The analysand’s demand is in fact a means of getting rid of this desire. Unconsciously, she wants to stop being unsatisfied and turns to a therapist in the hope that he will be able to heal her pain and remove the lack that torments her. The problem, however, is that in the long term this solution will not work. The analyst will never be able to give the analysand what she desires; all he can give her is desire as such. In other words, the analyst will only be able to help her to the extent that he leaves the analysand’s demand painfully unanswered. . . .
This strange therapeutic starting point of psychoanalysis has far-reaching implications for ethics. The “good” the analysand demands henceforth means a satisfaction of her desire. But since we are nothing other than our desire, since desire is our very being, our demand in fact aims at extinguishing desire, which is to say that it aims at our death. This is what Freud’s concept of the “death drive” already had its sights on. What we desire, whether we call it “well-being,” “good,” or the “highest good” is in fact, in the final analysis, nothing other than death, Lacan concludes. What an age-old and still valid tradition names the “good”—that is, something humankind is made for and at which our desire naturally aims—would really, were it to be realized, kill us. It would be pure evil. What one unconsciously demands in the psychoanalytic cure is in fact an “evil” that would destroy us, Lacan says, and one lives only by grace of the fact that one’s demand never gets fully answered. It is just as well that the “good” the analysand demandingly and desiringly searches for is an illusion. Complete satisfaction would simply be fatal.
De Kesel, Marc. Eros and Ethics. Albany, US: SUNY Press, 2009, 3-4
The secondary revision of the product of dream-activity is an admirable example of the nature and pretensions of a system. There is an intellectual function in us which demands unity, connection and intelligibility from any material, whether of perception or thought, that comes within its grasp; and if, as a result of special circumstances, it is unable to establish a true connection, it does not hesitate to fabricate a false one. Systems constructed in this way are known to us not only from dreams, but also from phobias, from obsessive thinking and from delusions. The construction of systems is seen most strikingly in delusional disorders (in paranoia), where it dominates the symptomatic picture; but its occurrence in other forms of neuro-psychosis must not be overlooked. In all these cases it can be shown that a rearrangement of the psychical material has been made with a fresh aim in view; and the rearrangement may often have to be a drastic one if the outcome is to be made to appear intelligible from the point of view of the system. Thus a system is best characterized by the fact that at least two reasons can be discovered for each of its products: a reason based upon the premises of the system (a reason, then, which may be delusional) and a concealed reason, which we must judge to be the truly operative and the real one.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989, 119.
Still from the movie San Andreas, 2015.
In only a single field of our civilization has the omnipotence of thought been retained, and that is the field of art. Only in art does it still happen that a man who is consumed by desires performs something resembling the accomplishment of those desires and that what he does in play produces emotional effects—thanks to artistic illusion—just as though it were something real. People speak with justice of the “magic of art” and compare artists to magicians. But the comparison is perhaps more significant than it claims to be. There can be no doubt that art did not begin as art for art’s sake. It worked originally in the service of impulses which are for the most part extinct today.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989, 113.
Carl Milles, God, our Father, on the Rainbow (1949 – 1995)
The derivation of religious needs from the infant’s helplessness and the longing for the father aroused by it seems to me incontrovertible, especially since the feeking is not simply prolonged from childhood days, but is permanently sustained by fear of the superior power of Fate. I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection. Thus the part played by the oceanic feeling, which might seek something like the restoration of limitless narcissism, is ousted from a place in the foreground. The origin of the religious attitude can be traced back in clear outlines as far as the feeling of infantile helplessness.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. 1st American ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1962, 19.
… originally the ego includes everything, later it separates off an external world from itself. Out present ego-feeling is, therefore, only a shrunken residue of a much more inclusive—indeed, an all-embracing—feeling which corresponded to a more intimate bond between the ego and the world about it. If we may assume that there are many people in whose mental life this primary ego-feeling has persisted to a greater or less degree, it would exist in them side by side with the narrower and more sharply demarcated ego-feeling of maturity, like a kind of counterpart to it. In that case, the ideational contents appropriate to it would be precisely of limitlessness and of a bond with the universe—the same ideas with which my friend elucidated the ‘oceanic’ feeling.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. 1st American ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1962, 15.
Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913
In considering the question of abstinence, far too little distinction is made between two forms of it, namely, abstention from any kind of sexual activity at all, and abstention from heterosexual intercourse. Many who are proud of maintaining abstinence successfully have only been able to achieve it with the help of masturbation and other similar means of satisfaction, which are connected with the auto-erotic sexual activities of early childhood. But this very connection makes these substitutive measures of sexual satisfaction by no means harmless; they predispose to the numerous forms of neurosis and psychosis, which are conditional on a regression of the sexual life to its infantile form. Nor does masturbation at all correspond to the ideal demands of civilized sexual morality, and it therefore drives young people into the same conflicts with the ideals of education which they design to escape by abstinence. Further, the character is undermined in more ways than one by this indulgence; first, because it shows the way to attain important aims in an otiose manner, instead of by energetic effort, in line with the view that the attitude to sex is the prototype of the attitude to life; and secondly, because in the phantasies accompanying this gratification the sexual object is exalted to a degree which is seldom to be reproduced in reality. A witty writer, K. Kraus in the Vienna Fackel, has, as it were, expressed this truth paradoxically in the cynical saying: “Coitus is merely an unsatisfactory substitute for onanism!”
Freud, Sigmund. “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness” (1908)
The projection outwards of internal perceptions is a primitive mechanism, to which, for instance, our sense perceptions are subject, and which therefore normally plays a very large part in determining the form taken by our external world. Under conditions whose nature has not yet been sufficiently established, internal perceptions of emotional and intellective processes can be projected outwards in the same way as sense perceptions; they are thus employed for building up the external world, though they should by rights remain part of the internal world. This may have some genetic connection with the fact that the function of attention was originally directed not towards the internal world but towards the stimuli that stream in from the external world, and that that function’s only information upon endo-psychic processes was received from feelings of pleasure and unpleasure. It was not until a language of abstract thought had been developed, that is to say, not until the sensory residues of verbal representation had been linked to the internal processes, that the latter themselves gradually became capable of being perceived.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989, 81