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Chapters | The non-existent theory of feelings of Sigmund Freud

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An excerpt from the book by historian Jan Plumper on “Studies of hysteria”, the idea of ​​fear and the role of emotions in the mental development of a child

Chapters | The non-existent theory of feelings of Sigmund Freud

Together with the publishing house “Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie” we publish an excerpt from the book “The Story of Emotions”. In it, the historian Jan Plumper talks about the confrontation of socially constructivist and universalist theories of emotions. Translated from English by Kirill Levinson.

One of the most popular English-language textbooks on the psychology of emotions says briefly and clearly: “The theory of emotions as such, Sigmund Freud did not create”1 ]. But at once there are questions: and unless mental illnesses, such as neuroses and psychoses, are not emotional pathologies? Is not fear (unlike fear aimed at a specific object) a devoid of purpose and a diffuse, and therefore dangerous feeling, raging in the human soul? Is not the concept of trauma based on the idea of ​​the dysfunction of the emotional apparatus? And is not Freud’s work on the theory of culture connected in the most intimate way with emotions-for example, when it comes to “discontent in culture”?

Paradoxically, although emotions play a crucial role in the central areas of psychoanalytic thought, there is no sense theory in psychoanalysis. To explain this paradox, we will come across the case of Katarina – one of the most famous in Freud’s Studies of Hysteria (1895).

Once, while resting in the Alps, Freud went to refresh himself and rest in a mountain shelter. The young woman who served Catharina quickly found out that he was a doctor, and asked him if he could help her: she suffered from times of suffocating and attacks of fear:

It always seems to me that now I’m going to die, but in general I’m not a timid dozen, I go everywhere alone, to the cellar and down the whole mountain, but how this happens to me, I get scared everywhere that day, someone behind me is standing and is about to grab me [2 ].

The first diagnosis of Freud: “It really was a fit of fear with pronounced signs of a hysterical aura or, better to say, a hysterical attack, the content of which was fear.” But this was only a superficial description, after which something more had to be hidden. “Was there any other content in it?” Freud asked himself [3 ]. Here, the outlines of the explanation of why emotion in the psychoanalysis are paradoxically absent and present at the same time appear: feelings arise often, but they are only epiphenomena of deeper mental processes.

Chapters | The non-existent theory of feelings of Sigmund Freud

Next, Katarina said that during the bouts of fear she always saw a terrible male face, which she, however, could not identify. Freud writes that usually he would then use hypnosis, but, being in a mountain shelter, he was forced to confine himself to questions. “I could only rely on luck. After all, I so often had to admit that the fear of young girls arises from the horror that covers the virgin at the first acquaintance with the world of sexuality »[4 ]. So he told Katharine that, in his assumption, these bouts of fear began after she had experienced something awkward – while he was referring to the area of ​​sexuality.

Suddenly, the girl remembered that she saw through her window her own uncle lying on her cousin Francis. Then she did not understand what was happening, but it was hard for her to breathe for the first time. After a couple of days, she began to have vomiting, her aunt noticed it and began to pester her with questions. Katarina told her everything, her aunt called on her uncle to answer, Francis became pregnant with her uncle, there was a scandal that ended in divorce. In the end, my aunt and Katarina moved and bought the inn in which the girl now worked and to which the Viennese doctor came during his walk.

After telling about the divorce of her aunt, Freder further writes, “to my surprise, she changes the subject of the conversation and sets forth in turn several stories in which the events are resurrected,

which occurred two or three years before the traumatic episode “[5 ]. All these stories related to sexual assaults on her by her uncle. For the first time this happened when Katarina was 14 years old:

One winter they together went down to the valley and stopped for the night in a local tavern. He stayed to drink and play cards in the hall, she was tending to sleep, and she retired early into the room intended for both rooms on the floor. She had not yet managed to fall asleep by the time he entered, then fell asleep again, but suddenly woke up from the fact that she “smelled his body” in bed. She jumped up and began to reproach him. “What are you up to, uncle?” Why are not you in your bed? “He tried to persuade her:” Stop, douche, calm down, you yourself do not know how good it is. ” “I do not need anything good from you, you do not give me sleep.”

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She kept close to the door, ready to run out into the corridor, until he calmed down and did not fall asleep himself. After that, she lay down on her bed and slept until morning. Judging by the method of defense described by her, she did not quite guess that his harassment was sexual in nature; when I asked if she understood what exactly he was going to do with it, she answered that she understood it only much later. Then she was indignant, because she just did not like that she was disturbed in the middle of the night, and also “because you can not do this” [6th ].

