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Psychoanalysis (4): The Return of the Repressed. Structure of the Mind, Child Development & Love Dream and Sexual Symbols Lacan – Desire & Split Identity Sublimation & Psychological Disorders; Jean Rhys. Outline. Q & A on Freud and Lacan Art and psychoanalysis

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Psychoanalysis 4 the return of the repressed l.jpg

Psychoanalysis (4): The Return of the Repressed

Structure of the Mind, Child Development & Love

Dream and Sexual Symbols

Lacan – Desire & Split Identity

Sublimation & Psychological Disorders; Jean Rhys

Outline l.jpg

  • Q & A on Freud and Lacan

  • Art and psychoanalysis

  • Kinds of Psychological Reactions and Disorder

  • Example: Psycho

  • Possible Approaches: A Summary

  • Jean Rhys’Wide Sargasso Sea– Another Example of Displaced Identity

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Q & A on Freud and Lacan

  • Why is dream “the royal road to our unconscious”?

  • Why is the unconscious structured like language? What’s the significance of this view?

  • What is Symbolic Order for Lacan? Is it all powerful?

  • How do we analyze a lit. text from a psychoanalytic point of view?

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1. Repression and Civilization

  • Repression of our libido (sexual energies) is inevitable; otherwise, we can be destructive and society, chaotic.

  • Repression itself is a defense mechanism.

  • Repression & Displacement (alternative paths to satisfy instinctual desires) 

    • Civilization: The result of our transformation/sublimation of unconscious desires.

    • Symptoms: the return of the repressed  Behaviors or bodily abnormalities. Psychological reactions and disorders

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Psychoanalysis and Literature

  • For Freud, dream is like art because both

    • Fulfill wishes;

    • Use strategies to overcome the resistance of consciousness.

  • Interpretation of Dream//Art:

    • detect conflicts of meanings (where wish is confronted by resistance; the textual unconscious)

    • Ask the patient to make free association (decoding figurative language and symbol through contextual reading)

  • Is literature, then, to be treated as merely patients to be analyzed?

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Sublimation: Leonardo da Vinci

  • An illegitimate son of a notary, Ser Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina. Leonardo lived with Caterina .

  • Lived with Caterina for approximately five years before entering the house of his father, who had in the meantime married Donna Albiera. (p. 15)

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E.g. “Mona Lisa”–two images of L’s first mother: one tender and reserved, and the other sensual and seductive.

Sublimation: Examples (1)

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Saint John the Baptist, Musee du Louvre, Paris

St. John's androgenous image with a mysterious smile of “having found the secret of love”

Freud--"It is possible," Freud concluded this section, "that . . . Leonardo has denied the unhappiness of his erotic life and has triumphed over it in his art., by representing the wishes of the boy, infatuated with his mother, as fulfilled in this blissful union of the male and female natures." (23)

Sublimation: Examples (2)

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Psychological reactions & disorders

  • Reactions:

    • Fixation  Regression

    • Compulsion to Repeat

    • Sexual deviance & Perversion

  • Disorders:

    • Neurosis

    • Psychosis

The line between these two is quite thin!!!

e.g. depression

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Fixation and regression

  • Fixation: obsession with a person, an erotogenous zone or an inanimate object. (e.g. oral fixation –compulsive smoker, alcoholism, etc.)

  • Regression: The psychic reversion to childhood desires. When normally functioning desire meets with powerful external obstacles, which prevent satisfaction of those desires, the subject sometimes regresses to an earlier phase(e.g. the mouth, the anus) in normal psychosexual development. (source) (e.g. infantilization of women in sexually reppresive society)

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Compulsion to Repeat

  • A lot of symptoms are repetitive in nature;

  • Freud sees it as the most general character of our instinct;

  • fulfilling both our life instinct and death instinct: What’s repeated is not just desire or the desirable; sometimes it is fear or unpleasant experience (of trauma).

  • e.g. (1) sense of security gained in routine and repeated stories sense of control;

  • e.g. (2) “compulsive” and negative: recurrent nightmares; pattern of self-destructive behavior. (e.g. vicious circle)

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Perversion: 5 forms

  • Freud: The pursuit of "abnormal" sexual objects (or non-sexual organs) without repression.

  • five forms of perversion –crossing five types of barriers

  • disregarding the barrier of species (the gulf between men and animals),

  • secondly, by overstepping the barrier against disgust e.g. voyeur and exhibitionist

  • against incest (the prohibition against seeking sexual satisfaction from near blood-relations),

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Perversion: 5 forms

4. That against members of one's own sex

5. the transferring of the part played by the genitals to other organs and areas of the body" (Introductory Lectures 15.208)

(Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. James Strachey. 24 vols. London: Hogarth, 1953-74. )

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Perversion: examples

  • Desire satisfied through being looked at or looking  2. Exhibitionist: seeks a perfect confirmation of his desire in the desire of the other; the voyeur finds all of his desire in his looking.

