degree of self-control through an internalised system of rewards and punishments.

Given the demands that it faces, the Ego can either find a way to express the Id’s desires successfully, or its attempts to arbitrate can fail. In this case, psychological trouble is likely to follow. If the Id wins the struggle, and the desire finds expression in a more-or-less unaltered and primitive form, the person may experience guilt or shame: the Super-Ego’s sign that it has been violated, and may also have to pay the price of a short-sighted, impulsive action. If on the other hand, the Super-Ego wins the struggle and dominates a person excessively, that individual may become overly rigid, rule-bound, uncreative, unquestioning, anxious and joyless. The forbidden desires may well go “underground” and manifest themselves in symptoms such as anxieties, compulsions or in occasional “out-of-character” impulsive behaviour or emotion.

Intrapsychic Conflict: the Roots of Personality

The major motivational constructs of Freud’s theory of personality was derived from instincts, defined as biological forces that release mental energy. Hence, from the account of the Unconscious (Id), the Conscious [and partly unconscious, Ego) and the Preconscious (Super-Ego), it implies that conflict within the mind’s opposing forces is inevitable, because the demands of society – or “civilisation” – are generally opposed to the natural instincts and drives of human beings. Indeed, intrapsychic conflict is one of the fundamental and defining concepts of psychoanalysis. Conflict within the mind is at the root of personality structure, mental disorder, and most psychological phenomena [e.g. artistic expressions of various forms]. The goal of personality is to reduce the energy drive through some activity acceptable to the constraints of the Super-Ego [Preconscious].

Freud classed inborn instincts to life (eros) and death (thanatos) drives. Life instincts involve self-preservation and include hunger, sex and thirst. The libido is that specific form of energy through which life instincts arise in the Id. The death instinct (Thanatos) may be directed either inwards, as in suicide or masochism, or outwards, as in hate and aggression. The notion that personality equilibrium must be maintained by discharging energy in acceptable ways, leads to anxiety which plays a central role. Essentially the view is that anxiety is a diffuse fear in anticipation of unmet desires and future evils. Given the primitive character of Unconscious (Id) instincts, it is unlikely that primary goals are ever an acceptable means of drive reduction; rather they are apt to give rise to continual anxiety in personality. Freud described three general forms of anxiety.

(i) Reality (or Objective) Anxiety
(ii) Neurotic Anxiety
(iii) Moral Anxiety

Reality or objective anxiety, is a fear of the real environmental danger [e.g. heights, depth, fire, etc] with an obvious cause; such fear is appropriate as it has survival value for the organism. Neurotic anxiety comes about from the fear of potential punishment inherent in the goal of instinctual gratification. It is a fear of punishment for expressing impulsive desires. Finally, moral anxiety is the fear of the conscience through guilt or shame in healthy individuals. In order to cope with anxiety, the Ego develops defence mechanisms, which are elaborate, largely unconscious processes that allow a person to avoid unpleasantness and anxiety-provoking events. For example, an individual may avoid facing anxiety by self-denial, conversion [whereby the anxiety caused by repressed impulses and feelings are ‘converted’ into a physical complaint such as a cough or feelings of paralysis], or projection, or may repress thoughts that are a source of anxiety into the unconscious. Many defence mechanisms are described in the psychoanalytic literature, which generally agrees that although defence mechanisms are typical ways of handling anxiety and maintaining a sense of psychological stability, they must be recognised and controlled by the individual himself/herself for psychological health. Lacan sees « defence » as being on the side of the Subject [being stable symbolic structures of subjectivity].

Denial

Refusing to acknowledge that some unpleasant or threatening event has occurred; common in grief reactions

Isolation of Affect

Mentally severing an idea from its threatening emotional associations so that it can be held without experiencing its unpleasantness; common in obsessional people

Projection

Disavowing one’s impulses thoughts and attributing them to another person; common in paranoia

Reaction formation

Unconsciously developing wishes or thoughts that are opposite to those that one finds undesirable in oneself; common in people with a rigid moral code

Repression

Repression is one of the most basic concepts in psychoanalysis. It involves repelling threatening thoughts from consciousness, to confine them in the unconscious.

Freud distinguished between: (i) primal repression [a « mythical » forgetting of something that was never conscious, an ordinary « psychical act » by which the unconscious is first constituted. Lacan saw this as a structural feature of language, its necessary incompleteness, the impossibility of ever formulating the « truth about truth » (because human language is limited and can never capture and completely express the Unconscious), the symbolic signifying chain of the unconscious where linguistic discourse originates];

and (ii) secondary repression [concrete acts of repression whereby some idea or perception that was once conscious is expelled from the conscious (E.g. motivated forgetting; common in post-traumatic reactions). Lacan saw secondary repression as a specific psychical act by which a signifier is elided from the signifying chain, it is structured like a metaphor and involves the return of the repressed, since repression does not destroy the ideas or memories but merely confines them to the unconscious, the repressed material is liable to return in distorted form, in symptoms, dreams, slips of the tongue, etc. To Lacan, it is always the signifier that is repressed, never the signified, which corresponds to Freud’s view that what is repressed is not the « affect » (which can only be displaced or transformed) but the « ideational representative » of the drive. Lacan proposed that repression is what distinguishes neurosis from other clinical structures – psychotics foreclose, perverts disavow and only neurotics repress]

Lacan maintained that it is very important not to confuse repression with the conscious judgement of a Subject that rejects and chooses.

Sublimation

The concept of Sublimation was first introduced by Freud in 1905 in his essays on Sexual theory. Sublimation is the act of unconsciously deflecting raw, irrational and uninhibited sexual and aggressive impulses/drives towards different, socially acceptable expressions and human activity [e.g. artistic creations, sports and intellectual work] that has no connection to sexuality but gets its power from the psychic energy in the sexual drive [la pulsion sexuelle]. Sublimation thus works as a socially acceptable escape valve for excess libidinal (sexual) energy which would otherwise have to be discharged in socially unacceptable forms [e.g. perverse behaviour] or in neurotic symptoms. This means that complete sublimation would spell the end of all perversion and neurosis. While Freud believed complete sublimation might be possible for some particularly refined or cultured people, Lacan pointed out that absolute/complete sublimation is not possible for human beings, [since all healthy humans with a healthy brain, a functional hypothalamus and sexual organs will experience sexual urges and feelings] and that perverse sexuality to satisfy the drive is possible and accessible (e.g. prostitution, perverse behaviour, private fantasies, etc) but must be sublimated because it is prohibited or badly viewed by civilised society and is also not in the individual’s best interests. Lacan follows Freud in emphasising the fact that the element of social recognition is central to the concept of sublimation, since it is only when the drives are diverted towards this civilised dimension of shared social values that they can be said to be sublimated. This dimension of shared social values allows Lacan to tie in the concept of sublimation with Ethics. [Note: Perversion to Lacan is not simply a savage and grotesque natural means of discharging the libido, but a highly structured relation (reaction) to the manifestation of the sexual drives [instinct/need], which are in themselves in the form of language in civilised people rather than simple biological urges/drives. Lacan also revised Freud’s initial view that sublimation simply involves the redirection of the drive to a different (non-sexual object), but explains that the initial object that the drive was directed at does not change but only its position in the structure of fantasy [for the Subject] changes, i.e. only the nature of the object to which the drive was directed changes not the object itself; this is made possible because the drive is “already deeply marked by the articulation of the signifier”. In the average psyche, the sublime quality of an object is thus not due to any intrinsic property of the object itself, but simply an effect of the object’s position in the symbolic structure of fantasy for a particular Subject.]

Table 1: A List of The Most Common Defence Mechanisms

Freud placed great emphasis on the development of the child because he was convinced that neurotic disturbances manifested by his adult patients had origins in childhood experiences. And as the last model proposed by Freud, the Genetic Model, explains, the psychosexual stages are characterised by different sources of primary gratification determined by the pleasure principle. Freud basically wrote that the child is essentially autoerotic. The genetic model has been previously described in the 3rd section of the essay, The 3 Major Theories of Childhood Development. [Please refer for more details]

However, the genetic model in psychoanalysis has been extensively revised and many of the concepts have given way to other theories [such as the Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment] nowadays that consider other sides in the development of personality. Other theories of peronality have also shown how personality continues to evolve and only stabilises around the age of 30. However, the genetic model of Freud laid the groundwork for other theorist such as John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth who based their guiding principles to uncover the theory of attachment on pre-oedipal developments first mentioned by Sigmund Freud. These attachment types have been discussed in the Essay, The 3 Major Theories of Childhood Development, and although it may not be completely true for all people, the logic behind the psychosexual stages should always be considered to some extent when analysing clients along with attachment types – not to forget to assess the self-reflective abilities of the person, since this has been proven to have more impact on self-adjustment related to adult personality, emotional intelligence and attachment types.

The Relationship between the Topographic Model and the Structural Model

It is important to assimilate the knowledge from the structural model and synthesise them with the topographic model. It can be seen that although the later model is conceptually distinct from the first model, they do map onto one another to some degree. The content of the Id, of course, lies firmly within the Unconscious, and is forbidden from entry to the consciousness unless disguised in the form of dreams, slips of the tongue, symptoms, and so on. However the Ego is not completely conscious unlike many ego psychologist may claim along with cognitive psychologist, as it has a strong Unconscious component, given that a great deal of psychological defence mechanisms are conducted instantly out of awareness, and hence is sometimes inaccessible to introspection by the patient – hence requiring a skilled psychoanalyst to guide therapy and treatment. The Super-Ego also has an Unconscious fraction, reflecting as it does and often “primitive”, and irrationally punishing through rigid morality – at least as much as it reflects our reasoned beliefs and principles. Although many concepts have been revised and alternative treatments relating to mental illness have also been devised by other schools of thought in psychology, the sheer complexity and uniqueness of the psychoanalytic system has formed a remarkable achievement. Indeed, Freud even had to invent new terminology to express his thoughts, and these terms have become an accepted part of our vocabulary.

Psychisme: Les théories de Freud ont-elles évolué? (2013)

Psychoanalytic Evidence: From the perspective of Empirical Methodology (Mainstream Science)

Freud ardently believed along with all good psychoanalysts that psychoanalysis is a science, not an empirical science, but a science of the mind that slices not with blades or questionnaires, but with concepts through the linguistic and philosophical realm of a patients subjective reality. It is also fair to consider that Freud himself was an accomplished biological scientist before he developed psychoanalytic theories. Biological ideas are interwoven in his work, as is his concepts of drive, instinct, and psychic energy. Nevertheless, the methods that he used to obtain evidence for the psychoanalytic theory were very different from the reductionist and empirical methods used by the government institutions, laboratory scientists or the statistical psychologists with their quantified questionnaires exploring basic “traits”. As an anatomist and physiologist, Freud made systematic observations of living and dead organisms, and conducted controlled empirical experiments. Hence, he must have come to the same conclusion as ourselves, which is, mental life cannot be fully explained by the mechanical explanations, although a lot can be learnt from understanding the physiology of the brain, but the “software” itself, that generates the mind, is an entity that empirical science comes short in terms of its methodologies. Hence, as a psychoanalyst, Freud introspected and speculated about his own mental life, and listened closely to what his patients told him during sessions of psychoanalytic therapy. It is quite clear, that dissecting an eel is completely different from dissecting a personality with all its complexities, and that observing the stream of one’s consciousness or another’s speech [i.e. discourse] is very different from conducting a controlled experiment with observable variables. So, psychoanalytic evidence is clearly unlike the evidence on which most “hard physical sciences” are based.

However, it is important to understand that the critique of psychoanalysis from the methodology of empirical science may not be rational. Because psychoanalysis was never intended to be a mechanical « hard » science, although it learns from neuroscience and cognitive-psychology of certain very basic aspects of the physiology of the brain and its functions. These questions about Empirically Supported Treatment (EST) came to the forefront of psychotherapy literature in 1993, when Division 12 of the American Psychological Association worked to publish a list of criteria for what constitutes EST (Chambless, et al., 1996; Task Force on Promotion and Dissemination of Psychological Procedures, 1995; Taskforce on Psychological Intervention Guidelines, 1995). A list of treatments were published that we empirically supported and very few psychodynamic treatments were included, nor were interpersonal or humanistic therapy included. Not surprisingly, these guidelines and list became anything but unifying for psychotherapists and psychotherapy researchers.

Freud Dessin

Westen, Novotny and Thompson-Brenner (2004) made some important critiques of the literature on ESTs. They noted that ESTs are often designed for a single, Axis I disorder, and patients are screened to maximise their homogeneity and to minimise their diagnostic comorbidity. Treatments are manualised and brief, and outcomes are assessed often by reductions in the primary symptom reduction for that particular disorder. Westen et al. suggested that EST researchers always tend to assume the following:

  • Psychopathology is highly malleable
  • Most patients can be treated for a single problem or disorder
  • Psychiatric disorders can be treated without much attention to underlying personality factors
  • Experimental methodology used to develop ESTs has ecological validity in clinical practice

Westen et al. (2004) basically contended that these assumptions are not valid, not to say wrong. There is considerable diagnostic comorbidity, making most patients ineligible to participate in EST research trials. There also is considerable stability of psychopathology of psychiatric symptoms, even after “successful” completion of EST. And clinicians of all theoretical orientations see patients well beyong the time allotted in treatment manuals (see Morrison, Bradley, & Westen, 2003; Thompson-Brenner, Glass, & Westen, 2003; Westen & Morrison, 2001 for an excellent review of these issues).

Norcross (2002a) offered an additional perspective on why the EST literature has been so controversial. First, he explained that EST research rarely addresses the fact “that the therapist is a person, however much he may strive to make himself an instrument of the patient’s treatment” (Orlinsky & Howard, 1977, p.567 as cited by Norcross 2002a). This idea has been demonstrate very well in empirical literature. For example, Wampold (2001) concluded in a meta-analysis of psychotherapy studies that the qualities of the therapist play a much stronger role in the outcome of treatment that does the treatment itself. Second, Norcross stated that therapy research has savagely neglected the important question of studying the therapy relationship. Instead, the focus has been more on the application and mastery of a technique (not a relationship). Third, who the patient is affects treatment outcome. As attention has been directed towards the study and implementation of psychotherapy techniques to different categories of disorders, small attention has been given to the patient characteristics that affect outcome, such as comorbid conditions, capacity for insight, and a history of interpersonal relatedness.

Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapies certainly are related to these issues. Analytic and Dynamic models of therapy are very focused on the behaviour and qualities of the therapist, with special attention to issues of the therapeutic alliance, neutrality, transference, and countertransference.

Freud's Couch at Freud Museum London

The couch that started everything: Freud’s psychoanalytic couch at the Freud Museum in London

It is important to also consider that one’s training in how to conduct psychoanalytic or psychodynamic psychotherapy is focused on how therapists present themselves and how patients respond to this. Such a focus automatically puts the therapeutic alliance at the centre of attention, something that has taken on more interest over the years (Fairbairn, 1952; Greenberg, 1986, 2001a; Pine, 1998; Stolorow, Atwood & Brandchaft, 1994; Wallerstein, 2002). Psychoanalysts have also recognised that the personality and qualities of the patient affect how therapy should be conducted (e.g., Gabbard, 2000, 2004); that is, one approach to working with patients does not fit all patients. Furthermore, many psychotherapists have been reluctant to allow their therapy relationships to be subject to empirical investigation (Bornstein, 2005), as a form of respect for the privacy of their clients, making it very hard to provide more objective data that the support the validity of psychoanalysis. In contrast, other schools of thoughts derived from the behavioural school and the medical fields have very willingly offered their data for empirical investigations.

Often accompanying this philosophical criticism regarding scientific testability is a factual criticism that psychoanalysts have seldom tried to test their theories scientifically. This criticism may have some truth to it, however many psychoanalysts have responded to the call for more scientific inquiry by asserting that it is unnecessary and that clinical evidence of the treatments curing mental illness of various types is quite sufficient.

FIGURE B - SUCESS RATES WITH ADULTS & CHILDREN

Success Rates of Psychotherapy with adults and children, and Therapy from other schools of thought [traditions] based on Effect Sizes from Meta-analyses / Source: dpurb.com

Other psychoanalysts have argued that scientific support for their theories is irrelevant. Psychoanalysis, they suggest, is not an empirical science, but a science of subjective experience and linguistic dissection, so it is inappropriate to judge it by the mainstream reductionist empirical scientific standards of modern day academia.

Many see psychoanalysis as a “hermeneutic” discipline, an approach to interpretation which is rather like a school of literary criticism or biblical scholarship. To them, psychoanalytic theory is a way to decipher mental life, an interpretative technique for uncovering meaning. Its goal, they say, is to understand psychological phenomena in terms of their underlying reasons rather than explaining them as objective science in terms of causes. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the goal of psychoanalytic understanding is not to ascertain literal or scientific truth – for example, what “truly happened in a person’s past to make them the way they are today” – but instead to formulate “narrative truth”, a story that gives coherent meaning to the person’s experiences [from their perspective in terms of what matters to them] (Spence, 1980).

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Photographie: Danny D’Purb © 2018

What Jacques Lacan clearly meant by a complete reconstitution of a subject’s history as the aim of psychoanalysis, is that « history » is not a simple objective sequence of past events, but the present synthesis of the past as it is subjectively perceived and interpreted by the continously evolving Subject in his/her uniqueness. Lacan’s used the term « après coup » [retroaction, i.e. how the present affects the past] and pointed out that linguistic discourse itself is structured by retroaction, since only when the last word of a sentence is uttered or read that the initial words gain meaning; with retroaction also comes « anticipation« , which refers to the way in which the future also affects the present, and like retroaction, anticipation also structures linguistic discourse, since the first words of a sentence are ordered in anticipation of the words to come. Jacques Lacan also pointed out how in the « psyche » [mind], present events affect past events [i.e. retroaction]; because the past is simply a set of stories in the mind of an individual that is edited and reinterpreted in the light of new experiences and information of the constantly evolving Subject in his/her uniqueness; most healthy individuals with desires, sculpt the stories of their past experiences to make it work towards their development; they take a particular perspective to extract meaning and significance from their past experiences [in terms of what matters to them and what does not] so that they contribute towards their development, progress and desires [See the Essay: The Concept of Self]. Lacan also pointed out that psychoanalysis is not concerned by what most empiricists would call the « real past » as an objective sequence of events devoid of subjective signification, but rather with the way these experiences exist in the psyche/mind of a particular individual and how he/she interprets (i.e. perceives) and reports them in order to find out what holds significance for a particular Subject and what does not.

We can thus conclude that there will always be something “uniquely special” about psychoanalytic evidence, for all its empirical flaws. A completed psychoanalytic treatment may sometimes [depending on the type of patient] occupy four or five sessions each week over a period of several years, amounting to perhaps 1000 hours in which the analyst listens closely to the patient’s innermost thoughts. These thoughts, often too intimate and raw to be shared even with loved ones, range widely over the patient’s personal history and lived experiences. They are recounted in a wide variety of mood-states and frames of mind. These millions of spoken words and feelings may not represent the kind of systematically and objectively collected data on which the scientific theory of personality [that the hardcore empiricist loves] can easily be built. However, it is hard to declare that the analyst does not understand the patient’s personality better than someone who might interpret the patient’s responses, dashed off in a matter of minutes, to a trait questionnaire. Indeed, there is something valuable about psychanalytic evidence, but it is very hard to build an empirical theory out of it since we are not dealing with matters of hard sciences [e.g. biology, medecine, physics, chemistry, astrophysics, material science, astronomy, etc], but the mind of human beings that embodies their whole existence and worlds.

Empirical Evidence for the Existence of Unconscious Processes

More and more psychoanalytic thinkers and sympathisers are starting to find creative ways to test psychoanalytic hypotheses in rigorous empirical ways to conform with academic science, despite all the difficulties that this involves. This research is now very extensive, and therefore difficult to summarise. However, a broad conclusion can be drawn from it: specific Freudian claims typically fail to receive experimental support but do work in treating mentally ill patients in clinical practice. What Freud learned from his clinical practice is that sexuality always involves a dimension of the impossibility of reaching « total » satisfaction for any Subject, and in order to achieve some satisfaction it is necessary to renounce total satisfaction, this renunciation is one of the references to the concept of « castration », where castration is a condition for satisfaction. Castration refers to the separation installed by the Oedipal law in both sexes and thus is a requirement of civilised culture; it is the positive side of the prohibition of incest, this instinctual renunciation, is the structuring function in the resolution of the Oedipus complex and is necessary for all cultural achievement.

Freud elaborated three possible outcomes for the « castration complex/anxiety » in women: (i) a total repudiation of sexuality; (ii) the adopting of a masculine position and the repudiation of penis envy; and (iii) motherhood as a treatment of penis envy through the symbolic equation of penis equals child. As for males, Freud believed that the castration complex/anxiety serves to free the boy from the Oedipus complex; it is the prohibition of the primordial object [i.e. the mother(s) or mother figure(s)] and leads to a lack in individuals which will orient them to look elsewhere [i.e. go out into the world and seek a true partner], and in this way, desire is inaugurated; for a number of psychoanalysts however, the « castration complex » of Freud did not have the major structuring role in the construction of sexual difference and they instead turned to other explanations, such as biological and developmental theories.

The concepts of Penis envy [According to Freud, woman’s desire to have a child is rooted in the envy of the man’s penis. When a girl first realizes that she does not possess a penis, she feels deprived of something valuable (symbolically), and seeks to compensate for this by obtaining a child as a « symbolic substitute » for the penis she has been denied. Even though the girl may at first resent the mother for depriving her of a penis and turn to the father or father figure in the hope that he will provide her with a symbolic substitute (i.e. a child), she later turns her resentment against the father when he does not provide her with the child as substitute. Freud argues that penis envy persists into adulthood, manifesting itself both in the desire to enjoy the penis in sexual intercourse, and in the desire to have a child (since the father or father figure does not provide her with a child, the woman turns to another man instead). On this particular component of psychoanalysis, Lacan follows Freud, arguing that the child always represents for the mother a substitute for the symbolic phallus which she lacks (a type of lack known as « privation »). However, Lacan emphasized that the symbolic substitute for the phallus (i.e. the child) never really satisfies the mother; her desire for the symbolic phallus persists no matter how many children she has. The mother’s basic dissatisfaction and sense of privation is perceived by the child from very early on; the child realizes that she has a desire that aims at something beyond her dual relationship with him, the imaginary phallus. The child then seeks to fulfil the mother’s desire by identifying with the Imaginary phallus (or by identifying with the mother imagined as possessing a phallus, i.e. the phallic mother). In this way, the « privation » of the mother is responsible for introducing the dialectic of desire in the child’s life for the first time. Alfred Adler argued that the concept of « penis envy » should not be expressed literally but symbolically as women’s frustration at not being able to match male dominance in society, i.e. the phallus as representing male dominance in society. Karen Horney contested the claims of penis envy, which seems to suggest that some concepts may not apply to everyone, hence the wide scope of psychoanalytic theory to suit different developmental cases], Castration Anxiety and Repression, cannot be demonstrated easily through the simple methods used for mainstream science and empirical experiments in a laboratory, although some effort has been made. A study at the Harvard Medical School in Boston at the Massachusetts Mental Health Centre involving college aged women [ranging from 17 to 43 years old] and men [ranging from 18 to 23 years old] carried out by Rosalind Jones in 1994, tested the Freudian theory claim that the « natural » development of feminity involves the woman’s substitution of the wish for a baby in place of her original wish for a penis [i.e. penis envy]. In the study, the pregnancy message used was « Reproduction. The birth of a child. I should become pregnant. Entering my uterus. Entering my womb. I could become pregnant. To be fertilized. Becoming pregnant. The contraceptive field. To become pregnant. I could become pregnant, big with child »; the original penetration message was « I feel opened up. Things are getting through. It gets into me. I am opened up. Things are getting into me. I am sensitive. I feel things inside of me »; and the Revised Penetration message was « I feel opened up. He is getting through. He gets into me. I am sensitive sexy. I feel him moving into me. He is getting into me. » Consistent with Freud’s speculation about the phallic significance of pregnancy for women, Jones (1994) found that female subjects who were exposed to the subliminal pregnancy message produced significantly more phallic imagery responses to inkblots than did women in any other experimental conditions (p<.01).

Dreaming also does not seem to always preserve sleep by disguising latent wishes, and there is very little empirical evidence to back up the theory of Psychosexual stages, although it influenced the Theories of Attachment devised by John Bowlby. More « general » Freudian concepts however have often received a good deal of scientific support. There is today, plenty of evidence to suggest the existence of unconscious mental processes, for the existence of conflict between these processes and conscious cognition, and for the existence of processes resembling some of the defence mechanisms. Two illustrative studies can support his work. First, Fazio, Jackson, Dunton and Williams (1995) found that people who sincerely profess to having absolutely no racial prejudice can be shown to associate negative attributes with Black faces more than White faces in a laboratory task. This finding which has been replicated countless times by social cognition researchers, shows that the conscious attitudes of individuals may conflict with their “implicit” attitudes [unconscious]. Second, Adams, Wright and Lohr (1996) hooked male subjects up to a daunting instrument called the penis plethysmograph, which measures sexual arousal by gauging penile circumference. It was found that men who reported strong anti-gay (homophobic) attitudes demonstrated an increased arousal when shown videos of homosexual acts, whereas non-homophobic men did not. This finding seems to reveal some form of defence mechanism consistent with the psychoanalytic view that homophobia is a reaction formation against homoerotic desires. However, none of these illustrative studies can be considered as completely conclusive, and all have been controversial and subjected to various interpretations. For example, anxiety, shock, or anger rather than sexual arousal may have caused the increased penile blood flow of Adams et al.’s homophobic subjects.

These experiments prove that with enough creative ingenuity, some psychanalytic propositions can be scientifically tested. Doing so should contribute to the important task of sifting what is worth retaining in psychoanalytic theory for strict empiricists of the hard sciences.

Unconscious Processes: Integrating Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychodynamic Theory

In various ways, the evidence for the existence of mental processes that are outside of direct conscious awareness are apparent in every scenarios of life. Here are some examples:

  1. We sometimes cannot remember the name of a particular person of importance, only to be able to recall it hours or days later at a time and place when knowing the name is not required
  2. Despite one’s intention to offer some control over the process, dreaming appears to occur at its own timing and pace.
  3. On September 11, 2001, and the days following, many Americans watched hours of news report focussed on the same attacks on the United States. Although deeply upset by the contents, many individuals could not stop themselves from watching these videos, saying that it was as if something in them drew them to reports in spite of conscious awareness of disbelief and outrage
  4. Many patients who seek psychotherapy are unable to stop unwanted behaviours or interpersonal problems, despite conscious awareness of their harmfulness to them and their life. These problems range from relatively simple [e.g. drinking too much alcohol] to relatively complex [e.g. placing oneself in situations in which one is often taken advantage of or obsessing about one’s body image if certain kinds of fattening foods are consumed].

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Other examples are evident too, simple exercises that can be easily performed. For example, consider when 3 lines are drawn in the shape of a triangle with the ends of each line however, not touching one another, leaving a small gap between all their extremities. We can come to realise that, depending on the space between the lines, the image is instantly perceived as a triangle by the individual, a triangle with missing edges; 3 lines that are coming together like a triangle, or just 3 lines at different angles.

When taking into consideration perceptual phenomena such as this [i.e. an example of the Gestalt principle of closure], it is evident that the mind does the following very quickly, without conscious awareness of how the process occurs, yet meaning and understanding are formed.

  • Takes in sensory information
  • Determines what the information is
  • Assembles the information in such a way that a percept or concept is formed
  • The percept or concept is “perceived” and “understood”

The evidence for the existence of unconscious processes is widely known in cognitive psychology. In a seminal paper in the American Psychologist, Shevrin and Dickman (1980) demonstrated how conclusions from the studies of selective attention, cortical evoked potentials, and subliminal perception provide support for the concept of an unconscious mind and posit that “no psychological model that seeks to explain how human beings know, learn, or behave can ignore the concept of unconscious psychological processes” (p. 432). They also noted that the initial stage for processing all stimuli occurs outside of consciousness and that it affects what is known consciously. This early stage is different in how it operates from conscious cognition, and conscious cognition necessarily occurs after considerable preconscious processing. Years, later, their conclusions and ideas appear to be no less true.

Empirical and Cases Studies Demonstrating Unconscious Processes

In studies of subliminal perception, which began in 1950s, the processing of unperceivable stimuli and its effect on behaviour has provided interesting results about the unconscious mind. Shevrin and Fisher (1967) subliminally presented participants with a picture of a pen and knee just prior to falling asleep. When they awoke from rapid eye movement (REM; dream stage) sleep, participants’ associations to their dreams were of a pen or knee or included less rational kinds of associations (a finding that had been well demonstrated in past sleep studies). These included words that sound like pen or knee, such as pennant, hen, or neither. In contrast, those who awoke during non-REM sleep, which had been associated with few dreams or dreams that were more rational, had associations such as penny (pen + knee) or related words, such as nickel and dime.

Shevrin (2006) noted that this study demonstrated that 2 levels of unconscious processing – irrational and rational – were taking place. He deduced that once inhibitions [e.g. defences] weaken – in this case, being awakened from sleep – more rational processes are overtaken by irrational ones. Surprisingly, the more irrational process observed in this study produced content similar to what was found in severe types of psychopathology: repetition and clanging. In a follow-up study with the same methodology, Shevrin (1973) presented participants with the same stimuli, this time while they were fully awake and more proximal to entering the sleep state. Again, they found a similar pattern of results in which the type of associations produced varied depending on when participants were awakened.

Even more interesting results were described by Shevrin and colleagues (Shevrin, 1988; Shevrin, Bond, Brakel, Hertel & Williams, 1996; Shevrin et al., 1992), who set out to demonstrate that unconscious and conscious processes operate differently. In these studies, patients were selected who had either pathological phobic reactions or extended grief. They were then assessed via interview, and 4 psychoanalysts listened to the interviews carefully. By way of consensus, the psychoanalyst researchers derived a conceptualisation of the core conflicts for each patient; then went on to select the patients’ words that they believed captured the patients’ conscious experience of the symptoms and words that represented unconscious conflict. These words along with unrelated words were then presented both subliminally and supraliminally to the patients, who were then asked to classify them as belonging together. Using event-related potentials to detect patients’ ability to classify or respond to words in similar ways, the researchers found that words representing unconscious conflicts were correctly classified only when presented subliminally and that the reverse was true for supraliminally presented words; they were correctly classified only when presented supraliminally. Here, we find some sense to Lacan’s deductions regarding the unconscious being structured like language and the linguistic dexterity that psychoanalyst should be able to handle to decipher and understand the fullness of the patient’s mind [conscious and unconscious].

Shevrin (1996) concluded, “…When [these studies are] taken in combination, [they] show that unconscious psychological causes affect consciousness in a qualitatively different way… and that unconscious conflict has an existence independent of the psychoanalyst’s inferences from conscious manifestations, an independence supported by brain correlates” (p. 591, italics in original). Shevrin also published reviews of research showing an association between subliminal perception and dreaming (Shevrin, 1986) and subliminal perception and repression (Shevrin, 1990).

In a more recent meta-analysis from more than 100 studies of subliminal perception, Weinberger and Hardaway (1990) found that psychodynamic material presented subliminally had a noticeable and predictable effect on behaviour, suggesting very clearly that unconscious processes affect overt behaviour. For instance, studies by Silverman and colleagues (Silverman, 1983, 1986; Silverman, Bronstein & Mendelsohn, 1976; Silverman, Kwawer, Wolitzky & Coron, 1973; Silverman, Lachman & Milich, 1982; Silverman, Ross, Adler & Lustig, 1978) found that subliminally presented messages of Oedipal content (e.g., “Beating dad is okay”) to male participants yielded more competitiveness in a subsequent dart-throwing game than non-Oedipal messages. [Note: Freud proposed that at the Oedipal stage, a competition between father/son and daughter/mother takes place, before it is resolved in the child gradually adopting the same-sex parent’s values as his/her own in the development of an early form of Conscience (Super-Ego/Preconscious)]

Bradley and colleagues (Bradley, Mogg & Millar, 1996; Bradley, Mogg and Williams, 1994, 1995) performed a series of studies in which words related to depression (e.g. misery, grief, despair) are subliminally presented to individuals who fall into 3 groups: those meeting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for major depression, those with subclinical levels of depression and those operating as controls. They consistently found that on implicit memory tests, depressed and subclinically depressed individuals correctly identity words related to depression more often than those who are not depressed. Although their findings have not been consistently replicated for patients suffering with anxiety, studies with depressive patients suggest that a level of processing occurs below conscious awareness that increases individuals’ awareness of and identification of depressive material. Clinically, it would suggest that to effectively treat and manage depression, addressing issues related to unconscious sensitivity to depressive material is very important. Given the relatively high relapse rates for depression and other disorders that are treated with methods focussing more on conscious awareness – via cognitive and behavioural therapies (Westen & Morrison, 2001) – it seems that attention to unconscious processes has the potential to effectively address some depressive disorders.

Eagle (1987) provided support for the notion of unconscious processing in studies of perceptual illusions and dichotic listening, a type of selective attention task. For instance, in the Ames room experiment (Ittleson & Kilpatrick, 1951), the ceiling and floor were not parallel, and the 2 subjects stood either towards the front or back of the room. This led perceivers to believe that the people very different in size , despite the fact that they were not. In the dichotic listening task (Lewis, 1970), individuals heard 2 different messages in each ear but were trained to attend to just one of those messages. When asked to repeat what was heard in the trained ear, individuals had less of a reaction time in producing the words when the words in the other ear were semantically similar [the meaning was synonymous / it meant the same thing]. This means that, there was a facilitative effect on performance when a semantically similar word was processed (unconsciously) in the “unattended” ear.

Further studies of patients who have experienced brain injuries provide interesting clinical observations that support the presence of unconscious processes. Milner, Corkin and Teuber (1968) reported the famous case of a patient known as H.M., who had undergone surgery on his medial temporal lobes to control very severe seizures. We nowadays know that just below the this part of the cortex lies the hippocampus, which is considered as an important anatomical locus for learning new information and storing it in working and long-term memory. Because of the damage done to the medial temporal lobes by the procedure, H.M. failed to remember anything that was new to him past surgery. H.M. however could remember information if he rehearsed it, although it was quickly lost if he was interrupted.

One interesting consequence of this procedure was that H.M. appeared not to have lost all “affective” components of certain experiences. For instance, H.M. had the occasion to visit his mother, who was hospitalised. After leaving the hospital, he had no recollection of visiting her, although he had the idea that something may be wrong with her. H.M. experienced other events like this, demonstrating well that implicit learning was still occurring for “affectively charged” situations and that the unconscious effects of this learning could be identified in everyday life.

Later studies of unconscious affective processing have suggested that there are at least 2 neural pathways that process affective information (LeDoux, 1989, 1995, as cited in Westen, 1999). One of these pathways originates in the thalamus and transmit sensory information to other brain regions, whereby emotional meaning is attached to the information. The other pathway, also originating in the thalamus, sends the sensory information to the cortex, where higher levels of emotional processing and emotional meaning are executed.

Mark Solms has reported some exciting work on the effects of unconscious processes on commonly observed clinical syndromes (e.g., Solms, 2000a, 2000b, 2001, 2002, 2004). Solms has taken a very active role in recent times in integrating the findings of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, which has created a relatively new discipline of study known as neuro-psychoanalysis. An interesting set of case of studies has been provided (Solms, 2000a) on patients who have experienced a strike on the right temporal lobe in the region, where the middle cerebral artery lies. In these case studies, psychoanalytic theory and treatment is integrated into the neurological understanding of the deficits the patients are experiencing.

Right hemisphere syndrome is a neurological disorder consisting of 3 major symptoms: ansognosia, neglect and spatial perception and cognition deficits. Anosognosia is the indifference or outright denial of an illness, which in the present case was the loss of the use of the patient’s left arm and side. Neglect occurs when patients ignore their paralysed limb and side. Patients often feel disgust when they are compelled to attend to the left side of the body, sometimes experiencing a sense of revulsion.

The spatial and cognitive deficits observed consist of defective facial recognition, imperceptions of facial emotion, environmental disorientation, and various kinds of apraxia [the inability to complete an activity involving muscle movement]. There are various theories about the emotional deficit in patients with right hemisphere syndrome. One theory suggests that the stroke affects attentional arousal that is mediated through activity in the right perisylvian region of the temporal lobe, which consequently gives rise to anosognosia and neglect. Another theory has focused on the fact that the left hemisphere is more involved with positive emotional processing and the right with more negative emotional processing. Since, the right hemisphere is damaged in this case, anosognosia and neglect occur because there is little to no processing of negative effect in the right hemisphere. A final theory states that it is the right hemisphere that is dominant for the perceptual representation of bodily states, which include more somatic or visceral perceptions. When this part of the brain is damaged or compromised, the brain can only rely on past somatosensory representations of bodily states, which provide the patient that there is no deficit or problem.

Solms (2000a) described Mr.C., a 59-year-old engineer who experienced right hemisphere syndrome after complications from a mild stroke. Only part of the visual field of the patient was remaining and he would not attempt to compensate for it [i.e. neglect], and he also ignored sensory stimulation that occurred on the left side of his body [anosodiaphoria]. He ignored and minimised his paralysed left arm, referring to it as being “like a dead piece of meat, but not it’s just a little bit lame and lazy” (p.71). Other deficits existed due to right parietal damage.

Mr.C. was “aloof, imperious and egocentric” (Solms, 2000a, p.72). He seemed unconcerned about others and would sit blankly at times staring into space. However, on occasion he would burst into tears or look as if this were the case. These periods however, were brief yet stood in stark contrast to the emotional coldness that he often presented with. During one physical therapy session, Mr. C. was making very little progress in learning how to walk. The physiotherapist reported to the treating psychologist that Mr. C. seemed “indifferent to the errors he was making, and he simply ignored her when she pointed them out to him” (p.74). In a session next day, Mr. C. told the psychologist that the physiotherapist indicated that he had been making mistakes, sounding as if he was confession something. Then, he said that another therapist had asked him to do some activities with blocks but that he could not do it. At this point, the therapist replied to Mr. C.:

“…it was difficult for him to acknowledge the problems his stroke had left him with, but it seemed that he was now more able to see them. Mr.C., carried on… [saying] his physiotherapy was “okay” but that his arm had not progressed to the degree that he required. Then, at this point, he suddenly  withdrew from conversing… and began to exercise his left hand and arm with the right one. [The therapist] commented that is seemed as if he could not bear the wait, and wanted his arm to be completely better instantly… [He replied] “I just don’t want my left arm to get weak from non-use.” [The therapist then replied] perhaps it was too painful for him to acknowledge what he was on the verge of recognising a moment earlier – namely that his arm really was completely paralysed – and that the question of whether it would recover or not was largely beyond his control. This comment provoked an instantaneous crumpling of his face and a burst of painful emotion accompanied by pre-tearfulness. [Turning to the therapist] he said in desperation “but look at my arm [pointing to his left arm] – what am I going to do if it doesn’t recover? (pp. 74-75)

Solms (2000a) noted that this case demonstrates how unconscious material that was too painful to acknowledge was accessed through careful interpretations. Furthermore, the case example controverts the theory that these patients lack negative emotions or have no awareness of their bodies and their deficits. In Mr. C’s case, it is clear that implicit processes were at work and that the emotional response originated out of the complex, associative networks were formed by this patient’s unconscious processing of the painful loss of his bodily integrity.

Transference phenomena can also be better understood in the light of recent findings in cognitive psychology. To understand transference phenomena, Westen and Gabbard (2002b, pp. 103-104) highlighted important ideas in recent studies of cognitive processing.

  1. More representations consist of memory traces that are multimodal, which include semantic, sensory and emotional components.
  2. Representations of self and other exist as potentials for activation. Because there are potentials, they are subject to modification, which will interact with new knowledge, further developing the self and other representations.
  3. Memory networks consist of semantic, episodic and procedural knowledge, along with differing affects and motives.
  4. Unconscious procedures to manage emotions are defences and may be triggered outside of awareness. Co-occurring motives and affects may also be activated, such that the person may not be aware of either one or the defence being used.
  5. Conscious representation are some of many representations that get activated. Consciousness is a serial processing system, whereas multiple parallel processes get activated that are not available to consciousness.

As may be observed in these principles, Westen and Gabbard (2002b) suggested that transference phenomena represent a dynamic, ongoing process that occurs at the conscious and unconscious level. Because multiple cognitive events occur at one time, transference phenomena can be highly complex phenomena and can represent one of many possible reactions to the therapist, as well as other meaningful individuals in the patient’s life. In fact, multiple transferences can occur. For instance, a patient may feel particularly challenged by his work and may experience some feedback from his female supervisor about his recent difficulties with his job. Suppose the patient’s mother took great strides to help him whenever he felt frustrated in his school activities or work, such that he came to unconsciously expect her to provide assistance during challenging times. At work the patient may have experienced the supervisor’s comments as an invitation for help and assistance. Should no help be forthcoming, the patient would become irritated and disappointed with such a difficult supervisor. Likewise, suppose that this patient’s father was unavailable to help him. He may have to come to view male authorities as uncaring and disinterested in his plight. Thus, in his present treatment, the patient may find himself feeling scared and anxious towards his male therapist when talking about his recent disappointment with the supervisor. An exploration of his interaction with his supervisor may elicit anxiety in the patient towards his therapist whom he experiences as a disinterested and uncaring male. Likewise, he may feel very frustrated towards the therapist who is not willing to tell him how to manage his interactions with his supervisor, reflecting a maternal transference to the therapist who unconsciously should be offering help and assistance quickly and without much effort on the patient’s part.

The Psychoanalytic Account of Motivation

The account of human motivation, resting on sexual and death instincts, has been a big talking point for critics of psychoanalysis from the very beginning. Jung’s departure from the psychoanalytic movement was largely caused over disagreements over the motivational concepts. Jung questioned the centrality of sexuality and argued for the importance of spiritual motives. Alfred Adler on the other hand proposed a basic desire for social superiority and a “will to power”. Later writers within the psychoanalytic tradition also sought to expand the theory of motivation to include drives for mastery and competence, and for interpersonal relatedness.

In general, there has always been 2 major issues, the first is whether the sexual and death instinct are plausible sources of human motivation. Second, whether they are sufficient explanations of motivation, or whether additional motives that are not reducible to these drives are needed.

With respect to the first issue, it may be hard to deny [from a universal and organic standpoint] that sexual wishes and drives are powerful sources of motivation, especially if we include “sexual” desires as a part of loving relationships and for bodily pleasure. From a biological and evolutionary perspective it could not be otherwise, since reproductive success is the basic currency of individual genetic fitness, not to mention species survival [in all species including primates and mammals].

From this perspective, the psychoanalytic emphasis on sexual drives – an emphasis shared by no other personality theory – is a very strong point of the psychoanalytic theory, even if we are allowed to disagree and investigate some particular claims that may not apply to some individuals regarding the effects of the Psychosexual stages in childhood as proposed by Freud [which inspired John Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment], or discuss the other drives that are non-sexual [e.g. Romantic love and its expressions].

