General Psychological Theory: Papers on Metapsychology (The Collected Papers of Sigmund Freud)

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9781416573593: General Psychological Theory: Papers on Metapsychology (The Collected Papers of Sigmund Freud)


In fifteen essays, sigmund freud explains his most controversial theories exposing the darkest corners of the human psyche.

Best known for his research into the unconscious mind, Sigmund Freud challenged the mores of conventional American society during the early twentieth century. This collection presents many of Freud's revolutionary ideas, showing how his theories changed the way people think about their emotions and actions, opening a rich dialogue about the methods and science of the brain.

In a series of essays written between 1911 and 1938, readers follow Freud through clear explanations of how neurology and psychology influence our actions and govern personality traits and emotions, including the libido, narcissism, mourning, repression, dreams, paranoia, and melancholy.

This volume illustrates how Freud was not afraid to venture into unknown areas of the human mind and that he was superbly equipped to expose its secrets. Exploring the hypotheses of the most controversial psychologist of the twentieth century, in his own words, may help us understand our own behaviors.

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About the Author:

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist and psychologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Although his theories remain controversial until this day, Freud made a lasting impact on Western culture.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I

Formulations Regarding the Two Principles in Mental Functioning

(1911)

We have long observed that every neurosis has the result, and therefore probably the purpose, of forcing the patient out of real life, of alienating him from actuality. Nor could a fact such as this escape the observation of Pierre Janet; he spoke of a loss of "la fonction du réel" as being a special characteristic of the neurotic, but without discovering the connection of this disturbance with the fundamental conditions of neurosis.2 By introducing the concept of repression into the genesis of the neuroses we have been able to gain some insight into this connection. The neurotic turns away from reality because he finds it unbearable -- either the whole or parts of it. The most extreme type of this alienation from reality is shown in certain cases of hallucinatory psychosis which aim at denying the existence of the particular event that occasioned the outbreak of insanity (Griesinger). But actually every neurotic does the same with some fragment of reality.3 And now we are confronted with the task of investigating the development of the relation of the neurotic and of mankind in general to reality, and of so bringing the psychological significance of the real outer world into the structure of our theory.

In the psychology which is founded on psychoanalysis we have accustomed ourselves to take as our starting-point the unconscious mental processes, with the peculiarities of which we have become acquainted through analysis. These we consider to be the older, primary processes, the residues of a phase of development in which they were the only kind of mental processes. The sovereign tendency obeyed by these primary processes is easy of recognition; it is called the pleasure-pain (Lust-Unlust) principle, or more shortly the pleasure-principle. These processes strive towards gaining pleasure; from any operation which might arouse unpleasantness ("pain") mental activity draws back (repression). Our nocturnal dreams, our waking tendency to shut out painful impressions, are remnants of the supremacy of this principle and proofs of its power.

In presupposing that the state of mental equilibrium was originally disturbed by the peremptory demands of inner needs, I am returning to lines of thought which I have developed in another place. In the situation I am considering, whatever was thought of (desired) was simply imagined in an hallucinatory form, as still happens to-day with our dream-thoughts every night. This attempt at satisfaction by means of hallucination was abandoned only in consequence of the absence of the expected gratification, because of the disappointment experienced. Instead, the mental apparatus had to decide to form a conception of the real circumstances in the outer world and to exert itself to alter them. A new principle of mental functioning was thus introduced; what was conceived of was no longer that which was pleasant, but that which was real, even if it should be unpleasant. This institution of the reality-principle proved a momentous step.

1. In the first place the new demands made a succession of adaptations necessary in the mental apparatus, which, on account of insufficient or uncertain knowledge, we can only detail very cursorily.

The increased significance of external reality heightened the significance also of the sense-organs directed towards that outer world, and of the consciousness attached to them; the latter now learned to comprehend the qualities of sense in addition to the qualities of pleasure and "pain" which hitherto had alone been of interest to it. A special function was instituted which had periodically to search the outer world, in order that its data might be already familiar if an urgent inner need should arise; this function was attention. Its activity meets the sense-impressions halfway, instead of awaiting their appearance. At the same time there was probably introduced a system of notation, whose task was to deposit the results of this periodical activity of consciousness -- a part of that which we call memory.

