What is expected from an application? Shall it be one’s closeness to psychological insights in their life? My confusion while composing this application is whether, in the position of analysand or analyst, I am expected to write this quasi self-introduction appliance, whether I should “speak more about myself” or approach my life in a more theoretical, analytical fashion. The following article is written in the latter position, the analyst one, for I believe it presents the closeness and potentials better.
At the end of last semester, I have been seeing professor Patrice weekly. Since I am primarily interested in philosophy, in our conversations he commented on philosophy, or a common motive to study philosophy to be precise: that philosophy is, after all, an attempt to make sense of one’s suffering. This comment was my biggest shock in recent years. What this comment implies, in my interpretation, is a renouncement of truth and philosophy. Philosophy functions as a defense mechanism. However, everyone’s suffering varies in its forms and quantities, which indicates truth, transcendental values, never possesses its self-assumed universal power. There always are people whose primordial trauma doesn’t make them form the need to justify their life by philosophy, whom Law doesn’t regulate to the same extent. Isn’t this also what Freud says about superego in The Ego and the id, that who acts most ethically receives the most punishment. When people argue and one may wonder why others just don’t understand what is “right,” it may be because they simply don’t need to.
But why was this terrifying exactly? Why wouldn’t I be satisfied with putting aside what philosophy may mean to others and pursuing “truth” by myself and for myself? Why is there the attribution of universality in the definition of truth and philosophy, the study of truth (at least until Nietzsche, who announces the death of traditional philosophy)? After all, what does philosophy need the Other for? This leads to another interpretation: what hides behind philosophy is the impotence to accept life as what it is. And the achievement of philosophy is the withdrawal from life in all its painful vitality, from life’s “particular” to “universal,” to repackage a profound defeat as a triumph, but as a fake triumph.
God who forbids, truth which falsifies other understandings, and the Name-of-Father (also as father’s no, which is the same pronunciation in French) in Oedipal structure which prevents the child’s attempts in obtaining mother’s full attention and introduces castration, aren’t they different names of the same thing? They are the absolute Negativity that people serve and sacrifice for, as if a child tries to satisfy her/his father. We need the Other to recognize us, to tell us that the castration we have made is good and enough. Freud understands a child’s “education” as a loss of sexual pleasure. The immediate gratification of the need to eat and excrete is withheld or punished, and autoerotic behavior (thumb sucking, touching one’s genitals) is progressively discouraged. Children give up their pleasure in exchange for their parents’ love and esteem. This is why an Other is always presupposed in philosophy, the Other who desires our sacrifices and rewards us for them afterward.
But can we ever serve him (God, Father, or the Other) well? Are our sacrifices what the Other really wants, or what we fantasize the Other wants so that we can be rewarded? “Philosophy is an attempt to make sense of one’s suffering.” There is always a subjective stance behind a universal truth. We can never reach the harmony and wholesomeness that people fantasize about. Philosophy is a long way of pursuing unobtainable satisfaction. Therefore, in my opinion, the practice of studying philosophy (and gaining a kind of identity from it) is closely related to what Freud hypothesizes about the death drive. A drive that gains satisfaction from its very incapability of satisfaction, by repeating a trauma, attempts to retroactively undo the nefarious effects of a traumatic event.
Life is meaningless. The true sublimation lies in, in my current understanding, fully identifying oneself with that negativity of life. Life itself is imbalanced, incomplete, and traumatic. And we shall give up the need to justify life in any way. It is like when a child becomes her/his father, when we become God. I yet have enough vocabulary of how this sublimation works. But in psychoanalysis, in my perception, lies the key to this transformation.
According to the standard medical model, psychopathology consists of a deviation from normal mental functioning produced by a damaged development. Freud broke decisively with this model by positing a continuity between normality and pathology, as the title of one of his books, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life”, indicates. The same mechanisms at work in mental illnesses also manifest themselves in the slips, bungled actions, and witticisms (his book on jokes) of daily existence. Even more audaciously, Freud pointed out the affinities of civilization’s highest achievements with different pathological phenomena ⸺ religion with the compulsive rituals of the obsessional neurotic, philosophical theories with paranoiac systems, art with infantile sexual fantasies. Just as Arthur Schopenhauer once offered the suitably Beckettian definition of walking as “a continuously arrested falling”, so psychoanalysis invites us to conceive of sanity as not the antipode of but a more or less well-regulated madness.
Imagine a situation in which a psychotic who is living in constant fear of having a breakdown, only to be reassured by his doctor, “Don’t worry, the breakdown has already happened, you are mad.” We are already dead/castrated. Search no more for reasons and justifications for life…
I was writing my P.E. reports (making up nonsense lol). Reflecting on one class I had in which we played different kinds of ice breaking games every week, I recalled what you have been telling me since we met, that it is possible to have easy but also sincere and meaningful communications, from talking about what idols one likes, to play systems, to having simple relationships that we talked about in the last Skype call.
It used to sound like, for me, that these are after all merely means for that ultimate end, that is to say, to develop some kind of “deep and meaning” relationships. Even though it is indeed possible to widen one’s interests, it all felt to me that I, even following all these, would still not be present in the conversation. To put in more exaggerated way, which may make you frown, it felt like that one needs to be easy in order to be serious and “pushy”. It sounded purposeful. I think when you said these, you were only to show me that there were other possibilities, that it was not to say I need to give up something. So I guess you didn’t mean that one needs to follow a certain procedure to achieve some purpose. Nevertheless, with the drive unaltered to have something concrete, my understanding may be twisted.
After all, it was only due to my subjective stance. I have not been capable of relaxing, and thus everything other than seriousness and “meaningfulness” feels heterogeneous to myself. Not really that there is a purpose even behind simple relationships, it is rather myself that have not been able to relax and consequently everything is rendered and narrated in such a fashion.
Because of various reasons that I myself have not yet prepared to list (the Christmas party, recent readings, what you said…), all of sudden, I felt like I started to have some affordance to be easy. I don’t know. And changes are happening: preferences of writing styles, the way I talk with my friends… I even had two dreams about the type of partner I want for my intimate relationship, that I don’t want to involve in the other’s “dreams” and choose someone with whom things are easy (a feeling of white, but I think it didn’t mean moral purity).
P.S. I was reading a novel one day. There was a scene where the protagonist, who is also serious, or say, anxious in his blood, truly relax when he was holding his infant little sister. It was a scene of Oxytocin. I was touched a lot.
- 他们在我看来是自由的，正是因为他们所做的仍是我做不到的。他们的自然反衬了我的不自然。话虽如此，我也没什么把「从社会常规中解放的自由」当作我努力的意向，此文只是对于那刻他们在我眼中所呈现的自由的感慨的记录。改变会自然发生。Wo Es war, soll Ich werden. (“Where it was, shall I be.” — Freud)将反叛当作口号无非是另一种束缚。