These recovered memories seemed to heal Catherine: “Having finished the story and about these memories, she pauses. She seemed to be replaced, her sullen and painful expression took on a liveliness, her gaze cleared, she uttered her words and eased her soul. “[7th ]. Freud believed that the solution was the connection between the episode with Francis and the previous sexual harassment of his uncle to Katarina herself: after all, when Katharina saw her uncle performing sexual intercourse with Francis, the awareness of the threat she was subjected to in her time literally pushed her breath. It only remained to find out what kind of a terrible face she had regularly accompanied her fears. But this mystery was resolved when Katarina said:

Yes, now I remember this uncle’s face, now I recognize him, but it’s not what it was then. Later, when all these quarrels began, then my uncle became very angry with me; he kept saying that I was to blame for everything; they say, if I had not blabbed, then it would not have come to a divorce; he always threatened that he would teach me; Once he saw me from a distance, his face was twisted with anger, and he began to attack me, raising his hand. I always ran away from him and was very much afraid that he would find me somewhere and grab me. The person who now constantly is to me, this is his face, as it was at the moment when he was angry [8 ].

Freud completes his epicrisis of this case in the following words:

The fear that plagued Katarina during the attacks is hysterical, that is, reproduces the fear that arose in her every time with a sexual trauma. Here I will not explain the essence of the process, which, judging by many of my clinical observations, is being developed without fail and is that the first guesses about the existence of sexual relations cause virgins a sense of fear.

In 1924, about a quarter of a century later, he added a note:

After so many years, I decide to reveal what I kept secret, and I report that Katharina was not the niece, but the daughter of the innkeeper, thus the girl suffered from sexual harassment from her own father [9 ].

This gives the described attacks of fear – today they would be called “panic attacks” – a special drama. Katharina’s case seems to prove that, although at first glance psychoanalysis is constantly circling around emotions, they are never included in the explanations and that at the main level of interpretation of the causes of the disorder Freud always talks about sexuality.

Of course, this is an insufficient explanation. The historian Uffa Jensen (* 1969) showed, first, that in psychoanalysis, emotions play the role of “the most important road signs” in the search for mental processes underlying the disorder, and secondly that “through life and the work of Freud there are two red thread, “namely,” ambivalence of feelings and a state of fear “10 ].

The unfinished and complex theory of the “affects” of early Freud was, in Jensen’s opinion, more mechanistic and biologic than his later ideas of fear, the role of emotions in the child’s mental development, and the relationship between emotions and culture. Take for example only one aspect of the early theory of affects: Freud believed that there is some kind of economic equilibrium between drives (Trieb), undifferentiated affects (without distinction for fear, hatred or love) and differentiated sensations. In 1915 he wrote in the work “Repression”:

The quantitative factor of the correlate of attraction can comprehend a triple fate, as shown by a brief review of the psychoanalytic experience: the attraction can be completely suppressed, so that its attributes can not be found, or it appears as a qualitatively colored affect, or it turns into fear [eleven ].

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Here we have a triangle of attractions, affects and one particular feeling. “The affective state,” writes Jensen, “consisted of a certain amount of energy that in the mental apparatus was subject to a kind of law of conservation of energy.” And further: “The affect broke through incomplete repression in the form of distortion or movement from the unconscious to consciousness and in this form could be felt as an emotion” [12 ].

As we recall, the echo of this Freud’s theory of affects is found in Norbert Elias. He talked about the “affect economy” (Affekthaushalt) and blamed modernity that the expression of feelings, which in the Middle Ages could not yet be filtered, she overlaid with all sorts of taboos and therefore emotion is at best allowed to survive in an ersatz-life, which is sport , and in the worst it is necessary to suppress, which leads to neuroses, obsessive states and other disorders.

Jensen explains the biologism and mechanism of this theory of Freud with three factors: the influence that physiology had on him in the early period, the internalization of bourgeois-masculine values ​​such as rationalism, understood as emotional control, and excessive scientism that served as a kind of defense against accusations of unscientificity , Because they had to deal with those who studied emotions in general, and psychoanalysts in particular.

The ambivalence of feelings, established by Jensen in Freud as one of the two red threads, is found, for example, when it comes to people suffering from the neurosis of compulsive states, which allow one feeling (for example, love), while others that are present (for example, hatred) , which leads them to obsessive actions. But the ambivalence of feelings had for Freud also a personal, biographical dimension: in his childhood, as he later recalled, his nephew, who was a year older and whom he idolized, was also the referent for him, but at the same time he hated for supremacy:

All my later friends embodied for me in a certain sense this first friend-enemy. A close friend and a hated enemy were always the necessary objects of my feelings; I unconsciously tried constantly to find them myself, and the children’s ideal was often carried out in such a way that the friend and foe merged in one person [13 ].

The second red thread about which Jensen writes is the growing importance of fear (German Angst in modern Russian special literature often translates as “anxiety,” but in order to preserve the unity of the subject under discussion in this edition, it is everywhere translated as “fear.” – Note in the thinking of Freud. “Whatever it was,” says the 25th lecture on the introduction to psychoanalysis, “there is no doubt that the problem of fear is a key point in which the most diverse and most important questions converge, a mystery whose solution should shed a bright light on our entire psychic life »[14 ].

