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Limits of representation in freudian metapsychology

Abstracts

This article aims to analyze the limits of representation theory in Freudian metapsychology. It is a theoretical research on psychoanalysis, through a methodology of historical and epistemological analysis of Freud's texts. The Freudian metapsychology is based on a theory of drives that is tributary to the principles of a theory of the mental representation. However, the changes required by the introduction of the concepts of narcissism and identification, along with recognition of the repetition compulsion as something beyond the pleasure principle led to a redesign of the drive theory, a new topical description and a reformulation of the theory of anxiety. The hypothesis is that the representational theory finds limits in two different directions: the identification and the impossibility of representation as, respectively, a beyond and a beneath of Freudian metapsychology.

Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939; Identification; Metapsychology; Psychoanalysis; Mental Representation


Este artigo objetiva analisar os limites da teoria da representação na metapsicologia freudiana. É um trabalho de pesquisa teórico-conceitual da psicanálise, por meio de uma metodologia de análise histórica e epistemológica dos textos de Freud. A metapsicologia freudiana fundamenta-se em uma teoria das pulsões que é tributária dos princípios de uma teoria da representação mental. Porém, as alterações exigidas pela introdução dos conceitos de narcisismo e de identificação, além do reconhecimento da compulsão à repetição como algo além do princípio do prazer, levaram a uma remodelação da teoria das pulsões, a uma nova descrição tópica e a uma reformulação na teoria da angústia. A hipótese é que a teoria representacional encontra limites em duas direções distintas: a identificação e a impossibilidade de representação como, respectivamente, um além e um aquém da metapsicologia freudiana.

Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939; Identificação; Metapsicologia; Psicanálise; Representação mental


En este artículo se pretende analizar los límites de la teoría de la representación en la metapsicología freudiana. Se trata de una investigación teórica sobre el psicoanálisis, a través de una metodología de análisis histórico y epistemológico de los textos de Freud. La metapsicología freudiana se basa en una teoría de los impulsos que es tributaria a los principios de una teoría de La representación mental. Sin embargo, los cambios que requiere la introducción de los conceptos de narcisismo y la identificación, junto con el reconocimiento de la compulsión a la repetición como algo más allá del principio del placer llevó a un rediseño de la teoría pulsional, una descripción tópica nueva y a una reformulación de la teoría de la ansiedad. La hipótesis es que la teoría de la representación encuentra límites en dos direcciones diferentes: la identificación y la imposibilidad de la representación como, respectivamente, un más allá u un más acá de la metapsicología freudiana.

Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939; Identificación; Metapsicología; Psicoanálisis; Representación mental


Cet article vise à analyser les limites de la théorie de la représentation dans la métapsychologie freudienne. Il s'agit d'un concept de recherche-théorique de la psychanalyse, à travers une méthodologie d'analyse historique et épistémologique des textes de Freud. La métapsychologie freudienne est fondée sur une théorie des pulsions qui est tributaire aux principes d'une théorie de la représentation mentale. Toutefois, les modifications exigées par l'introduction des concepts de narcissisme et d'identification, ainsi que la reconnaissance de la compulsion de répétition comme quelque chose au-delà du principe de plaisir conduit à une refonte de la théorie des pulsions, une nouvelle description d'actualité et une reformulation de la théorie de l'angoisse. L'hypothèse est que la théorie de représentation trouve des limites dans deux directions différentes: l'identification et l'impossibilité de la représentation en tant que, respectivement, une addition et une courte de la métapsychologie freudienne.

Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939; Identification; Métapsychologie; Psychanalyse; Représentation mentale


Original Articles

Limits of representation in freudian metapsycholagy

Limites da representação na metapsicologia freudiana

Limites de la représentation dans la métapsychologie freudienne

Límites de la representación en la metapsicologia freudiana

Érico Bruno Viana Campos1 1 This paper presents the combined results of master and doctorate degree researches developed by this author in the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo.

Piracicaba's Methodist University (UNIMEP)

ABSTRACT

This article aims to analyze the limits of representation theory in Freudian metapsychology. It is a theoretical research on psychoanalysis, through a methodology of historical and epistemological analysis of Freud's texts. The Freudian metapsychology is based on a theory of drives that is tributary to the principles of a theory of the mental representation. However, the changes required by the introduction of the concepts of narcissism and identification, along with recognition of the repetition compulsion as something beyond the pleasure principle led to a redesign of the drive theory, a new topical description and a reformulation of the theory of anxiety. The hypothesis is that the representational theory finds limits in two different directions: the identification and the impossibility of representation as, respectively, a beyond and a beneath of Freudian metapsychology.

Keywords: Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939. Identification. Métapsychologie. Psychanalyse. Représentation mentale.

RESUMO

Este artigo objetiva analisar os limites da teoria da representação na metapsicologia freudiana. É um trabalho de pesquisa teórico-conceitual da psicanálise, por meio de uma metodologia de análise histórica e epistemológica dos textos de Freud. A metapsicologia freudiana fundamenta-se em uma teoria das pulsões que é tributária dos princípios de uma teoria da representação mental. Porém, as alterações exigidas pela introdução dos conceitos de narcisismo e de identificação, além do reconhecimento da compulsão à repetição como algo além do princípio do prazer, levaram a uma remodelação da teoria das pulsões, a uma nova descrição tópica e a uma reformulação na teoria da angústia. A hipótese é que a teoria representacional encontra limites em duas direções distintas: a identificação e a impossibilidade de representação como, respectivamente, um além e um aquém da metapsicologia freudiana.

Palavras-chave: Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939. Identificação. Metapsicologia. Psicanálise. Representação mental.