Romantic Love dpurb site web 2019.jpg

From the same evolution standpoint, a death instinct directed inwards towards self-destruction is questionable. However, this negative judgement on the death instinct, which is shared by many contemporary psychoanalysts, does not mean that we need to dispense with the idea of aggressive drives. Aggressiveness could be theorised not as a form of self-destructiveness, but rather as a way to strive for social dominance [among a particular frame, circle or group], i.e. to fend off “attackers” in defence of one’s own “territorial grounds” or to assert one’s personal choice or interest.

The second issue is whether sexual and perhaps aggressive drives are broad enough to capture the full range of human motivations. The answer, is clearly not. Since, we also have drives for achievement, approval, non-sexual relatedness, creativity, self-esteem, and so on? The other question is biologically-based motives that “push” us towards certain kinds of behaviour enough? Do future-oriented motivational concepts, like goals and personal ideals not “pull” us towards desirable endpoints? When these questions are raised, basic Freudian account of motivation may seem limited in their scope, leaving out motives that are socially shaped or personally determined. However, the issue is not so easily resolved, since psychoanalysts may agree that motivations beyond the instinctual drives are required to describe how our behaviour is guided, however it may still be argued that all these motivations are simply multiple layers of the very same instinctual drives. For example, achievement striving could be described psychoanalytically as a socially shaped motive that is underpinned and powered by aggressive urges [that are applied in different forms to achieve our goals, i.e. not in a physically violent manner, but competitively in multiple sophisticated social ways]. On the same note, creativity might be understood as a sublimated expression of individuals’ sexual drives [e.g. artistic creations], based on some unconscious desire for unifying and making connections that Freud saw as the hallmark of life instincts.

Victor Hugo La Musique

Traduction(EN): « What we could not say and what we could not silence, music expresses. » -Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)

However, even if the claim that human motivation is ultimately based on a few instinctual drives that govern all living organism, it would still be more enlightening and accurate to patients to describe their motivation in a more complex way, i.e. expressed to meet the sophisticated and multi-layered human societies we live in. So, in the end there is no objective or empirical way to establish the question of motivation with a clear “true or false” – we will have to use logical reasoning and theories about what drives “life” forward.

Documentaire: L’invention de la Psychanalyse (1997)

The 2 Major Disciples of Psychoanalysis: Carl Jung and Jacques Lacan

The psychoanalytic movement was largely the invention of Sigmund Freud, and his influence far exceeds that of his early followers who subsequently tried to modify psychoanalysis. The major principles of psychoanalysis were redefined and reinterpreted until by 1930 the movement was fragmented into competing views. Nevertheless, those writers who departed from Freud’s speculation retain the basic model of psychoanalysis that conceived of personality in terms of an energy reduction system with three levels of awareness that is the conscious [that contains the Ego], preconscious [that holds the Super-Ego] and the unconscious [the wild Id]. The psychoanalytic movement has been very active since Freud’s death in 1939, and has led to many new theoretical developments influencing all schools of psychology rather than standing still as we have just covered regarding the reconciliation of some fundamental concepts with Cognitive psychology and Neurosciences.

Carl Jung (1875 – 1961)

Carl Jung

One of the most fascinating and complicated scholars of this century, Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) was born to a poor family in a northern Swiss village. He managed to gain entrance to the University of Basel and received a doctorate in medicine in 1900. Jung spent most of the rest of his life in Zürich, teaching, writing and working with patients. After reading The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, Jung began corresponding with Freud and finally met him in 1907. Eventually he accompanied Freud to America in 1909, where he also lectured and introduced his own work to American audiences. However, Jung began to apply psychoanalytic insights to ancient myths and legends in search for the key to the nature of human psyche. Such independent thinking did not meet with Freud’s approval, and there is also some speculation that the Jung made a critical analysis of Freud’s personal life that may have contributed to tensions between them. Freud secured the post of the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Association for Jung in 1911, but by this time their rift was beyond healing. Finally, in 1914, Jung withdrew from the Association and severed all interactions with Freud due to the over-emphasis of the defining stages of infant sexuality among other aspects of pure Freudian theory. Jung continued his own interpretations of psychoanalysis and made several expeditions to study primitive societies in Western United States, Africa, Australia and Central America. His prolific writings on subjects ranging from anthropology to religion provided novel insights to age-old problems of human existence from the psychoanalytic perspective.

Jung’s “Analytical psychology” refined many Freudian concepts and emerged as the first major alternative to Freudian theory (1900); however, Jung retained Freud’s terminology [Unconscious, Conscious and Preconscious], and as a result the same terms often carry different meanings. Jung (1912) renamed the Id as the Personal Unconscious, the Ego as the Personal Conscious [although the term Ego also appears in some of Jung’s writings], and the Super-Ego as the Collective Conscious [although the term Persona also appears in some of his writings]. After that Jung’s (1912) analytical psychology also added the Collective Unconscious to Freud’s (1900) structure of personality which is part of the Id.

Jung, like Freud, believed that the central purpose of personality is to achieve a balance between conscious and unconscious forces within the personality. However, Jung described two sources of unconscious forces. What is the personal unconscious, consisting of repressed or forgotten experiences similar to Freud’s preconscious level. The contents of the Personal Unconscious [Id] are accessible to full consciousness. Jung’s Personal Unconscious held complexes, which were groups of feelings with a defined theme than give rise to distorted behavioural responses. According to Hall and Lindzey (1970), “… a [complex] is an organised group or constellation of feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and memories which exists in the Personal Unconscious” (p.82). Unlike archetypes [which reflect the cumulative experiences of the entire human race, Homo Sapiens], Complexes reflect each individual’s unique experience. For example, a boy who repressed negative emotions about his mother could become an adult with the complex, experiencing intense feelings and anxieties when images or stimuli associated with motherhood are encountered [because they are dominated by their mothers], for e.g. some mothers might offer nourishment only after – not before – their babies stop crying, thus communicating the unconscious message that the mother is all-powerful.

The second source of unconscious forces in to Jung’s theory, is the Collective Unconscious, more powerful source of energy that contains inherited contents shared with other members of a particular group, i.e. it consists of aspects of personality, common to all humans, that we have inherited from our ancestors. Jung here was talking about individual similarities and not differences in personality. As the personal unconscious has complexes, the collective unconscious has archetypes, defined as primordial images evolved from human beings primitive ancestry of specific experiences and attitudes passed on over centuries [after all humans did evolve from basic primates to the sophisticated beings were now are]. Hall and Lindzey (1970) define archetype as “…a universal thought form (idea) which contains a large element of emotion” (p.84). Although modern science has shown that direct environmental influences has more power in shaping the individual mind, some aspects may be retained from evolutionary psychology although it is important to consider the fact that human societies are constantly evolving in more ways than one. At the time that Jung devised his theory however, he listed such archetypes as birth, death, unity, power, God, the devil, magic, the old sage and the earth mother. As Weitz (1976) noted, according to Jung’s Analytical Psychology, archetypes equip humans to interact with particular aspects of their physical and social worlds in a particular manner, thus archetypes are adaptive from an evolutionary standpoint. For example, Jung (1912) contended that all humans possess a “mother figure” archetype that not only gives them readily accessible image of a generic mother at birth but also predisposes them to interact with their actual mothers in a particular manner [e.g. crying, sucking]. Solomon (2003) noted that in Jung’s Theory, collectively experienced archetypes provide basic themes around which personally experienced complexes are organised. For example, all individuals are born with a readiness to seek nourishment from their mothers (the mother archetype), some individuals may find that their mothers use this readiness against them (mother complex).

The notion of a collective unconscious in personality that provides the individual with patterns of behaviour fits well with Jung’s preoccupation with myths and symbols. Jung believed that the adequacies of a society’s symbols to express archetypal images are an index of the progress of civilisation. [e,g, the Ancient Greeks who after sophisticating their society through the evolution of their values, philosophy & educational system, saw peasants turn into conquerors, sculptors, poets and artists who even went on to colonise countries that later changed the history of those who colonised them in timeless ways / See: L’épopée de la Grèce antique (2016)].

Jung focussed on the middle years of life, when the pressures of sexual drives supposedly give way to anxiety about the more profound philosophical and religious issues of the meaning of life and death. By reinstating the notion of the spiritual soul, Jung argued that the healthy personality has realised the fullness of human potential to achieve self-unity and complete integration. According to Jung, this realisation occurs only after the person has mastered obstacles during the development of personality from infancy to middle age. Failure to grow in this sense results in the disintegration of personality. Accordingly, the person must individualise experiences to achieve a “transcendent function” by which differentiated personality structures are unified to form a fully aware self.

Both Jung (1921) and Freud (1905) wrote about libido, or psychic energy, that presumably fuels individuals’ behaviour, however Jung viewed libido in a less sexualised form. Jung redefined libidinal energy as the opposition of introversion – extraversion in personality, bypassing Freud’s extreme sexual emphasis. Extraversion forces are directed externally to the people and the environment, and then nurture self-confidence. Introversion leads the person to an inner direction of contemplation, introspection and stability. Jung (1921) believed that all individuals are capable of experiencing introversion as well as extraversion over time, however, individuals at any particular point in time may be characterised as experiencing either introversion or extraversion. The opposing energies must be balanced for proper psychological functioning, sensation, thinking, feeling and intuition. An imbalance between extraversion introversion is partly compensated for in dreams. Indeed, for Jung dreams have important adaptive value in helping the person maintain equilibrium. Jung has been praised for developing a dichotomy of flow of psychic energy [i.e. introversion vs extraversion] that has been recast as one of the major personality traits in various trait theories [for empiricists who believe the main focus should be the “conflict-free” conscious part of the ego, to which many basic concepts of Cognitive Psychology can be applied].

In addition to introversion versus extraversion as a pair of opposing directions of flow of psychic energy [i.e. inwards versus outwards], Jung (1921) postulated that thinking vs feeling and sensing vs intuition represent 2 pairs of opposing modes of adaptation and functioning.

As Jung grew older, his writings increasingly came to emphasise mysticism and religious experiences, domains usually ignored by mainstream empirical psychology. Out of all the early founders of psychoanalysis, Jung held views in sharpest contrast to those of empiricism. However, he offered a unique treatment of critical human issues that had not been systematically studied by psychologists and still remain in the realm of speculative philosophy. Perhaps Jung was more of a philosopher than a psychologist, nonetheless he provoked and confronted issues not readily accommodated in other systems of psychology.

Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981)

Jacques Lacan

One of the most famous post-Freudian development, especially popular in Europe and South America, was initiated by the colourful French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Lacan was the son of a successful oil and soap salesman from Paris. His mother was a firm Catholic and his younger brother entered a monastery in 1929.

The two early philosophical influences of Jacques Lacan were Spinoza & Nietzsche:

(i) Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677)

Baruch Spinoza dpurb site web

Traduction(EN): « Joy is man’s passage from less to greater perfection. » -Baruch Spinoza

Spinoza is known as the philosopher of nature and human passions who identified the concept of « God » and Nature. Spinoza proposes that wisdom is the intellectual love of the true God, immanent to reality [that is, scientific studies of Nature are to understand the forces that govern the creations of « God », e.g., medicine, etc.]. Spinoza is considered a Cartesian, i.e. a disciple of Descartes. Spinoza believed in Ethics as a geometrical method that manifests the philosopher’s will to proceed in a rigorous manner, as mathematicians do; he strives to express in Ethics, in an objective manner, the fundamental essence of all things, in other words, the basis of understanding. In Spinoza’s philosophy, Ethics does not designate a moral code, but the true knowledge of the true concept of « God », immanent to the world [which is said to be contained in the nature of a being and does not come from an external principle], the practical science of what is: a single substance, absolutely infinite, of which we are only modes. Spinoza’s concept of « God », the object of Ethics, has nothing to do with that of the Judeo-Christian religion, a principle transcendent to the world – Spinoza does not believe in transcendence. So, we see oppositions to Nietzsche which Jacques Lacan also synthesized with his more modern theories of the psyche. Spinoza did not believe in transcendence and expelled any anthropomorphic representation of the divine [Note: Anthropomorphism is the attribution of characteristics of human behaviour or morphology to other entities such as gods, animals, objects, phenomena, even ideas]. God is nothing else but an absolutely infinite Being, composed of an infinity of attributes, a unique Substance [the Substance designating what is in itself and conceived by itself]. Therefore, God identifies Himself with this substance and designates the whole of reality or Nature, understood as the unity of things and the only Being to which realities relate: Deus sive Natura – God or Nature [a united and infinite nature]. Of this unique substance, of this Nature being one with God [although not interchangeable], human intelligence grasps only two Attributes, Extension and Thought (L’Étendue et la Pensée), the Attribute being defined by Spinoza as what the understanding perceives as constituting its essence. In this perspective, the particular objects of the world represent modifications of the infinite Substance that is Nature [i.e. God’s transcendence], in other words « modes« , that is, affections of this substance. Thus, each particular creature appears as a mode of God, as being in something else, by means of which it is conceived. This tripartition of Substance-Attribute-Mode allows us to grasp the meaning of the concepts of Nature-naturing (natura naturans or Nature-naturante) and Nature-natured (natura naturata or Nature naturée). Nature naturing for Spinoza is God himself, as he is in himself and conceived by himself, as the producer of all reality, i.e. as doing what nature creates/does. Nature natured is considered as everything that follows in the nature of God and his attributes, that is to say, everything that is produced by the Substance of God as he is in it through it. The problem with Spinoza’s system is that it was absolutely deterministic; the infinite attributes of God necessarily produce certain effects, and Spinoza assumes that nothing is given by chance in nature. In Spinoza’s magnum opus, The Ethics (L’Éthique), he speaks of absolute necessity, which has the meaning that everything is already determined by divine Nature to produce an effect [in modernity we know from empirical research that natural and environmental determinants combine to define humans]. Spinoza sees contingency [in other words, what cannot be] simply as a defect in our understanding, a lack of real knowledge. The essence of human nature lies in an active element in all of us that Spinoza calls “conatus”, the effort by which everything strives to persevere in its being, i.e. a natural inclination to strive toward preserving an essential being, where virtue/human power is defined by success in this preservation of being by the guidance of reason as one’s central ethical doctrine, with the highest virtue being the intellectual love or knowledge of God/Nature/Universe. When the “conatus” becomes self-conscious, it is called “desire”, which is therefore identified with « appetite » accompanied by consciousness itself. Thus, conatus and desire correspond to the dynamic affirmation of our being. We find here some link to Schopenhauer’s philosophical meditations about the “Will” and also Lacan’s focus on “Desire” being at the heart of psychoanalytic praxis. However in Spinoza’s reflections, human desires are modified by the intervention of external environmental causes, since we are subject to the action of forces to which we are bound, being all a part of Nature, and it is from this effect that passions are born, passive modifications of our being; this is linked to Lacan’s concept of “chaine signifiante” [signifying chain] which is the structural basis of the unconscious and the roots of linguistic discourse and speech. The two fundamental passions are sadness and joy from which the other passions derive: sadness is the passage to a lesser perfection, while joy is the passage to a greater perfection. Spinoza believed that man’s life is marked by the sad procession of sad passions [hatred, envy, jealousy, la mauvaise foi, etc.] which reduce man to a state of servitude, of passivity; this is where the philosopher comes in, whose responsibility it is to heal man from his sad passions: to make him maître (master) of himself.

Auguste Dumont - Génie de la Liberté (1836) Or dpurb site web

« Génie de la Liberté » par Auguste Dumont, 1836

In Spinoza’s philosophy, virtue is acquiring true knowledge of our passions through the right ideas and notions. Therefore, the virtuous discovers the dynamism that animates him, which allows him to regain the power of the conatus: to know reality and to reach the fullness of existence [Virtue and life are thus inseparable]. The wise man is therefore the one who reaches true knowledge and, in this way, achieves the fullness of existence. The wise man lives under the regime of reason, in this way the Spinozist citizen also finds the agreement and unity of his semblables (fellow men). Therefore, the state must be rationally created, because only the rational state opens the way to freedom, according to the laws of human nature, that is to say, aware of the infinite nature of humanity. Spinoza seems to be situated in the democratic thought where all have equal rights with total freedom of opinion, thus the destiny of free men, living under the regime of reason, in a free city, is outlined. By gaining access to la connaissance vraie (true knowledge), man again becomes a God for man. So, we can see that Spinoza is a rigid penseur de système (system thinker), allowing man to free himself from his illusions and find and accept his place in Nature. Spinoza’s philosophy is not only intellectual but also practical and truly powerful: wisdom is acquired through knowledge; joy is maintained through the search for good passions. Thus, man can persevere in his being.

(ii) Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

Friedrich Nietzsche dpurb site web

Traduction(EN): « The greatness of man is that he is a bridge and not an end. » – Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche is the philosopher of the “will to power”, conceived as creation and vital fullness, as the overwhelming affirmation of life. What is essential is our world as it is joy and will-power. As for the illusion of the afterworlds, Nietzsche hunts it down in all its forms. Nietzsche can be considered a moralist above all. It is clear that Nietzsche’s philosophy is one of the most complex thoughts, a complexity linked as much to his poetic and aphoric writing as to his refusal to situate himself clearly in the philosophical tradition, and we find this in Lacan who was also a literary and profound writer with a singular thought, a synthesis of several schools of thought, where the mediocre reader finds himself in the middle of a nightmare when trying to read it and may even start to question the level of his own intellectual abilities, his place and purpose in the universe. Unseizable, Nietzsche’s writings must be approached like a mountain, a slow progression. Nietzsche diagnosed the essence of the mortal crisis of our time: he described it, in its main characteristics, and in a quasi-clinical manner. He studied it at various levels and, in so doing, often announced with the greatest precision what was only beginning to emerge at the end of the nineteenth century; this fatal disease of modern times, ours, is nihilism, the reign of the absurd, of Nothing (« nihil », as the etymology tells us). Nihilism or the absence of sense, makes becoming a purposeless process and all traditional ideals lose their value. Nihilism, this « Nothing » symbolizes the death of the Divine and the Suprasensible in man [Nietzsche’s death of God can be interpreted symbolically as the death of sensitivity and goodness in man]: we have killed him [the Divine], Nietzsche sometimes tells us, and darkness is now the lot of our world. This death of the Divine as seen by Nietzsche also announces a new dawn in our time: the coming of the « Last Man » which signifies the completion of nihilism. The « Last Man » designates the most despicable thing in this world: the one who is powerless to create and love, the individual totally enslaved and enjoying a programmed and petty « happiness » – he thus hops on the surface of the earth. Lacan, like myself, did not completely follow Nietzsche, but used some of the concepts of the German of the time and then refined them in the field of psychology for the twentieth century. Concepts of metaphysics are sometimes exaggerated in a negative way by Nietzsche, and the advances of our era make some of his views obsolete. One of Nietzsche’s exaggerations seems to be the origin of metaphysics, which he believed to be the by-product of the suffering and resentment of those unable to create positively, and which also engendered moral values [good and evil]. We see that Lacan did not take up everything from Nietzsche, but showed originality by relying on what was worth keeping in our modern world and which could be synchronized with his psychology based on the creative force of language in the Cartesian Subject [i.e. based on Descartes’ model: « Je pense, donc je suis »]. However, we still have concepts of Nietzsche that are in the name of positive creation, and the perfection of the individual and society, and they still have a place in modern philosophical thinking such as those of Jacques Lacan, which assimilate reason, logic, empiricism, metaphysics, genetics, and human and societal evolution.

La matière de leur création, de leur pensée ou de leur écriture dpurb site web

Credits: D.R / Centre Pompidou  « Le festival Hors Pistes dédié chaque année à explorer les images en mouvement et rencontrer celles et ceux  qui en font la matière de leur création, de leur pensée ou de leur écriture… » Source: FranceCulture, 2020

Lacan synthesized Nietzsche’s influence with the strong constructionist and linguistic logic of his pychoanalytic theory, which directs us towards a system of thought where sophisticated and civilised individuals orient, identify and group themselves by « psychical » understanding, connection and similarity, with language [i.e. the communicative discourse and/or speech] as a founding pillar, and not by the atavistic logic of the simple physical/biological illusions of the imaginary since this brings us, human beings, closer to animal psychology; the reasoning behind Lacan’s theory suggests that civilised individuals should see others as semblables [fellow men] not based on the physical but on the « psychical », with a founding pillar being language; the individual should rise above the illusions of solidarity of the physical to embrace the psychical. This is avant-garde and synchronised with the reasoning of science and discoveries of the 19th century with the contributions of Darwin, Freud and Kant. Nietzsche’s inspiring concept is that of « The Will to Power » (Volonté de Puissance) which should not be interpreted by the simple mind as the appetite for power or the spirit of domination or competition, because this would be to conceive or understand it in a very restrictive or destructive way. To Nietzsche, « The Will to Power » is a set of essentially competitive impulses [in the « mediocre »], but also the very movement of creative transcendence [in the noble soul of the « aristocrat » – the term was used by Nietzsche in its essentially spiritual meaning to design the best, that in his times, were individuals from the aristocracy, being those who had a privileged access to the best teachers, institutions and collections of books, which has since changed into mostly vast, yet simple, inheritances of wealth and land; hence in our present society the « aristocrat » term could define the gifted and valiant mind with a wealth of knowledge, profoundly educated, cultivated, creative and consciously connected with the positive values of humanity and nature, i.e. with the ability to shape and have a lasting impact on generations]. This « Will to power » can also mean the struggle for life and also spiritual fullness and existential superabundance. « The Will to Power » is an ambivalent notion that cannot be reduced to its most superficial or trivial forms or manifestations; in its noblest dimension, it is a vital, plastic, destructive but also creative force [which seems to be connected to Shiva, the Hindu god, and Dionysus, his Greek equivalent in the phallic cult according to Alain Daniélou (See the Essay: History on Western Philosophy, Religious cultures, Science, Medicine & Secularisation)]. To understand the essence, it is the body of man [of the human being] that we must take as a reference point, for the body is wisdom and reason, which can be defined as intelligent dynamism, the organic faculty of understanding and thinking: every organism thinks and it is permissible to speak of an unconscious bodily thought [for after all, it is through the senses available from the different organs acquired through the multiple facets of the evolution of the human body that man sees, hears, discovers, smells, touches, tastes, reads, feels, expresses a wide range of emotions, learns, thinks, writes, creates and gains an understanding of human existence and the wider environment (i.e. the natural world), and adjusts to optimise his « psychical » experience].

Friederich_Nietzsche par Edvard Munch,1906

« Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche » par Edvard Munch (1906)

Nietzsche seems to rehabilitate the unconscious as a psychic reality beyond the clear and transparent grasp of oneself. The authentic « Will to Power » as affirmation and fullness reveals, within its creative superabundance, the true field of life and transcendence.

« Puisse chacun avoir la chance de trouver justement la conception de la vie qui lui permet de réaliser son maximum de bonheur. »

French for: « May everyone have the chance to find just the right conception of life that allows them to achieve their maximum happiness. »

– Friedrich Nietzsche

For Nietzsche, among the creations of life is, first and foremost, Art, which Nietzsche conceived in a much more global and dynamic form, where it becomes an invention of harmonious forms, a production destined to embellish the whole of human existence. Nietzsche conceals ugliness, he humanises or hides everything ugly. This set of materials and signs created by the artist who manifests an ideal of beauty is only an appendix of this production of forms that is art in general, this “ivresse de la vie”: a will to exist through harmonious forms. The field of creative life includes artistic activity, authentic work, and generally everything that concerns the positive edification of values: work, the shaping of all things, linked to joy, but does it differ profoundly from the miserable labour for gain? To the powers of life are also attached the authentic moral values, those created by the best,  « les maîtres » (the masters) who are in the vital current of the « Volonté de Puissance » (Will to Power). Thus, Nietzsche’s thought is elitist: the beautiful creative individuality is opposed to the vile herd [the mass]. This « elitist » morality, i.e. this creative act, this triumphant affirmation of values, an affirmation that takes place in joy, is a thousand leagues away from the morality of the « slaves » [metaphor], which is linked to the resentment that gives birth to negative values and “la mauvaise foi” (nastiness, hatred, evil, etc.). What should the man in a world devoid of the divine values believe in? Believe in yourself, in your own power, free yourself from all dominant morality and ideology and follow your own path: become who you truly are and desire – this is what Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche would have said. Nietzsche calls for exceptional people to no longer be ashamed in the face of a supposed morality-for-all, which he deems to be harmful to the flourishing of exceptional people. He cautions, however, that morality, per se, is not bad; it is good for the masses, and should be left to them. Exceptional people, on the other hand, should follow their own « inner law »; a favorite motto of Nietzsche, taken from Pindar, reads:

« Become what you are. »

Le Voyageur contemplant une mer de nuages (Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer) Caspar David Friedrich d'purb dpurb site web

« Le Voyageur contemplant une mer de nuages » (Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer) par Caspar David Friedrich, 1818

In what he considered to be the zenith of his philosophical creation, « Also sprach Zarathustra » [Thus Spoke Zarathustra], Nietzsche portrays the path of a wise man who only addresses himself, a nomad who accepted the disappearance of the divine among men as a personal liberation, a being who freed his mind completely of the burden of ultimate truths, a hermit who did not need anyone anymore and who had overcome hatred and resentment, living in harmony with himself and the cosmic forces of nature: an Übermensch (un Surhomme/an Overman).

It is to be noted that « Thus Spoke Zarathustra », Nietzsche’s magnum opus, completely opposes and rejects the unscientific notion of a superior or pure group or organic composition (i.e. « race »), but instead focuses on the superior individual [organism] who can appear from anywhere as an agent and expression of the cosmic forces of nature.

Les Forces Cosmiques de la Nature: l’Océan (2020)

Yet, while there are no superior groups but only superior individuals, we may still reasonably argue that there are languages that are superior since they offer the ability to interact with a wider audience, but also because these languages offer an entry point and the gift of belonging by creating a social bond to the specific social environments they originate from; environments that may also be considered as superior if the way they are organised [i.e. philosophy, educational system, values, culture and government] lead to more chances of individual human development and life satisfaction, mainly due to the progressive outlook and heritage of their sophisticated and evolving institutions and the way they are managed. However, it is important to understand that any individual speaking in a superior language does not automatically lead to everything being said in that language to be worthy of consideration because while the communicative patterns (i.e. language) of human primates vary from regions, the IQ and creativity of the individuals do not, as the Organic Theory clearly states. Jacques Lacan also reached a fairly similar conclusion since he also distinguished the speaking Subject of the enunciation [i.e. how words are pronounced] from the Subject of the statement [i.e. the genuine message of the discourse], which suggests that in order to evaluate the true worth of any linguistic discourse, it is the genuine message that should be extracted; in other words, it should be translated in the appropriate language of the reader/listener so that its true value and meaning can be assessed. Thus, individuals who intend to share their wisdom and contribute to the world’s development would have an advantage in adopting and mastering a communicative pattern (i.e. language) deemed superior by the fact that it comes with modern human values and is weaved in the fabric of a more refined and sophisticated intellectual, psychosocial, philosophical and artistic heritage [e.g. French, which is the most desired and most spoken second language in the UK and in Germany] since it would be understood by the wider audience of the civilised world, where the major intellectual and cultural evolution/revolution takes place. It may also be useful for the majority of anglophones and fellow English people out there who hardly know their own cultural evolution, to point out that there is French on the emblem of the British monarchy. The words, « Dieu et mon droit » have been the motto since the time of Henry V (1413 – 1422), and since those times old English is not the language of the English elite anymore which resulted to the use of words and expressions of French and Norman origin that are now widely used in the English language.

Anglais VS Français Habsburg d'purb dpurb site web

Traduction(EN): « The English language is a shotgun: the shot is scattered. The French language is a rifle that shoots bullets, precisely. » -Otto von Habsburg

So Nietzsche rightly concluded that there are no superior groups, but only superior individuals that come from the wider human population and together these individuals constitute the force that shapes civilisation; this conclusion had unconsciously acknowledged what science would certify about a century later in 2018, as a genome-wide association meta-analysis in 267, 867 individuals identified 1,016 genes linked to intelligence, which is a highly heritable trait and a major determinant of human health and well-being (Savage, Jansen, Stringer et al., 2018). Before Nietzsche, no philosopher had placed so much emphasis on the individual perspective; he restored the existential mission of philosophy by detaching himself from all the irrational conventions of his time, abandoning lengthy theoretical papers to redact concise reflections on the way of living one’s own life. Nietzsche’s philosophy is centred around the personal sphere of the individual.

In modern times, with the advances of psychology, we can conclude that a superior psyche will include a superior understanding, judgement and vision as the French psychologist, Monique de Kermadec also pointed out regarding « l’adulte surdoué » [i.e. the gifted adult]. The criterion of authenticity always appears to be linked, in Nietzsche’s view, to the affirmation and creative power of life. Nietzsche uses the god Dionysus [whom the French orientalist Alain Daniélou connects to Shiva for his cycle of destruction and creation as an equivalent] as a symbol of life, the most overflowing being of life, who in Nietzsche’s thought embodies the process of “becoming” as destruction and creation; Dionysus is sensuality, the enjoyment of a force that destroys but also generates/creates. The term dyonysism refers to the identification with the principle of ecstasy and life. Thus arises the Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme) for Nietzsche, who faced with the death of the divine, nihilism and the « Last Man » [which designates what is most despicable in this world, the one who is powerless to create and love, i.e. the individual totally enslaved and enjoying a programmed and petty « happiness », those who think that this symbolic death of the divine means nihilism and pure destruction], will have to face these despicable « Last Men »; one could therefore see the Übermenschen (Overmen/Surhommes) as agents of the divine rising to counter evil and the decline of the positive values of civilization; the concept of the Übermensch also seems to share some similarities to what Monique de Kermadec qualifies as l’« Adulte Surdoué » [The gifted adult].

Video: Monique de Kermadec : L’adulte surdoué : bien vivre sa douance (2012)

Freud Entouré par des Idiots dpurb site web

Traduction(EN): « Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not surrounded by idiots. » – Sigmund Freud

For Nietzsche, the earth is no longer in the hands of the divine, but in the hands of those despicable « Last Men, » and the outrage against the earth is now what is the most dreadful. Nietzsche fights against immorality in the name of immoralism, and shows us that the death of the divine is not enough to animate the world with a new morality, and that without the will to power [if it is animated by a weak will], « morality » can turn into nihilism [a nothing, or the absence of sense that makes “becoming” a purposeless process where all traditional ideals lose their value]. The construction of a new morality will be so superior to the old one that it calls, according to Nietzsche, new men, Übermenschen (Overmen/Surhommes), and this new morality will be precisely the « Will to Power ». In order to clarify the concept of Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme) let us clear up misunderstandings by explaining what the Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme) is not, here is a negative definition:

« All beings up to now have created something beyond themselves that is superior to them. What is the ape for man? That is precisely what man must be for the Übermensch (Surhomme/Overman) »

Nietzsche in his time was not an evolutionist, which has changed in our time, and therefore not in possession of the data on the genetics of Übermenschen (Supermen/Surhommes), he conceived of the emergence of the Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme) by the man who surpasses himself: a transcendental man who surpasses himself to become what he really is deep down.

Ubermensch Surhomme Superman dpurb site web

The notion of the Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme) is the backdrop of Nietzsche’s philosophy, it is from the Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme) that Nietzschean thought makes its entrance and all his other themes must be understood from this notion. Thus, to Nietzsche, by pushing back the forces of reaction, of simple negation, those linked to the « NO », by surpassing himself towards those of life and positive creation, man transcends himself towards the Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme), towards a superior human type, free of mind and heart. The Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme) is for Nietzsche the meaning of the earth, the next term of evolution. It is also very important to avoid any misinterpretation of Nietzsche’s « Übermensch » (Overman/Surhomme) which has been wrongly caricatured over the years, it is not specifically or solely about the « blonde beast » of Germanic myths as it is often portrayed by ignorant and mediocre journalists and the masses. After Friedrich Nietzsche’s death, his sister Elisabeth became the curator and editor of Nietzsche’s manuscripts, reworking his unpublished writings to fit her own German nationalist ideology while often contradicting or obfuscating Nietzsche’s true philosophical orientation which were instead explicitly opposed to antisemitism and nationalism but promoted a more universal ideology. Through her published editions, Nietzsche’s work wrongly became associated with fascism and Nazism; 20th century scholars contested this interpretation of his work and corrected editions of his writings were soon made available. Nietzsche’s thought enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1960s and his ideas have since had a profound impact on 20th and early-21st century thinkers across philosophy—especially in schools of continental philosophy such as existentialism, postmodernism and post-structuralism—as well as art, literature, psychology, politics and popular culture. Nietzsche’s philosophy is thus organized around a few major concepts: that of the Übermensch (Overman/Surhomme), the Dionysian and, of course, the Will to Power.

Documentaire: Schmutte, H. (2016). Nietzsche : entre génie et démence. ARTE. [Notice: If the video cannot be viewed from your region, we recommend using HOLA VPN (Click Here, it is FREE!)]

Let us add, finally, the concept of the Eternal Return (any state of the universe returns periodically and this seems to be an intelligent metaphor that explains the state of matter in the universe, constantly being recycled and reshaped). Nietzsche thus (like Lucretia or Spinoza) drew a philosophy of joy, creation and vital fullness. Nietzsche celebrated life and stressed that the secret of the greatest enjoyment is to live intensely and dangerously. Today, Nietzsche’s work and intellectual contribution are considered as revolutionary for its time, however in the very beginning they were not appreciated and recognised for their true worth by his contemporaries; the philosopher struggled to live with his publications and found himself on the fringes of society without any income or fixed accommodation at 35 years old, which had turned out to be a point of no return for him after he put an end to his teaching activities, adopting a nomadic life and living in modest accommodations. An amazing achievement for Nietzsche was the fact that he was named professor even though he had not completed his thesis.

During Jacques Lacan’s studies at the Collège Stanislas he was introduced to the work of Baruch Spinoza & Friedrich Nietzsche, and draws from his years in uniform, the intimate conviction that the most violent psychological wounds and sufferings always arise within communities apparently subjected to the greatest normality. Lacan had felt misunderstood by his father, who had destined him to a business life. He thus enters the modernity of the twentieth century by way of an intellectual rebellion, eager to explore the essence of « madness » whose shadows he had perceived in his own family, Lacan turned to psychiatry. In 2001, Elisabeth Roudinesco said: « Il faut voir l’apport de Lacan comme un tableau moderne. Lacan n’est plus dans l’univers classique des représentations mais dans l’univers de la peinture moderne. C’est la peinture de Picasso par rapport à la peinture classique (…)  toute la modernité est passée. » [French for: « Lacan’s contribution should be seen as a modern painting. Lacan is no longer in the classical universe of representations but in the universe of modern painting. It is Picasso’s painting in relation to classical painting… all modernity has passed. »]

Lacan-carte d'étudiant.jpg

During the early 1920s, Lacan actively engaged with the Parisian literary and artistic avant-garde movements. Having met James Joyce, he was present at the bookshop where the first readings of passages from Ulysses in French and English took place, shortly before it was published in 1922. Lacan also had meetings with Charles Maurras, whom he admired as a literary stylist, and he occasionally attended meetings of Action Française (of which Maurras was a leading ideologue), of which he would later be critical on some aspects that he firmly disagreed and considered as outdated, such as the positivist sociology of Maurras which presents the subject as a simple product of his « milieu » [circle], derived from his culture which was even pushed to absurd extremes by Édouard Pichon to theorise about a « national unconscious ». Lacan was more avant-garde and perhaps unknowingly embraced future psychological advances of neuroscience by founding his logic on the thesis of German biologist and philosopher Von Uexküll who convincingly argued about the multitude of determining factors of the environment and not simply the basic evolution of species, but on the sophisticated elaboration of language [discourse / langage] which identifies the development of the individual psyche to a social structure.

In his famous « Rome Discourse, » Lacan stated: « Le symbolique, l’imaginaire et le réel, les trois registres par lesquels j’ai introduit un enseignement qui ne prétend pas innover, mais rétablir quelques rigeurs dans l’expérience de la psychanalyse, les voilà, jouant à l’état pur dans leurs rapports les plus simples. » [French for: « The symbolic, the imaginary and the real, the three registers through which I have introduced a teaching that does not claim to innovate, but to re-establish some rigour in the experience of psychoanalysis, here they are, playing in a pure state in their simplest relationships.]«  In that same discourse in Rome in 1953 addressed to the Société Française de Psychanalyse, Lacan denounced the way that the role of speech in psychoanalysis had come to be neglected by contemporary psychoanalytic theory, and argues for a renewed focus on speech and language. This remains one of the fundamental modification from Freudian conception: the human being is linked to language. The founding statement of Lacan’s theory defines psychoanalysis as a practice of speech and a theory of the speaking subject. Lacan asserted that psychoanalysis is distinguished from other disciplines in that the analyst works on the Subject’s speech [i.e. linguistic discourse], pointing out that Freud often referred to language when he was focusing on the Unconscious; after all language is the « talking cure » and is constitutive of the psychoanalytic experience. It would be impossible to understand the concept of « madness » without analysing the true reasoning behind it through language and to know if it is « madness » or subjective construction and interpretation that is stable in a particular Subject’s psychical realm. It is the emphasis on language [linguistic discourse] that is regarded as the most distinctive feature in Lacan’s theory which also criticises the way other forms of psychoanalysis tend to play down the importance of linguistic discourse and instead emphasise « non-verbal communication » of the analysand (e.g. body language, etc) at the expense of speech. To Lacan this is a fundamental error for the following main reasons. Firstly, all human discourse is inscribed in a linguistic structure [whatever the language]; even body language is a form of language with the same structural features. Secondly, the aim of psychoanalytic praxis is to articulate the truth of one’s desire in speech [i.e. linguistic discourse] rather than in other forms – the fundamental rule of psychoanalysis is based on the principle that linguistic discourse is the only way to the Subject’s « truth ». Thirdly, linguistic discourse through speech is the only tool and means of access that the psychoanalyst has, since no one can read minds. Any analyst who does not understand and master the way speech and linguistic discourse work does not understand psychoanalysis itself.

Lacan proposed that like the words uttered by God in Genesis, speech is a « symbolic invocation » which creates ex nihilo, « a new order of being in the relations between men. » Lacan distinguished « la parole pleine » [full speech] from « la parole vide » [empty speech] in 1953. La « parole pleine » [full speech] articulates the symbolic dimension of language; it is a speech that performs [qui fait acte]. La « parole pleine » [full speech] is defined by its identity with that which it speaks about, it is one full of meaning. « La parole vide » [empty speech] is one that simply has signification. The aim of psychoanalytic praxis is to articulate « la parole pleine » [full speech], which can be hard work; « la parole pleine » [full speech] can be quite laborious (pénible) to articulate. The speech act also contains the essence of efficacious transference, which involves an exchange of signs that transforms both the speaker and the listener. Each time a man speaks to another in an authentic and full manner, we find in a true sense, « symbolic transference » – a process that takes place and changes the nature of the two beings present. The Symbolic dimension of language is that of the signifier and full speech, the true discourse of the Other [Big Other / Grand Autre / Superego], the Unconscious. The Imaginary dimension of language is that of the signified, signification and empty speech, the wall of language which interrupts, distorts and inverts the discourse of the Other [Big Other / Grand Autre / Superego]; Lacan proposed that language is as much there to be found in the Other [Grand Autre / Superego] as to drastically prevent us from understanding him. It is important to note that language has both a Symbolic and an Imaginary dimension; there is something in the symbolic function of human discourse that cannot be eliminated, and that is the role played in it by the imaginary [which is shaped by the Symbolic]. Psychoanalytic theory claims that speech is the only means of access to the truth about desire; a particular type of speech without conscious control termed « free association ». The ethics of psychonalysis enjoin analysands [patients] to recognise their own part in their sufferings, so that the psychoanalyst can then help them work through their problems and psychical barriers.

Lacan developed psychoanalytic theory in radically new directions that relied heavily on linguistic theory and other intellectual trends in the late 20th-century France, such as the structuralist movement. It was proposed that the Unconscious is structured like a language, so that its operations can be likened to linguistic phenomena [e.g. repression was likened to a metaphor]. Hence, to uncover unconscious material the psychoanalyst must decipher a chain of clues with a great deal of verbal dexterity. Lacan also held that the ego [le Moi], although conscious and able to orchestrate a wide range of operations, is not a complete organ of self-control as Ego psychologists from the US claim, but largely also an unstable and ultimately illusory sense of personal unity. To Lacan, our sense of wholeness is a fiction and our selves are profoundly “de-centred” around a tissue of identifications with people [and characters] we have known [directly or indirectly exposed to – this extends to the arts, fictional characters, mentors, etc].

Lacan’s (1973/1977) version of Psychoanalytic Theory pointed out that Ego Psychologists [e.g. Anna Freud, Heinz Hartmann, Erik Erikson] and Object Relations Theorists [e.g. Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott and Ronald Fairbairn] had strayed too far from Freud’s original (1900, 1923) original version of psychoanalytic theory. This is even in direct contrast to Jacques Lacan’s own mentor, Ego Psychologist Rudolph Loewenstein who was also a close associate and collaborator of Ego Psychologist Heinz Hartmann.

« Pendant un certain temps, on a pu croire que les psychanalystes savaient quelque chose, mais ça n’est plus très répandu (rires). Le comble du comble, c’est qu’ils n’y croient plus eux-mêmes (rires), en quoi ils ont tort, car justement ils en savent un bout, seulement, exactement comme pour l’inconscient dont c’est la véritable définition, ils ne savent pas qu’ils le savent. »

French for: « For a while, you might have thought that psychoanalysts knew something, but it’s not very common anymore (laughs). The worst thing is that they no longer believe it themselves (laughs), in which they are wrong, because they know a bit of it, only, exactly as for the unconscious, of which this is the true definition, they don’t know that they know it. »

-Jacques Lacan, Conférence de Louvain, 1972

Lacan, however, seems to have set the record straight in accentuating the fundamental and widely accepted foundations of psychoanalysis by advocating a “return to Freud” [not Anna Freud’s (1923) version of Ego Psychology], but rather to Sigmund Freud’s Topographic Model of the 1900 that defined the mind into 3 levels of awareness, i.e. the Unconscious [Le Ça], the Preconscious [Le grand Autre] and the Conscious [Le Moi].

Rocha (2012) noted that Lacan (1973/1977) was especially concerned with the Unconscious [l’inconscient, le « Ça », the « It », the ID] as the “ideal worker” within individuals’ personality structures. In a 1973 television interview, Lacan famously argued that the Unconscious does notthink, nor calculate, nor judge; the unconscious simply works!” Lacan contended that like the ideal worker in a capitalist society, the Unconscious generates a product in compliance with rigid, hierarchical rules and regulationsin particular, the product of unthinking and unquestioning in the fulfillment of individuals’ desire – which seems like something psychoanalysis should address and change for a humane, intelligent and creative civilisation.