Chapters | The non-existent theory of feelings of Sigmund Freud

As soon as Freud freed the concept of fear from the iron cage of his former ideas about the “affect economy”, he immediately outlined the theory of the first fear – that of a child at birth. The reason for this first fear, which becomes the prototype for all subsequent fears, is the “incredible increase in excitation due to the cessation of the renewal of blood (inner breathing)” at the time of birth: “The name” fear “(Angst) – angustiae, cramped, a sign of restraint of breath, which then was a consequence of the real situation and is now almost constantly reproduced in affect “[15 ]. All fears in the further development of the individual can be explained by this first situation.

Freud stressed that “in the absence of a parental authority, which inspires fear of castration, the danger becomes more uncertain. Fear of castration develops in fear of conscience, in social fear. It is no longer easy to indicate what fears are associated with fear “[16 ].

According to Freud, fear is located at the level of the Ego, and from there it influences the super-ego, which, according to Jensen, represents “the main cultural-creating feeling”17th ]. In the pursuit of individual well-being, the ego sends out fear signals that provide morality, as well as powerful individual, collective, social cultural achievements. “In violations of development, manifested at the level of the individual as symptoms, it was possible to discern what drives the culture: a feeling, rational coping with which was to be the task of each person individually and all together” [18 ].

Within the framework of this paper, it would be impossible to determine the role and place of emotions in all the ramifications, further developments and revisions of psychoanalysis that took place after Freud. But in order to understand how much is changing in this area, let us briefly consider two examples.

First, recently, such an area as neuropsychoanalysis is actively developing, in which the concept of emotions adopted in neuroscience is combined with psychoanalytic concepts. For example, psychiatrist and neurologist Joram Yovell (* 1958) combines the Freudian theory of drives with the theory of emotional command systems (ECS), developed by the neuroscientist Jacob Panksepp (who in 1998 introduced the concept of “emotional neuroscience”), and on this basis builds a neuropsychoanalytical model love [19 ].

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ECS are universal neurochemical processes that increase survival, that is, they have functional evolutionary biological significance. Such ECS as “search”, “fear”, “fury” and “desire”, occur in the deepest, paleocortical zones located inside and around the brainstem. These ECS are responsible in the human body and animals for universal basic activities, such as responding to threats and reproduction. Above, but still in the subcortical zones, there are other ECS (“panic”, “caring”, “game”) that regulate the simplest social behavior; This includes social ties and the fear of separation.

Panksepp himself opposed the integration of his concept with the theory of drives and pointed out that the ECS is too diverse and therefore can not correspond to Freud’s libido or self-interest, or sexual attraction; nevertheless, the process of intergrowth of these two theories in neuropsychological analysis is currently in full swing [20 ].

Yovell is trying to connect the ECS with the theory of drives, or, better to say, he wants to rewrite Freud, making corrections to it, on the basis of the material of romantic love, which is directed (love someone) and culturally contingent (to many cultures, the notion of romantic love is unknown) based on the theory of ECS. Somehow underlying the generalized libidinal drive, according to Jovell, romantic love can not be explained. This can be done only by combining various ECS: ECS “search” (closest to libido) plus ECS “panic” and ECS “care” (they most correspond to appetizing drives).

The last two elements provide a fear of separation and attachment, that is, specific signs of romantic love. “In any case, the theory of drives can now be revised to take into account the role of non-libidinal instinctive / emotional systems, such as the attachment system. And then it can serve as a useful link between psychoanalysis and cognitive and affective neurosciences in their joint quest to explore and understand romantic love “21 ]. This, as Felicity Callard and Konstantin Papulias write in his study on the history of science, is possible only with such a special neurological reading of Freud, which interprets the libidinal drive functionally from the standpoint of evolutionary biology – and this reading could be added from oneself, as much as possible removed from the ordinary ideas of romantic love [22 ].

Secondly, today in psychotherapeutic practice (including the one that detects the influence of psychoanalysis) when working with mental trauma and other emotional diseases, the rate of the healing power of the story is increasingly being placed. The goal is not, as in early psychoanalysis, to get to the origin of the trauma and find out what it was caused by. The therapist does not hope for verbalization of the terrible and therefore repressed in the subconscious experience: the therapeutic effect promises rather the very nature of the narrative. After all, the story has an iterative, performative force that reduces fragmentary memories into a single whole. In addition, the narrative provides a distance in relation to a terrible event. Through the narrative, emotions are deactuated or, as it were, transformed into “neutralized” mines [23 ].

Chapters | The non-existent theory of feelings of Sigmund Freud

Some psychotherapeutic techniques presuppose a step-by-step process, in which even the naming of the senses has a healing effect. For example, narrative psychotherapy is based on the fact established by the neuroscience that “not only the recognition of emotion as such, but also the affect-labeling interrupts affective reactions and reduces that activity in the limbic system that would otherwise occur with negative experiences”24 ]. But in the final analysis the narrative plays a decisive role:

The main goal of therapy is to build a cohesive […] representation of the sequence of events experienced by the patient. […] This process provides an opportunity for habituation and over time reduces the reaction of fear. The therapist’s task is to promote the resurrection of painful memories and not allow the patient to realize the learned strategies of avoiding or interrupting these memories and bodily sensations. […] The patient during this process will become accustomed and will get used to remember these events without strong emotional reactions [25 ].

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