RÉSUMÉ

Cet article vise à analyser les limites de la théorie de la représentation dans la métapsychologie freudienne. Il s’agit d’un concept de recherche-théorique de la psychanalyse, à travers une méthodologie d’analyse historique et épistémologique des textes de Freud. La métapsychologie freudienne est fondée sur une théorie des pulsions qui est tributaire aux principes d’une théorie de la représentation mentale. Toutefois, les modifications exigées par l’introduction des concepts de narcissisme et d’identification, ainsi que la reconnaissance de la compulsion de répétition comme quelque chose au-delà du principe de plaisir conduit à une refonte de la théorie des pulsions, une nouvelle description d’actualité et une reformulation de la théorie de l’angoisse. L’hypothèse est que la théorie de représentation trouve des limites dans deux directions différentes: l’identification et l’impossibilité de la représentation en tant que, respectivement, une addition et une courte de la métapsychologie freudienne.

Mots-clés: Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939. Identification. Métapsychologie. Psychanalyse. Représentation mentale.

RESUMEN

En este artículo se pretende analizar los límites de la teoría de la representación en la metapsicología freudiana. Se trata de una investigación teórica sobre el psicoanálisis, a través de una metodología de análisis histórico y epistemológico de los textos de Freud. La metapsicología freudiana se basa en una teoría de los impulsos que es tributaria a los principios de una teoría de La representación mental. Sin embargo, los cambios que requiere la introducción de los conceptos de narcisismo y la identificación, junto con el reconocimiento de la compulsión a la repetición como algo más allá del principio del placer llevó a un rediseño de la teoría pulsional, una descripción tópica nueva y a una reformulación de la teoría de la ansiedad. La hipótesis es que la teoría de la representación encuentra límites en dos direcciones diferentes: la identificación y la imposibilidad de la representación como, respectivamente, un más allá u un más acá de la metapsicología freudiana.

Palabras-clave: Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939. Identificación. Metapsicología. Psicoanálisis. Representación mental.

Introducing the problem

This paper is a brief communication of the goals and results of a research project about Freud´s work which was developed by me during the master and doctorate at the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo (Campos,2004, 2009). It approaches a fundamental aspect for freudian metapsychology comprehension: the so called theory of psychic representation, which is an important component of the broader conceptual field in Psychoanalysis known as drive theory.

The theory of psychic representation is fundamental for metapsychology because it constitutes a theoretical device with great heuristic potential for understanding Freudian thinking. The concept of psychic representation, however, is not exclusive of Psychoanalysis. It´s origin can be found in the western philosophical tradition.

The psychic representation approach to knowledge theory is a feature of all modern philosophy: the knowledge is true if the psychic representation of the object corresponds to the external object itself. Scientific Psychology and Medicine have inherited this way of conceiving the problem of truth and comprehend the psychological phenomenon itself: the mind is a field in which psychic representation of objects are formed and associated. The merit of Freud was to develop conceptions of his own about representation and use them to elaborate the concepts of its theory, as the ones of drive, unconscious and repression. This is the way in which this theory can be understood as fundamental: a basic psychological conception that set a frame for the construction of metapsychological models about the mind. However, the same psychic representation conception that Freud borrowed from the modern scientific-philosophical tradition turned to bring serious limitations to its application as a conceptual operator to the theorization of phenomena that are related to Psychoanalysis.

The objective of this paper is to describe the developments of psychic representation theory in Freud´s work, searching to display not only its centrality to the metapsychology, but, mostly, the limits that this conception finds along the development of Freudian thinking. It is a theoretic-conceptual study of Freudian metapsychology, with historical and epistemological characteristics.

Its method consists in a hermeneutical approach to Freud´s work internal horizon, searching to show its own constitution dynamics, with all its associations and contradictions. This methodological design for theoretical researches in psychoanalysis uses the interpretation frame itself to find the difficulties and conflicts expressed in the conceptual field, understanding that the theory itself is a product against the experience of the unconscious (Campos & Coelho Junior, 2010).

In this task, I will take Laplanche´s (1988, 1992, 1998) approach to psychoanalytical theory as a starting point. This author understands that theorization is a process of developing exigencies which enrolls what can be called problematics. Despite it brings a series of contributions and important indications for the comprehension and interpretation of Freud´s legacy, which brings also an inspiring methodological approach, his work is not exactly a systematic apprehension of Freud´s work. In Brazil, some authors are guidelines on this type of reading, who try to define the structure and the impasses of the psychoanalytical theory: Renato Mezan (2001) e Luiz Roberto Monzani (1989).

Mezan’s work (2001) is concerned with elucidating the movement between different levels of development of Freudian theory – his theory of technique, case series and themes, his metapsychology, his theory of psychopathology and its development – in the production of complex conceptual frames. He describes the progressive concepts articulation that is present in the developments of these schemes, allowing the emergence of themes that will focus on ways of blocking the theoretical development. In the author´s view, the chronological development of Freud’s theory can be divided into four distinct periods, focusing on specific themes: (1) The period of trial and detours along the 1890s, which ends with the abandonment of the seduction theory in 1897, also known as prepsychoanalytical work of Freud, (2) the period of constitution and delimitation of the concept of the unconscious, which spans from 1900 to 1905 by means of the fundamental works as the interpretation of dreams and the essays on sexuality; (3) the period of consolidation and maturation of psychoanalytic theory, which runs from 1905 until 1920, shortly after the so called metapsychological synthesis; (4) the period of review and restructuring of metapsychology, starting in 1920 and goes until the end of Freud’s work in 1938. Each period has a conceptual frame itself, which focuses on certain problems and issues, but also interacts with the periods before and after, in an intricate network of resumes, reframes and enlargements. Therefore, it is a work that presents a very comprehensive reading of the conceptual framework of psychoanalytic theory and its development over the work of Freud.

Monzani’s work (1989), in turn, is more focused, turning to the analysis of key issues in psychoanalytic theory, specially some of the most commonly called ruptures in Freudian thought: (1) The passage of seduction theory to the concept of fantasy; (2) the transition from a neurological to a psychological approach of the psychic apparatus; (3) the introduction of the death drive and the second instinctual dualism;(4) the proposition of the structural model of the psychic device. His thesis is that the architecture of metapsychology is a motion function of pendulum and spiral, in which the polarization between dichotomous pairs does not appear to be resolved definitively throughout the work of the creator of psychoanalysis. Similarly, the spiral motion describes a path between points following a progressive articulation, but just getting a more satisfactory resolution without the source polarities are reversed.