As for dreams, Lacan stressed that dreams are important products of the Unconscious [l’inconscient, le « Ça », the « It », the ID] that allow individuals tofeel” [at least during the sleeping state] that they have fulfilled their desire, however, dreams may also contain anxiety-provoking contents that individuals do not desire. As Meyer (2001) interestingly pointed out, in Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory, the problem of the Unconscious [l’inconscient, le « Ça », the « It », the ID] in finding expression is the problem of discourse with the “Other” [Le grand « Autre », the big « Other », Preconscious Superego in the domain of the symbolic]. Indeed, infants enter the world without knowing how to communicate their desire to caregivers via language, with its own rules and structure. It is also to be noted that in Lacanian Theory of Psychoanalysis, infants’ desire arises from the “loss and longing” that they experience when they are separated from their caregivers [especially their mothers or mother-figure in most cases] – precisely the person from whom the infants first learn early forms of basic communication [language] since the helpless infant’s needs are met after his/her various demands are expressed in sounds and specific actions. Waintrater (2012) also pointed out that in Lacan’s Theory, individuals’ desire are not solely tied to infantile sexuality. If anything, Lacan’s concept of unconscious desire complements John Bowlby’s (1969) concept of infants’ need for attachment. Lacan uses the term « Manque« , French for « Lack » which is always related to desire. It is a lack which causes desire to arise [desire is the metonymy of the lack of being (manque-à-être)], however the precise nature of what is lacking [i.e. symbolic lack] varies from one individual to another. In 1955, when the term « Manque (Lack) » first appears, it designates first and foremost « manque-à-être » [want-to-be] which is the « lack of being« , hence what is desired is « being », i.e. not the lack of this or that, but the lack of « being » whereby the being exists, this lack of being [manque-à-être] is the heart of analytic experience and the very field in which the neurotic patient’s passion is deployed. An important distinction to be noted is between the lack of being [Manque-à-être / want to be] which relates to desire, and the lack of having [Manque-à-avoir] which relates to demand.

Distinction between Need, Demand & Desire

Need

In the context of this distinction, « need » comes close to what Freud referred to as « instinct » (Instinkt); that is, a purely biological concept opposed to the realm of the drive (Trieb), it is an appetite which emerges according to the requirements of the organism and which abates completely (even if only temporarily) when satisfied. The human subject, being born in a state of helplessness, is unable to satisfy its own needs, and hence depends on the Other [usually a role occupied by the mother in most cases] to help it satisfy them. In order to get the Other’s help, the infant must express its needs vocally; need must be articulated in demand. The primitive demands of the infant may only be inarticulate screams, but they serve to bring the Other to minister to the infant’s needs. However, the presence of the Other soon acquires an importance in itself, an importance that goes beyond the satisfaction of need, since this presence symbolizes the Other’s love. Hence demand soon takes on a double function, serving both as an articulation of need and as a demand for love. However, whereas the Other can provide the objects which the subject requires to satisfy his needs, the Other [usually mother at this stage] cannot provide that unconditional love which the subject craves. Hence even after the needs which were articulated in demand have been satisfied, the other aspect of demand, the craving for love, remains unsatisfied, and this leftover is desire.

The concept of a pre-linguistic need is thus merely a hypothesis, and the subject of this pure need is a mythical subject; even the paradigmatic need of hunger never exists as a pure biological given, but is marked by the structure of desire. Nevertheless, this hypothesis is useful to Lacan for maintaining his theses about the radical divergence between human desire [which is inscribed in the Symbolic order] and all biological categories; need is thus an intermittent tension which arises for purely organic reasons and which is discharged entirely by the specific action corresponding to the particular need in question.

Demand

Lacan argues that since the infant is incapable of performing the specific actions that would satisfy its biological needs, and hence Lacan bases the distinction on the fact that in order to satisfy his needs the infant must articulate them in language; in other words, the infant must articulate his needs in a « demand » [for them to be met by the mother who will perform the specific actions]. However, in doing so, something else is introduced which causes a split between need and demand; this is the fact that every demand is not only an articulation of need but also an (unconditional) demand for love. Now, although the Other to whom the demand is addressed (in the first instance, the mother) can and may supply the object which satisfies the infant’s need [e.g. the breast to satisfy the child’s hunger], she is never in a position to answer the demand for love unconditionally, because she too is divided. The result of this split between need and demand is an insatiable leftover, which is desire itself. It is this double function which gives birth to desire, since while the needs which demand articulates may be satisfied, the craving for love is unconditional and insatiable, and hence persists as a leftover even after the needs have been satisfied; this leftover constitutes desire. In the seminar of 1956-7, Lacan argues that the cry of the human infant — its call (l’appel) to the mother — is not merely an instinctual signal but is « inserted in a synchronic world of cries organized in a symbolic system. » In other words, the infant’s screams become organized in a linguistic structure long before the child is capable of articulating recognisable words.

Demand is thus intimately linked to the human subject’s initial helplessness. By forcing the patient to express himself entirely in speech, the psychoanalytic situation puts him back in the position of the helpless infant, thus encouraging regression.

« Through the mediation of the demand, the whole past opens up right to early infancy. The subject has never done anything other than demand, he could not have survived otherwise, an we just follow on from there. » However, while the speech of the patient is itself already a demand (for a reply), this demand is underpinned by deeper demands (to be cured, to be revealed to himself). The question of how the psychoanalyst engages with these demands is crucial. Certainly the psychoanalyst does not attempt to gratify all of the patient’s demands, but nor is it simply a question of frustrating them.

Desire 

Lacan follows Spinoza in arguing that « desire is the essence of man. » Desire is simultaneously the heart of human existence and the central concern of psychoanalysis. However, when Lacan talks about desire, it is not any kind of desire he is referring to, but always « unconscious » desire. This is not because Lacan sees conscious desire as unimportant, but simply because it is unconscious desire that forms the central concern of psychoanalysis. The aim of psychoanalytic praxis is to lead the patient to recognise the truth about his/her desire. It is only possible to recognize one’s desire when it is articulated in speech. Hence in psychoanalysis, « what’s important is to teach the subject to name, to articulate, to bring this desire into existence. » However, it is not a question of seeking a new means of expression for a given desire, for this would imply a expressionist theory of language. On the contrary, by articulating desire in speech, the patient brings it into existence.

« That the subject should come to recognise and to name his desire; that is the efficacious action of analysis. But it isn’t a question of recognising something which would be entirely given. … In naming it, the subject creates, brings forth, a new presence in the world. » [adds to reality what was previously not there through language]. This seems to have a link to Schopenhauer’s concept of the « Will » which he proposed can be understood through the potential of the human brain so that as it is kindled by a spark it brings the whole world as idea into existence [Freud was inspired by Schopenhauer and so was Lacan indirectly]; knowledge proceeds from the « Will » which here is « Desire » – knowledge that is either from the senses or is rational as it is destined to serve the will in its aim of expressing itself.

However, there is a limit to how far desire can be articulated in speech because of a fundamental « incompatibility between desire and speech; « it is this incompatibility which explains the irreducibility of the unconscious (i.e. the fact the the unconscious is not that which is not known, but that which cannot be known). « Although the truth about desire is present to some degree in all speech, speech can never articulate the whole truth about desire; whenever speech attempts to articulate desire, there is always a leftover, a surplus, which exceeds speech. »

It is important to distinguish between desire and the drives. Although they both belong to the field of the Big Other, hence are within the Symbolic field/order (as opposed to love which lies in the imaginary field/order but still has effects in the symbolic order, love requires reciprocity, but the drives only pure activity), desire is one whereas the drives are many. In other words, the drives are the particular (partial) manifestations of a single force called desire (although there may also be desires which are not manifested in the drives). There is only one object of desire, object (petit) a, which is represented in any object which sets desire in motion, especially the partial objects which define the drives [The « objet petit a » is the leftover behind the introduction of the Symbolic dimension in the Real, it denotes a surplus meaning and enjoyment which has no « use value » but persists for the mere sake of enjoyment; it is linked to the illusory/imaginary concept of semblance]. The drives do not seek to attain the objet petit a, but rather circle round it. The object (petit) a is not the object towards which desire tends, but that which sets desire in motion. It plays an increasingly important part in Lacan’s concept of psychoanalytic praxis, in which the psychoanalyst must situate himself/herself as the substitute for objet petit a, i.e. the cause of the analysand’s [patient’s] desire. The universal feature of desire is commonly evident in hysterics [hysteria has changed in appearance nowadays but has not disappeared], being people who unconsciously sustain another person’s desire and convert another’s desire into their own. So, in the psychoanalytic praxis/treatment of hysterics, the most important part for the psychoanalyst is to discover the place [i.e. not the physical or anatomical locality, but the psychical locality / The « Other » scene in Lacanian terms] from which the patient desires [i.e. the Subject with whom he/she identifies] and not simply the object of the patient’s desire. Desire is not a relation to an object, but a relation to a lack (Manque-à-être / Lack of being). A major point from Lacan’s discourse on desire is that desire is a social product constituted in a dialectical relationship [i.e. which is embedded in linguistic discourse] with the perceived desires of other subjects.

Alexandre Kojève, whose seminars were followed by Lacan and also other intellectuals de « premier plan » of the time such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Georges Bataille, Jean Hyppolite and  Raymond Queneau gave the example of the Oedipus complex to point out that desire is essentially desire to be the object of another’s desire; Kojève argued that this is illustrated for the first « time » during the Oedipus complex, when the young developing subject desires to be the object of the desire of the first « Other » in his life [which is usually the mother or a mother figure in most cases], when the subject desires to be the object of desire [symbolic phallus] of the mother. Lacan argues that the child must detach himself from the imaginary relation with the mother in order to enter the social world; failure to do so can result in any one of various peculiarities ranging from phobia to perversion.

One of Lacan’s most often repeated formulas is: « man’s desire is the desire of the Other [i.e. the Big Other/Superego]. » This can be understood in many complementary ways, of which the following are the most important. Desire is for the thing that we suppose the Other desires, which is to say, the thing that the Other lacks. Hence, the subject desires from the point of view of « another »; the object of man’s desire is simply an object desired by someone else, which in most cases is the main reason why the object becomes desirable, and unfortunately not because of the natural quality of the thing in itself [Note: this is of course applicable to the common majority, since the consciousness of individuals with superior reflective abilities and philosophical values will likely lead them to perceive, think and behave differently].

Desire is essentially the « desire of the Other‘s [i.e. Grand Autre’s / Superego’s] desire », which implies both the desire to be the object of another’s desire, and the desire for recognition by another. Desire is essentially a desire for recognition.

Lacan takes this idea from Hegel, to state:

Desire is human only if the one desires, not the body, but the Desire of the other. . . that is to say, if he/she wants to be ‘desired’ or ‘loved’, or, rather, ‘recognised’ in his/her human value. . . . In other words, all human, anthropogenetic Desire . . . is, finally, a function of the desire for ‘recognition‘.

On love and desire, the former is a metaphor, while the latter is metonymy; love is located in the imaginary order but generates effects in the symbolic order where desire is located. We do find some similarities between love and desire in Lacan’s work since it is assumed that both can never be fully satisfied [i.e. insatiable]. The structure of love as « the wish to be loved » is also identical to the structure of desire in which the subject desires to become the object of the Other’s desire. Love involves an imaginary reciprocity, since to love is also to wish to be loved.

Desire is metonymy, and hence a constant force which can never be fully satisfied [because humans tend to have other desires once one is achieved and also because Desire may not only arise from Lack but may also be a productive force in itself]. Desire is the constant ‘pressure’ which underlies the drives and keeps individuals moving forward towards progress [with the right choice(s) and/or the right guidance]. As Elisabeth Roudinesco said: « Lacan est un penseur sceptique et en même temps passionné, c’est-à-dire l’engagement, la possibilité de croire encore en quelque chose, c’est-à-dire au désir, existe, donc il ne faut pas désespérer le Sujet mais la seule chose qui peut compter c’est l’éthique du désir, puisqu’il ne nous reste plus que ça : ne pas céder sur son désir ; ça c’est l’héroïsme Lacanien. » [French for: « Lacan is a sceptical and at the same time passionate thinker, that is to say commitment, the possibility of still believing in something, that is to say, in desire, exists, so one should not abandon the Subject, but the only thing that can count is the ethics of desire, since that is all we have left: not to give up on one’s desire; that is Lacanian heroism. »]

In order to achieve the desire for recognition all Subjects must impose the idea that they have of themselves on others (i.e. the rest of the humanity); this leads all individuals in a form of personal fight [which not necessarily violent, but rather a dialectical discourse] with the rest of humanity for recognition and pure prestige; Lacan argues that it is only by risking one’s life for recognition that one can prove that he is truly human. Lacan introduced « la dialectique du maître et de l’esclave », to use the metaphors « Master » and « Slave » to point out that human civilisation is only possible because we have those who direct (Masters/Maîtres) and those who receive directions (Slaves/Esclaves); civilisation would not be possible if it was composed of only masters or of only slaves, both are required and play a fundamental role in the advancement of civilisation. A Subject can both be a master and a slave, i.e. a master to one, but at the same time a slave for another in a different domain. To Lacan, the master signifier is that which represents a particular Subject for all other signifiers but can never represent the Subject completely since there is always some surplus which escapes representation.

The 3 Registers: Real, Imaginary and Symbolic

Firstly, the « Real » is not « reality », and there is no « objective reality » because there is only a subjective « reality » that holds significance for any individual Subject, and this subjective reality takes shape by its knots with the Imaginary and the Symbolic register [both conceived from the Real, which also then ties itself to the 2 other registers] that the Subject identifies with linguistically. It is in this sense that Lacan is a formidable realist and ties himself to all the great Realist Schools of Philosophy. The Real is a domain outside the symbolic Subject, the Real is the domain of the inexpressible since it does not belong to language. The Lacanian « Real » contains the « Lack » which generally manifests itself in real nothingness. To indicate that something is lacking, requires the assumption that it is possible for it to be present, which introduces the Symbolic domain into the Real. The « Real » simply stands for what is neither symbolic nor imaginary and is never truly known; it is mediated by the 2 orders of the Imaginary and the Symbolic; thus while the Real is present, these uncanny objects are treated as alien, meaningless and reminders of the symbolic lack in the subject’s identity formation; and « lack » is what causes desire to arise, which leads to the Subject’s unique development and growth.

Lacan said:

« L’inconscient reste le cœur de l’être pour les uns, et d’autres croiront me suivre à en faire l’Autre (symbolique) de la réalité. La seule façon de s’en sortir, c’est de poser qu’il est le réel, ce qui ne veut dire aucune réalité, le réel en tant qu’impossible à dire, c’est-à-dire en tant que le réel c’est l’impossible, tout simplement . »

French for: « The unconscious remains the heart of the being for some, and others will believe they follow me to make it the Other (symbolic) of reality. The only way to get out of it is to pose that it is the real, which does not mean any reality, the real as impossible to say, that is to say as the real is the impossible, quite simply. »

Jean-Bertrand Pontalis who was psychoanalysed by Lacan, assisted to his presentations while also participating in the famous seminars that he transcribed the résumés. Pontalis said: « On est un peu perdu et on se dit c’est peut-être génial, c’est peut-être moi qui comprend rien, ça me rappelle que d’ailleurs Lacan disant – alors qu’il y avait au début de ses séminaire des gens comme Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Hyppolite venait, Paul Ricœur et bien d’autres – je l’entends encore dire – peut-être pas s’adressant à eux mais l’auditoire en général : « Mais enfin, vous allez commencer à l’ouvrir votre comprenoire ? » Voilà, donc je ne peux pas dire que ça m’émeuve, parce qu’il a quand même un côté comédien même très comédien, il en remet un peu comme il en remettait dans sa vêture, avec ses vestes, ses cols Mao à l’époque et puis ensuite les fameux cigares torsadés. » [French for: « We’re a bit lost and we say to ourselves that maybe it’s great, maybe it’s me who doesn’t understand anything, it reminds me of Lacan saying – while at the beginning of his seminars there were people like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Hyppolite came, Paul Ricoeur and many others – I still hear him say, perhaps not addressing them but the audience in general: « But finally, you will begin to open your understanding? » So I can’t say I’m moved, because he still has a comedian side, even very comical, like he used to portray with his clothes, with his jackets, his Mao collars at the time, and then the famous twisted cigars. »].

Jacques Lacan jeune.jpg

Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981)

Christian Jambet explained how the real is « nothing », but gets its subjective significance from knots with the imaginary and the symbolic register of the individual Subject: « Le nœud était là pour essayer de transmettre, pas simplement le réel comme vérité ou le réel comme indicible, mais le réel comme ce qui est là dans sa plus grande nudité et sa plus grande insignifiance. La chute d’une ficelle et en même temps son enroulement. Qu’est-ce qui reste quand ça se défait ? Un rien. Et en même temps que ce rien forme la chose la plus complexe, c’est-à-dire tous ces nœuds du langage ont quoi nous sommes pris et qui tissent notre vie. » [French for: « The knot (Borromean) was there to try to transmit, not simply the Real as truth or the Real as unspeakable, but the real as what is there in its greatest nakedness and insignificance. The fall of a string and at the same time its knots. What remains when it unravels? A nothing, and at the same time this nothing forms the most complex thing, that is to say, all those knots of language that we are caught in and that weave our lives. »].

Lacan psychanalyse noeud-borromeen danny d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

Le Noeud Borroméen (The Borromean Knot or Chain) / We could refer to this figure as a chain since it involves the interconnection of several different threads. Although a minimum of three threads or rings [Real, Imaginary & Symbolic] are required to form a Borromean chain, there is no maximum number; the chain may be extended indefinitely by adding further rings, while still preserving its Borromean quality

Secondly, we have the Imaginary register/order which is the domain of the formation of the Ego in the mirror stage by identification with the counterpart [or specular image, i.e. the little other (petit autre)] and this dual illusory relationship between the Ego and the counterpart is characterised by narcissism and alienation. Lacan also accused the major psychoanalytic schools of reducing psychoanalysis to the imaginary domain where the Ego lies. Although the imaginary is structured by the symbolic, the Imaginary register is the dimension of the human subject which is most closely linked to animal psychology; this means that in man’s imaginary, the relation has deviated from the realm of human nature and shifted to the realm of image and imagination, deception and lure [sexual behaviour is especially prone to the lure in animals, which is straightforward]. The principal illusions of the imaginary register are those of wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality and similarity, which is in fact untrue and deceptive.

Thirdly, we have the Symbolic register/order [which is constructed largely via language and discourse] and which is one of the aspects of the Subject that is revealed via the individual’s dreams. The Symbolic register is the fundamental cornerstone for Lacan; the Subject’s relationship with the Symbolic is at the heart of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysts are essentially practitioners of the symbolic order [i.e. civilised culture and the symbolic are thus imposed on raw nature]. Lacan criticised the psychoanalysis of his day for ignoring the symbolic register and reducing everything to the imaginary order of the Ego, and this for Lacan is a betrayal of Freud’s most basic insights; « Freud’s discovery is that of the field of effects, in the nature of man, produced by his relationship to the symbolic order« . Lacan argues that it is only by working in the Symbolic field that the psychoanalyst can produce changes in the subjective position of the patient and foster progress and growth; these changes will also structure the illusions produced by the Ego [le « Moi »] in the Imaginary order, since the Imaginary is influenced by the Symbolic. As Elisabeth Roudinesco pointed out: « ces illusions existent, elles forment notre psychisme ; nous vivons dans un monde d’illusions, de représentations et qui nous marque à vie et qui resterons d’ailleurs » [French for: « these illusions exist, they form our psyche; we live in a world of illusions, of representations and which marks us for life and will remain so for the future…« ].

Un monde d'illusions Elisabeth Roudinesco Jacques Lacan danny d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

« We live in a world of illusions… » -Elisabeth Roudinesco, 2001

Hence, a well adjusted psyche will allow the Subject to generate the appropriate illusions in the imaginary register of the Ego [Le Moi] that are synchronised with the true Subject [i.e. true product of the Symbolic register tied by language(s)] and his/her desires which has its roots in and is structured by the « scene » [i.e. NOT physical or anatomical locality, but PSYCHICAL locality] of the Other [i.e. Big Other/Grand Autre/Superego] where language and discourse originate. The well adjusted Imaginary of the Ego [le Moi] reflects the individual’s desires and unique personality, and contributes to growth since it allows the Subject to imagine creatively while regulating the wild desires of the Unconscious [ID / It / Ça / Inconscient] according to the symbolic laws of the Big Other [i.e. Grand Autre / Superego under the ID]. The balance between these 3 domains [ID – Superego – Ego] differs from one individual to the other leading to differences in personality.

Structural components [or registers/orders] of the Subject that are revealed via dreams are the Imaginary and the Real. Lacan argued that the psychanalyst’s interpretation of dreams can be viewed as analogous to a linguist’s translation of a language, unearthing the meaning that particular symbols hold for an individual [e.g. a client in psychotherapy or an individual seeking psychoanalytic guidance to enhance themselves]. Lacan noted that a specific difficulty that arises when psychoanalysts interpret the content of clients’ dreams is that, by the time the clients have awakened a large portion [if not most or all] of the dream has vanished, and this can be problematic if clients are reflecting on dreams that they experienced several year (decades?) ago. According to Lacanian Theory, Marder (2013) noted that dreams are oriented towards future interpretation, by dreamers themselves or by someone else (e.g. Psychoanalysts). Hence, truly important content are likely to survive clients’ transition from sleeping to waking states.

Lacan also pointed out as Stockholder (1998) noted, that Freud’s (1923) Structural model, i.e. the later version of his Psychoanalytic Theory with its dictinctions among Id, Super-Ego and Ego had distorded the true meaning of the first Topographic Model. And perhaps rightly observed, since the Ego which was meant to be conscious, revealed an unconscious element in its ability to instantly generate defence mechanisms outside the awareness of the patient, when before the function of the Ego was just one component present in the Conscious, i.e. the Ego [le Moi], was a part of the « Conscious », as a level of consciousness and not assumed to be a distinct mental functions as part of the new 3 part dissection [ID, SuperEgo and Ego]. However, they can be synthesised and enhanced, as we are doing with Freud, Jung and Lacan along with other discoveries in the realms of Neuroscience and Cognitive-Psychology to explore the psychology of the singular organism and its powers of definition to a level that no other psychologist has attempted to before our endeavour.

Lacan’s theory relocates the ID [Ça / L’Inconscient / Symbolic], Super-Ego [Surmoi, Le grand Autre: the big Other / Symbolic] and the Ego [Moi / Imaginary order] across the Unconscious, Preconscious and Conscious.

The Subject: Uniqueness in the speaking being, le parlêtre

Although psychoanalytic praxis has powerful effects on the ego, it is the Subject, and not the ego, on which psychoanalysis primarily operates. Different from the ego, the Subject is a product of the symbolic Grand Autre, i.e. the « Big Other » [Superego under the influence of the ID]. The Subject means no more than « human being » and in 1953 Lacan establishes a clear distinction between the Subject and the Ego which remained a one of the most fundamental distinctions in his work.  Whereas the Ego is part of the imaginary order, the Subject is part of the symbolic.

Lacan distinguished between 3 kinds of subject. Firstly, we have the impersonal subject, independent of the other, the pure grammatical subject, the noetic subject, the « it » of « it is known that ». Secondly, we have the anonymous reciprocal subject who recognises himself in equivalence with the other (ego reflection / petit autre / little other). Thirdly and finally, we have the personal subject in his uniqueness completely constituted by the act of self-affirmation. It is the third sense of the term subject, i.e. the personal subject in his uniqueness that constitutes the focus of Lacan’s work, and this also seems to be in line with our philosophy of construction and singularity in the creation of the individual. Lacan’s subject is the « subject of the unconscious », i.e. it is a product of the expression of the unconscious through the symbolic « Grand Autre » [Superego]. Lacan argues that this distinction can be traced back to Freud: « [Freud] wrote Das Ich und das Es in order to maintain this fundamental distinction between the true Subject of the unconscious and the Ego as constituted in its nucleus by a series of alienating identifications. A complex and unique domain such as the subject should not be objectified or reduced to a thing; « What do we call a subject? Quite precisely, what in the development of objectivation, is outside of the object. » References to language come to dominate Lacan’s concept of the subject from the mid-1950s on. It is very important however to distinguish the term « language » when reading the translations of Lacan’s work in English since the inexistence of some words in English make the translation from French inaccurate. Most importantly, in the French language we have two terms that both translate to « language » in English, these are the French terms « langue » [which refers a specific language, e.g. French or English] and « langage » [which refers to the prosody, expressive, grammatical and communicative structure of the language being used, the discourse of a particular Subject from any « langue » (specific language) since all « langues » (specific languages) come with different levels of structure, being a universal feature], it is the latter term « langage » referring to the general structure of the communicative pattern and linguistic discourse and not « langue » that is of interest to Lacanian psychoanalysis, i.e. the content of the discourse. So, it is important to note that in English, the term « language » in Lacan’s writings most often refers to  the French term « langage » [i.e. the structure and content of the communicative pattern or discourse] and not « langue ». Linguistic discourse (le langage) is a single paradigm of all structures and the basic units are the signifier; the unconscious is a treasury of signifiers in the Symbolic structured like language that finds expression to define the Subject where discourse becomes a social bond. Lacan distinguishes the Subject of the enunciation [i.e. how words are pronounced] from the Subject of the statement [i.e. the genuine message of the discourse] to show that because the Subject is essentially a speaking being (parlêtre), he/she is inescapably divided [i.e. by different forms of communicative patterns]. Language is a constantly evolving domain and not a nomenclature [i.e. not complete, sealed, strictly and methodically organised], beyond its use for conveying information, language is foremost an appeal to an interlocutor. In the early 1960s Lacan defines the subject as that which is represented by a signifier for another signifier; in other words, the subject is an effect of language and in philosophical « discourse » it denotes an individual self-consciousness; linguistic discourse is a mediating element that allows the Subject to attain his desired recognition from others [i.e. the rest of humanity] while creating a social bond; this perfectly illustrates Lacan’s thesis about the determination of consciousness by the Symbolic register. « The subject is a subject only by virtue of his subjection to the field of the Other [Grand Autre / Big Other / Superego / from the Symbolic register]. »The philosophical connotations of the term « Subject » are particularly emphasised by Lacan, who links it with Descartes’s philosophy of the cogito: « Je pense donc que je suis » [I think therefore, I am] – « in the term subject . . . I am not designating the living substratum needed by this phenomenon of the subject, nor any sort of substance, nor any being possessing knowledge in his pathos . . . nor even some incarnated logos, but the Cartesian subject, who appears at the moment when doubt is recognised as certainty. » The fact that the symbol of the subject, S, is a homophone of the Freud’s term Es (‘Id’) illustrates that for Lacan, the true subject is the subject of the unconscious [i.e. the impact of the expression of the instincts and language of the unconscious through the SuperEgo/Big Other/Grand Autre on the subject and ego – which differs in individuals. Lacan forced us to admit that we all have mental automatism. We all have, deep inside us, this inner voice that will inhabit the language [or languages] with which we will speak. Perhaps a good example of the expression of the unconscious inner voice is through music, which Lacan saw as a fundamental language of our unconscious thoughts, and therefore the bearer of an enigmatic knowledge, i.e. a form of language that would therefore have a meaning, corresponding for example to that of the different emotions that satisfy the various states of mind and that possibly supports an imaginary form of communication]. In 1957 Lacan strikes through this symbol to produce the symbol $, the « barred subject, » thus illustrating the fact that the subject is essentially divided; the division of the subject by different forms of communicative patterns.

Niklos Koda Tome 7 Magie Blanche et Le spiborg - Mort et Déterré

Déssins: « Niklos Koda » par Olivier Grenson & « Mort et Déterré » par Jocelyn Boisvert et Pascal Colpron

L’Autre [Grand Autre / Big Other / Superego] as an early form of conscience from the Symbolic order/register & the mysterious origins and social bond of language [Speech / Linguistic discourse]

Lacan distinguishes between the Superego and the ego-ideal and argues that in most cases the primary function of the Superego is to repress sexual desire for the mother or mother figure in the resolution of the child’s early Oedipus complex and following Freud he also argues that the Superego is an early form of conscience that develops from the Oedipal identification with the father but also incorporates the maternal origins of an archaic form of the superego [conscience] derived from Melanie Klein’s thesis. Hence, Lacan proposed that in most people, the Oedipus complex is a process which imposes Symbolic structures on sexuality and allows the Subject to emerge – the imposition of culture on nature. When Lacan returned to the subject of the Superego [Grand Autre / Big Other] in his 1953-4 seminar, he located it in the symbolic order, as opposed to the imaginary order of the ego: the superego [i.e. Grand Autre] is essentially located within the symbolic plane of speech and has a close relationship with the « law » [law here does not refer to a particular piece of legislation, but to the fundamental principles which underlie social relations, i.e. a set of universal principles which makes social existence possible, the structures that govern social exchange, for e.g. gift giving or the formaton of pacts. Since the most basic form of exchange is communication [e.g. the exchange of words, the gift of speech], the symbolic « law » is fundamentally a linguistic entity/dimension, it is the law of the signifier. This law then is revealed with an order of language – the symbolic order itself. Lacan argues that the « law » is human because it separates man from other animals by regulating sexual relations that are among animals, unregulated. It is the law of the pleasure principle which commands the subject to « Enjoy as little as possible » and maintains the subject at a safe distance from the « Thing » (the forbidden object of desire), making the subject circle round it without ever attaining it because if the subject transgresses, it is experienced as suffering/evil – it is fortunate then that the thing is usually inaccessible and/or out of direct reach; the thing is impossible to imagine, it is unknowable and beyond symbolisation]. The « law » as such is a symbolic structure which regulates subjectivity and in this sense prevents disintegration of the wholeness of the individual’s psycheThe law of the superego however is believed to have a senseless and blind character of pure imperativeness and simple tyranny, so it is at one and the same time the law and its destruction, the Superego [only partially conscious] is thus the « big Other » which imposes a purely oppressive morality on the neurotic subject but also the will-to-enjoy and is related to the voiceThe big « Other » must be considered a locus in which speech is constituted, it is thus only possible to speak of the « big Other » as a subject in a secondary sense where a psychoanalyst may occupy this position and thereby « embody » the « Big Other » for a patient / analysand.

In arguing that speech originates not in the Ego or even in the Subject, but in the partially unconscious « Other » [i.e. Big Other / Grand Autre / Superego], Lacan is stressing that speech and language are beyond conscious control, they come from an other place/scene [i.e. psychical localities], outside consciousness, and hence « the unconscious is the discourse of the big Other » [i.e. the effect on the subject of speech that is addressed to that subject from elsewhere, by another subject (forgotten or unknown) from another « scene », i.e. psychical locality] and belongs wholly to the symbolic order. As Christian Jambet pointed out, this means that the fragments of discourse that the individual will articulate has its roots in the big Other’s scene(s) [i.e. NOT physical or anatomical locality, BUT PSYCHICAL localities], which is precisely the treasure of signifiers where language – which is very real – is structured, along with the individual’s desires. In 1969, Lacan begins to use the term « discourse«  to denote a « social bond » founded in language; an incredibly rational observation because there is nothing more social than language – the vital ingredient in any form of social activity. [Note: This leads to individuals not sharing anything in common with others in their direct geographical environment, because different individuals will be connected to different psychical localities.]

Parlez-vous Lacan

Gillett (2001) noted that, in Lacan’s view, language does not perfectly convey individuals’ desire to other persons, partly because individuals do not fully understand their own desire, and partly because language is an inherently social medium that can lead to misunderstanding as well as understanding between individuals and other persons. Language however is a very powerful social medium [as can be seen also from the essay, The Concept of Self]

Le Langage et la Réalité danny d'purb dpurb site web 1600.jpg

Traduction(EN): « There will always be something special about language because language creates reality. Language reveals the truth of the subject and adds to reality what was not there before. Hence, the difference between truth and reality is that truth adds to reality what was not there before. Empiricists who study traits should never forget that constructs would not exist if they had not first been created through language. Hence language, creates reality! » -Danny J. D’Purb

Jacques Lacan saw the unconscious [ID / Le Ça] as a structure of language whose formal logic unfolds in the manner of a Bach flute or a poem by Mallarmé and argued that the unconscious is structured like language. In the unconscious [i.e. the place where the treasure of signifiers is] as well as in the acquisition of language, individuals may follow rules regarding the use of symbols without having deliberately learned [and without having overtly been taught] those rules [something “special” and even “mystical” about language]. In addition the unconscious [like language] is regarded as a “network of signifiers”, a history of signifiers that shape the subject; the term signifier (le significant) referring to any symbol that is used [on its own, or in combination with other symbols] to stand in for, or to represent, something else [the signified – le signifié]. In conceiving the « big Other » as a place/scene, Lacan alludes to Freud’s concept of not physical or anatomical locality, but « psychical locality« , in which the unconscious is described as « the other scene ». In Lacanian terms the « other scene » is the big Other. The term « scene » was used by Lacan to denote the imaginary but also symbolic theatre in which the Subject plays out his fantasy; a fantasy which is however firmly built on the edifice of the Real [i.e. the world] and shaped by the symbolic order. The scene of fantasy is a virtual space which is framed, similarly to the scene of a play which is framed by the proscenium arch in a theatre, whereas beyond the frame lies the « real » space where the world is. Lacan uses the notion of « scene » to distinguish between 2 processes: (i) Acting out, and (ii) Passing to the Act. Since, the scene is symbolic and built on the real, the process of « Acting Out » takes place within the frame, i.e. inside the scene and is inscribed in the symbolic order; whereas the process of « Passing to the Act » is an exit from the scene, a crossing over from the symbolic into the real. It is highly likely that the impact of the arts, education, exposure and personal development has an important role to play in the development of the partially unconscious « big Others » and « the other scene ». The greatest child psychologist of all time, Jean Piaget argued that all forms of social interaction [which also includes artistic exposure] in the process of learning play an important role in « cognitive growth ».

This also leads to the important question of the « use » of art. Art is a very lucrative business in the 21st century with the wide range of outlets available digitally to deliver the works to the consumer/audience; but what are we consuming? What is the effect that we look for when we fully process the artworks that we choose? What happens after complete psychical digestion by the different psyches among us? Art is used to mark history, to leave a trace, not of the events, but of the line of thought of those living at the time it is focusing on. Back to the fundamentals of philosophy, the famous quote « je pense donc je suis » [French for: « I think therefore I am »] from Descartes explains to us that man is gifted with a conscience unlike animals. It is because we are organisms with the ability to think that we are human beings. Spinoza argued that we all have a conatus, an identity that is unique to each of us; the horse runs, the human being thinks. It is hence essential to question oneself, to meditate on a particular topic or another in order to blossom and thrive as human beings. Art is praxis, like philosophy it is an activity that produces no added value and has no other purpose other than the « perfecting of the agent » as Aristotle put it – it is an activity that allows for this work of reflective meditation. In this sense, a painting cannot be considered as a mere decoration as it is not a question of finding it « beautiful » or « ugly », but it implies a work of reflection and a particular mental visualisation. Of course, art does not speak to everyone. Serge Gainsbourg pointed out that we have 2 types of art: major and minor ones. Major art forms are those that only the trained mind can understand: architecture, painting, the classics and poetry; For example, this piece by the French philosopher and winner of the 1927 Nobel Prize in literature, Henri Bergson ( – ):

« L’état suprême de la beauté, c’est la grâce. Or, dans le mot grâce, on entend aussi la bonté. Car la bonté, c’est la générosité d’un principe de Vie qui se donne indéfiniment. »

– Henri Bergson

Then we have the Minor art forms, which are those that speak to everyone. It is obviously difficult to perceive, interpret and explore the knowledge, layers of meaning and wisdom in artistic literary compositions if we do not have a good vocabulary and a deep understanding of literary voice [i.e. tone and mood], linguistic style [i.e. Imagery, Simile, Metaphor, Personification] and aural imagery [i.e. Alliteration, Assonance and Onomatopoeia] ; similarly it would be hard to understand all the hard work behind the construction of a cathedral if we do not have any understanding of architecture, although nothing prevents us from appreciating its grandeur and contemplating it at length; this is also applicable to painting which is linked to a profound understanding of scales, light, reflections, shadows, colours, paints, textures and brush strokes. Going by Metry Sephora’s straightforward way to understand a work of art, we can firstly ask ourselves what it is about; what is the painter presenting to us? What do we see in the distance? Secondly, how is it all represented? [Techniques, colours, materials, movements] What do we see from up close and what feelings are elicited? Thirdly, it is about the moment the art work mirrors us. Sometimes we are already touched and are able to evade by imagining the setting presented to us, we reminisce about moments experienced and we reflect on a particular topic. In some other cases, the art work does not touch us and we have to question ourselves deeper, through the life of the artist; why did the artist represent this? What was going on in his/her life at that particular time? In what context did he/she realise it? What was the train of thought of the time?

Les Fenêtres [Windows] par Robert_Delaunay (1912)

« La Fenêtre » par Robert Delaunay. 1912 [de la série « Les Fenêtres »] / Musée de Grenoble

The above painting is « La Fenêtre » [The Window] » by the French painter Robert Delaunay (1885 – 1941) completed between 1911 and 1912 which is part of the series, « Les Fenêtres [Windows]« , which include 13 paintings inspired by the reading of « La loi du contraste simultané des couleurs » written in 1839 by Gustave Chevreuil; we know that the Delaunays created a cultural movement on their own and Blaise Cendrars (1887 – 1961) and Guillaume Appolinaire (1880 – 1918) were great admirers of their work which is part of the Cubist movement. This painting also inspired Apollinaire for his poem also entitled « Les Fenêtres » [Windows] where the writer tried to create a simultaneity between words as Delaunay does with colours. The painter seeks the original essence of colour, while the poet seeks the original essence of words. If we were to analyse this work, we could first observe the mixture and contrast of colours, it is not linear as a Mondrian art work, but still keeps a sense of organisation since the shapes do not spread in every direction, with different shades of blue and orange dominating the work. Secondly, we can conclude that it is rectangular and is a work of oil on canvas measuring 45.8 x 37.5 cm kept at the Musée de Grenoble and that the paint is smooth with movements executed naturally making it pleasant and relaxing to the eyes. Thirdly, based on the life of the painter we know that Robert Delaunay was part of a generation of avant-garde artists who were particularly prolific on the artistic scene between 1912 and 1914, representing the cubist and neo-impressionist movement, and that he was inspired by the scientific works of Chevreul on colours, by the work of Seurat and also that of Cézanne. At that time in the early 20th century, modern painting had tended towards abstraction, and in 1912 Apollinaire diagnosed the birth of a new pictoral art: « The new painters paint paintings where there is no longer a real subject ». By 1912, Delaunay had turned to orphism which led to the series of painting containing « La Fenêtre » [The Window]. More specifically orphic cubism had been distinguished from scientific cubism in 1912 by Apollinaire during the exposition of the Section d’Or, with the term orphism clearly linked to his poem « Orphée » (1908) which deals with pure poetry – a sort of « luminous language ». Another interpretation of this term is proposed: the name makes the analogy of the painting with music.

Peindre avec la musique DnP danny d'purb dpurb site web

Indeed, at the start of the 20th century, music represented modern art par excellence, perfectly abstract, therefore pure as a universal art form, with a totalising function. Music could unite all the arts, as in Wagner’s operas with the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk [i.e. A total work of art characterized by the simultaneous use of many media and artistic disciplines, and by the symbolic, philosophical or/and metaphysical significance it holds. This use stems from the desire to reflect the unity of life]. Robert Delaunay and his wife indeed created a cultural movement around them, through works concentrated on the arrangement of colours on the canvas seeking pictorial harmony. We all have a conatus, for some it is art, for others it is literature, drama and poetry, readers out there should perhaps try to find theirs?

So, getting back to the big Other [SuperEgo / Grand Autre], it is is always « lacking » something for the subject and the mythical complete and perfect Other does not seem to exist. In 1957, when Lacan introduces the algebraic symbol for the barred Other (A), lack comes to designate the lack of a signifier in the Other [It is Lack that causes Desire to arise]. Lacan introduces the symbol S(A) to designate « the signifier of a lack in the Other. [Note that Lacan uses the term « Grand Autre » with capital A which here is referred to as the « Other » with capital O, i.e. the « big Other » and not the « petit autre » which is the reflection or projection of the Ego [counterpart and specular image] in the imaginary order referred to as the « other » or « little other », « o » « petit autre » « a ».]

Lacanian Terms: L’Inconscient [Id], L’Autre [Grand Autre/Big Other/Superego] & Le Moi [Ego: its birth and the Mirror Stage]

To clarify Lacanian terms, firstly, we have the « inconscient« ; being the unconscious ID in the domain of the symbolic which is the unconscious origin of the individual’s discourse, the symbolic « it » or « Ça » beyond the imaginary ego: man is lived and spoken by the unconscious « it » or « Ça ». Hence the phrase which Lacan frequently uses when discussing the unconscious ID, « it speaks » (le « Ça » parle). Hence, Lacan argued that the concept of the unconscious was badly misunderstood by most of Freud’s followers who reduced it to being « merely the seat of instincts« , and against this simplistic biological mode of thought Lacan argued that the unconscious is not simply the seat of instincts but is also and primarily linguistic because we can only grasp the unconscious when it is explained and transformed into words. One should see in the unconscious the effects of speech on the subject, as it is the determination of the subject by the symbolic order. The unconscious is a kind of memory in the sense of a symbolic history of signifiers [i.e. a treasure chest full of signifiers where discourse originates] that have determined the subject in the course of his/her life. Psychoanalysis involves unearthing the meaning that particular symbols hold for an individual. What this seems to suggest is that the unconscious absorbs a wide range of signifiers (signifiants) [that symbolise something else, « le signifié » or « signified » in a deeper exploratory sense] throughout the subject’s life and these later find expression and guide desires through the Superego [Grand Autre / Big Other / the symbolic discourse of the unconscious] and in turn symbolically shapes the imaginary creations of the Ego [Moi] and define the Subject according to his abilities to achieve his desires – the outcome differs depending on the subject’s individual creativity and intelligence.

Le Penseur par Auguste Rodin (1882) dpurb site

«Le Penseur» par Auguste Rodin (1882) représente un homme dans une réflexion profonde, semblant utiliser toute son intelligence pour résoudre un problème.

Since it is an articulation of signifiers in a signifying chain, the unconscious is a kind of knowledge (symbolic knowledge, or savoir) – an « unknown knowledge. » For the Cognitive-Behavioural mind, these signifiers may be considered as « stimuli » [received in different forms, e.g. visual, auditory, mental] however their reception and their responses are completely unconscious and generate effects in the depth of the mind [unconscious] that cannot be measured or seen [the nightmare of the empiricist]. Hence, the unconscious is the location of a chain of signifiers [that stand for something else in a signifying chain] that define the subject through the course of his/her life and where linguistic discourse originates.

