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Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Freud, Sigmund 1920g, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, SE 18: 7-64, trs. from Jenseits des Lustprinzips, GW 13: 3.

[From: Editor's Introduction to 1923b]
But the question now arose whether, as applied to a system, the term "unconscious" was at all appropriate. In the structural picture of the mind what had from the first been most clearly differentiated from "the unconscious" had been "the ego". And it now began to appear that the ego itself ought partly to be described as "unconscious". This was pointed out in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, in a sentence which read in the first edition (1920g): "It may be that much of the ego is itself unconscious; only a part of it, probably , is covered by the term 'preconscious'." In the second edition, a year later, this sentence was altered to: "It is certain that much of the ego is itself unconscious …; only a small part of it is covered by the term 'preconscious'." And this discovery and the grounds for it were stated with still greater insistence in the first chapter of the present work.
… "being conscious" was henceforward to be regarded simply as a quality which might or might not be attached to a mental state. The old "descriptive" sense of the term was in fact all that remained.

[Mitchell 1986:] In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g [1919]) Freud subsumed the previous dominance of the sexual drive under a 'life drive' that, while still sexual (and hence not to be confused with Jungian notions), also included the urge for self-preservation. He introduced, in opposition to the life drive, the highly controversial speculation of a death drive, a force that strove to return the human being back into a state of inertia, of the inorganic. Clinically it is seen in masochism, in an unconscious sense of guilt, in the quality of driven-ness within the compulsion to repeat certain experiences and in the wish not to recover. (Mitchell 1986: 14)

[Freud 1920g:] But it became ever clearer that the aim which had been set up—the aim that what was unconscious should become conscious—is not completely attainable by that method. The patient cannot remember the whole of what is repressed in him, and what he cannot remember may be precisely the essential part of it. Thus he acquires no sense of conviction of the correctness of the construction that has been communicated to him. He is obliged to repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience instead of, as the physician would prefer to see, remembering it as something belonging to the past. These reproductions, which emerge with such unwished-for exactitude, always have as their subject some portion of infantile sexual life—of the Oedipus complex, that is, and its derivatives; and they are invariably acted out in the sphere fo the transference, of the patient's relation to the physician. [1920g, SE 18: 18]

[Laplanche:] [Freud … ] immediately stresses the need for the analyst '… to keep this transference neurosis within the narrowest limits: to force as much as possible into the channel of memory and to allow as little as possible to emerge as repetition.' [1920g, SE 18: 19]

But he is aware from the beginning that the signs of the transference become more and more insistent the closer one gets to the "pathogenic complex", and when he relates these manifestations to a repetition compulsion he states that such a compulsion can only express itself in the transference "after the work of treatment has gone halfway to meet it and has loosened the repression." [1920g, SE 18: 20] All the way from the case-history of 'Dora', where Freud likens transferences to actual "new impressions", often quite undistorted by comparison with the corresponding unconscious phantasies, to Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g, SE 18), where he says of reproductions in the transference that they "emerge with unwished-for exactitude, always have as their subject some portion of infantile sexual life—of the Œdipus complex, that is, and its derivatives" (1920g, SE 18: 18)—all the way, the idea that transference actualises the essence of the childhood conflict is constantly gaining ground. [Laplanche & Pontalis 1973: 459]


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