The particular structure of Freudian theory make that the approach to a theoretical problem cannot be effected in just a specific time frame. We need to contextualize the problem throughout the work so that we can indeed derive its insertion. Similarly, we can only artificially operate the snip of a specific level of theory as the object of investigation, in this case, metapsychology.

Foundations and limitations of psychic representation theory

The conceptions of representation and affect are very early elements in Freudian theory. Focus of one of his first works (Freud, 1891/1977), the concepts of object representation and word representation soon took up the status of “working hypothesis” (Freud, 1894a/1996, p. 73) for understanding the psychopathology. The psyche, so understood, is as an energy system in which the investment generates endogenous memory traces and their ideational representations discharge affects.

This hypothesis, initially applied to hysteria (Breuer & Freud, 1893/ 1996) and later expanded to the Neuro-Psychoses of Defense (Freud, 1894a/1996), articulated the concept of defense as a psychic activity responsible for energy closure and loss of representational associations generating ideational and affective displacements, or even somatic conversions. The introduction of the concept of defense by Freud and its relationship with an energy-representational design was very productive, enabling such a theoretical leap to the point that some commentators claim that this is the beginning of psychoanalytic theory (Mezan, 2001, pp. 27-28).

Early in that decade the guidelines of the representational hypothesis are defined, with the design of the psychological scheme for the ideational representation (Freud, 1891/1977). The word representation is defined as a closed representational complex (writing, reading, motor and acoustic pictures) of verbal characteristics, while the object representation is defined as an open complex of object associations (visual, tactile, acoustic, etc.) of a conceptual nature. The connection between them is given by the acoustic image of the word and the visual image of the object, creating a thing representation. It is only in the early texts that the concepts appear under that name. Subsequently, the object representation shall name the complex formed by the association between the representation of thing (old object representation) and the word representation.

The word “representation”, in Portuguese (as well as in English) brings together the significance of two distinct ideas in German. The first (Vorstellung) refers to a presentation in the form of image in the psyche of an object, while the second (Repräsentanz) means a kind of delegation in the psyche of a somatic arousal. This delegation may be in the form of affection – which is an affective representative – or of representation – which is the ideational representative (Hanns, 1996, pp. 386-404).

That is how the theory of psychic representation is a theoretical operator of the initial Freudian thought, being later taken over in a more general theoretical formulation of the psychological dynamics, namely the drive theory. In this sense, the psychic representation will become part of a drive circuit which links somatic arousal, drive, mental representation and discharge (Hanns, 1999). Thus, representations (Vorstellung) are defined by their function of representation (Repräsentanz) of the drive. They are thus the psychic counterpart of somatic arousal, i.e., they are expressions of the drive in the mental apparatus. This quantitative energy expression occurs in two distinct qualitative forms: ideational representation (Vorstellung) and affect (Affekt). The first is of an imaginary-conceptual, while the latter is understood as a discharge with a feeling of pleasure or displeasure. Among the ideational representations, Freud distinguishes at least two forms: the word representation and the thing representation. Among the affects, the affect of anxiety will prove of particular theoretical relevance, since it is the expression of the intensity of the drive at its most disconnected way from ideational representations. Affect and ideational representation will therefore be the basic ways in which psychoanalysis describe psychic phenomena.

In the psychoanalytic literature there is debate on how best denominate the terms of representation theory in Freud. In general, it opposes a traditional view of nature in which empiricist and associationist representations would be formed by experience with objects and words, to a more contemporary standpoint from a linguistic approach in which representations status would be formed by the articulations that are intrinsic to the semiotic system itself and, therefore, they are independent of the reference to objects and words of shared reality. In this sense, it seems to fit the contours of the debate between the terms “word representation” and “ representation of the word”. Although you can attempt to derive a revolutionary position of Freud in relation to his contemporaries on the psychic representation, it seems more secure and consistent take the assumption that the explicit Freudian epistemological reference is of an empiricist and associationist feature.

My position on this particular debate and the defense of a synthetic and not analytic terminology for the theory of representation (object representation, word representation and so on) has been presented elsewhere (Campos, 2010), I recommend it to the interested reader. Right now, what interests us is the internal horizon of the theory of psychic representation in the Freudian metapsychology itself.

Anyway, since the beginning, representational hypothesis is like a point of tension in metapsychology, since psychoanalysis progressively indicates how the field of representations is animated by a mobile power that, ultimately, tends to escape the grooves of memory traces. In other words, Freud’s psychoanalytic theory will be forever marked by the disjunction between representation and affect as the very origin of psychic dynamics. From the epistemological point of view, this theoretical and conceptual difficulty characterizes the uniqueness of the psychoanalytic field, which finds in the analysis of Ricoeur (1977) perhaps its most precise enunciation, namely, that psychoanalysis constitutes itself in the dilemma between strength and sense.

This article intends to demonstrate the hypothesis that the development of Freudian metapsychology will bring two problems for the representational model in which it is based. In first place, it is about to understand the relationship and the scope of representation conception in relation to the model of identification, which has become the basis of the second topic model of the psychic apparatus. This question involves analyzing how the representation is understood in the new apparatus in which collide psychic instances that resemble anthropomorphic entities. The understanding of these connections must inevitably pass by considering the place of the death drive and the related problem of the impossibility of its representation. There is where we enter in the second point, which is how to think representation faced to the unrepresentable, whether in affect, whether in ideational representation forms. The trends of this new theoretical net seem to point to a negative paradigm: affection referring to the helplessness and death, the representation losing its ideational character and becoming an amalgam of identifications; satisfaction giving way to tantalizing compulsion and connection attempt. The desire axis reveals its origin in the impossibility of psychic elaboration.