We then have the « Moi », which is the equivalent of the Ego, a formation in the imaginary order as opposed to the Subject [le parlêtre as explained above, which is the true product of the symbolic order]. The Ego is a méconnaissance [a failure to understand/recognise, which is also the structure of paranoiac delusions] of the Symbolic, the Ego is the seat of resistance and is structured like a symptom at the heart of the Subject, the human symptom par excellence, the mental illness of man. Méconnaissance is to be distinguished from ignorance: whereas ignorance is a passion for the absence of knowledge, méconnaissance is an imaginary misrecognition/misconstruction of a symbolic knowledge (savoir) that the Subject does possess somewhere. The structural homology between the ordinary constitution of the Ego and paranoiac delusions is what leads Lacan to describe all knowledge (connaissance), in both neurosis and psychosis, as « paranoiac knowledge. » Lacan also argued that the proponents of Ego-psychology betrayed Freud’s radical discovery by relocating the ego as the center of the subject. In opposition to this school of thought, Lacan maintains that the ego is not at the center, that the ego is in fact an object. ‘ The ego is a construction which is formed by identification with the specular image in the Mirror stage and is thus the place where the subject becomes alienated from himself, transforming himself into the counterpart. Malin (2011) pointed out that in Lacanian Theory, a major event in infants’ personality and social development is the mirror stage, when infants enter into language as a uniquely human form of interaction with all caregivers in the child’s environment [although infants are not likely to consciously experience language prior to age 2]. As Luepnitz (2009) noted, Lacan believed that infants often enter into language at a crucial point when they literally recognise themselves in a mirror, with caregivers [i.e. can include others such as teachers rather than direct parents] pointing to the reflection and approvingly saying to the infants, “Look, that’s you!” – even if infants are unlikely to remember the event in itself.

Rene Magritte - Not To Be Reproduced (1937)

« Not to be reproduced » by René Magritte, 1937

And as Hivernel (2013) noted, the 2 major outcomes of the mirror stage are the emergence of the Subject, a product of the symbolic order (i.e., individuals’ gradual awareness regarding their uniqueness) and the others (i.e. individuals’ gradual awareness regarding the rest of humanity, to whom they are connected to varying degrees). The other major outcome of the mirror stage is the birth of the Ego [Le Moi, the imaginary formation], and infants may experience joy at this moment, which occurs (and, in fact, is necessary) before infants can truly understand the power of symbols in language. However, one of the unfortunate outcomes of the mirror stage was that infants gradually begin to look outward, and not inward in search for identity; and such external orientation toward individuals’ own identity is doomed to fail. This seems to make perfect sense even from the objective and mechanistic outlook that the Organic Theory considers; i.e., any organism whose reality or sense of it is based on the geographical mental conditioning of a group of organisms [about 4 or 5] will have a limited perspective of reality and lack a wider outlook of the world as it truly is. Unlike US Ego psychologists who considered the Ego as the dominant component that should be worked on and strengthened, Lacan argued against such irrational therapy because the ego is the « seat of illusions » and to increase its strength would only increase the subject’s alienation, the ego is the source of resistance to psychoanalytic treatment and strengthening it would increase those resistances [i.e. all obstacles that arise during psychoanalytic praxis and interrupt its progress, when the subject breaks the fundamental rule of saying everything that comes into his mind]. Lacan argued that the true goal of psychotherapy should be therapists’ unearthing the clients’ unconscious desire via the “talking cure” of psychoanalysis – not strengthening the Ego mindlessly, as this may leave individuals in a state of delusion without an Ego adjusted to their abilities – and may even lead to individuals allowing their Ego [imaginary moi] to dominate the Super-Ego [Grand Autre, Big Other] and favour irrational release of the ID’s [Inconscient / Ça] psychic energy without any remorse or rational control. Because of the imaginary fixity of the Ego, it is resistant to all subjective growth and change and to the dialectical movement of desire, hence, by undermining the fixity of the ego, psychoanalytic treatment aims to restore the dialectic of desire and reinitiate the « coming into being » of the Subject, a product of the Symbolic. This is in direct contrast to the Ego Psychologists’ perspective. Lacan criticised ego-psychology as practised in the US for confusing the concept of « Resistance » with that of « Defence », and his distinction differs from Anglo-American psychoanalysis. Lacan explained that Defence is on the side of the subject whereas Resistance is on the side of the object. Defences are relatively stable symbolic structures of subjectivity while resistances are rather transitory [periodic / like a phase] forces which prevent the object from being absorbed in the signifying chain [of signifiers]. Resistance belongs to the « imaginary » order of the Ego and not to the symbolic level of the true Subject, because in the symbolic order of the Unconscious, there is no resistance, but only a tendency for repetition. Hence, resistances are « imaginary lures » of the Ego which the analyst must be wary of being deceived by. This is why Lacan maintained that the aim of analysis can never be to strengthen the Ego because this would increase imaginary resistances. Ego psychology shifted emphasis on overcoming the resistances of patients and this was heavily criticised by Lacan who thought that this lead to an « inquisitorial style » of psychoanalysis that sees resistances as based on the « fundamental ill will » of the patients, which is not always the case; this to Lacan overlooked the structural nature of resistance and reduces analysis to an imaginary dual relation. Lacan encourages the « analysis of resistances » but only on the condition that this phrase is properly understood, in the sense of « knowing at what level the answer should be pitched« ; what Lacan means is that the crucial thing is that the psychoanalyst should be able to distinguish between interventions that are primarily oriented towards the Imaginary and those that are oriented towards the Symbolic and know which are appropriate at each moment during psychoanalytic praxis with patients. Lacan argued for « Structural Resistance », which is not a question of ill will on the part of the patient but is a resistance that structures, and it is inherent in the analytic process. Resistance is due to a structural incompatibility between desire and human speech [i.e. discourse] and hence Lacan points out to a certain irreducible level of resistance which can never be overcome, that is, even after the reduction of resistances, there is a residue – which may be what is truly essential for a particular Subject. This irreducible « residue » is essential since it is respect for this residue by psychoanalysts that distinguishes true psychoanalysis from mere suggestion. Psychoanalysis to Lacan, respects the right of the patients to resist suggestion and indeed values that resistance. When the Subject’s resistance opposes suggestion, it is only a desire to maintain the Subject’s true desire, and as such it would have to be placed in the realm of « positive transference ». Lacan points out that while psychoanalysts cannot and should not try to overcome « all resistances », they can minimise them or at least avoid exacerbating them. To do this, psychoanalysts could recognise their own part in the resistances of their patients since to Lacan, there is no other resistance to analysis than that of the analyst himself. The patient’s resistance is always that of the analyst, and when a resistance succeeds it is because the analyst is in it completely, i.e. because the analyst understands. Hence, the analyst should always follow the rule of neutrality; psychoanalytic treatment works on the principle that by not forcing the patient, resistance is reduced to the irreducible minimum, thus, analysts should avoid all forms of suggestion.

Finally, as already explained above, we have the « Grand Autre » or simply « Autre » [Capital A] or « Big Other » which is the preconscious Superego also in the domain of the symbolic register; being the discourse of the unconscious. The big « Other » designates an otherness that transcends the illusory otherness of the imaginary because it cannot be assimilated into the psyche through identification, Lacan equates the big « Other » with language and the « law » [i.e. the structures that govern social exchange] and hence the big « Other » is inscribed in the symbolic register, and indeed the big « Other » is symbolic because it differs for each subject and is the symbolic order which mediates the relationship with a particular subject. The little « other«  is a reflection or projection of the ego [le Moi], it is the counterpart and the specular image, unlike the « big Other » which is in the symbolic order, the little « other » is inscribed in the imaginary order of the Ego.

The concept of Adaptation and Psychoanalysts as the Grand Autre [Big Other / Superego]

Lacan also questioned whether the ego of the psychoanalyst gives the measure of reality to the patient in trying to adapt the latter. Because if so, this would turn the analyst [who are also different in terms of talent, creativity and vision from one person to another] into the arbitrer of the patient’s adaptation to reality, hence the analyst’s own understanding [or lack of understanding] of reality would be assumed to be absolute and perfect where he would be considered as the perfection of adaptation compared to the patient [as is the case in Ego-psychology practiced in the USA]. This to Lacan turns psychoanalysis as an exercise of power and social control where the analyst forces his own particular view of reality onto the patient and this is not psychoanalysis but suggestion. This Lacanian refusal to force an adaptation of the ego to reality is in direct opposition to the « Ego-psychology » of the US psychoanalytic movement that Lacan accused of wrongly reading the works of Freud. Lacan regards it as simple to understand why the adaptation theme was developed by European and Jewish psychoanalysts who had emigrated to the USA in the late 1930s, and this is simply because these analysts felt not only that they had to adapt to life in the USA, but also that they had to adapt psychoanalysis to American tastes [i.e. to fit the average american psyche]. One of Lacan’s fiercest criticism is based on the following argument: the notion of « adaptation to reality » is founded on the creatively irrational and naive empiricist epistemology that wrongly assumes an unproblematic notion of « reality » for all Subjects, as an objective and self-evident given, this discards what psychoanalysis has discovered about the construction of reality by the Ego on the basis of its own « méconnaissance » [i.e. subjective understanding of reality]. So when the analyst assumes that he is better adapted to the vague notion of « reality » than the patient, he has no other option but to fall back on his own Ego’s interpretation of reality, since it is the only « reality » he knows, this leads to the distorted and simplistic definition of « the part that thinks as we do » as being the healthy part of a Subject’s Ego. This practice of Ego-psychology turns psychoanalysis as an exercise of prepackaged suggestion to mould the psyche of individuals to these analysts’ own « idea » of reality in order to fit a simplistic mainstream model in line with the requirements of the mechanical philosophies of empiricist epistemology and industrialisation. The inability of the analyst to sustain a praxis authentically, as is usually the case, results in an exercise of power.

The simplistic biological concept of adaptation [as often assumed in simple deterministic animal psychology] can be problematic when applied to psychoanalysis since in evolutionary biology it is assumed that organisms/animals are driven to « adapt » themselves to fit their environment and hence implies a harmonious relation between the Innenwelt (inner world) and Umwelt (surrounding world). The observation of animals in nature or in laboratories tends to guide the reasoning of many empirical scientists who are simplistic and biologically oriented, it is important to ask a few questions. For example, which animals to focus on as models to be inspired by? In nature, we have many animals who mate for life and are monogamous [e.g. albatrosses, bald eagles, barn owls, penguins, beavers, shingleback skinks, gibbons (primates), wolves, swans & french angelfish]. On the other hand, we also have other animals such as common pheasants, lions, gorillas, tigers, red deers, elks, and hamadryas baboons (primates) who have a different mating system, where the fittest male mates with multiple females to ensure the constant enhancement and fitness of future generations; and hence are polygamous.

Maladies Génétiques.jpg

Image: Degenerates / Some controversial doctors under the Third Reich proposed that the curse of diseased genes destroy entire families, and that degenerates can only give birth to their similars. It lead to sterilisation that was supposed to prevent them from spreading their misery to innocent children [as the aim was a strong and genetically healthy people], and also the « Aktion T4 » program which was mass involuntary euthanasia. Certain German physicians were authorised to select patients « deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination » and then administer to them a « mercy death » (Gnadentod). From September 1939 until the end of the war in 1945; from 275,000 to 300,000 people were euthanised in psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria, occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now the Czech Republic). The Holy See announced on 2 December 1940 that the policy was contrary to the natural and positive Divine law and that « the direct killing of an innocent person because of mental or physical defects is not allowed » but the declaration was not upheld by some Catholic authorities in Germany. In the summer of 1941, protests were led in Germany by the Bishop of Münster, Clemens von Galen, whose intervention led to « the strongest, most explicit and most widespread protest movement against any policy since the beginning of the Third Reich », according to historian Richard J. Evans.

Hence, this poses questions to the simplistic biological perspective of adaptation: should humans follow the latter polygamous animal model and select the fittest and smartest males through physical and intelligence tests and use their sperm to inseminate all women on earth desiring to have children [or vice-versa or in combination with the eggs of the fittest and smartest females to help couples conceive]; could this reduce malformations and other ugly diseases?

Population en bonne santé d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

Image: Physically healthy females exercising

Or should we follow the monogamous model of the bald eagle, penguin, barn owl, swan, wolf and French angelfish? Based on our evolutionary history, it seems that we humans are monogamous by design due to the size of our brains that allow us to build sophisticated relationships and also experience complex emotions [that animals cannot due to the limited biological architecture of their brain that is optimised for survival and hunting], and hence, humans should not follow animals blindly but use some aspects that we may learn from the study of animals in nature with great precautions to help humans live a better life [for example: giving a choice of healthy sperm and egg donors to couples who cannot conceive or fear passing down incurable and other debilitating diseases] and gradually create a genetically healthy civilisation.

Bébé Gorille Albinos avec son ami d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Baby Albino Gorilla with his friend

François Rabelais, the french doctor, writer, monk & priest seems to have phrased it well in his magnum opus, Pantagruel (1694): « Science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme. » [French for: « Science without conscience is nothing but the ruin of the soul »]

So, the idea of harmony between the inner world (Innenwelt) of the organism and its environment (Umwelt) which is implicit in the concept of adaptation from the simplistic biological perspective [e.g. in animal psychology] is innaplicable to human beings since man’s inscription in the symbolic order re-shapes and restrains his natural behaviours and instincts [i.e. because of civilised society and the sophisticated and multi-layered aspects of human life, man cannot allow himself to follow his wild instincts blindly as animals do in nature], and this means that « in man, the imaginary relation [to nature] has deviated » [the nurture VS nature debate]. This is different for all animal machines who tend to be strictly riveted to the conditions of the external environment, whereas in the human being we have a « certain biological gap ». So, compared to the simplistic biological perspective of animal adaptation where the organism follows its wild instincts and not human reasoning, we can suggest that humans are essentially « maladaptive animals » and this may well be for the betterment of our lives since we live in a sophisticated society and not in the wild nature (la nature sauvage) like animals, where meeting basic needs is a constant struggle in a matter of life and death.

Yet, adapting to the Umwelt (surrounding world) in human psychology is not the ultimate path of perfection because it is not designed to meet all of the true desires of human beings [as Freud suggested, intrapsychic conflict is inescapable because of the demands of society] and hence does not guarantee the complete satisfaction and enhancement of the individual [being highly complex beings with huge brains and different personalities that seek different goals], especially when the Umwelt (surrounding world) itself which is assumed to be « reality » is not a simple objective thing [such as for animals in nature] but is itself a product of the Ego’s fictional misrepresentations and projections. Therefore to Lacan it is not a question of adapting the Ego to reality, but of showing the imaginary « Ego » that it is only too well adapted since it assists in the construction of that very reality and hence the task of the psychoanalyst is rather to subvert the patient’s illusory sense of adaptation since it blocks access to the unconscious, and hence gain access to it. In 1955 Lacan states that « the dimension discovered by analysis is the opposite of anything which progresses through adaptation » and hence refused to explain human phenomena and mental life in terms of adaptation. To Lacan, and many inspired by his views, it is more about « adjusting » than adapting, i.e. adjusting to be functional in our chosen path/field based on our individual characteristics and abilitiesLacan maintained that psychoanalytic intervention should not aim to adapt the Ego to reality, and this seems reasonable since « reality » is a social construct under constant change as we primates are evolving and adapting to the discoveries of our constantly changing civilisation, but also because the Ego is an imaginary formation as opposed to the Subject which is the true product of the symbolic. To Lacan, psychoanalysts should adopt the role of the « big Other » [Grand Autre / Super-Ego) in therapeutic interventions as a counterpart to the client’s « Subject », thus making it possible for clients to peer beneath their own conscious (typically not completely true narratives), into their unconscious (and “true”) desire(s) [and perhaps guide or help the patient to realise their dreams within the realms of reality in civilised society].

Lacan’s suggestion seems to give the individual the creative freedom to create himself through language and discourse, exist and be unique within the reasonable limits of a mentally adequate and healthy person, while only adjusting his behaviour to be able to function and exist in his chosen individual world without losing his individuality. Since reality and culture are social constructs that are always changing through collaboration, the individual can both be shaped by them and also shape them [for e.g. human culture teaches a child how to use a fork and a knife to eat, but it can also be shaped by an individual if he invents/discovers something or adopts a philosophy that affects/inspires human cultures. In the past smoking was allowed everywhere and it was common culture to see people and even doctors smoking in public buildings, but since we found about the harmful effects of cigarette smoke, today culture has been reshaped and smoking is banned indoor in most public places. The invention of the mobile phone has also affected human culture and behaviour when before people used public phone boxes]; this concept of being shaped by and also shaping human cultures is known as mutual constitution and is reflected in the artefacts of all societies through the arts, literature and languages [as we explained in the Essay: The Concept of Self].

Challenging the established procedures of Psychoanalytic Practice

Lacan was also innovative and challenged the established procedures of Psychoanalytic practice [which promoted multiple sessions lasting an hour or more apiece, across several years] to advocate brief, impromptu [i.e. unscheduled] therapy that could be completed in a matter of minutes.

As early as 1950, Lacan had questioned the ritual of the 55-minute timed sessions imposed by the IPA as intended to preserve patients and students in training from the all-powerful transference of the masters; Lacan pulverized this rule. He invented the rule of the session of variable duration that leads the analyst to intervene in the cure by caesuras or by interpretations so that the analysand explores his unconscious fantasies more rapidly and wastes less time in uttering empty words.

« La psychanalyse est une pratique délirante, mais c’est ce qu’on a de mieux actuellement pour faire rendre patience à cette situation incommode d’être homme. C’est en tout cas ce que Freud a trouvé de mieux. Et il a maintenu que le psychanalyste ne doit jamais hésiter à délirer »

French for: « Psychoanalysis is a delirious practice, but it is the best we have at the moment to make this uncomfortable situation of being a man bear with patience. It is in any case the best Freud found. And he maintained that the psychoanalyst should never hesitate to be delirious »

Ornicar. (1977). Ouverture de la section clinique. Bulletin périodique du champ freudien. 9, 13.

The decision of Lacan to adapt sessions according to the Subject’s abilities and individuality seems logical and is based on Lacan’s concept of « the time for understanding« . Lacan’s approach to the questions of time remains one of his distinctive features. In Lacan’s paper « Logical Time » (1945), he distinguished between logical time and chronological time. Logical time has a tripartite structure, the 3 moments of which in every subject are:

(i) the moment of seeing [i.e. perceiving]
(ii) the time for understanding
(iii) the moment of concluding

Lacan explains that these 3 moments are not constructed in terms of objective chronometric units, but in terms of an intersubjective logic based on a tension between hesitation and urgency. Logical time is the intersubjective time that structures human action and varies from one individual to another based on their abilities. This seems logical since the main factors that influence successful therapy are the relationship between the therapist and the client, but also the aptitudes of the client [which varies from one individual to another depending on their intelligence, reflective abilities, understanding and will power].

Nous En France - Sarkozy - d'purb

Traduction(EN): « Us in France, we are different from others. To live, we have to drink, eat, but also to cultivate ourselves. » -Nicolas Sarkozy

Since Lacan’s theory is mainly based on French society – one with a history of challenging the limits of the individual in the name of excellence – it seems fair to acknowledge his opinions [in a sense that not all patients require multiple sessions depending on their individual characteristics, response to the relationship with the psychoanalyst, understanding of their own mental condition and desires and reflective abilities] as rational, economical, time-saving and flexible in accommodating individual differences.

In 1971, Maria Belo, a Portuguese psychoanalyst, had decided to do an analysis with Lacan after her sister’s suicide, which turned her life upside down. She would say:

« La qualité de sa présence faisait que ça déclenchait un travail, chaque séance déclenchait un énorme travail analytique en moi et quand j’arrivais chez moi, j’écrivais des lettres de plusieurs pages que chaque fois j’allais mettre dans sa boîte à lettres (…) Je pense aussi que ce que Lacan faisait avec les séances très courtes était très lié à ce qu’il était. Si on pense à cette époque, la grande époque de l’école Freudienne où il était mythifié par beaucoup de gens que, il avait vraiment besoin, par rapport au transfert, de secouer les gens et de faire des trucs que personnes d’autres n’a eu raison de faire après. »

French for: « The quality of his presence meant that it triggered work, each session triggered an enormous analytical work in me and when I arrived home, I wrote letters of several pages that each time I would go to put in his mailbox (…) I also think that what Lacan did with the very short sessions was very much linked to what he was. If we think back to that time, that great era of l’École Freudienne where he was mythified by many people that, in relation to transference, he really needed to shake people up and do things that no one else did afterwards. »

« Le transfert c’est l’amour. On se demande simplement : pourquoi est-ce qu’on aime un être pareil ? Pour l’instant je laisse la question en suspens… »

French for: « Transference is love. We simply ask ourselves: why do we love such a being? For the moment I leave that question open… »

-Jacques Lacan

However, partly as a reaction to Jacques Lacan’s criticism of Ego Psychoogy [as practiced in the United States], and partly as his advocacy of brief, impromptu therapy, the US-oriented International Psychoanalytic Association, majorly Anglophone and not very open to the virtuosity of Lacanian speculation, barred Lacan from training future psychoanalysts. For the IPA, brief therapy is unacceptable, they wanted to consider accepting Lacan’s teaching as long as he remained in the IPA as a philosopher and/or a theorist but definitely not as a trainer of students.

LesFrancaisNapproventPasLaPolitiquedesUSA

A majority of 80% of French citizens are wary of the US and do not approve its politics / Source: Le Figaro

Lacan found himself in a situation that had never been that of Freud: he found himself in a situation where he would become the director of his school, that is to say that by later founding l’École Freudienne de Paris in 1964 he would exercise functions that Freud never exercised. Lacan was at the same time the master of thought, the analyst, the political leader of his school, and was responsible for all the functions, whereas Freud had delegated political power to his disciples.

« Je fonde – aussi seul que je l’ai toujours été dans ma relation à la cause psychanalytique – l’École Française de Psychanalyse (…) dont rien dans le présent ne m’interdit de répondre personnellement la direction…»

French for: « I am founding – as alone as I have always been in my relationship to the psychoanalytic cause – the École Française de la Psychanalyse (…) whose direction I am personally responsible for as nothing in the present prevents me to do so…. »

– Jacques Lacan

Hence, criticized by the IPA, proponents of a rigid legislation, Lacan left the Société Psychanalytique de Paris which was frequented by Marie Bonaparte who thought she was the only heiress of Freud whose memory she piously celebrated with the support of the IPA.

Lacan then participated in 1953 with Daniel Lagache, François Perrier, Serge Leclerc and Wladimir Granoff in the creation of the Société Française de Psychanalyse ; his friend Françoise Dolto, founder of a new psychoanalytical approach to childhood, gave him her support. La Société Française de Psychanalyse would become a sophisticated cultural melting pot for all the youth of that generation and Lacan would train them by being, in the words of Elisabeth Roudinesco, « l’analyste, le contrôleur, le maître, l’initiateur, l’éveilleur » [French for: « the analyst, the controller, the master, the initiator and the awakener »] through his seminars which took place at the Sainte Anne Hospital followed by the presentation of the mentally sick. Lacan became the great renovator and the great re-inventor of psychoanalysis in France. That generation felt like the pioneers of something new around Lacan, but they would have also liked to remain in the IPA, in its Freudian legitimacy, of which they were no longer a part of since their masters had resigned. The characteristic of Lacan was that he contested the whole practice of the IPA that was trying to be Freud. Lacan is the only one to suggest a return to the origins of Freudian theory, i.e. not post-Freudism. Thus at that point, Lacan posed himself as the re-founder, and an intellectual who was transgressive since Lacan would not respect any irrational IPA rule, which of course humiliated the IPA who could not digest Lacan and his perspectives, and perhaps also unable to grasp the sophisticated subtleties of Lacan’s theory which had its origins in the French heritage. Unique in its kind, the École Freudienne de Paris would allow Lacan to place the desire to be an analyst at the heart of the training of didacticians. Jean-Bertrand Pontalis declared: « Comme si lui-même (Lacan), dans ces années-là était en train d’inventer et de s’inventer. Nous participions en accord avec lui en résonance avec lui à un mouvement inventif. » [French for: « As if he himself (Lacan), in those years was inventing and inventing himself. In agreement with him, we were participating in an inventive movement in resonance with him.« ]

Furthermore, despite [or perhaps because of?] the IPA’s decision to bar Lacan from training future psychoanalysts, the proportion of Psychoanalysts adopting a Lacanian perspective has only grown since Lacan’s death in 1981with half or more of the world’s psychoanalysts adopting Lacanian concepts. Jardim, Costa Pereira and de Souza Palma (2011) applied Lacanian Theory to understanding the personality disorder of Schizophrenia [formerly known as “madness”], interpreting a case study [along with fictional examples from literary works] in terms of failure to achieve an integrated Ego from infancy onwards. McSherry (2013) argued that Lacan’s Theory of Psychoanalysis could benefit mental health nursing practice since various forms of personality disorders [including but not limited to Schizophrenia] can be understood readily in terms of Lacan’s theory.

Lacan described woman as a « symptom of man » that enters the psychic economy of men as the cause of their desire. This has led to debates among feminists: some saw his theories as a way of challenging fixed concepts of sexual identity while others believe that the concept of symbolic order reinstates the inequality of the sexes, and the privileging of the phallus simply repeats alleged misogynies of Freud.

The British psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell who was one of the first to introduce Lacan’s system of thought to the Anglophone crowd thought that his work was misinterpreted and misused for a political purpose for the left and for feminism; Mitchell suggested that a possible reason for this could have been due to the « stupidity » of the English crowd, unable to grasp the subtleties of Lacan. Malone (2012) noted that Lacan was ambivalent towards the growing tendency for empirical clinical psychologists to align their discipline with the hard sciences [e.g. Biology, Medecine, Physics, Chemistry, Astrophysics, Material Science, etc] and not with the humanities [e.g. Literature, Poetry, Music, Art (Sculpture, Painting and others), Drama (Theatre), etc], and viewed psychoanalysis as ideally informed by both the humanities and by the sciences.

Documentaire: Jacques Lacan, La Psychanalyse Réinventée (2001)

Lacan has been hailed as the “French Freud” who has established a tradition of French psychoanalysis that rivals American and British psychoanalysis in terms of international influence. Although Lacan’s theory has been cast as a uniquely French theory [culturally and linguistically speaking], it has nonetheless struck a chord with many [and, perhaps, most] of the world’s most influential modern day psychoanalysts, shattering perceptions across languages and cultures worldwide. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a decade later, much psychoanalytic research in the US itself will seem to confirm Lacan’s perspectives as discussed above.

After the publication of his writings in 1966, Lacan became a recognized thinker, admired by his students and hated by his opponents. At L’École Normale, the salle Dussane, a large crowd flocked to listen to him.

« Quand je comprenais je trouvais ça génial… »

French for: « When I figured it out, I thought it was great… »

-Françoise Dolto

The writer Philippe Sollers lyrically describes the harmonies and dissonances of the main stage of Jacques Lacan’s seminar:

Philippe Sollers sur Lacan - danny d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

« Lacan monte à la tribune comme une gravure de Dürer (Albrecht), drôle de Saint, drôle de moine chevalier prêcheur d’un autre âge. Lacan c’est de la lenteur ponctuée, du soupir, de la passion tortueuse, de l’envolée, de l’anecdote, de largo, de la moquerie, de l’insulte, du tonnerre intermittent, du pinaillage à n’en plus finir, de l’ennuis massif, du mot d’esprit, du sublime. Il y a Lacan mystique, Lacan chancelier, Lacan l’ancêtre, Lacan Don Juan, Lacan Satan, Lacan charlatan, Lacan malicieux, Lacan généreux, Lacan vaniteux, Lacan persifleur, ronchonneur, hurleur, murmureur, souffleur, séducteur ; il y a Lacan cigare et Lacan mouchoir, Lacan accablé, Lacan vraie, l’étonnant et que ça donne comme la nervure exacte d’un gai savoir. » -Philippe Sollers

French for: « Lacan rises to the platform like an engraving by Dürer (Albrecht), a strange Saint, a strange knightly monk preacher from another age. Lacan is punctuated slowness, sighing, tortuous passion, flight, anecdote, largo, mockery, insult, intermittent thunder, endless nitpicking, massive trouble, witty words, the sublime. There is mystical Lacan, Chancellor Lacan, Lacan the ancestor, Lacan Don Juan, Lacan Satan, Lacan charlatan, malicious Lacan, generous Lacan, vain Lacan, Lacan persifleur, grumbler, howler, whisperer, blower, seducer; there is Lacan cigar and Lacan handkerchief, overwhelmed Lacan, true Lacan, the astonishing and that which gives like the exact vein of a cheerful knowledge. » -Philippe Sollers

Jacques Derrida would say:

« Je n’imagine pas que quelqu’un qui était engagé comme il l’a été avec une telle passion de la vérité là où le sens même du mot vérité était si difficile à faire entendre, je n’imagine pas qu’une telle personne ait pu vivre autrement que tragiquement (…) ce qui m’a aidé à résister à toute réponse agressive à Lacan, je pensais que cet homme avait une responsabilité tragique à assumer et quel que soit sa parade, son paraître, son apparat, etc… les scènes qu’il faisait, il devait y avoir de la blessure secrète là et je l’ai ressenti et je l’ai respecté. »

French for: « I cannot imagine that someone who was engaged as he was with such a passion for the truth where the very meaning of the word truth was so difficult to convey, I cannot imagine that such a person could have lived any other way but tragically (…) which helped me to resist any aggressive response to Lacan, I thought that this man had a tragic responsibility to assume and whatever his parade, his appearance, his pomp, etc., the scenes he made, there must have been some secret wound there and I felt it and I respected it. »

Jacques Lacan dpurb site web.jpg

Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981)

Jacques Lacan addressing the audience of the Grande Rotonde of the University of Louvain, the 13th of October 1972:

« La mort est du domaine de la foi, vous avez bien raison de croire que vous allez mourir bien sûr ; ça vous soutient ; si vous n’y croyez pas, est-ce que vous pourriez supporter la vie que vous avez ? Si on n’était pas solidement appuyés sur cette certitude que ça finira ? Est-ce que vous pourriez supporter cette histoire ? »

French for: « Death is a matter of faith, you have good reason to believe that you are going to die of course; it sustains you; if you don’t believe in it, could you bear the life that you have? If you weren’t firmly supported by the certainty that it will end? Would you be able to bear it? »

Conclusion: Legacy, Impact & Evolution of Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a unique movement in psychology that grew out of the same German model of mental activity that produced act psychology and the Gestalt movement. However, psychoanalysis received its immediate expression through the needs of the mentally ill. Psychoanalysis was born as a clinical discipline, not an academic development based on empirical methodology to fit a particular field’s reductionist requirements for acknowledgement. For this reason, psychoanalysis, especially as proposed by writers after Freud, gives the impression of an ad hoc movement that develops as particular problems arise – it could be seen as adaptive and constantly evolving. Psychoanalysis did not adhere to the commitment to the reductionist empirical methodology expressed in those mechanical systems of behavioral studies generated by academic research. Psychoanalysis set out not to simply study basic observable behaviour [e.g. in animals studies], but to study the psychic apparatus that constitutes the human mind which obviously guides and impacts behaviour. Hence, there was and still is little interaction between psychoanalysis and those systems grounded on empiricism and reductionist methodologies that are stubborn in trying to capture an entity as the mind when most of the constructs cannot be seen or touched, or accurately measured. Stated quite simply, psychoanalysis and the other schools of psychological models do not speak the same language.

Although different and hardly understood by common mainstream empirical and academic psychology, psychoanalysis did assume a dominant role in psychiatry. This is completely understandable in light of the origins of psychoanalysis as a response to clinical problems as they manifested themselves. Indeed, psychoanalytic writings enjoyed an almost exclusive position in psychiatry and clinical psychology until the 1960s, when behaviour modification and mechanical and reductionist Pavlovian derivatives based on Behaviourism [such as Cognitive Psychology] began to compete as an alternate model of therapy for behavioural adjustment [Read: the Essay on the Origins of the Cognitive Behavioural Model: Biological Constraints in Learning, which also suggests an unconscious drift in other animals].

Pavlov Dog Labs

Psychoanalysis continues to exert a marked influence on art, literature, and philosophy. This influence reflects major contributions of Freud: his comprehensive analysis of the unconscious. On the same line, literary and artistic expressions are interpreted in light of the unconscious activities of the artist as well as the unconscious impressions of the perceiver. Psychologists today may choose unconscious motivations or simply to refer to subliminal or subthreshold activities. However, any truly comprehensive theory of psychological activity can no longer be limited to conscious aspects of behaviour. Although some psychologists may disagree with some Freudian concepts and interpretations, Freud did identity some dynamic processes that influence the activity of the individual: processes that psychology cannot ignore anymore.

As mentioned earlier, psychoanalysis has a unique position in the history of psychology. Freud did not develop a theory that generated testable hypotheses or other empirical implications. Yet, on another level, Freud accomplished what few other theorists have: He revolutionised attitudes and created a new set for thinking about personality. The findings of other more empiricist theories of personality disturbance have often confirmed many of Freud’s observations. If his views do not meet the criteria of empiricistic study, they nevertheless mark a man of genius and insight, whose influence pervades people’s thinking about themselves in ways that few others have achieved.

The psychoanalytic theory is an enormously complex and ambitious one, and it aims to make sense of a much broader array of psychological and social phenomena than other theories, and does so with a collection of explanatory concepts. Hence, the sheer range and scope of psychoanalytic theory, and its aspiration to be a total account of mental life, should be recognised and applauded. In comparison, all other schools of psychology to study personality look decidedly timid and limited in focus. Even if other approaches tend to have more empirical foundations and hence more credential in academic psychology, they tend to leave out much of what we might want to include in a comprehensive theory of human behaviour. To many intellectuals and lay people alike, any account of personality that does not acknowledge that humans are like psychoanalytic theory portrays us, i.e., driven by deeply rooted motives, inhabiting bodies that bring us pleasure and shame, shaped by our early development, troubled by personal conflicts, and often a mystery to ourselves – is fundamentally limited.

While the empirical limitations are a fact, some of these problems are due in part to the intrinsic difficulty of what psychoanalytic theory tries to explain. Others could be partially overcome if researchers made a more concerted effort to determine which psychodynamic ideas stand up to closer, “scientific enquiry”. However, psychoanalysis cannot be judged only by empirical perspectives, and it would be a mistake to abandon it impatiently, given how much a suitably revised and empirically updated theory of psychodynamics in the future might deepen the studies of personality.

Even for all its failings to the empirical scientist, on some aspects, psychoanalysis is at least partly responsible for several important and scientifically respectable ideas that has always had a kernel of truth and was later developed by other researchers. While Freud’s idea of the dynamic unconscious remains controversial, it can no longer be disputed today that unconscious cognition is now a fact and an uncontroversial idea in cognitive and social psychology, where huge volumes of research now explore non-conscious or “implicit” attitudes. We now know from neuroscientific research that the brain has networks for both explicit and implicit [unconscious] learning as Yang and Li (2012) found after examining the neural correlates for these 2 types of learning on artificial grammar sequences. We have brain networks of different connectivity that underlie explicit and implicit learning. While both processes involve activation in a set of cortical and subcortical structures, the study found that explicit learning engages a network that uses the insula as a key mediator whereas implicit learning evokes a direct frontal-striatal network. Individual differences in working memory also differentially impact the two types of sequence learning.

*****

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Essay // Clinical Psychology: Controversies that surround modern day mental health practice

Mental Health d'purb dpurb site web

Modern day mental health practice could be defined as the application of the four main schools of thoughts that dominate the field of psychology in the clinical setting, by abiding to strict criteria set out by packaged behavioural sets, diagnostically defined by names and categorised depending on the core nature of their specific characteristics in terms of behaviour, aetiology and epidemiology. While these four [biological, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural & systemic] main schools of thought have contributed to the development and ongoing evolution of the field of psychology, they also have downsides when applied to different types of psychological cases, with some being more efficient in treating particular disorders while others being hardly efficient and questionable. Applying and integrating these four schools of thoughts with new intuitive fact-based theories to explain psychological constructs and disorders are leading to major innovations in psychology; however with each field’s limitations controversies over the validity of their interpretations and the efficiency of their applied doctrines remain a constant topic of debate among scholars and clinicians.

One of the main controversies that surround modern day mental health practice is the medicalisation of psychological disorders, a tradition influenced by the field of medicine which contradicts an important founding philosophy of psychology, which was originally initiated to study the “mind”, not the physical characteristics of the brain as an organ. Furthermore, evidence suggests that psychological problems are not caused exclusively by organic factors. In anxiety, depression and/or schizophrenia, people with genetic vulnerability to the development of those psychological disorders only do so when exposed to particular stresses in their environment (Hankin & Abele, 2005). However, on the other side of the argument, evidence has also shown that deficiencies in genetics and neurobiological anatomy are linked to psychological difficulties and disorders, and hence nowadays, integrated approaches are used in a variety of assessments when treating patients affected by psychological disorders.

On the theme of medicalization, the debate over eating disorders has led to one of the major controversies within the field between advocates of the biomedical conceptualisation of eating disorders and the feminist position (Maine & Bunnell, 2010). The former sees an individual woman as a patient with a debilitating disease, in need of a cure to her illness; while the feminist position views eating disorders as a condition that is gender specific with the woman as a victim of socio-cultural pressures generated by a male-dominated society governed by a hedonistic economic reality focused on the pursuit of the thin ideal. There is an important distinction that should be made here for the benefit of patients since the feminist view may not fully comprehend that in the case of obesity and emaciation related to eating-disorders, the patients are at severe risk of medical complications such as growth retardation, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal bleeding, dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities and cardiac arrest [in chronic cases]. The social feminist constructivist perspective may be interpreting eating disorder as an image debate of “Fat” versus “Thin”. This may lead to the normalisation of obesity and destructive eating habits which in turn may result in further medical complications that involve surgical interventions. As for the feminists, it may be ethical to acknowledge that obesity & emaciation associated with eating disorders are major health issues that precede further complications such as diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure; and should not be confused with social stigma regarding image, but seen as a sign of poor-health and lifestyle that require attention and effort in providing patients with the medical and psychological help they need to adjust their patterns of life to a healthy one by adopting a culture synchronised with dietary & nutritional education.

Secondly, the medicalization of anxiety disorders as distinct medical & psychological conditions may seem less favourable to the biological model previously mentioned. A mass market of pharmacological products used in treatment has been favoured for being more convenient and less time consuming. This may lead to patients feeling disempowered and hopeless when being treated as victims of an uncontrollable illnesses requiring pharmacological treatment, while already being in a state of distress, shock, disbelief and/or confusion.

Number of people who take antidepressants

Diazepam (Valium) or other benzodiazepines that are highly addictive have also been prescribed for years to treat anxiety disorders. The long term side effects have been trivialised along with the arrogant act of medicalizing fear and courage (Breggin, 1991). Critics of the medicalization of experiences argue that if patients are helped in understanding that panic attacks develop from the misrepresentation of bodily sensations and hyperventilation, this knowledge along with their own courage may strengthen them to take control of their fear. Research has also shown how patients who are educated in cognitive-behaviour techniques learn to use problem-solving and develop other skills (e.g. social – help them build meaningful lasting relationships while letting go of psychosocial burdens) that they lack to reappraise situations that may formerly have brought distress.

TheDownfallOfTheWildAnimals.jpg

The tragic death of one of the most talented vocalists on the planet, Chris Cornell, has sent a shock throughout the arts world and reports have revealed that the gifted artist was on Lorazepam [a benzodiazepine medication sold under the name Ativan used in the treatment of anxiety disorders], the substance is known to heighten the risk of suicide in those suffering from depression, while a recent investigation (Bushnell et al., 2017) has also shown no meaningful clinical benefit from the addition of benzodiazepines during treatment initiation.

Global Suicide rate per 100 000 population

Suicide Rates Around the World per 100 000 (2016)

Estimated rate of suicide per 100,000 population in selected countries in 2016. / Source: Statista

To prevent such tragedies from affecting the human race, more emphasis could be placed on « the mind » with clear guidance on the « thinking styles » (cognitive scripts) to adopt in the protection of the individual organism’s own psyche (mind). Simple foundations based on psychological logic should be propagated educationally to help people understand their uniqueness as organisms while protecting their psyche [mind] from the influence/control of external environmental factors that are beyond their control [e.g. biased negativity, uninformed prejudicial comments of meaningless acquaintances, etc]; acknowledging the fact that as long as an individual organism is within the boundaries of the law, he is allowed to live the life of his choice, and external factors would only affect one’s psyche if attention is given to them; and selectively ignoring parts of the environment  is also an acquired skill vital in maintaining sanity, stability and psychological health, along with the ability to select experiences that are positive & progressive to the organism [while discarding negative ones] in the context and theme of their chosen individual lifestyles.

PrinciplesOfPsychology

This would also shift the focus to the individual’s mind, courage & abilities to handle the world while maintaining a stable sense of self and resilience; and not turn them into biological organisms that are having their neurochemistry savagely altered by powerful chemical substances that are known to affect individuals differently with dangerous & sometimes fatal outcomes.

chriscornell dpurb site web

An artist many might consider to be the Fréderic Chopin & the Edouard Manet of Rock, composing with his heart and painting with his voice, enigmatic vocalist Chris Cornell, known for timeless titles such as « The Last Remaining Light », «What You Are » , « Like A Stone » , « Getaway Car », « Be Yourself », « Exploder » & « Dandelion » left a hole in the hearts of millions touched by his work. His tragic death is a reminder that further research is required in understanding the thought structure of artistic individuals whose psychological subjective reality would likely be deeper and more complex compared to the average psyche. An approach focusing on the « mind » rather than the « behaviour or brain » in the tradition of Sigmund Freud would likely reveal and explain the granularity of their psyche; and whether their suicidal decisions are rooted in full awareness and motivated by a reality they consider to be inadequate for their state of consciousness and IQ. Appropriate interventions involving the restructuration of their psychosocial patterns/exposure [to prevent the burden of stress] may be more individualistic & appropriate to prevent suicide.

« Les meilleurs meurent souvent de leur propre main juste pour s’échapper, et ceux qui restent ne peuvent jamais vraiment comprendre pourquoi quelqu’un voudrait s’éloigner d’eux. »

– Charles Bukowski

Traduction(EN):

« The best often die by their own hand just to get away, and those left behind can never quite understand why anybody would ever want to get away from them. »

-Charles Bukowski

As mentioned above, similar therapies oriented towards changing the « thinking styles » of patients to build a resilient psyche, could also be provided to sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder who would benefit of a non-pharmacological and empowering intervention to manage and take control of recurrent intrusive and distressing memories – it may be useful to study fear, distress and courage as normal psychological processes happening on a dimensional scale on a normal continuum from one individual to another where those on the extreme ends of the scales may be considered for psychological interventions.

Similarly, antidepressant medication used to treat depression remains controversial due to its questionable efficacy and side-effects. The high level of effectiveness of SSRIs reported in academic journals was greatly due to only trials with positive results of antidepressants being published while those where antidepressants were found to be no more effective than placebos being rejected. The effects of TCAs and SSRIs have also been found to be negligible in mild to moderate depression but effective in severe depression in meta-analyses (Fournier et al., 2010). The negative side-effects of antidepressants are known to be risky and dangerous where symptoms such as loss of sexual desire and impotence, weight gain, nausea, sedation or activation, and dizziness are known to be some of the more disturbing ones, with effects varying with types of antidepressants – for depressed pregnant women, health risks may affect their offspring. Dangerous antidepressants such as MAOIs are only prescribed to patients who can follow strict dietary patterns that exclude foods with thyramine (e.g. cheese) to prevent risks of high blood pressure and hypertensive crises. Although meta-analyses suggest benefits may outweigh the risks, an increased risk of suicide has also been noted among patients under 25 (Bridge et al., 2007).