  • a young child will not recognize any of these five points as abnormal—and only does so through the process of education. For this reason, he calls children "polymorphously perverse" (Introductory Lectures15.209). (Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. James Strachey. 24 vols. London: Hogarth, 1953-74. )

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  • Definition: the symbolic expression of a psychical conflict whose origin lies in the subject’s childhood memory (Laplanche 266);  quite common among us!

  • symptoms: an exaggeration of normal patterns of behavior.

    • e.g. constantly checking the time or that doors are locked. Or other obsession rituals;

    • e.g. anxiety disorder  phobia; hysteria (now called conversion disorder)

    • e.g. over-eating (bulimia); stopping eating (anorexia)

  • For reference:

Psychosis l.jpg

  • Definition: The inability of a person to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary. (Primary distance of the libidinal relation to reality.)

  • Symptoms: hallucination, self-delusions

  • e.g. schizophrenia and manic depression (躁鬱症).

  • Freud: “in neurosis the ego suppressespart of the id out of allegiance to reality, whereas in psychosis it lets itself be carried away by the id and detached from a part of reality” (5.202).

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  • falls between neurosis and psychosis.

  • An erotic attachment to an inanimate object or an ordinarily asexual part of the human body.

  • "The fetishist is the adult who, because of his attachment to the fetish, is 'saved‘ from psychosis (which is the more typical consequence of disavowal in adults). . . . (Elizabeth Grosz Jacque Lacan: A Feminist Introduction p. 118)

  • Freud: the fetish is able to “become the vehicle both of denying and of asseverating (鄭重聲明) the fact of castration” (5.203).

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Example – Psycho (驚魂記)


  • Marion, in love with Sam. To solve the problem of not having money for a wedding, she steals some money from her boss and escapes only to get to the Bates hotel.

  • Norman Bates--a schizophrenic young man who is so obsessed with his Mother that he impersonates her to kill Marion, a possible seduction for him.

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Example – Psycho (驚魂記): A Glimpse at the Unconscious

Elements to analyze: (Ref)

  • Transgression easily made from moral control to law-breaking and forbidden self-satisfaction.

  • Incapability of law and psychiatry to control or fully understand human psyche, while many characters in the film are suspect. Psychiatrist: projection of his own desire onto the mother, so the mother is jealous and murderous.

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Example – Psycho (驚魂記): A Glimpse at the Unconscious

3. Norman: Fixation on the mother  internalized as both object of love and super ego.  Unresolved Oedipus complex fourfold split personalities.

4. The use of symbols: The voyeuristic camera eye + the image of eye and the other holes (bathtub drainage and swamp)

e.g. Beginning and ending

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Possible Approaches: A Summary

I. Psychobiography (e.g. D.H. Lawrence, Leonardo, E. Bishop and Jean Rhys)

II. theme—

1.  child psychology and parent-children relationship  "Araby" & "Eyeline" "A Rose for Emily", Sons and Lovers; Peter Pan, The Piano, Wide Sargasso Sea;American Beauty

2.  dream-- in Wide Sargasso Sea; Spellbound; Rouseau's Dream

3.  neurosis and psychosis-- Psycho; stories by Poe; Blue Velvet

4.  journey to the unconscious: “Diving into the Wrecks” (A. Rich); Heart of Darkness; 〈馬桶〉林燿德

5. Split Identity: Wide Sargasso Sea

6. Different forms of love as explained by Freud or Lacan: American Beauty

7. Exchange of Power (Phallic) Positions …

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Possible Approaches: A Summary

III. Sexual Symbols (symbols of castration and phallus) and Symbols re. to Psyche

--"Sick Rose“ (worm, howling night, crimson bed) by William Blake

-- American Beauty; The Piano

-- Psycho; “The Blind Man”

-- paintings by Dali and Magritte

The Rape 1934

Reference l.jpg

  • Laurie Schneider Adams. Art and Psychoanalysis

  • Psychoanalytic Criticism: A Reappraisal. Elizabeth Wright. Polity,1998.

  • Types of Psychological Disorder

  • John E. Reilly, "The Lesser Death-Watch and 'The Tell-Tale Heart'," revised from The American Transcendental Quarterly, II (2nd Quarter), 1969, pp. 3-9.