This raises the key issue that mobilizes this work, namely, how to conceive the relationship between psychic representation theory and what transcends it. The affect and ideational representation seem to find here their deadlock. Therefore, we have to address a question to the theory of mental representation in order to show the limits of metapsychology in two directions. The hypothesis is that since the beginning there is a double limit of the representational model in metapsychology, which becomes evident at the “turn of the twenties.” Thus, we can state that the purpose of this paper is to investigate the limits of representation theory in Freudian metapsychology. More specifically, is to examine: (1) the “over” or “beyond” of representation, i.e., the limits of representational theory against the concept of identification; (2) the “under” or “beneath” of representation, i.e., the unrepresentable at play in the death drive and the various forms of anxiety. In addition, it aims to make long range considerations about the set of systematic representation models of Freud’s thinking.

The moment of psychoanalysis creation

Taking into account all the rich path called the pre-psychoanalytic work of Freud, it is worth to analyze the formation and consolidation of the object of psychoanalysis, the unconscious, a task carried out by Freud in his masterpiece, The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud, 1900/1996). In the light of previous explorations of Freud (1894a / 1996, 1894b/1996, 1950/1995, 1895/1996, 1896/1996), the study of the famous chapter VII, in which is presented the topographical model of the psychic apparatus, reveals an interesting compromise formation. We arrived at the hypothesis that the constitution of the object of psychoanalysis was due to a double epistemological break: on one hand, in relation to the biological body, secondly, the level of what is not representable on the psychological level. Thus, in the first moment of metapsychological synthesis, the question of what escapes representation is outlined on the internal horizon of Freudian theory.

From a close reading of Freud’s texts, it is possible to discriminate the aspects that have been integrated in this model of those who were left in the background. Thus, the radical conception of primary process, the formal regression of the psychic apparatus, the perceptive record as a form of primary liaison into representation and the notion of anxiety as a direct expression of the primary trauma, in short, the scope of nonrepresentation, was relegated to a second plan by the imperative of unconscious wish fulfillment in fantasy. This is the way how it is outlined a first significant movement within the spiral of demand that we examine, presenting a hypothesis about the movement of Freud’s thought: the emergence of the first topic, under the sway of unconscious fantasy and dream work, has overcome the size of the non-representational traumatic dimension, succumbing to its connection with the theory of seduction.

This hypothesis corroborates the assignments of some commentators (Laplanche & Pontalis, 1988; Monzani, 1989) who claim that certain imbalance in the complementary series of external and internal factors in understanding the etiology of neuroses are due to the abandonment of the seduction theory. This study contributes to this interpretation showing that the imbalance is noticed not only in 1905, with respect to the drive, but also in 1900, within the representation theory itself.

The methapsychological synthesis

The third stage of Freud’s work consists in the maturing of the psychoanalytic theory from mid-1900 until 1920. This is the most substantial production time of Freud and whose crowning is found in the texts of theoretical systematization. The so-called metapsychology articles consist of the great metapsychological synthesis Freud tries to make at the end of that period. There the drive theory and the theory of the psychic apparatus found its broader articulations. However, that moment of synthesis is also a time of disruption, innovation, and renewal of old problems. In particular, there is the issue of narcissism and identification. Again we see an interesting movement of Freudian thought, as the articles are associated with synthesis and committed to new demands that are beyond the conceptual frame of the explicit period. It is observed, at this time of Freud’s work, an attempt to provide a consistent set of fundamental concepts of representation theory in metapsychology, linking them with other conceptual elements of the general theory of the psychic apparatus as part of a more mature and coherent metapsychology. This discussion involves examining the classic arrangements of that period: the first drive model (Freud, 1915a/2004), the first topic model (Freud, 1915b/2004, 1915/2006) and the first theory of anxiety (Freud, 1917a/1996). It also involves examining the effects of two texts that introduce the question of identification in the constitution and psychic dynamics, the one of introduction to narcissism (Freud, 1914/2004) and the one about mourning and melancholia (Freud, 1917b/2006).

The examination of these paradigmatic texts enables a rather interesting view about the movement of Freudian thinking in what is traditionally considered as the moment of great “synthesis” of metapsychology. It’s possible to support the hypothesis that the movement of theoretical synthesis around the more consistent nucleus of concepts that articulate a systematic conception of the psychic apparatus is limited by a series of concepts and propositions that were already present in the theoretical field of psychoanalysis, but will progressively grow, and promote development demands. Thus, the model based on a psychic representation theory and organized around the defense mechanism of repression as organizer of psychic dynamics is rivaled by an understanding of the genesis of the ego-based investments of the sexual impulse through a process of narcissistic identification with the object. This implies that the concepts of narcissism and identification are responsible for a revision demand of the theory of the psychic apparatus, now considering its functional and development dimension.

Under a general understanding of the Freudian thinking, what this period shows is a game of compromises between synthetics perspectives around a more articulated metapsychology and prospects of opening the limits, contradictions and ambiguities of these early models. Thus, the metapsychological synthesis is the result of a reduction of the problems field of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, which embraces not only the more “current” movement of thought, but also a more “previous” dynamic at the very moment of creation of the unconscious as an object of psychoanalysis. In that first movement, it was at stake the refuse to follow in preparing a more radical and traumatic conception of psychic’s energy economy, ensuring a secure foundation to the psychic apparatus with a theory of fantasy and psychic contents understood in representational terms.

These deletions and restrictions, however, failed to operate a total homogenization in the problem, leaving “leftovers” and “attachment points” for future moves. The key remainder of this period is the concept of anxiety affect, which not only is paradigmatic of the operation of the unconscious in psychic dynamics as well as it is symptomatic of the impossibility of reducing the instinctual processes to a purely ideational representation conception. There arises, for example, the paradox of unconscious affect as a remarkable illustration of the contradictions inherent to the moment of sovereignty of the topographical model. Thus, the beneath of representation is already manifested at that time by the ambiguities in the theory of affects, extremely limited to a conception of anxiety as an energy discharge coming from a disinvestment in the system of representations already established . This means that here is the affect that appears as a secondary negativity, effect of defense, in relation to the positivity of ideational representations. Similarly, a beyond of representation is already creeping into indications that the ego is the result of an economic process mediated by constitutive identifications with the object, so that it passes to be considered a system of psychic functioning beyond the conception of representational content. In this sense, it is the notion of the psychic apparatus as an organizer continent of operating modes which starts to swell on the outskirts of metapsychological theories.