Edouard Manet - Le Suicide

Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883), « Le Suicidé« 

Electroconvulsive therapy has also sparked a major controversy as a primitive, dangerous and non-scientific practice for the brevity of its effect and negative side-effects on memory (Read & Bentall, 2010). A thorough review of studies on the effectiveness of ECT and its side-effects [retrograde and anterograde amnesia] revealed it to be effective for a brief duration in treating severe depression [in cases that are unresponsive to psychological treatment] and questionably only supported by psychiatrists with a vested interest in proving ECT’s effectiveness. ECT has also been associated with a slight but significant risk of death, and a qualitative study of patients’ negative experiences concluded that for some ECT leads to fear, shame and humiliation, and reinforces experiences of worthlessness and helplessness associated with depression.

brainbuilding

Medicalization has also led to controversy over the diagnosis of schizophrenia, a condition classified as a disease by the World Health Organization and ranked second only to cardiovascular diseases in terms of overall disease burden internationally (Murray & Lopez, 1996). Diagnosis is believed to be part of best practice in the patient’s “best” interest, however a strongly presented viewpoint by Thomas Szasz (2010) qualified diagnosis as an act of oppression as it may pave way for involuntary hospitalisation; where a deviant, maladjusted or poorly educated person may be subjected to « control » processes that they are not fully aware of – this has been proposed as a « possible » explanation for the greater rates of schizophrenia among ethnic minorities (particularly Africans in the US & those of low-SES groups). This view has also been supported by many who argue that schizophrenia as a distinct category may not be a fully valid diagnostic, but a fabrication constructed that may stigmatise disadvantaged or poorly educated people – while this may be positive in shaping « unacceptable behaviour » and protect citizens & society, some people with moderate symptoms may also be forcefully hospitalised. Thus, nowadays, schizophrenia is not a single definite disorder anymore, but one among others, as it has been revised and turned into a spectrum, known as the schizoid spectrum [with other related disorders]. In the treatment of schizophrenia, medicalisation has also led to the evaluation of psychotherapy as a possibly ineffective treatment (Lehman & Steinwachs, 1998). Freud & others in his discipline acknowledged the treatment of psychosis as problematic with psychotherapy as psychotic individuals tend not to develop transference [interpretation of their hidden feelings, defences & anxiety] to the analyst – unlike neurotic patients. For personality disorders, addictions and other severe mental health problems medicalisation has led to the development of alternative methods of treatment that unlike the traditional authoritarian & hierarchically organised inpatient mental health settings, are run in a more democratic line where service users are encouraged to take an active role in their rehabilitation rather than simply being passive recipients of treatment.

clinicalpsychology

Therapeutic communities have turned out to be effective in the long-term treatment of difficult patients with severe personality disorders with the outcome being more positive with longer treatments. These therapeutic communities are believed to lead to improvements in mental health and interpersonal functioning. For drug misuse issues, the assumption that clinicians make over users attempt to quit being due to conscious guidance & coherent plans should be revised as no evidence suggests so, and more evidence argue that unconscious processes, classical and operant conditioning, erratic impulses, and highly specific environmental cues affect the development and cessation of drug use (West, 2006). According to West, interventions should not stimulate adolescents to think of what ‘stage’ they are in or be matched to a stage, but maximum tolerable pressure should be put on the young person to cease drug use – which contradicts the stages of change model (DiClemente, 2003; Prochaska et al., 1992) where 30 days are allocated to stages [pre-contemplation, contemplation, action & maintenance] based on no evidence. While concepts such as harm reduction programmes with needle exchange, safe injection sites, and the provisions of free tests of quality of MDMA sold at raves remain controversial, some believe they prevent mortality and morbidity (Marlatt & Witkiewitz, 2010), while others argue they send the message that hard drug use [such as heroin] may be acceptable.

The second major controversy in modern day mental health practice remains the “Person or Context” debate where many in the field still question the validity of focusing on context as it shifts attention from the individualistic characteristics of the patient, and whether the focus should shift depending on the disorder and the patient’s age. For example in the treatment of childhood disorders, if difficulties are assumed to be individual ‘psychiatric’ illnesses the risk of focus being solely on the child and not on broader social environment may lead to medical treatments and individual therapy without addressing important risk factors for those of such young age who are influenced by their social environment, e.g. teacher, school and wider social context. This may not be the case for some adults who value a sense of autonomy more than being influenced by wider social contexts that they have no connection to, interest in or affinity for. In contrast, to the autonomic adult, treatment cases of other childhood behaviour disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorders may be particularly problematic, since the major risk factors that should be addressed are social: through interventions such as parent training, family therapy, multisystemic therapy and treatment foster care. For ADHD, the bold emphasis on medication is dangerous as the effects are limited to only 3 years (Swanson & Volkow, 2009), while growth and cardiovascular functioning may be affected that may lead to somatic complaints such as loss of appetite, headaches, insomnia and tics, which are present in 5-12% of cases (Breggin, 2001; Paykina et al., 2007; Rapport & Moffitt, 2002).

Another interesting argument comes from the Scottish psychiatrist and psychoanalyst R. D. Laing (2009) in the 1960s and 1970s who opposed the view that schizophrenia was a genetically based medical condition requiring treatment with antipsychotic medication. His dimensional approach led him to view schizophrenia as a ‘sane reaction to an insane situation’ where the contents of psychotic symptoms were simply viewed as psychological responses to complex, confusing, conflicting and powerful parental injunctions that left no scope for more rational and adaptive modes of expression. Thus, Laing proposed that the treatment involved creating a context where insight into the complex family process [e.g. poor housing, low SES, deviant parents with drug problems, over-involved family members who maintain the patient’s stress, alcohol problems, sexual deviance, incest, lack of financial stability, poor educational motivation, poor emotional education, lack of problem solving skills, lack of sophistication, poor nutrition, restricted finances, etc] of patients with schizophrenia and psychotic response to these could be facilitated. The context here seems partially important in the case where the patient’s delusions and hallucinations are linked, where their interpretation would be the client’s response to conflicting parental injunctions. The experience of psychosis and recovery was a process where the individual could emerge stronger with new and valuable insights regarding the solutions to their problems. However, this has not been supported by any evidence or subsequent research. In contrast, strong scientific evidence points to the importance of a more client-centred individual approach focussed solely on the patient with defective inherited neurobiological factors as major focus for the role they play in schizophrenia, and antipsychotic medication for the reduction of symptoms in two-thirds of psychotic patients affected (Ritsner & Gottesman, 2011; Tandon et al., 2010). Research has supported the hypothesis that suggests the family does affect the psychotic process and that psychotherapy has a place in the management of psychosis, for example personal trauma, including child abuse increases the risk of psychosis, and stressful life events including those within the family can precipitate an episode of psychosis, and high levels of family criticism, hostility and emotional over-involvement increase the risk of relapse (Bebbington & Kuipers, 2008; Hooley, 2007; Shelvin et al., 2008). So for those with a strong sense of family, and heavily involved peers, family therapy delays relapse in troubled families characterized by « extreme » levels of expressed emotion; and cognitive behaviour therapy which stresses the idea that psychotic symptoms are understandable and on a continuum with normal experience can help patients control these psychotic symptoms (Tandon et al., 2010), with solutions to rebuild their lives, their own identity and manage their social circle intelligently by differentiating types of relationship and expectations.

personality

The third and last controversy to be addressed is the ongoing debate in clinical psychology over the categorisation of psychological disorders where many have been arguing over a dimensional outlook on psychological conditions that offers more precision in diagnosis along with a more scientific approach. In the case of childhood behaviour disorders with regard to scientific approaches, there is an ongoing debate over whether they should be viewed and classified in categorical or dimensional terms. While DSM are based on rigid categories, most empirical studies support the view of a dimensional outlook. Furthermore, factor analytic studies consistently show that common childhood difficulties belong to two dimensions of internalizing and externalizing behaviour, which are normally distributed within the population (Achenbach, 2009). Young children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder and ADHD are part of a subgroup of cases with extreme externalizing behavioural problems, while those with anxiety or depressive disorders have extreme internalizing behaviour problems (Carr, 2006a). By the same dimensional approach, children diagnosed with intellectual disability fall at the lower end of the continuum of intelligence, a trait also normally distributed within the population (Carr et al., 2007). The dimensional approach is not only more scientific, but also has a less stigmatizing and rational approach to human uniqueness. The dimensional approach has also enhanced the movement critical of qualifying psychological deficiencies as ‘real psychiatric illnesses’, conditions such as ADHD, conduct disorder and other DSM diagnoses. Questions have been raised over whether they are invalid fabrications or spurious social constructions (Kutchins & Kirk, 1999). Those who trust the evidence of the dimensionality of childhood disorders argue that they may simply be traits distributed normally among the population where some cases fall on the extreme ends of certain traits, while those who point to the interests of pharmaceutical industries’ financial motives argue that they are spurious social constructions. The latter seems unethical but is a part of the decadent and immoral economic reality that we have allowed to exist. As parents, health and educational professionals, it is clear that the pharmaceutical industry and governments may all gain from conceptualising children’s psychological difficulties as ‘real psychiatric illnesses’. Some schools or uncaring parents may prefer children to receive a diagnosis of ADHD with stimulant therapy as they may have difficulty meeting their needs for intellectual stimulation, nurturance and clear limit-setting; thus these children in their care become more aggressive and disruptive.

In the case of schizophrenia, a dimensional approach has also led to the schizotypy construct as a dimensional alternative to the prevailing categorical conceptualization of schizophrenia (Lenzenweger, 2010). In contrast to the categorical view based on Kraepelin’s (1899) work and used in the DSM which sees schizophrenia as a discrete diagnostic category, this one proposes that anomalous sensory experiences, odd beliefs and disorganized thinking exist in extreme forms of schizophrenia as hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder, but these are simply on continuum with normal experience [i.e. it is present in all ‘normal’ people but peaks in abnormal ones] – a position originally advocated by Bleuler (1911). Research measures have provided support for the dimensional construct of schizotypy (Lenzenweger, 2010) where the continuum may be composed of sub-dimensions; from normal to psychotic experiences. Schizotypy is heritable; and patients with high schizotypy scores but who are not psychotic show attentional, eye-movement and other neuropsychological abnormalities associated with schizophrenia. Further, the dimensional approach has also led to the distinction between schizophrenia and split personality where 40% in the UK equated split or multiple personality with schizophrenia – as popular culture often does. It is clear that schizophrenia does not refer to such characteristics.

dr_jekyll_and_mr_hyde_poster_d'purb

The closest equivalent to split personality is a condition known as dissociative identity disorder (DID), where the central feature is the apparent existence of two or more distinct personalities within the same individual, with only one being evident at a time. Each personality (or alter) is distinct with its own memories, behaviour and interpersonal style. In most cases, the host personality is unaware of the existence of alters and these vary in knowledge of each other. Evidence suggests that the capacity to dissociate is normally distributed within the population and an attribute many use to manage their own lives and network. Those with high degree of this trait may cope by dissociating their consciousness from the experience of trauma (such as child abuse, extreme graphic violence, etc) in early childhood by entering a trance-like state. This dissociative habit is negatively reinforced (strengthened) as an effective distress-reducing coping strategy over repeated traumas in early childhood as it brings relief from distress during trauma exposure. Eventually a sufficient number of experiences become dissociated to constitute a separate personality that may be activated in later life at times of stress or trauma through suggestion in hypnotic psychotherapeutic situations. Treatment often simply involves helping clients integrate the multiple personalities into a single personality and develop non-dissociative strategies for dealing with stress [e.g. argument with work colleagues, new manager, divorce, adolescents leaving home for studies, partner with alcohol problems, over-involved family members, etc] – this helps them deal with tough situations by facing them with problem-solving abilities and skills to come out with a firm resolution and have their views understood. Core symptoms of multiple personality disorder are not treated with psychotropic medication unlike schizophrenia but involves psychological education for patients to learn the skill of mentalizing [understand their own state of mind and that of others].

whoareyou

Finally, with personality disorders, the dimensional approach has led to the trait theory in conceptualizing important aspects of behaviour and experience from a limited number of dimensions. Any given trait is believed to be normally distributed in the population, for example, introversion – extraversion, most people show a moderate level of the trait, however those who exhibit extremely low or high levels [extremes] would have the sort of difficulties attributed in the DSM. So, normal people only differ from the abnormal in the degree to which they show particular traits. The trait theory has become dominated by the five-factor theory (McCrae & Costa, 2008) in recent years. This model includes the dimensions: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. There is evidence for the heritability of all of factors within the Five Factor Model except agreeableness which seems to be predominantly determined by one’s environment (Costa & Widiger, 1994). Thomas Widiger has proposed that the five-factor model may be used as an alternative system for describing personality disorders (Widiger & Mullins-Sweatt, 2010). Widiger also argues that trait theory offers a more scientifically useful approach to assessment with good psychometric properties embraced by its questionnaires (De Raad & Perugini, 2002) – they are reliable and valid, and have population norms. Compared to categorical classification systems, trait models offer a more parsimonious way of describing patients with rigid dysfunctional behaviour patterns which in turn offers a more parsimonious way to conceptualize the development of effective treatments.

LondonCity

Photo: The Promise of Dawn (J.Hawkes)

The major controversies in modern day mental health practice seem to revolve around the precision and the validity of constructs as psychological illnesses, and since they may stigmatise those who suffer from them, the constant research into better and more modern interpretations and explanations of their characteristics and treatment seem bound to revolutionise the field of psychology, as the movement takes a more dimensional approach; with a new generation of psychologists applying the rules with an open mind and a creative outlook on new perspectives and methods – the field of psychology looks set on a positively progressive course.

UneNation

« A great aggregation of men sane in mind & warm in the heart, creates a moral conscience that is known as a nation » – Ernest Renan / Source: Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Arthur Hughes - A Music Party 1864

Arthur Hughes (1832 – 1915), « A Music Party« 

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  25. Prochaska, J., DiClemente, C., & Norcross, J. (1992). In search of how people change: Applications to addictive behaviours. American Psychologist, 47, 1102-1114.
  26. Rapport, M. & Moffitt, C. (2002). Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and methylphenidate: A review of height/weight, cardiovascular, and somatic complaint side effects. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 1107-1131.
  27. Read, J., & Bentall, R. (2010). The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: A literature review. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, 19, 333-347.
  28. Ritsner, M., & Gottesman, I. (2011). The schizophrenia construct after 100 years of challenges. In M. Ritsner (Ed.), Handbook of schizophrenia spectrum disorders, Volume I: Conceptual issues and neurobiological advances (pp. 1-44). New York: Springer.
  29. Swanson, J. M., & Volkow, N. D. (2009). Psychopharmacology: Concepts and opinions about the use of stimulant medications. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50 (1-2), 180-193.
  30. Szasz, T. (2010). Psychiatry, anti-psychiatry, critical psychiatry: What do these terms mean? Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 17, 229-232.
  31. Tandon, R., Nasrallah, H. A., & Keshavan, M. S. (2010). Schizophrenia, “just the facts” 5. Treatment and prevention past, present and future. Schizophrenia Research, 122, 1-23.
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  33. Widiger, T.A., & Mullins-Sweatt, S. N. (2010). Clinical utility of a dimensional model of personality disorder. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41, 488-494.

Mis à jour le Vendredi, 30 Octobre 2020 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

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Essay // Psychological Explanations of Prejudice & Discrimination

Paralympic-Cheetah-blades

Prejudice and discrimination are usually classified as behavioural attitudes towards a certain group or individual based on a multitude of reasons [according to different psychological theories]. The main reasons for prejudice are believed to be rooted in individual psychological processes related to groups, social influence and/or upbringing.

Authoritarian Personality

One plausible explanation for prejudice is the authoritarian personality, which suggests that those belonging in the category are concerned with status and upholding conventions, are very conformist and tend to be obsequious to those they see as holding a higher status – while treating those ‘below’ with contemp. Authoritarian personality is believed to be the result of strict and punitive upbringing which later leads to hostility being directed towards disliked [justified or unjustified] groups through the process of « displacement ». Adorno et al (1950) found strong and positive correlations between respondents’ scores on the F-Scale and scores on other measures intended to assess anti-semitism (AS scale) and ethnocentrism (E scale). However, the PEC-scale (Political and economic conservatism) was not strongly related, which only led to the conclusion of how people who are anti-Semitic are also « likely » to be hostile towards most « out-groups ».

The Adorno et al (1950) test only consisted of agreement that could only be geared towards anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism and fascism, which might have led to the problem of acquiescent response. The fact that the interviewer knew the interviewee’s F-score might have also led to experimenter bias; and the theory also falls short in the explanation of mass changes in behaviour: “Antisemitism in Nazi Germany grew during a decade or so, which is much too short a time for a whole generation of German families to have adopted new forms of childrearing practices giving rise to authoritarian and prejudiced children (Brown, 1988)” [not plausible]. The reality is that anti-Semitism may have been the result of a more sinister social and economic problem caused, inflicted by or related to the jews powerful Zionist business associations on the German economy at a time where the country was suffering [people, heritage, identity, economy…].

Stereotyping

Social Roles

Individual identity differs according to heritage, education, language(s), individual choices, profession and social roles

Another form of prejudice is stereotyping, which plays a major part in the process of inter-cultural [note: culture may refer to groups defined by language, geography, religion, and other common similarities] prejudice where the root of its cause has proven to be fairly ambiguous in explanation.

Art - D'Purb Website

Groups founded and united based on the behavioural patterns of a particular geography [usually] tend to stereotype others negatively [i.e. out-group(s): the other group(s) with petty differences in the way they go by their daily activities as all human primates on this planet – as the chart below suggests].

Development Era_The World as One Consuming Unit

Where Do We Buy What? (Source: Statista)

It is believed that the process of stereotyping is the result of minimising mental effortreminiscent of Carl Jung‘s quote:

« Thinking is difficult, that is why most people judge. »

LesConsOseTout_Audiard

Stereotyping is linked to psychological processes within the individual and is assumed to be connected to environmental influences that lead to a prejudiced mind; where out-groups and there members are defined unrealistically by single characteristics (negative usually). Stereotyping can sometimes [at least when dealing with members of the public who may not be deemed as « intelligent or smart », even bordering on plain « stupid »] play a role in the legitimisation of prejudiced and discriminatory treatment of other individuals who simply [consciously or unconsciously] made the choice to live by different modes of group-oriented behavioural patterns (culture).

Rational reasoning and the humane ability to understand each group’s choices while also respecting each group’s boundaries [geographical, social, economic, psychosocial, linguistic, etc] are surprisingly never considered by individuals and authorities in the quest to correct the mistakes of a world designed on outdated ideologies [e.g. the scientifically poor logic of global communism] to design a new one based on creative scientific reasoning, evolutionary logic, design & progressive innovation.

Bloomsbury 113 D'Purb Website

Another reason why some individuals resort to stereotyping others may be insecurity. That is, some individuals may be frustrated at their inability to conquer other(s) who are above their league in terms of abilities and achievements, and may stereotype these individuals in their quest to compensate for their own lack of abilities and feeling of inferiority when faced with these individuals who are more talented than them. Arguably, it may also be that these petty common brains who stereotype, simply fear that their competitors may be able to excel and deliver a similar or even superior performance/output than them if not distracted and slowed by insignificant and childish acts of stereotyped behaviour.

Carl-Gustav-Jung

Traduction(EN): « Thinking is difficult, that is why most people judge. » -Carl G. Jung

Prejudice as an Illusionary Cure to Low Self-Esteem/Insecurity

The Social Learning Theory, on the other hand, assumes prejudice as the result of maintaining self-esteem of both the individual and the in-group (individuals with the same behavioural patterns as the individual/tribe) members – where one tends to be biased towards glorifying the group whilst also paying particular attention to criteria that make the group look better. This is related to our sense of identity being determined by the groups we belong to and thus tend to be biased towards favouring them. Tajfel et al (1982) showed how schoolboys chose the strategy to allocate more points to their own group at the expense of getting least overall – showing bias in the absence of competition. The two main problems however are the fact that [1] the tendency for favouritism might be group-oriented and not universal (Wetherall, 1982), and also how [2] most studies show bias towards in-group (which could not only be prejudice but stereotyping or other influences).

Unrealistic Conflict? Competition for the same Resource(s) while presuming in-group members to be « unconditional benefactors »

Finally, the realistic conflict theory suggests that prejudice arises when two or more groups compete for the same resource which in turn leads to a tendency to favour in-group members, while being hostile and denying resources to out-groups. This was proven in Sherif et al (1961) where the artificially stimulated competitive conflict lead to negative stereotyping towards out-group which persisted even after the competition. However, the validity was questioned over the artificiality of the situation and the samples (US American boys only?); as Tyerman & Spencer also showed how competition does not always cause prejudice – where UK scouts co-operated instead. Furthermore, individuals with different upbringing and philosophical orientations had not been considered, which in turn affects the ecological validity of the finding where inferences from generalisation would likely lack precision – with a world in constant social evolution with more psychological research being constantly published to guide society towards a more harmonious design.

LesVieuxChiensFrustrés

Reflection & Conclusion: Relocation, Adaptation, Design & Assimilation

Together, the theories seem to offer a plausible explanation for prejudice but cannot be ranked; as they compensate each other’s weak points. A sensible application of each theory – depending on the situation – seems like the rational method forward, since factors such as group-based behavioural patterns (culture), present situation/environment and norms/values remain vital considerations when researching about prejudice, its causes & a more direct approach to solutions.

Furthermore, the world has made such leap socially with the technological era, and people have been inclined towards knowledge, discoveries and innovation with social media contributing towards a more educated humanity [i.e. a civilisation with its different societies that come with their own values, philosophy, feelings and behavioural and communicative patterns, that are the main seperators and organising factors in each group’s identity].

 

Relocation

A new and strong global inclination towards a realistic synchronised unity [where the world’s population can live harmoniously in their own geographical location with their chosen units, laws and lifestyle], may shape intellectual thought in the decades to come now that the experience learnt from psychosocial disasters due to badly managed population shifts [that turned out to be destructive to the safety of Western European nations] could be considered in future policies. [Visit the website of the Banque Mondiale for more precise population statistics].

Unbelievable African Population Growth

Source: UN via The Guardian

Negro Population Counter

The current population of Africa is 1,300,976,080 as of Wednesday, December 5, 2018, based on the latest United Nations estimates. / Source: Worldometers (Click to see a live count of the majorly negro population of Africa)

S’installer en Afrique: les clés pour réussir ses projets sur le continent (2018)
La Taille Du Continent Africain

The Size of the African Continent: With the speed of progress and the development brought by the digital era, an increasing number of Negro people nowadays, with their global population rising at a rate faster than any other group, are considering a relocation to their homelands in Africa

Organisms who do not want to/cannot assimilate, should consider a relocation to an environment that is adjusted and more suited to their evolutionary needs, as this seems like the most rational solution, such as the growing number of sensible Negro people nowadays who are gradually shifting back to their homelands in Africa to help it grow economically and culturally with the world developing at a speed never seen before in this era partly accelerated with modern technology.

Africa Unite - Negro People

A great example of environmental and socio-psychological synchronisation is India, with 94% of Hindus being the native Hindi-speaking population of India who also live there, although Hinduism and its various branches of philosophy [explored by one of the most influential Western philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, and also many others such as Aldous Huxley, Alfred North Whitehead, Arnold Toynbee, François Voltaire, Rudolf Steiner, Wilhelm von Humbolt & Will Durant] – as other major religious cultures such as Christianity – also spread in influence globally.

India United

Hinduism, Hindus and India

Like Christianity & the other major religions, Hinduism and its philosophy also gradually spread in influence across the globe. However, 94% of people who practice Hinduism  are the native Hindi-speaking population of India

The Climate Collapse disaster has also made Civilization aware of the importance of « synchronised unity » in matters of global human advancement –  future research surrounding prejudice and discrimination would likely benefit the human world more if applied in intra-group scenarios – should the world’s population be managed and geographically engineered according to each group’s evolutionary logic [to fit their respective psycholinguistic, cultural and organic environments to further refine group evolution and guide society towards a harmonious pattern of living] for each group by their respective identities, collective beliefs, values & vision.

Chart of the Year - Global Poverty

A Visual History of Global Poverty from 1820 – 2015 / Source: Our World In Data

Infant Mortality 1950 - 2015

Infant Mortality, 1950 to 2015 / Source: Our World in Data

Global Income Inequality is Falling 1820 - 2000

Global Income Inequality is falling, 1820 – 2000

As World poverty is down, solving matters of the 3rd world on location along with a systematic and diplomatic relocation of culturally alien migrant crowds seems rational. Progress & development globally means relocation should be considered in the future if human beings are realistic about world peace, and the understanding of evolutionary science and its application to humanity.

World Charity by Country

Charitable giving by country / Source: Guardian DataBlog

libray users cite impacts from personal learning d'purb dpurb website

Library users and Learning / Source: Pew Research Centre (Internet & Technology)

In the 21st century, there are associations in the UK affiliated to the Indian, Chinese and Muslim communities that have started working in collaboration with the Home Office and are offering members of their respective communities an easy voluntary return to their country of origin without any use of force along with a financial help of about £ 2000 to find a job or start a business in their home country, this service is also open to the Jewish and Negro communities and all other unassimilated individuals. In France, many unassimilated Jews have begun to move back to their communities in Israel and in doing so are setting a positive example and encouraging the rest; the government of Israel is also supporting the return of Jews to their homeland and helping them adjust to their language and community.

Video: Quitter La France Pour Israel : Le Défi De l’Intégration des Juifs

We, as Western Europeans should consider a diplomatic process for relocating incompatible populations [who struggle to and/or cannot adjust to assimilate] according to their respective societies and cultural identity for peace; with links and cooperation in business and education if necessary to support the sophistication and the continuous linguistic and cultural development of human societies on Planet Earth.

Geographical management towards synchronisation and stability by exploring the logic of the « Organic theory » involves prioritizing one’s « own organisms » [i.e. organisms that are part of or have become part of one’s own society through complete assimilation] for psycholinguistic, cultural, social & genetic chemistry, evolution and enhancement.

nous

For example, if I myself were a retrograde and atavistic burden to Western Europe or France because of my religious beliefs, maladaptive needs, genes, intelligence [lack of], organic composition, fitness/health, education, philosophical perspectives, traditions, psycholinguistic heritage and national outlook, then I would change geographical location to one that is more suited to myself to be able to live much more comfortably. But since, I am of 100% Franco-British heritage and would not feel at « home » in a different environment other than Western Europe, I have fully assimilated and live here, thus, the concept of « Geographical Management », which is simply the process of keeping together organisms sharing similar beliefs, philosophy, culture, vision, perception, goals, intellect, language(s) and identity for chemistry, stability and mutual understanding: a synchronised and functional society founded on modern evolutionary science & humanistic philosophy.

We need to understand the identity of a society in terms of linguistic, cultural [mostly behavioural and perceptive patterns], and genetic authenticity but also consider and follow the progressive course of evolution as modern and sophisticated beings to include evolved organisms that assimilate, enhance, stabilise, and strengthen the group with superior or gifted genes that also care about, have a sense of belonging, take pride, interact, speak for and identify with the culture and nation. All humans are similar yes, but not equal … similar physiologically [blood, bone, organs, etc] but not equal in any case [culture, philosophy, language(s), IQ, genetics, fitness/health, intelligence, vocabulary, sensibility, skills, etc].

Rodin

Hence to foster evolution in a stable society that is also progressive, we should aim to create the consent of the masses as Walter Lippmann suggested in his theoretical essays; by all forms of communication possible [as a therapeutic form of expression to save ourselves as a species on planet Earth and learn to develop a sophisticated outlook of our planet] because scientifically there is no such thing as a pure race [all of us human primates on earth are the product of migration, breeding and evolution], and as Darwin’s theory of evolution revealed, there is no eternal essence, and any idea of an exceptionally pure entity that would be beyond evolution does not exist – everything is in a constant state of flux [so from a scientific, evolutionary and organic standpoint, racism is a totally archaic absurdity since we are all simply organic matter on a small blue planet in the vast universe being recycled, recreated and reshaped in a continuous process]. The philosopher Barbara Stiegler wisely suggested that the task of creating the consent of the masses should be left in the hands of experts in psychology [i.e. those who understand the psychic structure and philosophies of how humans and societies operate, develop and evolve].

 

Adaptation

For cases of exceptional organisms who have moved to a new locations [geography] to create themselves and build their lives, it would certainly be helpful for them to see themselves as individual with the power to reshape their whole being if they intend to be able to live a life that is not restrictive and is in complete synchronisation with the new society and people they choose to be a part of; thus assimilation seems to be the only reasonable and humane option.

It is fundamental for all to understand that geographical groups have evolved and have gained and maintained a structured organisation because each region on planet Earth and its respective organisms [of a particular type of organic composition – what some refer to as “race”] have created societies and behavioural patterns that led to a group with some form of synchronisation and organisation.

Human evolution

But, it is also very important to consider that from the perspective of the universality of life on Planet Earth, any human organism of whatsoever type of organic composition can procreate with one another. This simple but fundamental scientific observation means that if the laws of evolution and nature that contain and govern all life on this planet had different intentions, then organisms of different organic compositions would not be able to create new life.

This does not mean that countries should be encouraging uncontrolled and savage communist/zionist mass invasion policies in terms of migration to disrupt their own stability, since preserving a sense of synchronisation and organisation for all groups involves promoting agendas with organisms that have evolved in their environment and have the characteristics to support the continuity and  productivity of their group & societyYet, it is vital to understand that when Charles Darwin formulated his theory of evolution he changed life forever as we knew it – perhaps this is why he built the reputation of a rockstar of science and biology – because he cancelled this once believed fallacy of the stable and permanent concept, but revealed that everything continues to evolve from here onHence, it is of vital and fundamental importance for all groups [around the world] to consider the never-ending and ongoing process of evolution and natural selection, a process that affects all organisms on planet Earth similarly and also the singular adaptive evolution of some superior and genetically gifted organisms [See: [I] Psychology: The Concept of Self, [II] How our Neurons work, [III] The Temporal Lobes: Vision, Sound & Awareness and [IV] The 3 Major Theories of Childhood Development]

Darwin sur l'adaptation environmentale Oxford University Press Quote D'Purb dpurb site web

Traduction(EN): Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882), best known for his theory on evolution by natural selection, demonstrated that all species have developed over time from common ancestors and that individuals with characteristics most suited to the environment are more likely to survive and reproduce.

Putz_Michel_Richard_Orpheus_and_Eurydice D'Purb Website

 

Design

All societies should be asking the question of whether some select superior organisms [whatever the field in which they may excel / See:Scientists discover 1,000 new “intelligence genes” – which is a highly heritable trait and a major determinant of human health and well-being; &2 types of extroverts have more brain matter than most common brains] would enhance them as a group [i.e. upscale their organic composition], since we are now living in modern times and are part of a generation that has the scientific knowledge that previous generations before us did not have.

After all, the choice of partnership should always remain that of the individual, and since the criteria in partnership selection differs from one individual to another [e.g. some may look for physical attributes, others for emotional intelligence, or philosophical sensibilities, or particular personality traits, and on extremely rare occasions some may be incrediby lucky to find all the qualities in a single organism, etc], this may lead some individuals to choose from a range of organic compositions.

Human-Design-Organic-Composition

In the 21st century, with the knowledge of genetics and health, couples who want children worldwide should also consider whether the future wellbeing of their children involves more than simply good food, education and upbringing, but also good genes that also lead to better attributes. Hence, couples who choose to embrace the reality of science in 2019, may choose sperm or eggs from healthy donors if they do not consider themselves as genetically healthy or gifted; and this may also open the door to creating a healthier generation of humans on planet Earth and also encourage healthy males and females, to donate sperm and eggs as a contribution to the better design of a new generation of mankind. Since, science has always been seen by many as the study of God’s work, to create a better world, and this gave us better medicines and treatments after our understanding of the laws of nature evolved, so it seems reasonable to also look at genetics and design similarly.

Masters of Deception - Salvador Dali 026 - D'Purb Website

We also know that environmental and psycho-social influences have more salience and effect in shaping the mind of the individual, so avant-garde couples who choose to have a child through donated eggs or sperm should understand that the child will be theirs as the infant will carry their names, manners, attitudes and values, and not the donor’s. A good way of looking at it may be to simply think of the donor as a piece of healthy flesh that the couple borrowed to give their child a better design, health and future.

« spermini » par l'artiste maurizio cattelan d'purb website 1200

«Spermini», l’oeuvre par l’artiste Maurizio Cattelan / Source: Fondation Louis Vuitton

 

Assimilation

As for human organisms that have chosen to shift their geography to be part of a new society along with its heritage, they do not seem to have any other concrete option but to fully « assimilate » and prove their genetic fitness/health and abilities, and hence become an asset to the new group by becoming a part of it to help maintain its stability and sense of synchronisation.

Men and women who make the choice and who have the necessary education and intelligence to guide them, build themselves and change cultural / national identification registers when they have the capacity for development, the linguistic heritage and the genetics of intellect with a mastery of expression and speech. It is only then that they manage to represent a nation or an empire [or two?]. In 2019, as far as ‘The Organic Theory’ [which focuses on the singularity of the individual organism] is concerned, there is no debate between intellectuals in psychology, but simply the discovery of the new mechanical / scientific perspectives that it introduces to explain the psychological and philosophical conception of the individual – as Carl Sagan phrased it, ‘Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge’. Construction [training], which ‘can be’ mechanical and structured in its application [e.g. distance learning by text / video / audio], develops indirectly to create and give a socio-cultural dimension to the individual once the desired skills have been fully adopted, mastered, and deployed in life. The term ‘social’ is also far too vague to be important as such… the term ‘social’ can simply be defined as the interaction and exposure [of all types] between organisms. So the term ‘social’ is not really valid scientifically and it lacks precision itself since it may refer to a wide range of variables. What we are left with then is only the individual’s choices, language(s) & abilities of personal development [e.g. psycholinguistic & cultural synthesis]: the major factors in the psychological & philosophical explanation of his/her singular conception [to note that each conception is unique to the individual human organism such as his/her fingerprints, skull shape, or body structure: singularity]. Thus: training, meritocracy, order and love! [See: The Concept of Self]

Feuerbach_Anselm(1829-1880)_Paolo_And_Francesca D'Purb Website

If the new organisms lack genetic fitness/health, then it seems reasonable to consider conceiving [through healthy donors] or adopting children of the similar organic composition of the majority from the respective societies they moved to and live in, as this will contribute in fostering the growth and continuity of the group and ease assimilation.

So for organisms who do change their mode of existence, i.e. organisms that have the potential and have taken the decision to and do assimilate in Western European societies, the best option seems to see, breathe & live” [as a way of speaking] like the new society and nation they chose to be a part of, and also “feel” the new group’s pain, joy, values and heritage [even religion if possible / See: The Relationship between Religion and Discrimination].

Assimilation generally means to see the members of one’s new community as one’s own « blood », just like those from avant-garde French schools of thought do, as it will be in any individual’s best interest in living « fully » [although it is vital for all organisms to also consider the problems of «bad blood», since social incompatibility and/or a lack of chemistry – which is not necessarily hateful – within organisms of the same geographical environment are common due to a range of factors (e.g. intelligence, philosophy, values, sensibility, personality, character, emotional relatedness, tastes, etc)].

Tennessee

Any society that cannot add highly talented organisms with exceptional genes that have the potential to enhance and sharpen them as a group through the process of assimilation, would be missing out and will forever have a weakness over avant-garde societies that can. However, it is important not to take the process of assimilation lightly as it is not a costume party. Assimilation is not an easy process as we have found.

The large majority of organisms who change geographic locations do not seem to have the abilities or the desire to assimilate, since it involves focusing their loyalty and dedication to the new society and people while also adopting [e.g names that are sycnhronised with the society’s heritage as it is commonly done in France] and mastering new behavioural and communicative patterns [as Nicolas Sarkozy also pointed out], which requires learning & adjusting.

Hence, the diplomatic deportation and relocation of incompatible organisms along with campaigns to help them settle still remain the best solution to alleviate the burden of mass migration and psycho-social disruption to Western European societies, because assimilation requires skills and dedication and the majority of foreign organisms fail to master them.

Nous En France - Sarkozy - d'purb

Traduction(EN): « Us in France, we are different from others. To live, we have to drink, eat, but also to cultivate ourselves. » -Nicolas Sarkozy

However, we should also take note that there are some [not many] “incredible” individuals who manage to assimilate and become fully part of their new societies, and guide, manage and promote it passionately.

DocPaints

These individuals who have made the tremendous effort to become fully part of their new society where they have moved to and have the potential to enhance, guide and promote it should be applauded and encouraged because these individuals who have proven their genetic fitness/health, psycholinguistic/cultural belonging, national loyalty & identity are not in a new society simply for economic gains [as a foreign leech] but see themselves as part of the national community/family, and have taken the sensitive personal decision to completely blend in [assimilate] and become natives of their new societies where it reflects in their values, sentiments, perception, behaviour & nationalistic feelings.

Charles Darwin sur l'evolution par la sélection naturelle D'Purb Website

Traduction(EN): « I have called this principle, by which, each slight variation, if useful, is preserved by the term of natural selection. » -Charles Darwin / Note: Darwin devised the Theory of Evolution and was against bad breeding, and even supported a campaign to make marriage between cousins illegal due to the range of diseases and disabilities caused by consanguineous inbreeding [See: (1) Inbreeding, Consanguinity and Inherited Diseases, (2) The Role of Inbreeding in the Extinction of a European Royal Dynasty, (3) Royal dynasties as human inbreeding laboratories: the Habsburgs & (4) 75% of Jews Are Lactose Intolerant and 11 Other Facts 

We have philosophical arguments (Schweikard & Schmid, 2013) along with empirical evidence (Tomasello, Carpenter, Call, Behne, & Moll, 2005) to support the idea that the ability to engage in joint actions is a key aspect of human sociability; joint actions can be explained by shared intentions. For an action to be shared among a group of individuals, the action must be triggered, steered and monitored by an intention that is also shared by those individuals (Bratman, 1993, 2014): two individuals walk together [instead of simply walking in parallel] if those individuals share the decision to walk together (Gilbert, 1990).

French philosopher Barbara Stiegler suggested that we must rethink our political subject as first of all the members of a living species, this living species extends into an environment and the challenge for our species, as for any living species extends to adapt to this environment. Approving Jiddu Krishnamurti’s argument, « It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society« , since it applies to her work on « adaptation », Barbara Stiegler, who similarly to Jacques Lacan and myself, remains critical to the concept of « adaptation » derived from strict Darwinism [which she thought has gradually colonised all field of human life], and hence she asks the question whether what is supposed to be a sign of good health is actually a disease when one adapts to something that is deleterious [i.e. uncritically adapting to the product of the industrial revolution: the artificial society of steel and concrete that many were born into and never questioned the psychical suffering, sense of values and reality that it imposes on human civilisation].

From the second half of the 18th century, the creation of a completely new environment in the history of life on a global scale implies an acceleration of exponential rates; all borders and fences have been disrupted in an extremely rapid manner because of the industrial revolution we created. This was the case before indeed, and in the field of life, environments are always redefined with organisms. Walter Lippmann posed this interesting question, that is whether our species is adapted to this new industrial world, which is globalisation and it appears that cognitively, psychically and affectively humans are not evolving at the rate required to support this fast growing industrial environment that we imposed on ourselves; and due to this lack of skills, we have a mass of people that are completely atomised going in all directions; and who do not truly know what they desire.

Everyday Life in Ancient Athens d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

Life in Ancient Athens

This is not the image of a receptive Athenian people full of values, affectivity, artistry, creativity, rationalism, philosophy, honour, respect, loyalty, courage & passion, but simply a mass of individuals like in the USA. Walter Lippmann suggested that this mass is apathetic, it means that it does not feel itself and has no consciousness of itself or class, which means that each individual that composes the mass is locked on himself and his little circle and hence is apathetic. This to Lippmann meant that it is an atomised mass which makes up the matrix, i.e. it is a huge accumulation of individual atoms; and Barbara Stiegler believes the mass is weak and impotent, stuck without structure, that can only find its power if it is taken over and formed/trained.

NYC Crowd

Image: The Atomised Mass / A Crowd of people walking on street sidewalk, New York City

But problems of society rarely have a single cause and we must accept that: we have a range of causes. Darwin stated very clearly that he honestly thought that evolution is accepting the idea that there is no end to evolution and it goes in all directionsSo what does the history of life tell us? It’s that there’s no end to history. But we do need reasonable guidelines to direct ourselves towards an organised and stable civilisation, otherwise we are bound to dissapear as a species on earth. It may be good to consider the example of the dinosaurs, who ruled the earth for 175 million years and yet disappeared, while we humans have only been on earth for 6 million years, this means that dinosaurs lived on earth 29 times longer than us, and today have disappeared.

Le processus d'évolution qui a conduit aux humains modernes d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

The evolutionary process that led to modern humans.

Perhaps another example of a smaller scale is the Roman Empire that lasted for more than 1000 years and no one who lived at its peak thought that it would disappear.

In contemporary Darwinism, we find processes that are not solely based on competition between individuals, but which are based on cooperation between individuals and cooperation between groups. Hence, the classical Darwinian orthodox model has been revised and in reality it is also composed of all kinds of cooperation processes. This is where John Dewey focussed on potentials that Walter Lippmann refused to see in the masses, and hence became a philosopher who contradicted some aspects of Lippmann’s work. Dewey acknowledged Lippmann about the masses, but argued that we also have inside those apathethic atomised masses as described by Lippmann, what Dewey called « a public », individuals who are not satisfied for a particular reason who identify with others who have the similar problem and from this we have the emergence of what he called « publics »; who unlike the apathetic mass in Lippmann’s theory, feel themselves because of their common problem. The public eventually create a movement that shifts from passive to active, and they begin to look for a therapeutic solution to their problem, and from here they have the ability through modern media and communications brought by our industrial society, to identify themselves, to connect among themselves and go and look for resources in what Dewey called « knowledge »: the ability to use expertise to consider experimental solutions from contemporary science.