In place of repression, which excluded from cathexis as productive of "pain" some of the emerging ideas, there developed an impartial passing of judgement, which had to decide whether a particular idea was true or false, that is, was in agreement with reality or not; decision was determined by comparison with the memory-traces of reality.

A new function was now entrusted to motor discharge, which under the supremacy of the pleasure-principle had served to unburden the mental apparatus of accretions of stimuli, and in carrying out this task had sent innervations into the interior of the body (mien, expressions of affect); it was now employed in the appropriate alteration of reality. It was converted into action.

Restraint of motor discharge (of action) had now become necessary, and was provided by means of the process of thought, which was developed from ideation. Thought was endowed with qualities which made it possible for the mental apparatus to support increased tension during a delay in the process of discharge. It is essentially an experimental way of acting, accompanied by displacement of smaller quantities of cathexis together with less expenditure (discharge) of them. For this purpose conversion of free cathexis into "bound" cathexes was imperative, and this was brought about by means of raising the level of the whole cathectic process. It is probable that thinking was originally unconscious, in so far as it rose above mere ideation and turned to the relations between the object-impressions, and that it became endowed with further qualities which were perceptible to consciousness only through its connection with the memory-traces of words.

2. There is a general tendency of our mental apparatus which we can trace back to the economic principle of saving in expenditure; it seems to find expression in the tenacity with which we hold on to the sources of pleasure at our disposal, and in the difficulty with which we renounce them. With the introduction of the reality-principle one mode of thought-activity was split off; it was kept free from reality-testing and remained subordinated to the pleasure-principle alone. This is the act of phantasy-making, which begins already in the games of children, and later, continued as day-dreaming, abandons its dependence on real objects.

3. The supersession of the pleasure-principle by the reality-principle with all the mental consequences of this, which is here schematically condensed in a single sentence, is not in reality accomplished all at once; nor does it take place simultaneously along the whole line. For while this development is going on in the ego-instincts, the sexual instincts become detached from them in very significant ways. The sexual instincts at first behave auto-erotically; they find their satisfaction in the child's own body and therefore do not come into the situation of frustration which enforces the installation of the reality-principle. Then when later on they begin to find an object, this development undergoes a long interruption in the latency period, which postpones sexual development until puberty. These two factors -- auto-erotism and latency period -- bring about the result that the mental development of the sexual instincts is delayed and remains far longer under the supremacy of the pleasure-principle, from which in many people it is never able to withdraw itself at all.

In consequence of these conditions there arises a closer connection, on the one hand, between the sexual instincts and phantasy and, on the other hand, between the ego-instincts and the activities of consciousness. Both in healthy and in neurotic people this connection strikes us as very intimate, although the considerations of genetic psychology put forward above lead us to recognize it as secondary. The perpetuated activity of auto-erotism makes possible a long retention of the easier momentary and phantastic satisfaction in regard to the sexual object, in place of real satisfaction in regard to it, the latter requiring effort and delay. In the realm of phantasy, repression remains all-powerful; it brings about the inhibition of ideas in statu nascendi before they can be consciously noticed, should cathexis of them be likely to occasion the release of "pain." This is the weak place of our mental organization, which can be utilized to bring back under the supremacy of the pleasure-principle thought-processes which had already become rational. An essential part of the mental predisposition to neurosis thus lies in the delayed training of the sexual instincts in the observance of reality and, further, in the conditions which make this delay possible.

4. Just as the pleasure-ego can do nothing but wish, work towards gaining pleasure and avoiding "pain," so the reality-ego need do nothing but strive for what is useful and guard itself against damage. Actually, the substitution of the reality-principle for the pleasure-principle denotes no dethronement of the pleasure-principle, but only a safeguarding of it. A momentary pleasure, uncertain in its results, is given up, but only in order to gain in the new way an assured pleasure coming later. But the end psychic impression made by this substitution has been so powerful that it is mirrored in a special religious myth. The doctrine of reward in a future life for the -- voluntary or enforced -- renunciation of earthly lusts is nothing but a mythical projection of this revolution in the mind. In logical pursuit of this prototype, religions have been able to effect absolute renunciation of pleasure in this life by means of the promise of compensation in a future life; they have not, however, achieved a conquest of the pleasure-principle in this way. It is science which comes nearest to succeeding in this conquest; science, however, also offers intellectual...

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