The twenties’ turnover and its aftermath

The confluence of two lines of theoretical “repression” and the multiplication of its developments during the improvement of metapsychology led to a turning point at which rather primitive lines of psychoanalytic theory return with strength, causing extensive reframes and re-articulations, to the point of turning upside down the structure of metapsychology. This is the moment of the so-called “twenties’ turnover”, in which the proposition of the death instinct concept erupts as a true theoretical “symptom”, producing the typical uneasiness of the strangeness feeling.

The theoretical and conceptual reformulation of the twenties introduced various elements that somehow transcend the initial conception of representation and affect. They are: the nonrepresentational condition of the death drive, the identification as the core of personality, the unconscious feeling of guilt and other “unconscious” emotions, and, in addition, the reformulation of the anxiety theory, with the introduction of the distress signal and with the definition of an original anguish. Thus, the “twenties’ turnover” opens three parallel paths of development that will address the following topics: the second drive theory, the second topic and the second anxiety theory.

The introduction of the death drive

The main reference in this period is the text Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Freud, 1920/2006), supplemented by the article on the economic problem of masochism (Freud, 1924b/2007) and the chapter on the drives of Civilization and its Discontents (Freud, 1929/1996).

Being a shutdown power, the death drive cannot be part of the organization of a psychical agency which evolves depending on the demands of reality and narcissistic investment, i.e., the ego. The death drive cannot be represented independently of one share of binding energy. It is here that Freud introduces a new mechanism in the theory of drives: the fusion and defusion of the drives. The libido becomes to be considered not as the investment of the sexual instincts, but as a fused investment of death and life instincts into a greater or lesser degree. It is in this intricate relationship that should be sought the understanding of the new status of psychic representation, and especially its limits.

The key elements of a proposition beyond the pleasure principle refer back to an original requirement of Freud’s theoretical field, in a way that the notion of an absolute negativity or a deadly trend of the whole proposition of the theory of the drives is a reverse previewed by the postulates that Freud itself adopts. Thus, it can be argued that the concept of death drive makes room for the unrepresentable in Freudian metapsychology. This unrepresentability, in turn, as long as it names what resists to all possibilities of psychic development and linkage, indicates the recognition of a radical alterity of the drive in the background of psychic life.

The second drive theory, in turn, is closely linked to developments that occur in metapsychology since the introduction of the concept of narcissism. From there it will also be at the level of identification that Freudian theory of the psychic apparatus will move, leading to the definition of instances of the structural model.

Although there is this originary requirement of the death drive theory, it provides a number of openings in metapsychology. These development lines, however, are not always considered and dealt with by Freud himself, despite having influence on the post-Freudian readings of the death instinct concept. This makes it is very instructive to mark that there are three distinct perspectives that unfold from the concept of death drive: (1) trauma and attachment, (2) shutdown and unconscious sense of guilt, (3) aggression and destructiveness. Following the details of the commitments that these three distinct ideas about the death drive set over the work of Freud, it is possible to conclude that the author tends to prefer the path of aggression and destructiveness as a way to rescue the closer connection with the affects plan and the dynamics of the psychic apparatus constituted around repression, but leaves out an approach of previous constitutive moments of the psychic apparatus, especially the issue of narcissism in his own way of identification. This entire route in Freud also allows to trace a characteristic general movement, which again involves a moment of synthesis around a hard core and a series of openings and thresholds for marginal theories and concepts. You can see how the lineage of unrepresentability paradoxically ends up finding the origins of the psychic apparatus by identification, forming an interesting point that, however, is strategically avoided by Freud: the articulation of the narcissism theory with the new drive duality.

Even though it composes a blind spot of Freudian metapsychology, it is possible to use some contemporary authors to further investigate the possibilities of developing in this area of questioning. Laplanche (1998), Green (1982, 1988, 1990) and Figueiredo (1999, 2003) allow to derive some interesting discussions on this node, as: (1) The biologic deviation on the second topic; (2) The possibility of thinking of an origin of the psychic apparatus and the drives themselves by an encounter with an otherness inducing meanings; (3) The dynamics of a negative narcissism, defined not only by the binding of traumatic, but also by the divestment of the object.

The effects of the death drive in the structure of metapsychology will not fail to be noticed along the two subsequent syntheses – the structural model and the second anxiety theory. It’s like the quiet, compulsive, repetitive and disintegrating work of radical alterity not cease to have effect in the large integrative structure that is psychoanalytic theory.

The structural model and the identification axis

The consolidation of the “twenties´ turnover” was finished with the second model, called the structural model, presented in the text of The Ego and The Id (Freud, 1923/2007) and consolidated a decade later (Freud, 1933a / 1996). In this new model we will also find an issue that focuses on the theory of representations. The Ego, as defined in the second model, is marked by an ambiguity. On the one hand, it is essentially a set of adaptive functions and an organized set of representations of desire. On the other hand, it is now on the agenda the establishment of the same device by identification. Admittedly, taking the identification as a constituent model to the psychic apparatus, this will inevitably be a precipitate of charged representations. But identification is not intended to satisfy the drive according to the hallucinatory model, it is rather a form of erotic attachment. Therefore, there is a structural component in identification. Moreover, the representation does not come around like an object but as a precipitate which will enter into formation of a psychical agency. This way, the notion of identification seems to transcend the concept of memory understood as the psychic representation of the drive through the investment of memory traces. It is necessary, then, to explain what is the relationship of the psychic representation with the identification. The notion of psychic representative seems to give way to the model of identification, without being clear how these two concepts relate to each other.