 

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Bibliography

  1. Alvarez, G., Ceballos, F. and Quinteiro, C., (2009). The Role of Inbreeding in the Extinction of a European Royal Dynasty. PLoS ONE, 4(4), p.e5174.
  2. Boakes, R. (1984) From Darwin to behaviourism: Psychology and the minds of animals. Cambridge University Press
  3. Bratman, M. (1993). Shared Intention. Ethics, 104, 97–113.
  4. Bratman, M. (2014). Shared agency. A planning theory of acting together. Oxford: OUP.
  5. Ceballos, F. and Álvarez, G., (2013). Royal dynasties as human inbreeding laboratories: the Habsburgs. Heredity, 111(2), pp.114-121.
  6. Cohen D. (1979) J.B Watson: The Founder of Behaviourism. London, Boston and Henley
  7. Gilbert, M. (1990). Walking together: A paradigmatic social phenomenon. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 15(1), 1–14.
  8. Gross, R. (2005) Psychology: the science of mind and behaviour. London, Hodder and Stoughton Educational
  9. Schweikard, D. P., & Schmid, H. B. (2013). Collective intentionality. The Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/collective-intentionality
  10. Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(5), 675–691.

 

Mis à jour le Jeudi, 30 Juillet 2020 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

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Essay // Psychology: The Concept of Self

SelfRope

The concept of the self will be explored in this essay – where it comes from, what it looks like and how it influences thought and behaviour. Since self and identity are cognitive constructs that influence social interaction and perception, and are themselves partially influenced by society, the material of this essay connects to virtually all aspects of psychological science. The self is an enormously popular focus of research (e.g. Leary and Tangney, 2003; Sedikides and Brewer, 2001; Swann and Bosson, 2010). A 1997 review by Ashmore and Jussim reported 31,000 social psychological publications on the self over a two-decade period to the mid-1990s, and there is now even an International Society for Self and Identity and a scholarly journal imaginatively entitled Self and Identity.

Nikon Portrait DSC_0169 Res600

The concept of the “self” is a relatively new idea in psychological science. While Roy Baumeister’s (1987) painted a picture of a medievally organised society where most human organism’s reality were fixed and predefined by rigid social relations and legitimised with religious affiliations [family membership, social rank, birth order & place of birth, etc], the modern perspectives adopted by scholars and innovative psychologists has been contradicting such outdated concepts. The idea of a complex & sophisticated individual self, lurking underneath would have been difficult, if not impossible, to entertain under such atavistic assumptions of social structures affecting an individual human organism.

However, all this changed in the 16th century, where momentum gathered ever since from forces such as:

Secularisation – where the idea that fulfilment occurs in afterlife was replaced by the idea that one should actively pursue personal fulfilment in this life

Industrialisation – where the human being was increasingly being seen as individual units of production who moved from place to place with their own “portable” personal identity which was not locked into static social structures such as extended family

Enlightenment – where people felt they were solely responsible for choosing, organising and creating better identities for themselves by overthrowing orthodox value systems and oppressive regimes [e.g. the French revolution and the American revolution of the late 18th century]

and

Psychoanalysis – the psychoanalytic theory of the human mind unleashed the creative individual with the notion that the self was unfathomable because it lived in the depth of the unconscious [e.g. Theory of social representations – theory invoking psychoanalysis as an example of how a novel idea or analysis can entirely change how people think about their world (e.g. Moscovici, 1961; see Lorenzi-Cioldi and Clémence, 2001). [See: Psychoanalysis: History, Foundations, Legacy, Impact & Evolution]

Jacques Lacan d'purb dpurb site web

Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981)

Together, these and other socio-political and cultural influences lead to society thinking about the self and identity as complex subjects, where theories of self and identity propagated and flourished in this fertile soil.

As far as self and identity are concerned, we have noticed one pervasive finding in cultural differences. The so called “Western” world involving continents such as Western Europe, North America and Australasia, tend to be individualistic, whereas most other cultures, such as in Asia, South America and Africa are collectivist (Triandis, 1989; also see Chiu and Hong, 2007, Heine, 2010, 2012; Oyserman, Coon and Kemmelmeier, 2002). Anthropologist Geertz puts it beautifully:

“The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated, motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic centre of awareness, emotion, judgement, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against a social and natural background is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures.”

Geertz (1975, p.48)

conceptofself d'purb dpurb site web

Markus and Kityama (1991) describe how those from individualistic cultures tend to have an independent self, whereas people from collectivist cultures have an interdependent self. Although in both cases, people seek a clear sense of who they are, the [Western] independent self is grounded in a view of the self that is autonomous, separate from other people and revealed through one’s inner thoughts and feelings. The [Eastern] interdependent self on the other hand, unlike in the West, tends to be grounded in one’s connection to and relationships with other people [expressed through one’s roles and relationships]. As Gao explained: ‘Self… is defined by a person’s surrounding relations, which often are derived from kinship networks and supported by cultural values based on subjective definitions of filial piety, loyalty, dignity, and integrity’ (Gao, 1996, p. 83).

From a conceptual review of the cultural context of self-conception, Vignoles, Chryssochoou and Breakwell (2000) conclude that the need to have a distinctive and integrated sense of self is “likely” universal. However from individualist and collectivist cultures, the term “self-distinctiveness” holds a set of very different assumptions. In the individualist West, separateness adds meaning and definition to the isolated and bounded self. In the collectivist & Eastern others, the “self” is relational and gains meaning from its relations with others.

universal

A logic proposed by analysing historical conceptions of self with an account of the origins of individualist and collectivist cultures along with the associated independent and interdependent self-conceptions may be related to economic policies. The labour market is an example where mobility helped the industry by viewing humans as “units” of production who are expected to shift their geographical locations from places of low labour demand to those of higher demand, along with their ability to organise their lives, relationships, self-concepts around mobility and transient relationships.

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center.

Independence, separateness and uniqueness have become more important than connectedness and long-term maintenance of enduring relationships [values that seem to have become pillars of modern Western Labour Culture – self-conceptions reflect cultural norms that codify economic activity].

However, this logic applied to any modern human organism seems to clearly offer more routes to development [personal and professional], more options to continuously nurture the evolving concepts of self-conception through expansive social experience and cultural exploration, while being a set of philosophy that places more powers of self-defined identity in the hands of the individual [more modern and sophisticated].

TheMan

Now that some basic concepts and origins of the “self” along with its importance and significance to psychological science has been covered, we are going to explore two creative ways of learning about ourselves.

Firstly, the concept of self-knowledge which involves us storing information about ourselves in a complex and varied way in the form of a schema means that information about the self is assumed to be stored cognitively as separate context specific nodes such that different nodes activate different ones and thus, different aspects of self (Breckler, Pratkanis and McCann, 1991; Higgins, van Hook and Dorfman, 1988). The concept of self emerges from widely distributed brain activity across the medial prefrontal and medial precuneus cortex of the brain (e.g. Saxe, Moran, Scholz, and Gabrieli, 2006). According the Hazel Markus, self-concept is neither “a singular, static, lump-like entity” nor a simple averaged view of the self – it is a complex and multi-faceted, with a relatively large number of discrete self-schemas (Markus, 1977; Markus and Wurf, 1987).

masks

Most individuals tend to have clear conceptions of themselves on some dimensions but not others – generally more self-schematic on dimensions that hold more meaning to them, for e.g. if one thinks of oneself as sophisticated and being sophisticated is of importance to oneself, then we would be self-schematic on that dimension [part of our self-concept], if not then we would not [would not be part of our self-concept – unsophisticated]. It is widely believed that most people have a complex self-concept with a large number of discrete self-schemas. Patrice Linville (1985, 1987; see below) has suggested that this variety helps to buffer people from life’s negative impacts by ensuring enough self-schemas are available for the individual to maintain a sense of satisfaction. We can be strategic in the use of our self-schemas – Linville described such judgement colourfully by saying: “don’t put all your eggs in one cognitive basket.” Self-schemas influence information processing and behaviour similarly to how schemas about others do (Markus and Sentis, 1982): self-schematic information is more readily noticed, is overrepresented in cognition and is associated with longer processing time.

S€lection de Vos Oeufs d'purb

Self-schemas do not only describe how we are, but they are also believed to differ as we have an array of possible selves (Markus and Nurius, 1986) – future-oriented schemas of what we would like to become, or what we fear we might become. For example, a scholar completing a postgraduate may think of a career as an artist, lecturer, writer, philosopher, politician, actor, singer, producer, entrepreneur, etc. Higgins (1987) proposed the self-discrepancy theory, suggesting that we have 3 major types of self-schema:

  • The actual self – how we are
  • The ideal self – how we would like to be
  • The ‘ought’ self – how we think we should be

Discrepancies between the actual, ideal and/or ought, can motivate change to reduce the discrepancy – in this way we engage in self-regulation. Furthermore, the self-discrepancy and the general notion of self-regulation have been elaborated into the regulatory focus-theory (Higgins, 1997, 1998).This theory proposes that most individuals have two separate self-regulatory systems, termed Promotion and Prevention. The “Promotion” system is concerned with the attainment of one’s hopes and aspirations – one’s ideals. For example, those in a promotion focus adopt approach strategic means to attain their goals [e.g. promotion-focused students would seek ways to improve their grades, find new challenges and treat problems as interesting obstacles to overcome. The “Prevention” system is concerned with the fulfilment of one’s duties and obligations. Those in a prevention focus use avoidance strategy means to attain their goals. For example, prevention-focussed students would avoid new situations or new people and concentrate on avoiding failure rather than achieving highest possible grade.

aimhigh

Whether an individual is more approach or prevention focussed is believed to stem during childhood (Higgins and Silberman, 1998). Promotion-focus may arise if children are habitually hugged and kissed for behaving in a desired manner and love is withdrawn as a form of discipline. Prevention-focus may arise if children are encouraged to be alert to potential dangers and punished when they display undesirable behaviours. Against this background of individual differences however, regulatory focus has also been observed to be influenced by immediate context, for example by structuring the situation so that subjects focus on prevention or on promotion (Higgins, Roney, Crowe and Hymes, 1994). Research also revealed that those who are promotion-focussed are more likely to recall information relating to the pursuit of success by others (Higgins and Tykocinski, 1992). Lockwood and her associates found that those who are promotion-focussed look for inspiration to positive role models who emphasise strategies for achieving success (Lockwood, Jordan and Kunda, 2002). Such individuals also show elevated motivation and persistence on tasks framed in terms of gains and non-gains (Shah, Higgins and Friedman, 1998). On the other side of the spectrum, individuals who are prevention-focussed tend to recall information relating to the avoidance of failure by others, are most inspired by negative role models who highlight strategies for avoiding failure and exhibit motivation and persistence on tasks that framed in terms of losses and non-losses. After being studied in intergroup relations (Shah, Higgins and Friedman, 1998), the regulatory focus theory was found to strengthen positive emotion related bias and behavioural tendencies towards the ingroup when in the context of a measured or manipulated promotion focus. Prevention-focus strengthens more negative emotion-related bias [haters] and behavioural tendencies against the outgroup (Shah, Brazy and Higgins, 2004).

ADLER PLANETARIUM UNIVERSE

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The second way of learning about the concept of self is through the understanding of our “many selves” and multiple identities. In the book, The Concepf of Self, Kenneth Gergen (1971) depicts the self-concept as containing a repertoire of relatively discrete and often quite varied identities, each with a distinct body of knowledge. These identities have their origins in a vast array of different types of social relationships that form, or have formed, the anchoring points for our lives, ranging from close personal relationships with other professionals, mentors, trusted friends, etc and roles defined by skills, fields, divisions and categories, to relationships fully or partially defined by languages, geography, cultures [sub-cultures], groups values, philosophy, religion, gender and/or ethnicity. Linville (1985) also noted that individuals differ in terms of self-complexity, in the sense that some individuals have more diverse and extensive set of selves than othersthose with many independent aspects of selves have higher self-complexity than those with a few, relatively similar, aspects of self. The notion of self-complexity is given a rather different emphasis by Marilynn Brewer and her colleagues (Brewer and Pierce, 2005; Roccas and Bewer, 2002) who focussed on the self that is defined in group terms (social identity) and the relationship among identities rather than number of identities individuals have.

TheMask

They argued that individuals have a complex social identity if they have discrete social identities that do not share many attributes but a simple social identity if they have overlapping social identities that share many attributes [simple]. For example, when Cognitive Psychologists [cognitive psychology explores mental processes] study high-level functions such as problem solving and decision making, they often ask participants to think aloud. The verbal protocols that are obtained [heard] are then analysed at different levels of granularity: e.g. to look at the speed with which participants carry out mental processes, or, at a higher level of analysis, to identify the strategies being used. Grant and Hogg (2012) have recently suggested and empirically shown that the effect, particularly on group identification and group behaviours of the number of identities one has and their overlap may be better explained in terms of the general property of social identity prominencehow subjectively prominent, overall and in a specific situation, a particular identity is one’s self-concept. Social identity theorists (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) argued 2 broad classes of identity that define different types of self:

(i) Social Identity [which defines self in terms of a « particular » group membership (if any meaningful ones exist for the individual), and

(ii) Personal Identity [which defines self in terms of idiosyncratic traits & close personal relationships with specific individuals/groups (if any) which may be more than physical/social, e.g. mental [strength of association with specific others on specific tasks/degrees]

The first main focus question here is asked by Brewer and Gardner (1996), ‘Who is this “we”?’ and distinguished three forms of self:

  • Individual self – based on personal traits that differentiate the self from all others
  • Relational self – based on connections and role relationships with significant/meaningful others
  • Collective self – based on group membership [can depend of many criteria] that differentiates ‘us’ from ‘them’

More recently it has been proposed that there are four types of identity (Brewer, 2001; Chen, Boucher and Tapias, 2006):

  • Personal-based social identities – emphasising the way that group properties are internalised by individual group members as part of their self-concept
  • Relational social identities – defining the self in relation to specific other people with whom one interacts [may not be physical or social only] in a group context – corresponding to Brewer and Gardner’s (1996) relational identity and to Markus and Kitayama’s (1991) ‘interdependent self’.
  • Group-based social identities – equivalent to social identity as defined above [sense of belonging and emotional salience for a group is subjective]
  • Collective identities – referring to a process whereby  those who consider themselves as « group members » not only share self-defining attributes, but also engage in social action to forge an image of what the group stands for and how it is represented and viewed by others.

China Collective

The relational self  [for those who choose to be defined by others at least] is a concept that can be considered a particular type of collective self. As Masaki Yuki (2003) observed, some groups and cultures (notable East-Asian cultures) define groups in terms of networks of relationships. Research also revealed that women tend to place a greater importance than men on their relationships with others in a group (Seeley, Gardner, Pennington and Gabriel, 2003; see also Baumeister and Sommer, 1997; Cross and Madson, 1997).

In search for the evidence for the existence of multiple selves which came from research where contextual factors were varied to discover that most individuals describe themselves and behave differently in different contexts. In one experiment, participants were made to describe themselves on very different ways by being asked loaded questions which prompted them to search from their stock of self-knowledge for information that presented the self in a different light (Fazio, Effrein and Falender, 1981). Other researchers also found, time and time again, that experimental procedures that focus on group membership lead people to act very differently from procedures that focus on individuality and interpersonal relationships. Even “minimal group” studies in which participants are either: (a) identified as individuals; or (b) explicitly categorised, randomly or by some minimal or trivial criterion as ‘group’ members (Tajfel, 1970; see Diehl, 1990), a consistent finding is that being categorised tends to lead people to being discriminatory towards an outgroup, conform to ingroup norms, express attitudes and feelings that favour ingroup, and indicate a sense of belonging and loyalty to the ingroup.

ManVsGorilla

Furthermore, these effects of minimal group categorisation are generally very fast and automatic (Otten and Wentura, 1999). The idea that we may have many selves and that contextual factors can bring different selves into play, has a number of ramifications. Social constructionists have suggested that the self is entirely situation-dependent. An extreme form of this position argues that we do not carry self-knowledge around in our heads as cognitive representations at all, but rather that we construct disposable selves through talk (e.g. Potter and Wetherell, 1987). A less extreme version was proposed by Penny Oakes (e.g. Oakes, Haslam and Reynolds, 1999), who does not emphasise the role of talk but still maintains that self-conception is highly context-dependent. It is argued that most people have cognitive representations of the self that they carry in their heads as organising principles for perception, categorisation and action, but that these representations are temporarily or more enduringly modified by situational factors (e.g. Abrams and Hogg, 2001; Turner, Reynolds, Haslam and Veenstra, 2006).

evolution

Although we have a diversity of relatively discrete selves, we also have a quest: to find and maintain a reasonably integrated picture of who we are. Self-conceptual coherence provides us with a continuing theme for our lives – an ‘autobiography’ that weaves our various identities and selves together into a whole person. Individuals who have highly fragmented selves (e.g. some patients suffering from schizophrenia, amnesia or Alzheimer’s disease) find it very difficult to function effectively. People use many strategies to construct a coherent sense of self (Baumeister, 1998). Here is a list of some that we have used ourselves:

Sometimes we restrict our life to a limited set of contexts. Because different selves come into play as contexts keep changing, protections from self-conceptual clashes seem like a valid motive.

Other times, we continuously keep revising and integrating our ‘biographies’ to accommodate new identities. Along the way, we dispose of any meaningless inconsistencies. In effect, we are rewriting our own history to make it work to our advantage (Greenwald, 1980).

We also tend to attribute some change in the self externally to changing circumstances [e.g. educational achievements, professional circle, industry, etc] rather than only internally, to construct who we are. This is an application of the actor-observer effect (Jones and Nisbett, 1972).

In other cases, we can also develop self-schemas that embody a core set of attributes that we feel distinguishes us from all other peoplethat makes us unique (Markus, 1977). We then tend to recognise these attributes disproportionately in all our selves, providing thematic consistency that delivers a sense of a stable and unitary self (Cantor and Kihlstrom, 1987). To sum up, individuals tend to construct their lives such that their self-conceptions are both steady and coherent. A major element in the conception of self, is the ability to master language and its varying degrees of granularity that hold a major role in social identity [linguistic discourse].

[The remaining part of this essay will focus on the power and importance of language as the essence of the human being]

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MicOne.jpg

The Essence of the Modern Human Being: Language, Psycholinguistics & Self-Definition

Human communication is completely different from that of other species as it allows virtually limitless amounts of ideas to be expressed by combining finite sets of elements (Hauser, Chomsky, & Fitch, 2005; Wargo, 2008). Other species [e.g. apes] do have communicative methods but none of them compare with human language. For example, monkeys use unique warning calls for different threats, but never combine these calls on new ideas. Similarly, birds and whales sing complex songs, but creative recombination of these sounds in the expression of new ideas has not occurred to these animals either.

As a system of symbols, language lies at the heart of social life and all its multitude of aspects in social identity. Language may be at the essence of existence if explored from the philosopher Descartes most famous quote, “Cogito Ergo Sum” which is Latin for “I think, therefore I am.”, as thought is believed to be experienced and entertained in language. In expressing his discourse, Descartes based the science system on the knowing subject in front of the world that it constructs and represents to itself – a system that would later also be the basis for many of the concepts of Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis.

cogito ergo sum

The act of thinking often involves an inner personal conversation with oneself, as we tend to perceived and think about the world in terms of linguistic categories. Lev Vygotsky (1962) believed that inner speech was the medium of thought and that it was interdependent with external speech [the medium of social communication]. This interdependence would lead to the logical conclusion that cultural differences in language and speech are reflected in cultural differences in thought.

In the theory of linguistic relativity devised by linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, a more extreme version of that logic was proposed. Brown writes:

Linguistic relativity is the reverse of the view that human cognition constrains the form of language. Relativity is the view that the cognitive processes of a human being – perception, memory, inference, deduction – vary with structural characteristics – lexicon, morphology, syntax – of the language [one speaks].

rene-descartes

Rene Descartes was not only one of the most prominent philosophers of the 17th century but in the history of Western philosophy. Often referred to as the « father of modern philosophy », Descartes profoundly influenced intellectuals across Europe with his writings. Best known for his statement « Cogito ergo sum » (I think, therefore I am), the philosopher started the school of rationalism which broke with the scholastic Aristotelianism. Firstly, Descartes rejected the mind-body dualism, arguing that matter (the body) and intelligence (the mind) are 2 independent substances (metaphysical dualism) and secondly rejected the causal model of explaining natural phenomena and replaced it with science-based observation and experiment. The philosopher spent a great part of his life in conflict with scholastic approach (historically part of the religious order and its adherents) which still dominated thoughts in the early 17th century.

 

Les bons plans de René

Rene Descartes (1596-1659) / Image: Université Paris-Descartes

Communication & Language

The study of communication is therefore an enormous undertaking that draws on a wide range of disciplines, such as psychology, social psychology, sociology, linguistics, socio-linguistics, philosophy and literary criticism. Social psychologists have tended to distinguish between the study of language and the study of non-verbal communication [where scholars agree both are vital to study communication (Ambady and Weisbuch, 2010; Holtgraves, 2010; Semin, 2007)]; with also a focus on conversation and the nature of discourse. However the scientific revolution has quickly turned our era into one hugely influenced by computer-mediated communication which is quickly turning into a dominant channel of communication for many (Birchmeier, Dietz-Uhler and Stasser, 2011; Hollingshead, 2001).

Communication in all its varieties is the essence of social interaction: when we interact we communicate. Information is constantly being transmitted about what we sense, think and feel – even about “who we are” – and some of our “messages” are unintentional [instinctive]. Communication among educated humans comprises of words, facial expressions, signs, gestures and touch; and this is done face-to-face or by phone, writing, texting, emails or video. The social factors of communication are inescapable:

  • It involves our relationship with others
  • It is built upon a shared understanding of meaning
  • It is how people influence each other

Spoken languages are based on rule-governed structuring of meaningless sounds (phonemes) into basic units of meaning (morphemes), which are further structured by morphological rules into words and by syntactic rules into sentences. The meanings of words, sentences and entire utterances are determined by semantic rules; which together represent “grammar”. Language has remained an incredibly and endlessly powerful medium of communication due to the limitless amount of meaningful utterances it can generate through the shared knowledge of morphological, syntactic and semantic rules. Meaning can be communicated by language at a number of levels, ranging from a simple utterance [a sound made by one person to another] to a locution [words placed in sequence, e.g. ‘It’s cold in this room’], to an illocution [the locution and context in which it is made: ‘It’s cold in this room’ may be a statement, or a criticism of the institution for not providing adequate heating, or a request to close the window, or a plea to move to another room (Austin, 1962; Hall, 2000)].

Délice Sonore M100 Master d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

Linguistic mastery therefore involves dexterity at many levels of cultural understanding and therefore should likely differ from one individual to another depending on their personality, IQ, education and cultural proficiency in self adjustment. This would lead to being able to navigate properly in the appropriate cultural context through language whilst knowing the appropriateness of the choice of words in term of “when, where, how and to whom say it.” Being able to master these, opens the doors to sociolinguistics (Fishman, 1972; also see Forgas, 1985), and the study of discourse as the basic unit of analysis (Edwards and Potter, 1992; McKinlay and McVittie, 2008; Potter and Wetherell, 1987). The philosopher John Searle (1979) has identified five sorts of meanings that humans can intentionally use language to communicate; we can use language:

  • To say how something is signified
  • To get someone to do something.
  • To express feelings and attitudes
  • To make a commitment
  • To accomplish something directly

Language is a uniquely human form of communication, as observed in the natural world, no other mammal has the elaborate form of communication in its repertoire of survival skills. Young apes have been taught to combine basic signs in order to communicate meaningfully (Gardner and Gardner, 1971; Patterson, 1978), however not even the most precocious ape can match the complexity of hierarchical language structure used by a normal 3-year-old child (Limber, 1977).

BabyBoy

Language has been called a human instinct because it is so readily and universally learned by infants. At 10 months of age, little is said, but at 30-month-old infants speak in complete sentences and user over 500 words (Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2006). Moreover, over this very 20 month period, the plastic infant brain reorganises itself to learn the language of its environment(s). At 10 months infants can distinguish the sounds of all languages, but by 30 months, they can readily discriminate only those sounds to which they have been exposed (Kraus and Banai, 2007). Once the ability to discriminate particular speech sounds is lost, it is very hard to regain in most, which is one of the reason why most adults tend to have difficulties with learning a new language without an accent.

Neuro_SpeakingAHeardWord

Processes involved in the brain when speaking a heard word. Damage to areas of the Primary auditory cortex on the Left temporal lobe induce Language Recognition Problems & damage to the same areas on the Right produce deficits in processing more complex & delicate sounds [e.g. music, vocal performances, etc]. Hence, in Neuroscience, although it is not always the case, it can be generalised with a fair amount of confidence that Left is concerned with Speed, and Right is focused on Complex Frequency Patterns.

Most intellectuals researching the evolution of sophisticated human languages turned first to comparative studies of the vocal communications between human beings and other lesser primates [e.g. apes / monkeys]. For example, vervet monkeys do not use alarm calls unless other similar monkeys are within the vicinity, and the calls are more likely to be made only if the surrounding monkeys are relatives (Cheney and Seyfarth, 2005). Furthermore, chimpanzees vary the screams they produce during aggressive encounters depending on the severity of the encounter, their role in it, and which other chimpanzees can hear them (Slocombe and Zuberbuhler, 2005).

A fairly consistent pattern has emerged in the study of non-human vocal communication: There is a substantial difference between vocal production and auditory comprehension. Even the most vocal non-human primates can produce a relatively few calls, yet they are capable of interpreting a wide range of other sonic patterns in their environment. This seems to suggest that non-human primates’ ability to produce vocal language is limited, not by their inability to interpret sounds, but by their inability to exert ‘fine motor control’ over their voices – only humans have this distinct ability. It also confidently suggests that human language has likely evolved from a competence in comprehension already existing in our primate ancestors.

theyoungafricanape

The species specificity to language has led to some linguistic theorist to assume that an innate component to language must be unique to humans, notably Noam Chomsky (1957) who argued that the most basic universal rules of grammar are innate [called a “Language Acquisition Device”] and are activated through social interaction which enables the “code of language” to be cracked. However some other theorists argue for a different proposal, believing that the basic rules of language may not be innate as they can be learnt from the prelinguistic parent-child interaction (Lock, 1978, 1980), furthermore the meanings of utterances are so dependent on social context that they seem unlikely to be innate (Bloom, 1970; Rommetveit, 1974; see Durkin, 1995).

Motor Theory of Speech Perception

The motor theory of speech perception proposes that the perception of speech depends on the words activating the same neural circuits in the motor system that would be activated if the listener said the words (see Scott, McGettigan, and Eisner, 2009). Support for this theory has come from evidence that simply thinking about performing a particular task often activates the similar brain areas as performing the action itself, and also the discover of mirror neurons, motor cortex neurons that fire when particular responses are either observed or performed (Fogassi and Ferrari, 2007).

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Broca’s area: Speech production & Language processing // Wernicke’s area: Speech Comprehension

This seems to make perfect sense when solving the equation on the simple observation that Broca’s Area [speech area] is a part of the left premotor cortex [motor skills/movement area]. And since the main thesis of the motor theory of speech perception is that the motor cortex is essential in language comprehension (Andres, Olivier, and Badets, 2008; Hagoort and Levelt, 2009; Sahin et al., 2009), the confirmation comes from the fact that many functional brain-imaging studies have revealed activity in the primary or secondary motor cortex during language tests that do not involve language expression at all (i.e., speaking or writing). This may also suggest that fine linguistic skills may be linked to fine motor skills. Scott, McGettigan, and Eisner (2009) compiled and evaluated results of recorded activity in the motor cortex during speech perception and concluded that the motor cortex is active during conversation.

Gestural Language

Since the unique ability of a high degree of motor control over the vocal apparatus is present only in humans, communication in lesser non-human primates are mainly gestural rather than vocal.

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Image: Reuters

This hypothesis was tested by Pollick, and de Waal in 2007, who compared the gestures and the vocalisations of chimpanzees. They found a highly nuanced vocabulary of hand gestures being used in numerous situations with a variety of combinations. To conclude, chimpanzees gestures were much more comparable to human language than were their vocalisations. Could this simply suggest that primate gestures have been a critical stage in the evolution of human language (Corballis, 2003)?

On this same note, we may focus on the already mentioned “Theory of Linguistic Relativity” (Whorf, 1956) which states that our internalised cognitions as a human being, i.e. perception, memory, inference, deduction, vary with the structural characteristics, i.e. lexicon, morphology and syntax of the language we speak [cultural influence shapes our thoughts].

Thoughts

In support of of Sapir and Whorf’s position, Diederik Stapel and Gun Semin (2007) refer poetically to the “magic spell of language” and report their research, showing how different categories in the language we speak guide our observations in particular ways. We tend to use our category of language to attend to different aspects of reality. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is that language entirely determines thought, so those who speak different languages actually perceive the world in entirely different ways and effectively live in entirely different cognitive-perceptual universes. However extreme this suggestion may seem, a good argument against this assumption would be to consider whether the fact that we can distinguish between living and non-living things in English means that the Hopi of North-America, who do not, cannot distinguish between a bee and an aeroplane? Japanese personal pronouns differentiate between interpersonal relationships more subtly than do English personal pronouns; does this mean that English speakers cannot tell the difference between relationships? [What about Chong, Khan, Balaraggoo, Tyrone, Vodkadinov, Jacob, Obatemba M’benge and Boringski – where would you attribute their skills in the former question?]

The strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is believed to be the most extreme version to be applicable to the mainstream, so a weak form seems to better accord with the quantitative facts (Hoffman, Lau and Johnson, 1986). Language does not determine thought but allows for the communication of aspects of the physical or social environment deemed important for the community. Therefore in the event of being in a situation where the expertise in snow is deemed essential, one would likely develop a rich vocabulary around the subject. Similarly, should one feel the need to have a connoisseur’s discussion about fine wines, the language of the wine masters would be a vital requisite in being able to interact with flawless granularity in the expression of finer tasting experiences.

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Although language may not determine thought, its limitations across cultures may entrap those ‘cultured’ to a specific one due to its limited range of available words. Logically, if there are no words to express a particular thought or experience we would not likely be able to think about it. Nowadays such an idea based on enhancing freedom of expression and the evolution of human emancipation, a huge borrowing of words across languages has been noted over the years: for example, English has borrowed Zeitgeist from German, raison d’être from French, aficionado from Spanish and verandah from Hindi. This particular concept is powerfully illustrated in George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which a totalitarian regime based on Stalin’s Soviet Union is described as imposing its own highly restricted language called “Newspeak” designed specifically to prohibit people from even thinking non-orthodox or heretical thoughts, because the relevant words do not exist.

Further evidence over the impact of language on thought-restriction comes from research led by Andrea Carnaghi and her colleagues (Carnaghi, Maas, Gresta, Bianchi, Cardinu and Arcuri, 2008). In German, Italian and some other Indo-European languages [such as English], nouns and adjectives can have different effects on how we perceive people. Compare ‘Mark is gay’ [using an adjective] with ‘Mark is a gay’ [using a noun]. When describing an individual, the use of an adjective suggests an attribute of that individual; whereas a noun seems to imply a social group and being a member of a ‘gay’ group. The latter description with a noun is more likely to invoke further stereotypic/prejudicial inferences and an associated process of essentialism (e.g. Haslam, Rothschild and Ernst, 1998) that maps attributes onto invariant, often bio-genetic properties of the particular social category/group.

Paralanguage and speech style

The impact of language on communication is not only dependent on what is said but also by how it is said. Paralanguage refers to all the non-linguistic accompaniment of speech – volume, stress, pitch, speed, tone of voice, pauses, throat clearing, grunts and sighs (Knapp, 1978; Trager, 1958). Timing, pitch and loudness (the prosodic features of language; e.g. Argyle, 1975) play major roles in communication as they can completely change the meaning of utterances: a rising intonation at the end of a statement turns it into a question or communicates uncertainty, doubt or need for approval (Lakoff, 1973). Underlying emotions are often revealed in prosodic features of speech: low pitch could signify sadness or boredom, while high pitch could communicate anger, fear or surprise (Frick,1985). Naturally fast speech often reflects power and control (Ng and Bradac, 1993).

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To gain further understanding of the feelings elicited by different paralinguistic features, Klaus Scherer (1974) used a synthesizer to vary short neutral utterances and has had individuals identify the emotions that were being communicated. Fig. A shows how different paralinguistic features communicate information about the speaker’s feelings.

In addition to paralinguistic cues, communication can also happen in different accents, different language varieties and different languages altogether. These are important speech style differences that have been well researched in social psychology (Giles and Coupland, 1991). From social psychology, the focus in language is mainly on how something is said rather than on what is said, with speech style instead of speech content; whereas discourse analytic approaches also place importance on what is said.

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Fig. A | Emotions displayed through paralinguistic cues

Social Markers in Speech

Most individuals have a repertoire of speech styles that is automatically or deliberately tailored depending on the context of the communicative event. For example, one would tend to speak slowly, use short words and simple grammatical constructions when dealing with foreigners and children (Clyne, 1981; Elliot, 1981). Longer, more complex constructions along with formalised language varieties or standard accents tend to be used in more formal contexts such as an interview or a speech.

In 1979, Penelope Brown and Colin Fraser categorised different components of a communicative situation that may influence speech style and distinguished between two broad features:

  • The scene (e.g. its purpose, time of day, whether there are bystanders or an audience, etc)
  • The participants (e.g. their personality, ethnicity, chemistry between them)

It is important to note however that individual differences have a major role to play in this objective classification of situations as different individuals may not define the similar “objective” situations similarly. For example, what is deemed formal for some may simply be common place to others; this subjective perception of objective situations has an effect on one’s chosen speech style.

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One amazing point raised by Adrian Furnham (1986) is the fact that not only does one adjust speech styles to subjectively perceived situational demands, but one also seeks out situations that are appropriate to a preferred speech style. Contextual variations in speech style contains information about who is speaking to whom, in what context and on what topic? Speech contains social markers (Scherer and Giles, 1979). The most researched markers in social psychology are of group “memberships” such as society, social class, ethnicity, education, age and sex. Social markers are in most cases clearly identifiable and act as reliable clues to group membership. For example, most of the English can easily identify Americans, Australians and South Africans from their speech style alone, and (see Watson, 2009) are probably even better at identifying people who have been cultured in Exeter, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Essex! Speech style generally elicits a listener’s attitude towards the group that the speaker “represents” [at the exception of some non-mainstream individuals – as in any other group]. A mainstream media example could be the actress Eliza Doolittle’s tremendous efforts in the film My Fair Lady to acquire a standard English accent in order to hide her Cockney origins. This idea or concept is known as the match-guise technique, one of the most widely used research paradigms in the social psychology of language – devised to investigate language attitudes based on speech alone (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner and Fillenbaum, 1960). The method involves individuals rating short speech extracts similar in paralinguistic, prosodic and content respects, differing ONLY in speech style (accent, dialect, language). All the speech extracts were spoken by the very same individual – who was fluently bilingual. The speaker is rated on a number of evaluative dimensions, which fall into 2 clusters reflecting competence and warmth as the 2 most basic dimensions of social perception (Fiske, Cuddy and Glick, 2007).

  • Status variables (e.g. intelligent, competent, powerful);
  • Solidarity variables (e.g. close, friendly, warm).

The matched-guise technique has been used extensively in a wide range of cultural contexts to investigate how speakers of standard and non-standard language varieties are evaluated. The standard language variety is the one that is associated with high economic status, power and media usage – in England, for example, it is what has been called received pronunciation (RP) English. Non-standard varieties include regional accents (e.g. Yorkshire, Essex), non-standard urban accents (e.g. Birmingham, North/South London) and minority ethnic languages (e.g. Afrikaan, Urdu, Arab, Hindi, Mandarin and other foreign minority languages in Britain). Research reveals that standard language varieties are more favourably evaluated on status and competence dimensions (such as intelligence, confidence, ambition) than non-standard varieties (e.g. Giles and Powesland, 1975).

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There is also a tendency for non-standard variety speakers to be more favourably evaluated on solidarity dimensions. For example, Cindy Gallois and her colleagues (1984) found that both white Australians and Australian Aborigines upgraded Aboriginal-accented English on solidarity dimensions (Gallois, Callan and Johnstone, 1984). Hogg, Joyce and Abrams (1984) found that a similar scenario occurs in other linguistic cultures, for e.g. Swiss Germans upgraded speakers of non-standard Swiss German relative to speakers of High German on solidarity dimensions.

Language, Identity & Ethnicity

Matched-guise technique and other studies in linguistics have revealed how our speech style [accents, language, grammatical proficiency & voice] can affect how others evaluate us socially. This is unlikely to be due to the fact that some speech styles are aesthetically more pleasant than others, but more likely to be because speech styles are associated with particular social groups that are consensually evaluated more or less positively in society’s scale. Unless being acted, a person speaking naturally in the speech style of lower-status groups may lead to an evaluation similar to that of the group and their image [i.e. way of life] in society [for most mainstream cases & not expert assessors of individuality]. This suggests that processes associated with intergroup relations and group memberships may affect language and social behaviour among the mainstream crowd.

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René Descartes (1596-1650) par C. Jacquand • Crédits : Gianni Dagli Orti / The Art Archive / The Picture Desk – AFP

Howard Giles and Richard Bourhis and their colleagues employed and extended principles from the social identity theory to develop an intergroup perspective on the social psychology of language (Giles, Bourhis and Taylor, 1977; Giles and Johnson, 1981, 1987). Since the original analysis focussed mainly on ethnic groups that differ in speech style, the theory is called ethnolinguistic identity theory; however, the wider intergroup analysis of language and communication casts a much wider net to embrace all manner of intergroup contexts (e.g. Giles, 2012; Giles, Reid and Harwood, 2010). 

Speech Style and Ethnicity

Although it is well know that ethnic groups differ in appearance, dress, cultural practices, and religious beliefs, language or speech style is often one of the most distinct and clear markers of ethnic identitysocial identity as a member of an ethnolinguistic group (an ethnic group defined by language or speech-style). For instance, the Welsh and the English in the UK are most distinctive in terms of accent and language. Speech style, then, is an important and often central stereotypical or normative property of group identity: one of the most powerful ways to display your Welshness is to speak English with a marked Welsh accent – or, even better to simply speak Welsh.

Language or speech style cues ethnolinguistic identity. Therefore, whether people accentuate or de-emphasise their ethnic language is generally influenced by the extent to which they see their ethnic identity as being a source of self-respect or pride. This perception will in turn be influenced by the real nature of the power and status relations between ethnic groups in society. Research in England, on regional accents rather than ethnic groups, illustrates this (e.g. Watson, 2009) – some accents are strengthening and spreading and others retreating or fading, but overall despite mobility, mass culture and the small size of England, the accent landscape is surprisingly unchanged. Northern accents in particular such as Scouse and Geordie have endured due to low immigration and marked subjective regional pride of these respective communities. Brummie is slowly spreading into the Welsh Marches due to population spread, and Cockney-influenced Estuary English popular due to it being portrayed in mainstream middle-class films has luckily not influenced East Anglia and South East England – that have kept their grammar and granularity.

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It should be noted that almost all major societies have a multicultural component with ethnic groups, however all contain a single dominant high-status group whose language is the lingua franca of the nation with ethnic groups whose languages are subordinate. However, in major immigrant economies such as the United States, Canada and Australia some of the biggest variety of large ethnic groups occur. Unsurprisingly, most of the research on ethnicity and language comes from these countries, in particular, Australia and Canada. In Australia for example, English is the lingua franca, but there are also large ethnic Chinese, Italian, Greek and Vietnamese communities – language research has been carried out on all these communities (e.g.  Gallois, Barker, Jones and Callan, 1992; Gallois and Callan, 1986; Giles, Rosenthal and Young, 1985; Hogg, D’Agata and Abrams, 1989; McNamara, 1987; Smolicz, 1983)

Speech Accommodation

Social categories such as ethnic groups may develop and maintain or lose their distinctive languages or speech style as a consequence of intergroup relations. However, categories do not speak. People speak, and it is generally done with one another, usually in face-to-face interaction. As mentioned earlier, when people interact conversationally, they tend to adapt their speech style to the context – the situation, and in particular the listener. This concept is the foundation of the speech accommodation theory (Giles, 1984; Giles, Taylor and Bourhis, 1973), which invokes specific motivations to explain the ways in which people accommodate their speech style to those who are present. Motivation involved for such adaptations may be a desire to help the listener to understand what is being said or to promote specific impressions of oneself.

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Radcliffe Square at Night, Oxford [Image: Y. Song]

 Speech Convergence and Divergence 

Since most conversations involve individuals who are potentially of unequal social status, speech accommodation theory describes the type of accommodation that might occur as a function of the sort of social orientation that the speakers may have towards one another (See Fig. B). Where a simple interpersonal orientation exists (e.g. between two friends), bilateral speech convergence occurs. Higher-status speakers shift their accent or speech style ‘downwards’ towards that of the lower-status speakers, who in turn shift ‘upwards’. In this scenario, speech convergence satisfies a need for approval or liking. The act of convergence increases interpersonal speech style similarity and this enhances interpersonal approval and liking (Bourhis, Giles and Lambert, 1975), particularly if the convergence behaviour is clearly intentional (Simard, Taylor and Giles, 1976). The process is based on the supported idea that similarity typically leads to attraction in most cases (e.g. Byrne, 1971).

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Fig. B | Speech accommodation as a function of status, social orientation and subjective vitality

Consider a particular scenario where an intergroup orientation exists. If the lower status group has low subjective vitality coupled with a belief in social mobility (i.e. one can pass, linguistically, into the higher status group), there is unilateral upward convergence on the part of the lower status speaker and unilateral speech divergence on the part of the higher status speaker. In intergroup contexts, divergence achieves psycholinguistic distinctiveness: it differentiates the speaker’s ingroup on linguistic grounds from the outgroup. Where an intergroup orientation exists and the lower status group has high subjective vitality coupled with a belief in social change (i.e. one cannot pass into the higher status group), bilateral divergence occurs. Both speakers pursue psycholinguistic distinctiveness.

Speech accommodation theory has been well supported empirically (Gallois, Ogay and Giles, 2005; Giles and Coupland, 1991). Bourhis and Giles found that Welsh adults accentuated their Welsh accent in the presence of RP English speakers (i.e. the standard non-regional variety of English). Bourhis, Giles, Leyens and Tajfel (1979) obtained a similar finding in Belgium, with Flemish speakers in the presence of French speakers. In both cases, a language revival was under way at the same time, and thus an intergroup orientation with high vitality was salient. In a low-vitality social mobility context, Hogg (1985) found that female students in Britain shifted their speech style ‘upwards’ towards that of their male partners. Accommodation in intergroup contexts reflects an intergroup or social identity mechanism in which speech style is dynamically governed by the speakers’ motivation to adopt ingroup or outgroup speech patterns. These motivations are in turn formed by perception of:

  • The relative status and prestige of the speech varieties and their associated groups; and
  • The vitality of their own ethnolinguistic group

Stereotyped Speech

One important factor that may actually govern changes in speech style is conformity to stereotypical perceptions of the appropriate speech norm. Thakerar, Giles and Cheshire (1982) distinguished between objective and subjective accommodation. People converge on or diverge from what they perceive to be the relevant speech style. Objective accommodation may reflect this, but in some circumstances it may not: for instance subjective convergence may resemble objective divergence if the speech style stereotype is different from the actual speech behaviour of the other speaker.

Even the “Queen’s English” is susceptible to some accommodation towards a more popular stereotype (Harrington, 2006). An analysis of the phonetics in the speech of Elizabeth II from her Christmas broadcasts to the world since 1952 show a gradual change in the Royal vowels, moving from ‘upper-class’ RP to a more ‘standard’ and less aristocratic RP. This may simply reflect a softening of the once strong demarcation between the social classes – social change may sometimes be a catalyst for speech change. Where once she might have said “thet men in the bleck het”, she would now say “that man in the black hat”.

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Red Queen Illustration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass (Oxford Classics)

Speech accommodation theory has been extended in recognition of the role of non-verbal behaviour in communication – now called communication accommodation theory (Gallois, Ogay and Giles, 2005; Giles, Mulac, Bradac and Johnson, 1987; Giles and Noels, 2002), which acknowledges that convergence and divergence can occur non-verbally as well as verbally. Anthony Mulac and his colleagues found that women in mixed-sex dyads converged towards the amount of eye contact (now called ‘gaze’) made by their partner (Mulac, Studley, Wiemann and Bradac, 1987). While accommodation is often synchronised in verbal and non-verbal channels, this is not necessarily the case. Frances Bilous and Robert Kraus (1988) found that women in mixed-sex dyads converged towards men on some dimensions (e.g. total words uttered and interruptions) but diverged on others (e.g. laughter).

Bilingualism and second-language acquisition 

Due to the excessive and culturally destructive waves of migration caused by the exploitation of diplomacy and corrupt politicians with their partners in the mainstream media to promote uncontrolled migration, most major countries are now bilingual or multilingual, meaning that people need to be able to speak two or more languages with a fair amount of proficiency to communicate effectively and successfully achieve their goals in different contexts. These countries contain a variety of ethnolinguistic groups with a single dominant group whose language is the lingua franca – very few countries are effectively monolingual (e.g. Portugal and Japan) anymore – which nowadays seems to be reflected in the lack of socio-psychological coherence and the clash of values and visions.

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The Intervention of Sabine Women par Jacques-Louis David (1795-1799)

The acquisition of a second language is rarely a matter of acquiring basic classroom proficiency, as one might in order to ‘get by’ on holiday – in fact, it is a wholesale acquisition of a language embedded in a highly cultural context with varying degrees of granularity to reach the levels of flawless/effective communication (Gardner, 1979). Second-language acquisition requires native-like mastery (being able to speak like a native speaker), and this hinges more on the motivations of the second-language learner than on linguistic aptitude or pedagogical factors. Failure to acquire native-like mastery can undermine self-confidence and cause physical and social isolation, leading to material hardship and psychological suffering. For example, Noels, Pon and Clément (1996) found low self-esteem and marked symptoms of stress among Chinese immigrants in Canada with poor English skills. Building on earlier models (Gardner, 1979; Clément, 1980), Giles and Byrne (1982) proposed an intergroup model of second language acquisition. There are five socio-psychological dimensions that influence a subordinate group member’s motivational goals in learning the language of a dominant group (see Fig. C):

  • Strength of ethnolinguistic identification
  • Number of alternative identities available
  • Number of high-status alternative identities available
  • Subjective vitality perceptions
  • Social beliefs regarding whether it is or is not possible to pass linguistically into the dominant group

Low identification with one’s ethnic ingroup, low subjective vitality and a belief that one can ‘pass’ linguistically coupled with a large number of other potential identities of which many are high-status are conditions that motivate someone to acquire native-like mastery in the second language. Proficiency in the second language is seen to be economically and culturally useful; it is considered additive to our identity. Realisation of this motivation is facilitated or inhibited by the extent to which we are made to feel confident or anxious about using the second language in specific contexts. The converse set of socio-psychological conditions motivates people to acquire only classroom proficiency. Through fear of assimilation, the second language is considered subtractive in that it may attract ingroup hostility and accusations of ethnic betrayal. Early education, individual Intelligence, personality and aptitude may also affect the individual’s proficiency.

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This analysis of second-language acquisition grounds language firmly in its cultural context and thus relates language acquisition to broader acculturation processes. John Berry and his colleagues distinguished between integration (individuals maintain ethnic culture and relate to dominant culture), assimilation (individuals give up their ethnic culture and wholeheartedly embrace the dominant culture), separation (individuals maintain their ethnic culture and isolate themselves from the dominant culture) and marginalisation (individuals give up their ethnic culture and fail to relate properly to the dominant culture (Berry, Trimble and Olmedo, 1986).

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Human brain specimen being studied in neuroscience professor Ron Kalil’s Medical School research lab. © UW-Madison News & Public Affairs 608/262-0067 Photo by: Jeff Miller

While the most effective forms of adjustments that completely benefit a system remain « native citizens » [in terms of creating organisms equipped to be part of an inherited system from the lower to the upper scale of society], along with assimilation [i.e the culturally & educationally worthwhile & proficient organisms that manage to adjust themselves and become fully part of the dominant culture], the remaining could simply be qualified as burden to most systems, for example, unassimilated children deriving from labour and 3rd world migration who are being born in mass due to the higher fertility culture from their parents’ traditional origins, and who seem to want native-like treatment and consideration, which seem to be illogical demands and expectations if they are unable to interact, communicate, adjust their perspective and perception to orient and group themselves with native-like proficiency in order to fully identify with the dominant culture [i.e. cultural belonging and identity], find their place in the society and contribute like all the citizens to the development and continuity of the dominant civilisation. This unassimilated and ‘nomadic‘ generation whose parents initially moved from land to land simply for financial gains from a larger economy may unfortunately [at the exception of some mediocre college-educated extreme-leftist human rights activists] be a scenario fit to be described metaphorically as « parasitic« , while to others [e.g. another segment of the same crowd of mediocre college-educated extreme-leftist human rights activists], this could be what they describe as « cultural-enrichment » [See the Essay: Psychological Explanations of Prejudice & Discrimination].

In a sophisticated reality, from the perspective of the experienced scholar and intellectual drenched in literature, psychology, science and philosophy that I have grown to become over the years, I believe that the « parasitic » example may simply be described as a mass phenomenon that civilised society is not used to dealing with and has not been monitoring effectively since the 1950s to a point where confusion and desperation sets for both native citizens and authorities when thinking of a « rational » solution that seems to be constantly shunned by illogical laws and extreme-leftists global conventions that are generally unfavourable to civilised societies while unconditionally defending excessive refugee resettlement programs and cheap and unskilled migration originating from linguistically, culturally and economically atavistic systems [e.g. the third world, middle east, some areas of Europe & parts of Southern and Eastern Asia] to be relocated and transformed into our collective burden.

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Thus, the consequences for second language learning can indeed be very dramatic and have a life changing impact. The major economies of Europe are still divided and unsynchronised due to linguistic barriers and psychosocial differences. Furthermore, language and discourse are refined, enhanced and cultivated from interactions and exposure; the lack of psychosocial and linguistic coherence may also play a role in the drop in cultural standards along with the appearance of a generation that does not seem to have any direction or to represent any concrete philosophical ideals or values, composed of nothing but a simple classroom proficiency in order to meet the basics of daily communication with hardly any granularity or refinement in the psycholinguistic and cultural context of a rich heritage built on and developed over centuries of human civilisation.

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Majority group members do not generally have the motivation to acquire native-like mastery of another language. According to John Edwards (1994), it is the international prestige and utility, and of course widespread use of English that makes native English speakers such poor language students: they simply lack the motivation to become proficient. Itesh Sachdev and Audrey Wright (1996) pursued this point and found that English children were more motivated to learn languages from the European continent (e.g. French, German, Italian) than those from the Asian continent (e.g. Mandarin, Hindi, Russian, Urdu, Tamil, Arabic, etc) even though a fair amount of children in the sample were exposed to more Asian & African immigration [due to years of mediocre policies linked to cheap democratic governments & extreme-leftist agendas bent on promoting alien invasions – fragmenting societies & violently destabilising geographical compositions] than languages & cultures from Europe. A possible reason would be that English children perceive more prestige and desirability in mastering additional languages & learning about cultures such as French, German & Italian instead of far-flung incompatible foreign ones [e.g. African Third world, Middle-East, Asia etc].

Communicating without words

Speech rarely happens in complete isolation from non-verbal cues. Even on a phone, individuals tend to automatically use a variety of gestures [body language] that cannot be ‘seen’ by the recipient at the other end of the phone line. In a similar fashion, phone and computer-mediated communication (CMC) conversations can be difficult precisely because many non-verbal cues are not accessible [e.g. users may interpret some messages as ‘cold’, ‘short’ or ‘rude’ when a participant might simply not be proficient at expressing themselves on a keyboard]. However, non-verbal channels do not always work in combination with speech to facilitate understanding. In some cases, non-verbal message starkly contradicts the verbal message [e.g. threats, sarcasm and other negative messages accompanied by a smile; Bugental, Love and Gianetto, 1971; Noller, 1984].

Agony, Torture, and Fright by Charles Darwin

Agony, Torture, and Fright | Charles Darwin, 1868

Human beings can produce about 20,000 different facial expressions and about 1,000 different cues based on paralanguage. There are also about 700,000 physical gestures, facial expressions and movements (see Birdwhistell, 1970; Hewes, 1957; Pei, 1965). Even the briefest interaction may involve the fleeting and simultaneous use of a huge number of such devices in combination, making it unclear even to code behaviour, let alone analyse the causes and consequences of particular non-verbal communications. However, their importance is now acknowledged in social psychology (Ambady and Weisbuch, 2010; Burgoon, Buller and Woodall, 1989; DePaulo and Friedman, 1998), and doing research in this area has remained a major challenge. Non-verbal behaviour can be used for a variety of purposes, one may use it to:

  • Glean information about feelings and intentions of others (e.g. non-verbal cues are often reliable indicators of whether someone likes you, is emotionally suffering, etc);
  • Regulate interactions (e.g. non-verbal cues can signal the approaching end of an utterance, or that someone else wishes to speak)
  • Express intimacy (e.g. touching and mutual eye contact);
  • Establish dominance or control (non-verbal threats);
  • Facilitate goal attainment (e.g. pointing)

These functions are to be found in most aspects of non-verbal behaviour such as gaze, facial expressions, body language, touch and interpersonal distance. Non-verbal communications has a large impact, yet it goes largely ‘unnoticed’ – perhaps since we acquire them unaware, we tend not to be conscious when using them. Most individuals acquire non-verbal skills without any formal training yet manage to master a rich repertoire of non-verbal behaviour very early in life – suggesting that huge individual differences in skills and uses should be noticed. Social norms can have a strong influence on our use of non-verbal language, for example, if one is delighted at the demise of an arrogant narcissist or foe, one would be unlikely to smile at their funeral – Schadenfreude is not a noble emotion to express [at least in most situations].

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Individual and group differences also have an influence on, or are associated with, non-verbal cues. Robert Rosenthal and his colleagues (Rosenthal, Hall, DiMatteo, Rogers and Archer, 1979) devised a profile of non-verbal sensitivity (PONS) as a test to chart some of these differences. All things equal, non-verbal competence improves with age, is more advanced among successful people and is compromised among individuals with a range of psychopathologies (e.g. psychosis, autism).

Gender Differences 

Reviews conclude that women are generally better than men at decoding both visual cues and auditory cues, such as voice tone and pitch (E. T. Hall, 1979; J. A. Hall, 1978, 1984). The explanation for this seems to be rather social than evolutionary (Manstead, 1992), including child-rearing strategies that encourage girls more than boys to be emotionally expressive and attentive. One major question remains whether women’s greater competence is due to greater knowledge about non-verbal cues. According to Janelle Rosip and Judith Hall (2004), the answer seems to be ‘yes’ – women have a slight advantage, based on results from their test of non-verbal cue knowledge (TONCK). A meta-analysis by William Ickes has shown that when motivated to do so, women can become even more accurate: for example when women think they are being evaluated for their empathy or when gender-role expectations of empathy are brought to the fore (Ickes, Gesn and Graham, 2000).

Femelle Et Male

Most individuals can improve their non-verbal skills (Matsumoto and Hwang, 2011), that can be useful for improving interpersonal communication, detecting deception, presenting a good impression and hiding our feelings [when required in some situations]. Practical books have been written and courses on communications has always had an enduring appeal. Why not try yourself out on the TONCK?

Non-verbal behaviour differs among individuals since most have different attachment styles thus different relationships too. In the case of intimate relationships, we would tend to assume that partners would enhance each other’s emotional security through accurate decoding of their individualistic non-verbal cues and responding appropriately (Schachner, Shaver and Mikulincer, 2005). Although there are data dealing with non-verbal behaviour in parent-child interactions and how they relate to the development of attachment styles in children (Bugental, 2005), there is less research focussing on how adult attachment styles are reflected ‘non-verbally’ in intimate relationships.

Discovering the Self

In turning our attention to ourselves, we begin to apply the psychological concept of self to the individual’s consciousness of his or her own identity. What does the “mind’s eye” see when it looks into the self – into that special mirror that reveals one’s innermost thoughts and feelings, i.e. our own private world we so often hide from others. Ancient Greeks who travel to the Oracle at Delphi for answers to their problems, found this message inscribed on the shrine: “Know Thyself”.

Centuries later, it was William James who in 1890, set the stage for the modern resurgence of psychology’s interest in the self. In studying what he called “the mind from within”, James distinguished three aspects of the self: the material, the spiritual and the social.

The material self is our awareness of the physical world: our body and the people and things around us.

The spiritual self is the part that “thinks of ourselves as thinkers” – the inner witness to events.

And the part of the self that focuses on the images we create in the minds of others is called the social self.

While it was William James who pioneered the scientific concept of the self, many earlier philosophers and writers had also recognised this dimension of human nature. Some psychologists believe that the gradual separation of a young child from its mother, a process called individuation, is essential for developing a unique sense of self and a healthy personalityfailure to acquire an independent self-identity may lead to psychological problems.

Today many psychologists are keenly interested in studying the self, however there was a time when psychology focused almost exclusively on behaviour – there was no place for anything as fuzzy as the concept of self. Even to Freud, the conscious self was little more than a weak, passive link in his triad of Id, Ego and Superego. Freud defined the Id as a primitive, unconscious part of the personality where drives and passions originate. The Superego restrains the Id. For Freud the Superego is a combination of the conscience and the ideal self. The ego, our conscious self of self-identity, moderate between the Id and Superegobetween our primitive impulses and our sense of moral obligation. Freud was much more interested in the dramatic confrontations between the unconscious Id and Superego, than he was in the conscious processes of the ego [which we believe accommodates many basic principles of Cognitive Psychology, although not sufficient to explain a complete model of the mind, behaviour, drives and motivation as it tends to ignore the unconscious processes].

Carl Rogers in the 1960s placed a much greater emphasis on aspects of the conscious self [the conscious Ego]. Rogers led the humanistic movement, which was hugely responsible for psychology’s return to the self. In contrast to Freud’s view of a conflicted, impulse driven creature, Rogers offered a vision of psychological growth and health. There exists within the healthy individual, a capacity for self-understanding, for self-direction, for guiding behaviour in self-directed ways, which can be tapped if the right conditions [e.g. resources, education, commitment, training, etc] are provided.

LArt de l'Éducation education dpurb d'purb site web 2019.jpg

In other words, the individual does have the capacity and a potential for self-development, change and integration [eventually leading to assimilation in various “cultural” contexts, i.e. linguistic, socio-behavioural, philosophical, geographic, etc] – which does not need to be supplied from the “outside world”, but rather learnt and developed from within the individual. As Jacques Lacan beautifully puts it in describing the mirror stage, one unfortunate outcome of the stage is that individuals tend to look outward and not inward in their search for identity – such external orientation toward individuals’ own identity is doomed to fail.

One great historical example of self-development, change and integration is Paul Léautaud, the son of an indifferent father and an absent mother, who never had any formal literary education and left school at 15, worked in all kinds of small jobs to live, and educated himself by reading all the great authors voraciously late at night. Eventually, he would become part of the literary crowd and be pivotal in the discovery of Guillaume Apollinaire, even if he would not publish much himself. He was an « Écrivain pour hommes de lettres » in his own words [French for: « Writer for men of letters »]. To have the freedom to write, something that meant the world to him, he accepted a badly paid job at the Mercure de France, where he was charged for a short time to be a drama critic under the name of Maurice Boissard; he would make himself known for his frankness, his mocking and subversive mind. Léautaud went through hard times financially but never allowed his problems to become an obstacle to his literary aspirations, stating « Quand je marque mes dépenses chaque jour, quand j’inscris 20 francs, il y a 15 francs pour les bêtes et 5 francs pour moi. Je vais avec des souliers percés, du linge en loques et souvent sale par économie, ce qui est une grande souffrance pour moi, je mange insuffisamment et des choses qui me répugnent, je porte mes vêtements au-delà de toute durée et toujours par économie ou impossibilité de les remplacer, je ne m’achète rien, je ne m’offre aucun plaisir, aucune fantaisie. Je vais même peut-être être obligé de cesser de m’éclairer à la bougie pour travailler, ce qui me plaît tant. Voilà ma vie à 52 ans accomplis ou presque » [French for: « When I mark my expenses every day, when I enter 20 francs, there are 15 francs for the animals and 5 francs for me. I go with pierced shoes, ragged clothes and often dirty by economy, which is a great suffering for me, I eat insufficiently and things that repel me, I wear my clothes beyond any duration and always by economy or impossibility to replace them, I buy nothing, I offer myself no pleasure, no fantasy. I may even have to stop lighting myself with candles to work, which I like so much. This is my life at 52 years or so. »] Solitary, collecting abandoned animals in his pavilion in Fontenay-aux-Roses and living in poverty himself, he devoted himself for more than 60 years to his Journal, which he called literary, where he recounted, day by day, under the direct impression, the events that affected him: « Je n’ai vécu que pour écrire. Je n’ai senti, vu, entendu les choses, les sentiments, les gens que pour écrire. J’ai préféré cela au bonheur matériel, aux réputations faciles. J’y ai même souvent sacrifié mon plaisir du moment, mes plus secrets bonheurs et affections, même le bonheur de quelques êtres, pour écrire ce qui me faisait plaisir à écrire. Je garde de tout cela un profond bonheur. » [French for: « I only lived to write. I only felt, saw, heard things, feelings, people only to write. I preferred this to material happiness, to easy reputations. I have even often sacrificed my pleasure of the moment, my most secret happiness and affections, even the happiness of a few people, to write what made me happy to write about. I keep a deep happiness from all this.« ] He was also elitist, and in terms of the mind and the absence of prejudice, he puts himself above most of his contemporaries, declaring: « Sorti de l’école à 15 ans, mis aussitôt à travailler comme employé par mon père, ayant appris seul ce que je peux savoir, m’étant donné seul la culture que je peux avoir (je n’ai jamais cessé), m’étant perfectionné seul comme écrivain, cela n’a pas fait de moi un démocrate. Tout le contraire : un aristocrate. Je l’entends par mon esprit, ma façon de penser et de juger. » [French for: « Leaving school at 15, immediately made to work as an employee by my father, having learned alone what I can know, having alone given myself the culture that I can have (I have never stopped), having perfected myself alone as a writer, that did not make me a democrat. Quite the opposite: an aristocrat. I mean it by my mind, my way of thinking and judging.« ] A great admirer of Stendhal, he readily acknowledged a taste for egotistical exploration: « J’ai un grand penchant […] à parler de moi, de mes souvenirs. Aussi, dans mes songeries, j’aurai passé ma vie à me revivre » [French for: « I have a great inclination[…] to talk about myself, about my memories. Also, in my thoughts, I will have spent my life reliving myself« ]. He thought that good writing should have the qualities of tone, the sensitivity, of a certain personality and that the great brand is to write in complete relationship with the man we are and that it causes fire works. Léautaud’s last words before dying were, « Maintenant, foutez-moi la paix. » [French for: « Now, leave me alone. »] Marie Dormoy, whose lover he had been, became his universal legatee and executor and helped to publish and make known his Literary Journal after his death. The style of the journal is natural and spontaneous. Léautaud practiced, without vulgarity, a living French, a delicious mixture of writing and orality, through a stream of emotional, reactive and lively thought. For those who discovered Leautaud’s voice in his famous radio interviews, the reader has the impression, on each page, of hearing it. Few writers have been able to create the plastic dynamism of the French language as he has. A man of the eighteenth century lost in the first twentieth century, he had the dryness, naturalness and ease of the great masters of French prose before Chateaubriand. Paul Gilson, director of the Services artistiques de la radio would say: « Nous n’avons jamais eu d’entretiens aussi vivants, intéressants et qui aient un pareil succès. » [French for: « We have never had such lively, interesting and successful interviews. »] It seems that Paul Léautaud’s life can be resumed in one quotation from Adèle de Bellegarde, which is « Je n’ai réussi qu’une seule chose, vivre selon mon goût » [French for: « I only managed one thing, to live according to my taste. »]

Vivre selon mon gout - Adele de Bellegarde dpurb site web.jpg

Traduction(EN): « I only managed one thing, to live according to my taste » – Adèle de Bellegarde

Marcel Gauchet put it well by explaining that when one lives in a world structured by republican meritocracy and when one is a good student, one knows that there are paths to social ascension.

Hence, in the humanistic view, we find a self that is striving towards personal fulfilmenta guiding force that moves us towards positive actions and enhancements imbued with a kind of virtue that gives humans kinship with the angels. For psychologists, the next step after describing the properties of the self has been to explore just how this dynamic mental structure works in controlling behaviour. Researchers who study the self usually speak of the self-concept: the individual’s awareness of his or her continuing identity as a person. This self-concept is viewed as an internal regulator of thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It interprets and organises our ongoing experiences. It reflects on how our present actions compare with our standards and expectations, and it affects our performance by providing plans, scripts, goals and incentives.

We tend to organise our beliefs and information about ourselves in terms of schemas, or knowledge clusters. For example, to some people, gender schemas are all-important – masculinity and femininity dominate their thinking. To others, “weight schematic” may be more important, where they may be trying to lose weight and perceive others primarily in terms of being fat (out of control) or being thin (having it all together). Our self-schema or self-image can have a powerful impact on our behaviour. If our self-image is good, we try to live up to our standard: we try harder and succeed more often. If our self-image is bad, we tend to adjust downward, and end up failing more often. So, self-image can work for or against us. Along this line, Albert Bandura of Stanford developed what he calls the theory of self-efficacy, a new theory of how the self works which can help us understand how some people translate promise and passion into optimal performance. In this experiment, researcher Delia Cioffi would give one subject the task of improving production at the model furniture factory. She would tell the subject that his ability to make good decisions for the factory is based on innate intelligence and ability. The higher one’s basic capacities in the skills, the better one will perform. Nowadays however computer programs tend to ease this process. The next subject is told that complex decision-making is an acquirable skill, and that his performance can improve through his own efforts. In any new skill, one does not begin with faultless performance, but the more one practices formulating and testing decisions, the better one gets at it. The first subject who believes that decision-making is a measure of his intelligence proceeds cautiously and sets lower goals for himself and is frustrated by an increasing number of incorrect decisions. His confidence is measured by the number on the lower left of the screen which keeps falling, as does his sense of efficacy. The second subject, however, sees early mistakes as a necessary part of learning. He profits by them and his performance improves. He sets higher goals for himself, and his response to questions about confidence demonstrate an increasing sense of his own efficacy.

The issue is not what you have, but how you use what you have. From this point of view, we can see that we can have the same competencies and subskills and use them poorly, adequately, or extraordinarily, depending on our self-belief. So for this reason, we can often predict people’s accomplishments better from their self-belief rather than from just their past attainments.

Up to this point we have been focusing on the part of the self which focuses inward to assess its capabilities. But there is another aspect of the self that focuses outward to get an understanding on the impression being created in others. This outward focus, the awareness of the social self, asked the questions: “How am I coming across? What impression am I creating? Do you see me the way I see myself? Do you see me the way I would like you to see me?”

Livres Audio Nouvelle Génération dpurb site web.jpg

Image: Audiobook and child: Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular to the literary crowd in 2019 as they ease the process of transfering information to the brain while leaving the hands free, but also pack a more powerful emotional punch through the sound of speech which also allow the listener [reader] to learn and improve their vocal skills. Neuroscience research has also shown that audiobooks are more emotionally engaging than film or TV [see: Richardson, D., Griffin, N., Zaki, L., Stephenson, A., Yan, J., Curry, T., Noble, R., Hogan, J., Skipper, J. and Devlin, J. (2018). Measuring narrative engagement: The heart tells the story.

 

Statistiques Livre Audio les Critères 2019 dpurb site web

Cette statistique montre les critères de choix les plus importants lors de l’achat de livres audio parmi les consommateurs français en 2017. On y apprend que près de 70 % des lecteurs accordaient une très grande importance au sujet des livres audio lors du choix. Un peu moins de la moitié des lecteurs considéraient la voix de l’interprète comme un critère très important. / Source: Statista France

« Je suis officier de la Légion d’honneur, je n’en tire pas de vanité. Je vous dis ces choses parce qu’aux yeux de certaines personnes cet accessoire vestimentaire confère à ceux qui le portent un certain prestige. Cet attribut me donne le privilège d’être écouté respectueusement par les imbéciles. Les autres ne me prêtant quelque attention qu’à cause de mon talent, de ma carrière ou de mon passé. » [Traduction(EN): « I’m an officer of the Legion of Honor, I don’t get any vanity out of it. I say these things to you because in the eyes of some people this clothing accessory confers a certain prestige on those who wear it. This attribute gives me the privilege of being listened to respectfully by imbeciles. Others only pay attention to me because of my talent, my career or my past. » – Professeur Lambertin (joué par Louis Jouvet) / Un Extrait du film, Entrée des artistes (1938)

To better explain this part about self-presentation, we are going to explore the arts, particularly drama which addresses the nuances of self-presentation. As a former student of literature and drama, I will use the example of the drama teacher who trains young individuals and actors in self-presentation skills to help them convey an impression to an audience. How does this work? Well, we are going to use the concept of status, which has to do with how we manipulate the affect of our self to one another. The content in a given circumstance may be the same, however the way in which I choose to speak to you [the way I use non-verbal cues, i.e. body language] may affect my relationship to you.

These status transactions, come in different aspects, and here we are going to discuss some of them.

The first of these would be eye contact, as it is commonly known that eye contact is a useful device in asserting oneself.

The second variable is of course whether or not one’s body is moving in a sustained way or whether it has jerky movements. As soon as a person starts to move in jerky ways it also affects his or her speech, as it is hard to sustain sentences when for example one is moving there head up and down. Many people tend to speak uncomfortably while moving at the cost of their status [e.g. Uh, as soon as, um, I begin to move my body in, uh, jerky ways – it also affects my speech you notice, It’s hard to uh, sustain sentences when I’m moving, uh, kind uhbut, but it, uh…. At the cost of their status in some cases]. A third kind of jerky motion we notice often is people touching the face, their hair or their hands, which conveys a sense of nervousness – which again would be lowering their status as a speaker]. In other words, anything we might consider to be nervous gestures would be in the category of lowering one’s status. So, the prototype for high status would be someone who is basically calm and composed, and who speaks in complete sentences, breathes deeply, makes eye contact and [uh?] does not have any particular jerky mannerisms.

These factors in interactions are known as status transactions, and they take place all the time between all kinds of people. They are a form of interpersonal communication where individuals establish their degree of social status and power, and demonstrate as well as anything the social aspects of the self-concept. To manage the impressions we create in others, we all engage in what is known as strategic self-presentation – how we present ourselves to others so that they perceive us in the way we see ourselves. Society reacts to us according to the context our behaviour has created [e.g. profession(s), values, education, language(s), nationality(ies), etc], then we see the way they respond to us, which confirms our original belief about the kind of individual we truly are [have become through growth and development]. It is a closed circle – what researcher Mark Snyder has called behavioural confirmation. Our beliefs, our sense of self, create their own reality. That is why depressed people elicit negative reactions and tend to be treated as if, in fact, they are inadequate in most aspects of normal life. While extroverts create an easy-going social climate in which others tend to respond positively to them.

There is also an intimate connection between self and culture [please note that culture here may be related to many fields, e.g. language, profession, clubs, private circles, orientations, identities, musical circles, arts, etc] – culture can be defined objectively [scientifically] as behavioural patterns individualised to a particular select group.

When we talk about the self, we are referring to the way in which the biological organism/being becomes a person. Becoming a person [human being], is largely a social endeavour, and there is nothing more social than language [i.e. linguistic discourse]; language creates a social bond, as Jacques Lacan also pointed out, language [i.e. linguistic discourse] gives the Subject the ability to attain recognition from others [i.e. the rest of humanity]. We can be a biological being [a primate] all by ourselves but to become a person, to become a self, we must engage with or take on or incorporate the cultural meanings, cultural ideas and practices of a particular group or groups [for individuals who have the chance to be bi or tri-cultural] and all these are learnt by language in its different forms. We must use these to become a person as it would be impossible to be a self by ourself. We can be a biological entity, but to be a person with a sense of self, we normally do it in some set of culture specific ways.

Culture can be seen not as biologically based, but rather socially based. It is a set of behavioural patterns and attitudes that we adopt as a means of defining who we are depending of where we are and who we want to be.

Danny D'Purb dpurb.com official concept of self dpurb site web

« Le jour où je cesserai de questionner, d’apprendre, de créer et d’innover sera le jour où je serai mort. » – Danny D’Purb // Traduction(EN): « The day when I will stop questioning, learning, creating and innovating, will be the day that I will be dead. » -Danny J. D’Purb | 2018

Many tend to think of “culture” as an entity inside people, similar to some sort of essence. Taking myself as an example, I qualify myself as bi-cultural, being a Franco-British individual, and since the majority of people do not have the chance to receive the heritage of two European empires, I will focus on the French side. Many people tend to think about us French [yes, the heirs of the language of Hugo, Molière, Chateaubriand, Balzac, Lacan & Foucault] as having some kind of French genes, or French traits or some kind of French attributes that make us French. It is absolutely not true, as culture is “what we choose to do”. And so, as the French school of thought, which has always been avant-garde in structuring minds to the French family; if we take an individual and guide him or her to connect with and use French ideas/concepts, and French ways of perceiving, feeling, behaving and doing things [i.e. values], then eventually that person will become French. Similarly, if I took that same person and placed him or her in the British context, that person will then become British in that sense [at least the science of Psychology in 20th century has enough evidence that I have collected throughout the dpurb.com website, to show that such a scenario depending on the individual’s abilities should be scientifically and psychologically valid – the mainstream people at large are still to embed and share this principle to open new perspectives to their own lives and in doing so allow themselves to grow psychologically and culturally]. After studying intellectual humility, psychologists have found that individuals with this personality trait have superior general knowledge (Krumrei-Mancuso, Haggard, LaBouff and Rowatt, 2019). Intellectual humility has consequences for learning and styles of thinking; the process of learning itself requires intellectual humility to acknowledge that one lacks a particular knowledge and hence has something to learn in order to continue evolving. In the same study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Krumrei-Mancuso and her colleagues found that intellectual humility was associated with less claiming of knowledge that one does not have, indicating a more accurate assessment of one’s own knowledge. In the study, intellectual humility was also correlated with being more inclined to reflective thinking, and also possessing more « need for cognition » [i.e. enjoying thinking hard and problem solving], greater curiosity, and open-minded thinking. In the journal Self and Identity, the results from a study by Porter and Schumann (2017) suggest that intellectual humility can be increased in individuals through a growth mindset of intelligence; hence we could all benefit from intellectual humility in our lifetime development. The authors concluded that « teaching people a malleable view of intelligence may be one promising way to foster intellectual humility and its associated benefits. »

Culture is simply a set of common ideas and common ways of doing things – although each culture has its sub-cultures that may vary [e.g. geographically, linguistically, artistically and philosophically].

We can view culture and self as a collaboration where each has an effect on the other: culture shapes self and the Self also has the power to shape culture. This idea is known as mutual constitution and it is reflected in the artefacts of all societies through art, literature and languages of all societies. It also affects each individuals differently in their choice of identification, consumption and adoption of particular products of culture. For example, having been brought up in a society with a Franco-British heritage, it was my choice to shape my self with French literature, arts, journalism, music, heritage, along with Oxford English, literature and heritage as a foundation to establishing myself as an individual with a self of Western European origin, and to make the region a place that I call home. As Jacques Lacan beautifully placed it:

«…en disant que seule la perspective de l’histoire de la reconnaissance permet de définir ce qui compte pour le sujet.

Je voudrais, pour ceux qui ne sont pas familiers avec cette dialectique que j’ai déjà abondamment développée, vous donner un certain nombre de notions de base. Il faut toujours être au niveau de l’alphabet. Aussi vais-je prendre un exemple qui vous fera bien comprendre les questions que pose pour la reconnaissance, et qui vous détourne de la noyer dans des notions aussi confuse que celles de mémoires ou de souvenir…

…un refoulement est autre chose qu’un jugement qui rejette et choisit. » – Jacques Lacan

___________

French for :

« by saying that only the perspective of the history of recognition allows the definition of what matters for the subject.

I would like to, for those who are not familiar with that dialectic that I have already abundantly developed, give you a number of basic notions. We must always be at the level of the alphabet. So I will take an example that will make you understand the questions posed for recognition, and that distracts you from drowning it in notions as confusing as those of memories or souvenirs…

…a repression is something other than a judgment that rejects and chooses. » – Jacques Lacan

Most of us are exposed to thousands of images in a given day, which many go by our conscious [not the unconscious] senses unnoticed. While these images discarded by our attention are deemed unnecessary, they collectively shape our thinking about how to be a person [a model to follow], how to be a self [the chosen self]. Take Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin or Oscar Wilde for example; it is quite clear that none of those characters would be qualified as the boy next door; they have been taken here as examples because, as myself, none of us with an English linguistic, literary and intellectual heritage [specially those with the educational elements to optimise their output in life] choose to be the “boy next door”.

A discussion published in the Oxford Journal of Applied Linguistics based on the emerging field of heritage speaker bilingual studies challenged the generally accepted position in the linguistic sciences, conscious or not, that monolingualism and nativeness are exclusively synonymous; from modern academic discussions, it is now being acknowledged that heritage speaker bilinguals and multilinguals exposed to a language in early childhood are also natives; they have multiple native languages, and nativeness can be applicable to a state of linguistic knowledge that is characterized by significant differences to the monolingual baseline (Rothman and Treffers-Daller, 2014).

This may also be said in the French realm for those who received a French linguistic, literary, and intellectual heritage like myself, with examples such as Jean Fanchette, Malcolm de Chazal, Voltaire, René Descartes, François-René de Chateaubriand, Honoré de Balzac, Napoléon 1er, Jacques Lacan, Pierre Bourdieu, Francis Cabrel or Florent Pagny, since none of these « héritiers de la langue Française » would also qualify as the “boy next door”. This is because none of us of French heritage with the intellectual capacity to optimise our output in life would choose to be the “boy next door”.

BNF aventure écriture &amp; livre d'purb dpurb site web

« Chaque civilisation se forge un mythe destiné à expliquer son apparition et construit sa tradition écrite autour d’un support privilégié » / Découvrez (Liens): (i) l’aventure des écritures et (ii) l’aventure du livre | Source: La Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)

The French heritage is known for its philosophical values embedded in the “grandeur d’esprit et de l’être”, as Charles de Gaulle famously said: « Un peuple comme le nôtre accoutumé aux malheurs comme aux gloires, sait reconnaître les États qui forment avec lui, l’équipe de la liberté. » [Translation: “A people like ours accustomed to misfortunes as well as glories, knows how to recognize the states that form with him, the team of freedom.”] We can thus conclude confidently that intelligent and reasoning beings are unlike unchangeable lifeless objects such as stones, coins and pennies.

pieces coins pennies d'purb dpurb site web

Unlike animals, humans have the ability to express themselves linguistically while using sophisticated and complex reasoning; we are bodies of flesh, blood and bones with a malleable brain and we know from anthropology and biological science that the morphology of our cerebral cortex is substantially less genetically heritable than in chimpanzees, the closest fossil and living relatives of humans, and this means that we, humans, have a brain that is highly responsive to moulding by complex environmental influences of various types; this specific anatomical property of increased plasticity which is likely related to the human pattern of development may underlie our species’ capacity for cultural evolution (Gómez-Robles, Hopkins, Schapiro and Sherwood, 2015).

Hence, we can conclude that individuals with a functional brain have the capacity to construct themselves based on their choices and abilities and are not absolute copies of their parents, siblings, or relatives [even if they may happen to share some personality traits such as for e.g. IQ, emotional intelligence, creativity, temperament, etc], neither are they simply products of exposure to their social circle, acquaintances, or « direct/initial » environment – as the reductionist and deterministic minds of pure cognitive-behavioural psychology wrongly assume [although a wide range of simple and basic vital behaviours can be explained from the cognitive-behavioural perspective in terms of Stimulus and Response, e.g. using the toilets, but complex thought processes of creativity and individuality in various aspects of mental life remain problematic to their branch of psychology]. This is because individuals are unique just like their finger prints, blood type and eyes, and this extends to their tastes, desires, direction, choices, field, creative influences, artistry, identities and parcours. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci’s father was not the productive and creative genius that his son was, but he may have shared some degree of fluid intelligence and reasoning that he passed to his son through his genes; Rafael Nadal’s parents cannot serve and destroy the world’s best tennis player like he does; Victor Hugo’s father was an imperial general and a military person, not the prolific writer and literary master that his son was; Napoleon’s father did not have the personality or imperial vision of his son but married his wife Maria Letizia Ramolino when she was 14 and was a man in law, however he may have had a good sense of judgement in matters related to the management of society that Napoleon inherited; Jacques Lacan’s father was a business man who simply dealt in oil and soap and was not the academically cultured and innovative theorist in psychology that Jacques Lacan was; the father of Sigmund Freud was a poor and unsuccessful wool merchant, and did not have Sigmund Freud’s theoretical creativity in psychology; the family of Carl Jung was very modest financially and were not the deep thinker and theorist that Carl Jung was; Pascal Picq, the author of  « L’homme est-il un grand singe politique? » was born to parents who worked in the market, and whose father later worked in transportation while his mother became a factory worker, they were not affiliated to the prestigious « Collège de France » as their son would later be; and Pierre Bourdieu, the author of « Langage et pouvoir symbolique » was the son of a man who came from the the small peasantry of Béarn, a daily farmer who then became a postman without leaving his rural environment, and was not the gifted researcher, thinker and speaker that his son Pierre would grow up to be. And if we were to also extend these examples to the spiritual domain for Christians, we can also note that the father of Jesus Christ was a wood worker, not the prophet, messiah, philosopher and founder of Christianity that his son Jesus was, he also did not walk on water, turn it into wine and restore sight to the blind, perhaps on the same religious note for those who see science as the systematic study of God’s works, it may be perfect to quote Michael Langlois: « Si Dieu nous a créés avec un cerveau, c’est pour qu’on s’en serve ! » [which is French for « If God created us with a brain, it’s so we can use it! »]. These examples to show that individuals are unique and not absolute copies go on and on, and although they are obvious, it seems that reminding the masses of the reality of individual psychological construction in our world is the job [or burden] that destiny has placed on my shoulders. A lie will remain untrue even if the whole world believes in it, and the truth will always stay true even if noone believes in it.

 

L’heritage de Voltaire: a pioneer of individual self-conception and the liberation of the mind

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Voltaire (1694 – 1778)

We are now going to explore the life of one of the most enigmatic intellectuals of the enlightenment of the 18th century, Voltaire, because he is one of the pioneers of self-conception and the liberation of the individual. It is fundamental to understand that the society that we now live in was not simply given to us on a plateau. Many individuals have fought intellectually and dedicated their lives to justice and individual freedom and emancipation. It would be incredibly atavistic to remain ignorant about the intellectual heritage, the founding pillars passed on to us by men and women who have changed our world by the power of their mind and pen.

We all have heard of Voltaire, and today his name can be found on so many institutional buildings, monuments and places, not to mention paintings by some of the greatest artists and statues that adorn France and other countries. So, why do we do this? Why do we as a civilisation ensure that his name lives on throughout time? We do this in the hope that the fire that lived inside his mind is passed on to the next generation; we do this in the hope that the minds of the present and future generation may follow his example and choose a path of dedication, excellence, values, persistence and courage.

1jour1actu - Voltaire expliqué aux enfants - France Education - d'purb dpurb site web

Source: Education Philosophique en France: Voltaire expliqué aux enfants / Consulté le 7 novembre 2020 sur 1 Jour 1 Actu

In France, Voltaire’s life is even taught to young children, his legacy has become part of modern French intellectual heritage, identity and education, and the majority of people with a French intellectual and/or literary heritage embody the values of Voltaire – both consciously and in many cases unconsciously. Voltaire’s life has become part of French educational heritage and is taught to the young in order to shape their minds, character and values at an early age, he is considered as a sort of prophet, and remains to French identity and heritage what Muhammad is to Muslim identity and heritage.

During the times of Voltaire, 18th century Europe was going through an incredible period of change through the intellectual revolution of the enlightenment, a change that would be permanent and that has since shaped the mind of human civilisation. In those times, the whole of Europe, shook by the enlightenment, spoke French, i.e. the Europe of the intellectuals, diplomats, bureaucrats, emperors and even cooks. As Stéphane Bern phrased it in 2019: it is in the calm countryside on the Franco-Swiss border, in the Auverge-Rhône-Alpes region that slept a strange volcano, uncontrollable, it was a volcano of the mind, of relevance and liberty, his name was Voltaire – the great, the immense, who would die in Paris at the age of 83 years old on the 30th of May 1778. However, it was in the village of Ferney that he had moved to a few years before, in his refuge residence that has recently been restored at the heart of a village baptised Ferney-Voltaire in order to honour his memory.

Voltaire’s initial name was François -Marie Arouet, but for the whole of Europe, he is Voltaire, the prince of philosophers, the passionate poet, the dedicated historian and the writer in his twenties of his first play, « Oedipe » which would open the doors of all the theatres to him. He was also a passionate lover, most famously of the brilliant Émilie du Châtelet, the « grand amour » of his life with whom he discovered true love for more than 15 years.

A man who considered himself the equal or superior to people in power and who was never intimidated by them, crowned or not, Voltaire constantly fought against hypocrisy, superstition, and for justice while always remaining loyal to God, whom he never denied, but he never stopped denouncing the abuses of the religious authorities of his time as an atavistic institution that persecuted people and condemned many to atrocious deaths.

Ne vous conformez pas au monde actuel, soyez transformés par l'intelligence - Romains 12-2 d'purb dpurb site web

Romain 12:2 : Ne vous conformez pas au monde actuel, mais soyez transformés par le renouvellement de l’intelligence afin de discerner quelle est la volonté de Dieu, ce qui est bon, agréable et parfait. // Traduction(EN): Romans 12:2 : Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Voltaire is known for his usual irony and intellectual ferociousness along with a courage without equal in the conservative and unforgiving climate of the ancient regime of his time in the 18th century. Eventually, he paid harshly for such a flamboyant and defiant character through a few trips to La Bastille prison, but Voltaire’s mind remains free and alive!