Also, another question is presented by identification. This is the role of the other in the constitution of subjectivity. In the specific topic of psychic representation, this implies that the representatives are not only representatives of the drive, but also representatives of otherness. This means that with the introduction of the notion of identification the representative concept is enlarged to comprise the work that the other sets to the mind. Thus, the representation must be understood not only as something that seeks hallucinatory satisfaction of the drive, but also as a mark of otherness that imposes directions in the constitution of the psychic apparatus. As a consequence, it follows that the psychical representative is not a one-way path, but it is on its own, a compromise between drive and reality. One has to think, therefore, the role of “other” in the constitution of the psychic apparatus.

The confluence of representation theory to the problem of identification leads us to a central issue. This is how a set of representations can have a dynamic role and be an organizer of the psyche. As it has been placed, the concept of representation refers to a mark that falls on the surface of a psychic apparatus. The psychic representations at any time refer to the structure of the psychic apparatus itself. This appears as a support for the production of those, such as a set of lens in an optical system is the precondition for image production. This is the metaphor for understanding the psychic apparatus that structures the first topic around the dynamics of representations. There is no place there for the investigation of the genesis of psychical agencies themselves, i.e. their lenses.

With the progressive development of metapsychology, the Freudian scheme will unfold to account for the genesis and development of the psychic apparatus until, with the emergence of the concept of identification, the problem comes to transcend the very idea of representation. Therefore, theory of identifications opens up space for a process in which an object from the outside world is not only represented in the form of image, but also begins to organize the mental space itself, as a support for the genesis of a psychical agency.

Therefore, the identification is not mere image or content, but also a continent. In this sense, one can say that there is a setting in the process of identifying the notion of representation does not include: the model of representation is the sensory image – so two-dimensional – the identification is the embedding of a space in the genesis psychic – and thus three-dimensional. The three-dimensional metaphor aims to emphasize that the identification issue transcends the representational model, opening a new dimension in which otherness is embedded in the genesis of the psychic apparatus. It does not refer as much as an objective three-dimensional model in the construction of the psychic apparatus, even though the second topographical model certainly has characteristics of a psychic space in which confront instances that resemble real “entities.”

The examination of the structural model shows clearly one more moment of synthesis and articulation by Freud of the long and broad conceptual trends that had been opened since the metapsychological synthesis. Two key issues for the research problem proposed here appear at this point: (1) The opening to a sense of negativity within the Id; (2) The increasing in understanding of the genesis of the ego through identification.

It is possible to notice that the first point was systematically disregarded over Freud´s final texts, once the properly unrepresentable and traumatic dimension was clearly replaced by a biologic perspective in understanding the origins of the psyche and the drives. In particular, it should be noted the disregard to the revolutionary aspects of the drive theory. The first is that the ideational representation understood as conscious content of a memory function is no longer the model for the understanding of the instincts. This means that in addition to an opening for the unrepresentable due to traumatic overflow and to the principle of nirvana, the proposition of the structural model greatly expands the range of drive activity and its possible significance. This expansion begins with the inclusion of the drives in the psychic apparatus, forming the “melting” of the Id and passes through the consideration of a nonrepressed Id, making it clear that the “non-representation” concerns not only the biological and energetic level, but alto to the primitive ways of signifying the impulse of pleasure in relation to objects.

These procedures involve perceptual functions and signification modalities that belong to affects and emotions. This considerably broadens the understanding of mental processes, removing forever ideational representation and symbolic function from the center of the signification processes. It follows the important conclusion that in the second topic the representation theory changes radically, coming to include a range of production of meaning modes that are normally considered outside the modern paradigm of consciousness itself. Several authors substantiate this interpretation, being perhaps the most compelling and representative Green (1990, 2008), which offers the important concept of a significant heterogeneity. This means that the issue of non-representation from the second topic unfolds on two pathways that are critical to the representational paradigm. Unfortunately, all this wealth of openings on the second drive theory is abandoned by Freud, who prefers to tie the discussion of the drives in the field of transcendental ontological trends.

The second key issue pointed out – the origins of the ego through identification – will be progressively developed over the last decades of Freud’s work, reaching an arrangement consistent about the constitution of subjectivity around the Oedipus complex and their specific identification, anxiety and defense modes. However, the integration of this aspect of the identification theory in metapsychology is a function of a second movement of restriction and “repression” to the theory, which was first demonstrated by Ribeiro (2000): disregard for the more original moment of primary female and narcissistic identification through the emphasis on secondary identification under oedipal command as a moment of structuring subjectivity. This choice, although motivated by other reasons, also implies the guarding on an epistemological key to Freudian metapsychology: the theory of psychic representation.

We support the position that is specifically at the level of primary and narcissistic identifications, that is, properly in understanding of the genesis of the instincts, of the psychic apparatus and of the ego, which the questioning beyond representation arises. This is because the oedipal identification is more properly a derived of representational and symbolic dimension of the psyche. The issue becomes particularly difficult to maneuver in these originary moments due to the fact that identification does not create therein merely symbolic references or psychic contents, but the container itself that engenders these processes. Moreover, it also involves openness to a fundamental dimension which is undervalued in a strictly representational perspective: the place of the object as an otherness inducer of meanings in the constitution of the psychic apparatus.

Thus, a systematic exploration of the possibilities of the structural model shows a thickening of the marginal lines of Freud’s toward its thought and “egoic” core. It is noted, then, how the synthesis movement is accompanied by a series of openings that put the own synthesis in question, making a new defensive and reorganizer movement urgently needed.

The re-articulation of the anxiety theory and its new openings

The last pathway opened by the “twenties´ turnover” involves the general articulation of the anxiety theory and other openings that Freud promoted in the last decade of his work. The trimming of a conservative design of subjectivity is made in the classic text on inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety (Freud, 1926/1996).