As Stéphane Berne perfectly phrased it in the 2019 documentary « Voltaire ou la liberté de penser » dedicated to the memory of Voltaire: « Un homme seul peut parfois changer le monde avec sa plume » [French for: « One man alone can sometimes change the world with his pen. »]

Un homme seul peut parfois changer le monde avec sa plume - Stéphane Bern - d'purb dpurb site web

« Un homme seul peut parfois changer le monde avec sa plume » – Stéphane Bern [French for: « One man alone can sometimes change the world with his pen. »] Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Voltaire never hesitated to defend causes deemed lost, such as that of Jean Callas, the unfortunate protestant from Toulouse who was unjustly condemned to death by the Catholic Church and whose name and honour would be restored by Voltaire. He was a dedicated intellectual, always connected with his era, never atavistic or living in the past, but was a passionate lover of the world with surprising originality who applied reason and philosophy to challenge all the irrational conventions of the social structure of the ancient regime and in doing so he is nowadays regarded as an intellectual who was always in advance over his contemporaries by a few centuries. Early in his life, he became a vegetarian, refusing to see meat at his table with this very Voltarian argument embedded with heavy connotations: « On ne mange pas ses semblables! » [French for: « one does not eat his similars! »]

Voltaire’s incredible parcours ends in apotheosis in 1791, when l’Assemblée National brings Voltaire into the Panthéon 13 years after his death – voilà, he reached immortality! That day was memorable because Voltaire’s body, before entering the Panthéon, crossed Paris by programmed stages; first it passed La Bastille where he spent some time, then Voltaire, homme de lettres (man of letters), homme de théâtre passed all the great Parisian theatres, the troops were there with texts that praised his memory. One of the moving parts was when the procession stopped where Voltaire died, l’hôtel de Villette which is on the quai des Théatins, which would later become the Quai Voltaire.

It is amazing to see how the French people treated a man who was not a noble, but through his mind and intellectual abilities rose to gain the respect and acclaim comparable to that of kings and emperors. This ceremony was so grandiose that a commentator had even said that it was a national ceremony, the ceremony of the nation who found itself around the remains of Voltaire. However, the remains arrived at the Panthéon at night and the bishop who was to consecrate Voltaire’s body was absent, since as a clergyman he did not want to receive the remains of a man who throughout his life had fought against the Catholic institutions. Yet, Voltaire’s remains entered the Panthéon and he has since been acknowledged as one of the greats of our civilisation; he entered a monument constructed to be a church and transformed into a pantheon for him. There is a funny anecdote from the obese Louis XVIII after the restoration when Napoléon I was sent to exile after his unfortunate last battle at Waterloo when at that point his regime was riddled with spies and traitors, apparently the monument was to be transformed into a church and there were debates about whether to move Voltaire, and the obese monarch said: « Laissez le, il sera bien puni d’entendre la messe tous les jours. » [French for: « Leave him, he will be punished by hearing mass every day! »]. So, Voltaire remains in the monument.

The tombeau of Voltaire constituted from the catafalque that crossed the whole of Paris is important for all the inscriptions that show the importance of the great man, historian, philosopher, poet, but it is also the recognition by the Assemblée Nationale of the immortal genius of Voltaire.

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Le tombeau de Voltaire au Panthéon / Traduction(EN): Poet, Historian, Philosopher He Widens The Human Mind And Showed It That It Had To Be Free

The intellectual also has a very special place, because he is in the front of the monument, hence all the great men and women have to pass in front of it before entering the Panthéon. In 1794, Voltaire will be joined by Rousseau, and although the two had some clashes in their life, they are considered as the two major philosophers who spread the mind of the enlightenment and carried its eternal spirit of freedom and justice.

It is to be noted that 11 years after Voltaire’s death in 1778, and 2 years before his remains were transferred to the Panthéon in 1789, a historical event would shake the world forever: France had for the first time in its history gone through the revolution, with the iconic takeover of La Bastille, but the Republic had not yet been proclaimed. To this day Voltaire remains the most ancient personality to remain at the Panthéon. The revolution was looking for modern heroes, men who were not saints, kings or men of war, and began to look for minds of the ancient regime who were already dead who in some way, announced the revolution.

Intellectuals debate to this day whether Voltaire could be seen as an artist and architect of the revolution. In some way it may be true, since the ideas of personal liberty and individual emancipation that he defended were the base on which the revolution was founded. But it can also be said that Voltaire was not a man made by the revolution, although in his times, he was aware of the English revolution of 1649 which sent shockwaves across Europe as Charles I was put to death in England after Oliver Cromwell, the English general and statesman had led the armies of the Parliament of England against the king during the English Civil War to then rule the British Isles as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658, also acting simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republican commonwealth. Voltaire in France was very close to many crowned heads, and although he was not of noble decent himself and despised the abuses of the church and royalty, he socialised with them and saw them as part of his circle; he was close to the monarchy and never thought that the monarchy in France could ever be overturned; however he wanted the monarchy to be constitutional, tolerant, humane and respectful towards individuals and their liberties. French historians argue that Voltaire was definitely not a republican, although this remains debatable since he is not alive to respond to the question and the world can keep on guessing.

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Image: Voltaire en train d’écrire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Voltaire was a sophisticated man of words and a refined thinker who believed in the power of the pen, mind and intellectual discourse, hence he was not a grotesque brute and would have probably been disgusted around the majority of average, simple, nasty, infantile and petty animalistic minds who infest the political scene of the 21st century, who probably would not be able to interact with him linguistically at the level of language he would have expected and naturally functioned at psychologically; his discourse would not have reached optimal understanding among the mediocre majority of his audience and he would have had to slow down and simplify himself constantly, which would have been very frustating and painful for such a brilliant intellectual; and a struggle in maintaining his mind sharp.

The man was definitely one of the most talented intellectuals of the 18th century that the Assemblée Nationale has crowned. French historian Évelyne Lever observed that Voltaire had an enigmatic and powerful gaze that marked his presence and would say:

« Le regard chez Voltaire c’est essentiel. C’est un regard qui capte tout et c’est un regard qui rend tout ce qu’il a vu, et il a évidemment des possibilités intellectuelles extrêmement vastes, c’est l’homme des lumières dans tous les sens du terme. »

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French for :

« The look in Voltaire’s eyes is essential. It is a gaze that captures everything and it is a gaze that gives back all that he saw, and he obviously has extremely vast intellectual possibilities, he is the man of the enlightenment in every sense of the word. »

For French writer Philippe Sollers, Voltaire was an adventurer who was very agitated, very clandestine, constantly fighting through his intellectual discourse, like being at war with the conventions of his time. The author of « L’invention de l’intellectuel dans l’Europe du XVIIIe siècle » and « Les Ennemis des Philosophes », who also co-directed « Inventaire Voltaire », Didier Masseau, saw in Voltaire, a character who had a great presence and who entertained some kind of tradition, with his large Louis XIV styled wig that was completely out of fashion in the 18th century; hence Voltaire was a very singular character. François Jacob, the author of « Voltaire », believes that Voltaire was someone who had always been conscious of his own worth, and knew that he was among the greatest –  someone who could bring a tremendous amount to his contemporaries.

The recognition obtained at the Panthéon, Voltaire had been looking for it during the early years of his life. Voltaire from the very beginning entertained the spark of the self-made and self-defined man, since the man who was not yet named Voltaire is in fact François-Marie Arouet and does not have any aristocratic ancestry, and hence could not be considered as noble. While in the 21st century the educational cultivation or the discourse, views and ideas of an individual may lead to him or her being perceived as a noble man or woman of intellect or a noble mind, it was not the case in the 18th century, where there was a strong division between classes – where nobility was usually given by royalty or inherited by birth. Hence, Voltaire from a very early age worked to make the notion of « origins » meaningless in the emancipation and development of the individual – a task that was titanic in the old days of the 18th century.

Voltaire’s father belonged to the middle-class, i.e. the bourgeoisie. It was a relatively well-to-do bourgeoisie and they lived comfortably, but they did not swim in gold either. François-Marie’s mother passed away when he was only 6, and he was raised by his father and benefited of an exceptional formation. At 10 years of age, he had gained admission at the most prestigious institution of the kingdom, the collège Louis-le-Grand, where both the sons of the bourgeoisie and highest nobility were scholarised. So, there he experienced a social climate generated by the best minds of his generation who were destined for a prestigious future and of course, some of his alliances had allowed him to build a network in some of the highest milieus. Even if the young François-Marie was not treated as well as some of his comrades, he would very soon distinguish himself through his intelligence, personality and individuality.

Among the young aristocrats there, some had a room with their own domestics and their private prefect, while the young Arouet was condemned to share the room with 15 or 20 of his classmates. Among the subjects taught, at the college, there was dissertation in Latin, the writing of poetry and versification. Voltaire was particularly gifted in those linguistic and literary fields, especially in exercises of amplification, that put the emphasis on a sense of rhetoric [i.e. the ability to analyse, synthesise, respond and argue convincingly], this is how he would get himself noticed. Voltaire would get the best results in linguistic eloquence in Latin, and this was also the first time that he developed the confidence and pride of a writer or a thinker, since he had just proven himself by winning a contest of eloquence and that would finally be the birth of his career as a thinker.

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Le jeune Voltaire au collège / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

During these college years, he also benefited from the teaching of the Jesuits which is characterised by a great open-minded view of the world, it was about forming a true citizen, i.e. a profoundly Christian mind but who is also open to the reality of his times, hence the importance of the voyages, history, and this constant open-minded view and of course the dramatic arts, such as the theatre. The theatrical arts after all is an opening on the city. The young Arouet developed a taste for drama and theatre, he did not play comedies, but rather tragedies, and from there Voltaire was already blossoming and was certainly thinking of a writing future.

The personality of the future Voltaire was also shaped by his godfather, a man of thought who was a member of the Société du Temple, a world apart that the young François-Marie was introduced to in his teenage years. That society had been a sort of microcosm in Paris, and Voltaire would develop a taste for its aristocratic and libertarian side and also for « le bon mot » [French for: the good word]. It is an epicurean society: a society that lives for pleasure as well as for the freedom of thought. There he had found people who were less conformist and who held different views about the social structure of his time, and the young Voltaire started to love this milieu as it opened new horizons to him. After his godfather had introduced him to one of his older female friends, the latter saw in Voltaire a young man with an exceptional intelligence and left him a small amount of money in her will. With that money, François-Marie, a lover of literature, would go and buy books since his choice had been made, he was not going to follow the career planned by his father since that notarial and legal bureaucratic bourgeois milieu would not have allowed him to fully explore and develop his literary talent, artistic and intellectual creativity, and would have been too narrow and mundane for his ambition and deep mind.

When the young Arouet left college, he was still not known as Voltaire, but in the logic of the future Voltaire, he already wanted to be an « homme de lettres » [French for: man of words or letters], an « homme de plume » [French for: man of the pen]. Of course, for his father that was truly scandalous, because from his bourgeois perspective and milieu, poets are considered as « crève-la-faim » [French for: someone who cannot afford to eat properly] – being a poet is not considered a job. Hence, Voltaire’s father had imagined him studying law and perhaps becoming a notary but he instead wanted to enter the domain of the « belles-lettres » [French for: beautiful words], and hence there the young intellectual’s choice experienced a first form of rejection by his father.

This unpleasant experience led him to even invent his own aristocratic origin, since ironically the future Voltaire would say that he was not the son of his father, and that his real father was an aristocrat who probably wrote verses and who was the lover of his mother; Voltaire said this openly without any shame, since he preferred to come across as a prestigious bastard born out of wedlock rather than a mediocre legitimate child. Of course, this was fairly petty, and could be attributed to a childish frustration, being a fiction that Voltaire created that allowed him to discard his own origin, but from a deeper look it showed how he was already being marked by the concept of the self-made and self-created individual governed by his own abilities and will-power.

Voltaire was already refusing to be a victim of the past and the random location where the fusion of a spermatozoid and an egg, i.e. birth, had placed him; we can take note here that it was what modern psychologists and psychoanalysts qualify as « the concept of self » , i.e. the individual is not dependent on anyone, is not simply a biological lump of flesh created by two primates who copulated, compelled to be defined by an imposed legacy and carry whatever burden it may include – that is an option of course, depending on the individual’s choice in relation to his or her desires but it is definitely not an obligation. We are who we are and who we choose to make ourselves through our own efforts, desires and choices – that is Voltairean heritage and the mind of the intellectual enlightenment! Coincidentally, this simple yet immense and fundamental concept aligns with my own reflections, scientific arguments and philosophical orientations based on the organismic perspective of the free organism that follows a constant evolution throughout its lifetime in a Piagetian style of cognitive growth. So in a way, it is like finding a partial form of synchronisation of my own intellectual thoughts with Voltaire’s, while Jacques Lacan’s theory of the mind, language and concept of symbolic chain and desires follows an almost similar line of thought – it shows that while most of my contemporaries missed the emphasis on the organismic perspective, one of the minds who changed the world in the 18th century shared my beliefs – this particular intellectual similarity is personally satisfying.

L'individu libre dans une société éclairée Danny D'Purb dpurb site web 2019

« Dans une société éclairée, éduquée, cultivée, sophistiquée et moderne, un individu libre devrait être capable de dire ce qu’il veut, quand il veut, où il veut, comment il veut, à qui il veut, et selon ses capacités, il devrait aussi pouvoir choisir son propre chemin, identité, domaine et cercle, et lorsque ces actes ne causent la mort à personne, cela semble totalement noble et juste. » -Danny d’Purb // Traduction(EN): « In an enlightened, educated, cultivated, sophisticated and modern society, a free individual should be able to say what he wants, when he wants, where he wants, how he wants, to whomever he wants, and according to his abilities, he should also be able to choose his own path, identity, domain and circle, and when these acts do not cause death to anyone, this seems totally noble and right. » -Danny D’Purb | (2019)

When later in his life Voltaire managed to acquire the château de Ferney, he had the old building demolished which he had qualified as atavistic in style, and had a new one built to his taste. It would also become the place where he received many intellectuals and also his friend, the mathematician Nicolas de Condorcet, along with the actor Lequin who would take part in many of the plays written by Voltaire. One of the other great intellectuals who never came to Ferney is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the solitary philosopher, since those two sometimes clashed on some philosophical issues without ever meeting each other, however they both recognised each other’s greatness which reminds us today that they have been two of the most illustrious [i.e. well known, respected and admired] homme de lettres of the century of the enlightenment. After his death, Voltaire’s heart was stored in a cenotaph in France at his Ferney residence for several years, with the inscription:

« Son esprit est partout et son coeur est ici. »

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French for :

« His mind is everywhere and his heart is here. »

Voltaire also invited the most intimate of his guests at Ferney into his personal library where he would read them extracts that meant a lot to him and were connected to his intellectual fight against the problems of the society of his time, for example, against the rigid religious institutions of the Ancient Regime and the persecutions and horrors they orchestrated. The complete works of Voltaire can also be found at Ferney, where he first started writing and focussed on tragedy, a popular genre in his times.

It is with the literature, dramatic arts and the theatre that he was drenched in at college that Voltaire would create and build a name for himself. He thought that this would suffice to take his legacy to posterity, i.e. through his tragedies, however as we would see, it took much more to have Voltaire accepted among the greats of his time, since the division of classes was rigid in the 18th century.

At around 20 years old, the young Arouet had already become quite used to the Parisian salons and his personality and mind quickly made him popular – he became well-known and a habitué of the court at the château de Sceaux. The young Arouet had already risen in society through his intellectual and artistic abilities and original personality, and at that court he was a little boute-en-train (i.e. joker); he improvised clever rhymes and poetry and would say exactly what the great seigneurs wanted to hear. He was stunned by the early success he had found at Sceaux; and although he should have toned himself down in this milieu, he just could not resist the urge to be even more extroverted, flamboyant, defiant and outgoing – it seems that Voltaire was an early embodiment of a form of open-minded libertarian conservatism. During his time there he also enjoyed a wide range of literary, theatrical and musical pleasures.

However, he would soon go beyond his limits, and reveal himself as an extremely biting, facetious mind that could become nasty when provoked, according to French historian Évelyne Lever. In his poem, « Puero Regnante », he offended a man whom no one would have dared to insult, namely Philippe d’Orléans who was the man in charge of the French monarchy since the death of Louis XIV in 1715; d’Orléans was ensuring the regency of the kingdom until the young Louis XV reached the age to govern. The futur Voltaire’s verses in his poem came with heavy consequences since his dramatic poem accused the regent of having killed the grand children of Louis XIV by poison in order to get as close as possible to power while going even further to accuse the regent of having sexual relations with his daughter.

The poem was so scary that Voltaire found himself imprisoned at La Bastille. He was incarcerated on the 16th of May 1717 while in his twenties, and he would remain locked for almost a year. However, his conditions while in detention were far from terrible; the young Arouet was placed in the quarters that we could consider in today’s terms as those reserved for the V.I.Ps [i.e. very important person]. There he had lunch with the governor, where people would also visit and write to him; it was a place where you could serenely plan and prepare for your release.

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Voltaire enfermé à La Bastille / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

If someone is imprisoned at the special quarters of La Bastille, it is because they hold a degree of importance and because they have the power over society, hence the writer used it as a formidable source of publicity to push himself at the front of the social scene. It is also during that period that François-Marie Arouet decided to bury his old name and transform himself into Voltaire; he thought that he should find himself a signature to match his size and to prepare for his future glory; he considered his old name, François-Marie Arouet, to have been a burden to him. French historian, Évelyne Lever noticed that the name, Voltaire, contained the term « Volte » which carries the connotation of one who danses and flies. On the name of Voltaire, the French intellectual, François Bessire said:

« C’est l’invention d’une marque, c’est l’invention d’un nom tout à fait remarquable, un travail de communication étonnamment réussie. »

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French for:

« It’s the invention of a brand, it’s the invention of a very remarkable name, a surprisingly successful work of communication. »

Voltaire also made the most of his time in detention to finalise his first play, however after his release, his perfectionist approach and the numerous repetitions and modifications he made to the script caused conflicts among the troop of actors of the Comédie-Française who accepted to take part in it. One of the actresses, Miss Desmares, had categorically refused to receive new verses from Voltaire to repeat, but had quite an appetite. So, Voltaire ironically sent over small pâtés that she would open to eat and inside there were the new lines that Voltaire wanted her to learn, everyone of course laughed at this adventure, yet the verses were learnt and of course the small pâtés eaten.

The première of Voltaire’s play, Oedipe, opened on the 18th of November 1718, and the whole of Paris rushed to watch the spectacle of the young author with a sulphurous reputation. It was a triumphant success for the writer, and that would be the moment that Voltaire began to earn a living with his pen, and his desire for glory at the same time was satisfied. The success of his writing was fundamental to Voltaire because it confirmed that he was a great author of the classical tragedies.

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Image: Le triomphe du premier oeuvre de Voltaire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

After that event, Voltaire would start to build a network of acquaintances and friends among the nobles, and would visit Jean-René de Longueil at the Château de Maisons, today known as the Château de Maisons-Laffitte. It is there that Voltaire worked on his epic poem, la Henriade, and one time during a lecture in the great hall of the château, Voltaire did not hesitate to ask the opinions of the guests invited and they, who were not writers and never wrote a play in their life allowed themselves to a number of criticisms. As this went on, Voltaire began to lose his calm and in an abrupt gesture he took his manuscripts and threw them all in the fireplace in a raging gesture; one of the guests stormed to pick them up and gave them back to Voltaire. Another unfortunate episode there was when Voltaire caught a potentially deadly disease: smallpox. However, Voltaire in a few weeks miraculously recovered but a fire spread from the chimney under his room, having been kept constantly lit during the weeks of his illness, the place was ravaged, but that blow of fate would not affect the solid friendship that bound him to Jean-René de Longueil.

After proving himself through his intellectual, linguistic, literary and artistic abilities, Voltaire in his thirties thought that he could finally consider himself as the equal of the nobles, him, a sort of aristocrat of the mind. However, an altercation with one of them during a soirée would cruelly prove him wrong. During that night, the chevalier de Rohan-Chabot had been joking unsympathetically about the name of Voltaire, trying to mock him, and Voltaire in an affirmative and insolent tone abruptly responded:

« Mon nom commence là ou fini le votre! »

___________

French for:

« My name starts where your name ends! »

A few days later, Rohan-Chabot had Voltaire beaten violently as he was leaving a house where he had had him invited. Voltaire was permuted with pain with all the blows he received from sticks. Voltaire asked for reparation and began to realise that his noble friends certainly pitied him, but would do nothing concrete to help him as the days went by. Voltaire eventually realised that he was being advised to remain silent and to get over this humiliation. That event likely marked Voltaire for life in his fight against the atavistic structure of the ancient regime because it brought him back to the condition that the 18th century of France imposed on individuals; hence, he could be a star on the intellectual, literary and artistic scene, he could be the great Voltaire, but in the 18th century, to the nobles, he would always be considered a « roturier » [note that this is an archaic term that is not used anymore in the 21st century as it used to mean someone who does not have aristocratic origins, it is a term that can very rarely be heard in a minority of social circles that still abide by the social structure of the ancient regime, for example, among some circles in England, the English term is usually « commoner »]; and this irrational concept allowed the nobles of the 18th century to hold the illusory belief that they were superior to anyone who did not have aristocratic origins and that the person could be given the stick by them, even if the individual was incredibly educated, cultured and intellectually superior to the nobles. That was of course something that Voltaire would not accept and towards the end of his life he would receive the acclaim only reserved for kings and emperors for changing the perception of French society and the whole of Europe about individual emancipation forever. But for the time being Voltaire’s humiliation would not stop there, since conscious of Voltaire’s relentless and daring personality and character, the entourage of chevalier Rohan-Chabot feared for the desires of vengeance of the prolific author and so, they arranged for Voltaire to be sent once more to the Bastille prison. He would be freed after only 2 weeks on the condition that he left Paris.

For his exile, the man of letters chose to go to England. It was 1726 and Voltaire would end up staying in the neighbouring country for almost 3 years. It is important to note that in those times, England had already gone through the English Civil War and had shocked Europe by putting King Charles I to death, the latter was beheaded publicly after Oliver Cromwell had defeated the Royal armies. France on the other hand had not yet gone through the revolution, something that would take place 63 years later in 1789, 11 years after Voltaire’s death in 1778, with the iconic takeover of La Bastille on the 14th of July 1789. So, when Voltaire went to England, the power of the ancient regime there was already weakening through the socio-cultural change brought by the English civil war. Hence, in some aspects regarding the structure of society, England at that time appeared slightly in advance to Voltaire in matters regarding the personal liberties of the individual where the organisation of society was different compared to the strict climate imposed by the Ancient Regime of the monarchy in 18th century France, that caused Voltaire to be victimised and jailed for a simple vocal retaliation.

It was Voltaire’s curiosity that motivated him to go to England and also his personal circumstances; that trip would calm down the tension in France by allowing Voltaire to be forgotten for a few years at least. Once in England, Voltaire who was especially gifted with language quickly learned to master English, which is much simpler than French. Being a believer in the values of the intellectual enlightenment, a man who fought for individual freedom and self-conception, and also a proven man of words, intellect and a sort of aristocrat of the mind in France, it seemed logical to expect that Voltaire would work on a similar mastery of language in England and create his own individual identity, and so he did not learn English by socialising, but rather through Shakespeare. He would visit the theatre at Drury-Lane where it is believed that he took the prompter’s manuscripts to learn English through Shakespeare.

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France still conserves a collection of his courier that shows his incredible mastery of the English language but also the affinity he developed for some English customs. The fact that Voltaire took pride in writing in English while in England was not insignificant, because Voltaire in England had felt at home, and very quickly started to see himself as an Englishman, during his voyage he slightly toned down his French identity. Charles Eloi-Vidal, a curator at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France suggested that it seemed that Voltaire during his time in England gave the impression that he had fallen in love with the country and its people. Voltaire was seduced by the atmosphere of freedom that his anonymity may also have contributed to in England. The writer stated that in England, no mode of life seemed strange, we see men who complete 6 miles daily for their health, who feed on only roots, who never eat meat, who wear a lighter outfit in winter than your ladies’ costume on the hottest days. Voltaire thought that all that in England was perceived as a singularity but was not taxed by anyone as ridiculous or insane.

In reality, the French still mock the English for their eccentricity but what Voltaire saw in some aspects of the English society of the 18th century was the freedom to be anything we wanted, an opinion that seemed slightly exaggerated by Voltaire who only lived in England for about 3 years, since nowadays in the 21st century England is far behind modern day France in terms of individual social mobility, although it is encouraging to see that gradual progress is taking place through the contribution of dedicated intellectuals at major universities [e.g. the Voltaire Foundation at the University of Oxford] who are changing the atavistic minds of the Anglo-Saxon masses through the propagation of modern psychological, scientific and philosophical works about development, conception, individuality and identity.

What also stunned Voltaire in 18th century England was the religious tolerance. When in France the rigid institutions firmly controlled and regulated by the Catholic church would persecute people for their beliefs and practices and even send them to horrible death sentences, in England Voltaire saw Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists all somehow living together. However, in the 21st century when we scratch the surface, we find that underneath the illusion of this « living together » in a secular society with the vague concept of « political correctness », there is a passive and silent yet constant competition between each group, all desiring supremacy over one another; this even applies at a global level from the basic population count, to the geographical hold of living space of each group with different languages on our planet; and each group would be ready « diplomatically » to defend their borders with guns, tanks, fighter planes and even nuclear weapons if necessary, and of course, not to mention the periodic violence that traumatises society at large, especially from Muslim jihadists. It is also fair to note how each group – under the illusion of « living together » and « political correctness » – still « indirectly » fragment the population by organising events that celebrate and promote each group’s identity and characteristics within their own geographical population, and that does not seem to be a genuine sense of living together as a singular community but rather a politically correct form of hypocrisy.

We can observe that that the idea of « living together » can be associated with the modern-day phenomenon known as « globalisation » that portrays the society that Voltaire saw in 18th century England. Unfortunately, the « living together » of globalisation is simply focussed on labour and migratory movement and financial motives, whereas true harmony in a genuine community of sophisticated, educated and enlightened minds relies on the construction of a united society and is closer to post-revolutionary French philosophical values of « Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité », which is not simply a question of living side by side with each other, but involves getting all individuals – besides their personal tastes as unique humans beings – to also honestly agree on identity, belonging, values and goals; feel, understand and synchronise their lives with each other as a genuinely united community that supports and helps one another, while also working and building harmoniously together at every level of human life – not simply economically. After all, we are living in pivotal times where the human civilisation is evolving at breakneck speed in so many ways and changing era right before our eyes in the 21st century; with a generation that has the chance of having access to the wide range of accelerated learning technologies available. The world’s societies have evolved beyond recognition from their « primitive » past, and are today interconnected and inspire and influence each other in so many ways [e.g. science, sport, medicine, cuisine, arts, literature, philosophy & education]. We can only imagine what a brilliant mind like Voltaire would have achieved if he lived in our time with all the tools available to us in the 21st century.

Even if nowadays, in the 21st century, after centuries of imperfect democratic parliamentary regimes we have begun to see the lack of organisation, the corruption, the greed for money, the unethical financial motives, the apathy and lack of sophistication and sensibility from the average financial workers crowding the political scene along with their simple binary minds and outlook, the illogical concepts of political parties dividing people by orientation, and the badly organised departments of the state; in the times of Voltaire in the 18th century, this less than perfect parliamentary regime was considered as the only solution and represented a step towards defying the abuses of the Ancient Regime of hereditary traditions and undisputed domination of the crowned heads. So back then, when the parliamentary regime was in its early days in England, Voltaire was fascinated with it, since he thought of it as a movement that kept the King in check, since whenever the crown would try to abuse its powers, it could instantly be stopped by the parliamentary regime – that to Voltaire created a King that could only be kind. Since it was 1726, 63 years before the French revolution, hence this to Voltaire was quite another world – he would most certainly have much to write about if he was alive today to see the horror show of the majority of mediocrity in modern politics in the 21st century.

It is almost certain that if a brilliant, perceptive and volcanic mind like Voltaire lived in the 21st century he would have ferociously criticized the current democratic parliamentary regime, and would be engaged in a fight like ourself to crease out the imperfections, being just like ourself focussed on the liberation of the human mind through reason and science, individual liberty, meritocracy, order, love and justice for all, along with a concern about a harmonious, ethical, intellectually enlightened and a sophisticated society devoid of alienating irrational superstitions, political abuses and unnecessary suffering.

During his English séjour, Voltaire had maintained a journal that he completed once back in France, those écrits, packed with explosive content, would later become his « Lettres Philosophiques ». Those would have two objectives. Firstly, it was an expression of gratitude towards the English society that welcomed and hosted him for almost 3 years. Secondly, Voltaire wanted to point out the problems of the society of pre-revolutionary France in the 18th century where he castigated the French monarchical despotism along with the climate of intolerance towards individual liberties – such as religious beliefs – that it imposed on individuals with heavy consequences to those who chose to deviate from the Church’s rigid outlook [e.g. the persecution of other forms of Christianity such as Protestantism].

Voltaire’s writings were seized and burnt in front of the palais de justice in France; the power of the ancient regime understood that this was a bomb that could seriously cause a storm in France where unlike anywhere else in the world the people are sophisticated, highly receptive and reactive, and always in the constant quest to refine and cultivate themselves intellectually through fresh philosophical discourse. Hence, as soon as Voltaire returned from his exile in England, the enigmatic thinker and writer had once again become persona non grata in Paris and would have to remain discrete and keep a safe distance from monarchical power for some time. Besides, Voltaire using aspects of the English society of the 18th century as examples to criticize France was not going to be well perceived. Although French society acknowledges the pivotal works of some hardworking individuals who dedicated their lives to particular fields [e.g. medecine, science, literature, music, etc] and who have been translated into French, for example, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, just like many other hardworking and dedicated minds across the globe, it certainly does not consider the English heritage or the Anglo-Saxon world as superior, a model to follow or something to be envious about; that is an opinion even shared by a great amount of English intellectuals and people themselves and even the former English King, Henry V, who used the French language to write « Dieu et mon droit » on the coat of arms of the British monarchy. If anything, French society has always considered the Anglo-Saxon world as rough, petty, cold, mechanical, calculating, ruthless and much less refined and sophisticated emotionally, philosophically, artistically and linguistically; while lacking sensibility in human affairs, with the tragedy of Jeanne d’Arc embedded in the hearts of the French people along with the Hundred Years War, not to mention Waterloo. Even the iconic English writer, Oscar Wilde, was persecuted by the society that produced him and ended up seeking refuge and spending the last days of his life in France; a fairly similar fate was imposed on the English mathematician, Alan Turing, who dedicated his life to saving his country and whose contributions were decisive in shifting the outcomes of World War II – he would be persecuted by his own country treated like a criminal and was left to die as a recluse in a room in almost complete anonymity. Hence, a tremendous work of cultivation remained to be done in the Anglo-Saxon world in order to reconcile and build a firm bridge between these two environments and create a genuine sense of trust and respect from the French – a work involving the cultivation of the masses to sophisticated French values that is still ongoing up to this day. The great way to put this could be by saying: « We are from the same planet but not from the same world. »

In the room of Voltaire at Ferney we still find an immense portrait of empress Maria Theresa of Austria and the inscription shows that it was given to Voltaire on the 15th of July 1770, historians do not know the circumstances of the arrival of the portrait here but its presence is quite surprising since Maria Theresa did not have a high esteem of Voltaire, she had in fact forbidden her son Joseph II to visit such a miscreant. To Voltaire, exposing such a portrait was nothing more than a way to show his familiarity with crowned heads even if his relations with kings were very complicated because of his intellectual and philosophical orientations.

French historians observe that Voltaire was an elegant man with incredible style who took great care of his body and cultivated his appearance and looks, however in private he sometimes received people in his night gown. In his residence at Ferney we can also find a portrait of the most meaningful woman in his life, Émilie de Châtelet, who according to the French painter Marianne Loir was among the first women to dedicate herself to science with whom Voltaire finds true love for more than 15 years Voltaire met her in 1733 when he was almost 40 years old while she was in her twenties and fell immediately under her spell, she had an impressive physique and a mind that was no less. Émilie was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant women of the 18th century, a true woman of science, but that did not prevent her from knowing literature admirably – there was a reciprocal coup de foudre between those two geniuses who acknowledged each other’s greatness. Their love story would blossom at the château de Cirey where Voltaire found refuge in 1734 after the scandal provoked by his « lettres philosophique » right after his return from England.

At first, Voltaire did not plan on settling at Cirey, and only intended to spend a few months, just enough time to be forgotten and for things to calm down in Paris. However, when he arrived at Cirey there was an instant feeling of love at first sight with the place and he decided to settle. In the beginning, he would restore an existing part and later decided to enlarge it to install a wing with his own apartments. What is striking is that Voltaire added his unique touch to the architecture, for example, a sculpted door that is still present today dedicated to the arts and to the sciences where we find a tribute to astronomy, painting, sculpture and of course the art of writing and literature.

Chateau de Cirey - La marque de Voltaire

Image: La touche de Voltaire à Cirey

Voltaire hated to waste time and was always busy and mentally drenched in a project. The days at Cirey were shared between philosophical discussions, the pleasures of love that of course should never be neglected and a range of experiments. The couple were 2 dedicated hard workers, each working in their office and they would meet over lunch. There was a real atmosphere of joy, both physical and the joy of being together while not being burdened by the surrounding society and intellectual crowd. Voltaire would say to a friend in one of his letters that they were very voluptuous philosophers. Once, the couple took part in a competition at the Académie des Sciences, and while they did not win, Voltaire had insisted for the memory of Émilie to be printed by the Académie des Sciences, which would have been a great honour – he never asked the same treatment for himself; a gesture that historians nowadays believe to have been a genuine proof of sincere love.

Voltaire ou la liberté de penser - Émilie du Châtelet traduit Newton - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Tableau representant Émilie du Châtelet étudiant les travaux de Newton

Émilie du Châtelet also signed the first translation of Newton’s mathematical principles of philosophy, one of the major works of the 18th century regarding universal gravity. However, it is important to note that Voltaire cannot be considered as purely and simply a man of the mathematical sciences; he definitely took a genuine interest in the pivotal scientific discoveries of his time such as universal gravitation but only to meditate and extract philosophical meaning about the implications of scientific discoveries, i.e. to explain how all the scientific discoveries will impact the way society and humans function, such as the impact on the education of the individual, society at large and the values to be taught in relation to them.

Voltaire ou la liberté de penser - Émilie du Châtelet - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Émilie du Châtelet en train de travailler sur ses écrits / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Modern day French historians believe that Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet were unquestionably the leading couple of that particular century, the 18th century, the century of the enlightenment that gave way to an open-minded view of our world and our wider environment, and that also motivated intellectuals worldwide to take the world out of the claws of obscurantism and into the light. It was the century enlightened by reason where men and women were encouraged to rely on their own experience and knowledge to apprehend the world around them [i.e. to work on their understanding and perception] – this was a turning point in the evolution of mankind! From then, the individual did not feel that he had to respect or abide uncritically to any form of hierarchy whether it was religious or political but was instead encouraged to learn to use intellectual and logical reasoning to understand the world instead of simply believing without thinking.

The 18th century was also the period where we almost completely mapped the terrestrial globe; where we had begun to get a deeper understanding of the inner mechanism of the human body since the early works Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. All this new knowledge led to a turning point because it allowed the emancipation of the individual; now we were no longer subject to the traditional obligation to play our role, to take our place quietly in a society that was regulated by religious authorities and that was patriarchal, because now we finally had the sensible and thoughtful knowledge and hence we had the ability to get out of our former conditions and follow a different chosen path, find our way and ourself.

During all those years at Cirey with Émilie, the main entertainment would somehow remain the arts, namely drama and theatre. Between his intellectual endeavours, Voltaire would not give up on his creative writings dedicated to the theatrical arts and his plays would be performed in a small home theatre that was under the attic, it would become an iconic place since many afternoons and evenings would be spent there and sometimes the only spectator would be the cat and Émilie. Sometimes the couple would also have arguments that would end up in disputes.

Voltaire dans une profonde réflexion

Image: Voltaire sérieux et dans une profonde réflexion / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Émilie displayed an excessively authoritarian nature and would choose how Voltaire should dress, she would even choose the wine that he should drink, and would even forbid him from showing some texts that she had locked away; she knew of Voltaire’s explosive personality and that he would write special and subversive texts; conscious of the nature of those texts and the possible legal consequences that could be even more violent, Émilie kept a close eye on them along with Voltaire’s correspondence. All that would generate moments of tension when they already had disputes, and when those occured they communicated in English so that prying ears across doors and walls would not understand the content of their exchanges. Voltaire would often leave the table in anger when he was annoyed and would sulk, then after they would reconcile with each other and open dialogue through messages on small pieces of paper that they would send to each other through the domestics.

Voltaire dans une profonde réflexion et souriant d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Voltaire souriant et en train d’écrire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

When Voltaire reached the age of 50, his relationship with crowned heads had already been complex, he looked for their favour but remained true to his intellectual perspectives that were not always favourable to the powers of the ancient regime. Voltaire never regarded the king as the representative of god on earth, hence it became incredibly hard for him to display the signs of adoration that the conventions expected. He was fairly insolent and impertinent and at the same time he had already built the solid reputation of a man of words who mastered the pen with incredible efficacy. Hence, he was perceived as a scary revolutionary mind, so the royal powers in France would remain very wary of the ingenious writer permanently. Louis XV never accepted Voltaire, who for him was a profoundly unsympathetic man with subversive ideas that he did not want to hear anything about.

But even if he was not regarded highly by the monarchy in France, there was a sovereign in Europe who had boundless admiration for him and his avant-garde ideas. That man was Frederick II of Prussia, the one who would be known as Frederick the great, who had already been known as the philosopher king. It had been a while already since the two man had maintained a passionate correspondence which was initiated by Frederick himself when he was heir to the throne.

The future Frederick II wrote to Voltaire so that the prolific intellectual could correct his verses and help him with his French. The Prussian heir swore by the French language and only spoke German with the horses; to him the French language and the mastery of it was higher than everything else. So, he wrote to Voltaire as a sycophant, qualifying him as the greatest writer of all time and the man he admired the most in Europe. Voltaire was so flattered to find himself celebrated in this way by the future king of Prussia that it made him dizzy with pride. The form of complicity would eventually develop between those two, on the topics of the freedom of mind and ideas. Voltaire on the other hand saw in the future King of Prussia the possibility to hold a very particular role; the role of the one who thinks for the Prince and who participates in the elaboration of political reflections – he had imagined this as a great duo, philosopher and king.

When Frederik II was crowned, he continuously invited Voltaire to join him in Prussia. At around the same period, on the 10th of September 1749, Voltaire was struck by the most demoralising news of his life: Émilie de Châtelet had suddenly passed away. He would be utterly devastated by the death of the woman whom he had loved the most in his life, it was a very painful period for Voltaire who went mad with grief; and it is following this irreparable mourning for him that he left for Prussia.

In July 1750, Voltaire arrived in Potsdam near Berlin where the court of Frederick was located. Once there, his main task consisted in correcting and embellishing the verses of Frederick II. There however, he found many other philosophers and intellectuals united around Frederick II and hence did not feel like the greatest or the most important anymore. Voltaire thus found himself as a token among others of a king whose writing and verses were incredibly mediocre. The king however could be unsympathetic as Voltaire would later discover when a conversation was reported to him where apparently it was said that we squeeze the orange and we discard the core. This seemed to showcase the monarchic mentality about using talented people to further itself and to discard them when they were no longer needed.

That moment had Voltaire realising that he was to Frederick II someone considered as some kind of buffoon that could be disposed of when his services would not be required. Voltaire knew that his situation had changed and that he was not respected by Frederick anymore; so, he concluded that it was time to escape after having spent 3 years there. So, in March 1753, Voltaire left and turned a page on the king but a rocambolesque event will delay his return to France. After arriving at Francfort, he was stopped by Frederick’s men and assigned to residence until he returned a number of documents that he had kept; these were the drafts of poems that Frederick had written along with all the corrections that Voltaire brought. When the King found that out he realised that it would be a catastrophe for him since the world would find out the immense contribution of Voltaire who was almost the co-author of his originally mediocre writing.

Volaire bloqué à Francfor par Frédéric II

Voltaire enfermé à Francfort par Frédéric II / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Voltaire would be held for several weeks as a form of humiliation from Frederick, someone that the writer had previously flattered. It was a sinister farce, but Voltaire eventually got out of it after returning the drafts. The two would not see each other again, however their epistolary friendship would resume in spite of everything.

Back in Ferney, France near the Swiss border in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Voltaire thought that a tiny church nearby was hiding the perspective of the residence, so he took it upon him to move the church and had a central alley drawn. He started this modification without any authorisation which was of course not to the taste of the ecclesiastical authorities; hence Voltaire had to renounce to it and rebuild the facade. However cheekily, he had his name on it written much larger than that of god which was of course frowned upon.

In those times, Voltaire was often sick and he knew that death could come knocking at any moment. Since he had wished to be buried at Ferney, he would have a tombeau constructed in the shape of a pyramid that was leaning against the wall of the church, adjoined to the outside; Voltaire envisaged that clever people would say that he was neither inside or outside of the tomb. Voltaire had a particular liking for his garden and had a bower made for walks with his intimate guests sometimes; the talented writer’s influence was not limited to his residence since the whole village profits from his presence and saw its popularity rise. After all his adventures with the kings of France and Europe, it was in a way Voltaire’s own time to become the little king of Ferney. However, Voltaire’s independent and volcanic mind and intellectual orientations never allowed him to build strong links with those who held institutional powers, so he sought refuge to establish himself firmly. It would be in Geneva before finally ending up in Ferney that Voltaire’s last and perhaps most pivotal legacy would be forged.

Voltaire - le reigne à Ferney

In his sixties, Voltaire fell under the charm of a quiet and bucolic place near the Léman lake, a peaceful property in Geneva from where he had a view of the mountains. He would name his residence there « Les Délices » and had the place enlarged to live slightly more comfortably. It is to be noted that at that time, Geneva was independent and was not part of any kingdom, it was outside of the French and the Prussian borders and so Voltaire had settled in a completely neutral territory for a while. Voltaire would take many reflective walks in his garden there but his main activity remained writing, his eternal true love.

Les Délices to this day conserves a range of Voltaire’s furniture and other gadgets. We can find the iconic Louis XV styled desk with floral and musical motives. It was on that very desk that Voltaire wrote a great number of his literary and intellectual works.

Meubles de Voltaire aux Délices - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Meubles et accesoires de Voltaire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Even in the 18th century, he seemed to have an affinity for gadgets as we can also find a small écritoire [i.e. writing case] which allowed him to write during his voyages, inside we can find a pen holder, and two small objects in silver with the coat of arms of Voltaire [i.e. the three flames and the two greyhounds] which are in fact a travel ink pot where the writer would draw the ink to write his letters and on the other side a powder case with sand that Voltaire would sprinkle over a page as soon as it was written to act as blotting paper in order to absorb the excess ink from the document; which in the 21st century could be the equivalent of a portable computer.