The importance of this text is not only on the synthesis and proposition of a second anxiety theory, but also on the centralization of the whole question of the subjectivity structuring in the Oedipal dynamics, in the castration anxiety and in the mechanism of repression. The latter, indeed, is the most significant and illustrative of the movement to rescue a functional and sovereign ego in the psychic apparatus as a paradigmatic element to understand subjectivity. The organization of the second anxiety theory around the anxiety signal as a mechanism that allows the ego sovereignty over the other instances and reality is just the corollary of this “rehabilitation of the ego.” Again, from the epistemological point of view, is the core of the theory of representation that is hedged. This shield is clearly seen in the emphasis that the second theory gives to the distress signal and in the downsizing operated on the economic or automatic anxiety, which is the result of helplessness against the death drive. On the other hand, although other forms of discrimination at play in the affective and defensive processes related to the different stages of psychosexual development are considered, this scaling is not effectively carried out. Therefore, even though Freud recognizes the expansion of the affects of displeasure, to include pain and mourning, he does not bother to articulate them to phantasmatic constellations and defensive mechanisms specific to pregenital phases of libido development. He prefers, on the contrary, to safeguard the importance of repression and castration anxiety. Thus, the second anxiety theory also outlines a number of open possibilities, but it remains restricted to elements already established.

When defining the new topic, Freud placed the ego as the headquarters of anxiety. This statement was somewhat contradictory to the anxiety model adopted so far, that was ruled by the automatic anxiety form which is, therefore, a product of the Id in the Ego. This apparent contradiction seems to be remedied in the second anxiety theory, which also tries to accommodate the new requirements released by drive theory. Freud his first model was based on the opposition between realistic anxiety and neurotic anxiety, the latter being a expression of free drive excitement. The realistic anxiety, in turn, had already provided the incipient idea of a preparatory signal for danger. That is the point that Freud will resume in his new theory, bringing it to a prominent place. Anxiety would be then a signal emitted by the Ego in preparation for danger, but now an internal danger, i.e. instinctive. Therefore, anxiety becomes what leads to the repression, not the opposite. This is the concept of anxiety signal, the heart of the second anxiety theory, which closes Freudian´s second topic and instinctive models. The anxiety, understood that way, is a function of the ego defense that protects it against the displeasure of the increase in free energy.

The anxiety sign, however, is not the only moment in anxiety. As shown in the death drive theory, there is also the possibility of an excitation overflow in the psychic apparatus that automatically converts into anxiety. This excitation would be originated from drive, but it would refer to a certain condition of the body, which is the inability of the ego in dealing with the excitement. That is how we have an originary anxiety understood as helplessness: the terror to which the Ego has no resources. The defense, therefore, shows a mechanism against the repetition of the originating helplessness. The originary anxiety is of particular interest for research on affection because it is a distinctive psychic representative. It is a state of helplessness defined by the impossibility of psychic elaboration and therefore could not be represented. It does not have a specific object or even a particular state of feeling, it is the prototype of the invasion of the ego by free energy. It could be argued that it is a true expression of the death drive. Freud, however, did not bother to associate the originary anxiety with the death instinct, although it was a possible linkage (Rocha, 2000).

From the exposed themes, we can observe that the reformulation of the anxiety theory launched an inquiry into the concept of affect as psychic representation. In this sense, there is something unrepresentable in the affects and there is to ask how the affective representation model gives an account for the impossibility of symbolic elaboration that is presented by psychic helplessness. This way, one can say that both the second topic model as the second instinctual model and the anxiety theory bring questions to the Freudian conception of ideational representation and affect.

Some other ambiguities and contradictions that are shown in the last period of Freud’s work are due to new contributions that resignify and broaden considerably the scope of issues. Two of these new features are worth highlighting: the specificity of women´s subjective constitution (Freud, 1925/1996 1931/1996, 1933b/1996) and the study of psychopathology beyond the neuroses (Freud, 1924/1996, 1924a/2007 , 1924c/1996, 1927/2007 1938/2007). The latter, in particular, sheds new perspectives for understanding the structure of the psychic apparatus from the study of psychosis and perversion.

This study, although still inceptive at the end of Freud’s work, shows an essential openness to other constitutive mechanisms of the psychic apparatus than repression. This point proves to be crucial, because it is what enables a relativization of the tie that Freud strives to carry around the paradigm of neurosis and opens to other processes and models for understanding the structure of the psychic apparatus, the main one being the notion of a splitting or structural division of the ego. Certainly, the development of this path would prove extremely rich to overcome the paradigm of representation in metapsychology, as well showed the later history of the psychoanalytic movement itself.

This journey around the latest anxiety theory and the research on psychoses and perversions had just showed again a double aspect. On the one hand, it operated new syntheses, although the latter have been even more confusing and contradictory. The examination of the second theory of anxiety in this case is exemplary. In the restricted level of mechanisms logic, it could be possible define an escalation of the anxiety types and propose an integration between originary anxiety, Id anxiety, realistic anxiety, and anxiety signal. However, these connections in a more restrictive level of anxiety theory show themselves at odds with fundamental elements of metapsychology, resulting in a contradictory and unsatisfactory theory.

Toward a synthetic configuration

This is the overview of the moments of examination of the issues proposed. We started by addressing the internal horizons of Freud’s work that cuts requirements that engender conceptual arrangements, creating a proper motion of theoretical elaboration. Laplanche (1988, 1992, 1998) named this feature spiral problematic, which operates successive rearticulations to certain theoretical requirements.

In psychoanalytic theory, in general, and in Freud’s work, in particular, operates a quite characteristic movement of theoretical elaboration, in which the concepts are produced by a complex logic of conflict, resume, ruptures and reinterpretation.

The previous discussion sustains the view that Freud’s work cannot be thought as a logical or chronological linearity, in which conceptual elements will be developed in more complex and comprehensive organizations, without internal contradictions. These systematic and very linear claims are always of illusory fashion. We need them more as “didactic” resource, which allow an initial approximation of Freud’s thinking.

Even authors who seek a systematic reading of Freud’s work, as Mezan (2001) and Monzani (1989), recognize its complexity. Whether in the simultaneous coordination between clinical research, metapsychology and culture, whether in the intrinsic field of the theorizing movement, what is observed is a movement of affirmation and negation, redemption and redefinition. This movement tends to assume a spiral shape. This spiral is nothing dialectical in the sense of a synthesis that can defuse tensions between the polarities.

Taking an overview of Freud’s work, as does Monzani (1989), this spiral tends to have a synthetic character. This synthesis, however, is not integrative by leaps, but due to the tortuous path of commuting issues, which never found a definitive finish. Taking a particular perspective of Freud’s work, as does Laplanche (1998), the idea of spiral tends to have a more circular fashion. The idea here is that the themes´ axis cut out requirement vectors, which demonstrate the tensions that constitute a particular conceptual constellation. That’s how the subject of seduction disappears in 1897 to return in 1937 under a fresh perspective. Likewise, that is how the traumatic succumbs in 1900 to return, on another level, in 1920. Even with these rearrangements, the Freudian models never reach the place of a whole representation that is definitive.

The path followed in this article supports a more complex view about the Freudian thinking, which focuses on their own epistemological assumptions.

We have seen, regarding the non-representation, just how the issue does not fit in a dichotomous polarity. Thus, although we can affirm the logic precedence of the non-representational in relation to the representational in the sense of an originary trauma field from which the psychic apparatus is constituted, it must be remembered that the nonrepresentational is always present in the negative dynamics of the psyche. This means that despite the drive being out of the psyche, it is also within it, as it is from it – through their representatives – that the psychic apparatus is made. From this, we can interpret the border feature of the drive in a more interesting way: a concept that delimits two fields, constituting them along the process itself.

Consequently, there is something unrepresentable in nonrepresentational, but there is also something not shown, something that might be represented in the psyche. This study sustains that in Freud’s work the problem of the unrepresentable always appears as this traumatic drive dimension, which may, in a smaller or greater way, be represented via primary bonding, via imprinting. For most radical these theses appear in relation to those of desire fulfillment, they can be solved only in an infinite point of the horizon. Therefore, there is a hope that these primary excesses can be linked and that affects break out only within the logic of the pleasure principle. The truth is that the question of unrepresentable is definitely set only with the introduction of the death drive in the second topic model, since it is defined in negative.

However, things may not equate as easily. It is not enough to check the interdependence of representation and non-representation from the understanding of drive as an both traumatic and constitutive element of the psyche. We must advance towards a notion that the principles cannot be understood in terms of temporal succession or opposition, but, because they are interdependent, in a kind of logic of supplementarity (Figueiredo, 1999).

Its clearest example is the persistence of certain paradoxes in the most basic principles of the origin of psychic functioning, which manifests itself in various forms. Thus, it is visible on the relationship between the principle of pleasure-displeasure and what lies beyond this, which is expressed in the opposition between a primary process and the radical primary and secondary processes. The idea is that the buildup of excitement that is the source of psychic dynamics can only occur by inhibiting the activity of secondary process.

Thus, there seems to be a deeper bond that unites the traumatic and unrepresentable drive and the pacified drive by the pleasure principle which is capable of representation. It can be argued that the same paradox lies in the tension between representation and non-representation. In this way, there is a deep linkage between the field of representation and the field of non-representation, in that the definition of one depends on the other’s existence.

This all just reinforces the postulate of irreducibility of the paradox intrinsic to representation theory, whose corollary is the assertion that the affect is always resistant to representational conformation.

With regard to the movement of Freudian thought, therefore, it is clear the evidence of an supplementary logic in addition to the polarization between two distinct essences, working in representation theory, as a result of its operation in drive theory.

What we see in examining the proposed cut is a rather complex theoretical elaboration movement, but also quite characteristic: each new mooring or conceptual enrichment engenders a boost or demand in the opposite pole. Each new synthesis results in a movement toward its antithesis, in an swinging oscillation in the development of concepts. This movement, in turn, is nothing dialectical. It is rather a “dialectics without synthesis” or “negative dialectic” articulated by its own logic to supplement requirements.

This production of novelty by means of the conflict without cancellation or termination of the fundamental differences, in turn, articulates a progressive movement of resumes, extensions and new meanings, characterizing a typical spiral movement.

It is possible to conclude, after all these movements of the subject of representation, an overview of the strains that are produced within the metapsychology to the point that it became possible to outline two major trends that are present throughout Freud’s theory like averse or originary supplements addressed to the question of representation which evidenciates increasingly in the movement of Freud´s thought: (1) an axis of the unrepresentable; (2) an axis of primary identification. This way, it is possible to conclude that the examination of the central hypothesis of this article supports the proposition of some commentators of Freud’s work on the characteristic thought movement of the founder of psychoanalysis: nor continuity, nor rupture, but progression, regression and return in an inexhaustible heartbeat that engenders circular and spiral movement to the configuration of an area or field of knowledge.

References

Received em: 08/09/2010

Accepted em: 09/08/2011

Érico Bruno Viana Campos, Professor of Hermínio Ometto College (UNIARARAS) and Piracicaba´s Methodist University (UNIMEP). Mailing address: Dois Córregos Avenue, 1770, house 10. Piracicaba – SP – Brazil. ZIP Code: 13420-835. E-mail: ebcampos.online@gmail.com

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  • 1
    This paper presents the combined results of master and doctorate degree researches developed by this author in the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo.
  • Publication Dates

    • Publication in this collection
      08 Dec 2011
    • Date of issue
      Dec 2011

    History

    • Received
      08 Sept 2010
    • Accepted
      09 Aug 2011
    Instituto de Psicologia da Universidade de São Paulo Av. Prof. Mello Moraes, 1721 - Bloco A, sala 202, Cidade Universitária Armando de Salles Oliveira, 05508-900 São Paulo SP - Brazil - São Paulo - SP - Brazil
    E-mail: revpsico@usp.br