The Dialectics of Repression. Second attempt.


This thread is meant for those who can personally relate to Freud’s early terms “pleasure principle” and “reality principle”, who find it useful for understanding themselves and to whom, therefore, my dialectical formulations below have personal appeal.

Actual post:

If we use Freud’s early terms “pleasure principle” and “reality principle”, we can formulate the process of repression as follows:

Thesis the pleasure principle + Antithesis the reality principle =
Synthesis repression

The demands of reality repress the will to pleasure that was instilled in man during his prolonged dependence on his parents/guardians (by the pleasure, i.e., the feeling of power, this gave him).

Consequently, we can formulate the process of neurosis as follows:

Thesis repression + Antithesis the pleasure principle =
Synthesis neurosis

These two dialectical formulations have suggested to me a third:

Thesis neurosis + Antithesis the pleasure principle =

For thesis and antithesis can be turned around, so the pleasure principle is always the antithesis:

Thesis the reality principle + Antithesis the pleasure principle =
Synthesis repression + Antithesis the pleasure principle =
Synthesis neurosis + Antithesis the pleasure principle =

The human will to pleasure has been so deeply instilled in him during his prolonged infancy that it can probably never be eradicated during his lifetime (if man would evolve back so that human infancy would be less prolonged, the human will to pleasure might become eradicable).

It is always the pleasure principle that rebels against other principles or facts. In its rebellion against the reality principle, it must be suppressed (repressed), otherwise the person will come to harm (e.g., the child may stick its fingers in a power socket). So when it rebels against the reality principle, the result is repression (or death). When it rebels against repression, it, like a resistance movement rebelling against an oppressor, performs its activities underground: e.g., in dreams.

Now it may be hard to picture how it will rebel against neurosis. For me, the antithesis PP versus neurosis is too abstract. However, there is, in my view, no true difference between neurosis and sublimation. Sublimation is merely the socially acceptable form of neurosis. We may therefore understand sublimation as a form of neurosis, and neurosis as a form of sublimation. And for me, the antithesis PP versus sublimation is much easier to picture. The pleasure principle may battle against the tendency to sublimate it, may strive to lead “flown-away virtue”, to speak with Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “back to the earth—yea, back to body and life” (TSZ, Of the Bestowing Virtue).

[size=95]Once hadst thou passions and calledst them evil. But now hast thou only thy virtues: they grew out of thy passions.
[ibid., Of Joys and Passions.][/size]

Neither does it to me. I wasn’t ware until now that you saw this as a move forward. This is interesting.

I would suggest that art is a step forward from neurosis. At least it is an act of the will to power over neurosis. Maybe there could be a step inserted? ‘Neurosis + pleasure principle = art’ does not sound as plausible to me as ‘neurosis + reality principle = art’. At least, the former would result in a more decadent form of art.

I think that, according to Freud, art is a form of sublimation and thereby of neurosis. Compare:

[size=95][W]hat, then, would be the origin of tragedy? Perhaps joy [Lust], strength, overflowing health, overgreat fullness? And what, then, is the significance, physiologically speaking, of that madness out of which tragic and comic art developed—the Dionysian madness? How now? Is madness perhaps not necessarily the symptom of degeneration, decline, and the final stage of culture? Are there perhaps—a question for psychiatrists—neuroses of health? of the youth and youthfulness of a people? Where does that synthesis of god and billy goat in the satyr point? What experience of himself, what urge compelled the Greek to conceive the Dionysian enthusiast and primeval man as a satyr? And regarding the origin of the tragic chorus: did those centuries when the Greek body flourished and the Greek soul foamed over with health perhaps know endemic ecstasies? Visions and hallucinations shared by entire communities or assemblies at a cult?
[Nietzsche, BT Self-Criticism 4.]

It is exceptional states that condition the artist: all of them profoundly related to and interlaced with morbid phenomena: so that it seems impossible to be an artist and not to be sick.
[WP 811.]

An excess of sap and force can bring with it symptoms of partial constraint, of sense hallucinations[!], susceptibility to suggestion, just as well as can impoverishment of life… the stimulus is differently conditioned, the effect remains the same… […]
As one may today consider “genius” as a form of neurosis, so perhaps also the artistic power of suggestion—and indeed our artists are painfully like hysterical females!!! But that is an objection to “today”, not to “artists”…
[ibid., 812.][/size]

These passages, interesting though they may be, present us with new problems. For instance, I don’t think Nietzsche is very strict in his terminology from a Freudian perspective. And how can we account for the two different types of ‘neurosis’ mentioned by Nietzsche? What is the difference between neuroses of sickness and of health?—The word ‘Dionysian’ may well be a precious hint. The Apollinian tragedies of Athens, for instance (e.g., Sophocles) may well be considered sublimations of the primal tragedy, where it was still all ‘satyr chorus’. And consider this video WL posted recently, and my comments on it: does it not come across to you as sickly neurotic?

And Brown in his chapter “Apollo and Dionysus” connects the Apollinian with Plato, the elevation of Spirit above Matter, Pythagoras, Parmenides, and the shaman (“ecstatic departure from the body”).

That looks to be the question relating to the reality vs. the pleasure principle on the level of neurosis.

If an equation ‘neurosis + PP’ can be made, so also then ‘neurosis + RP.’

If the neurotic is an artist, the difference in his work would be between decadent and ascending art.
Since this is a scale, not a real opposition the outcome would be a continuum. If we replace ‘man’ with ‘polis’, we can project such a continuum on a period of artistic overflowing. Although I would say truly decadent art only showed it’s real face after the short lived glory days of the Caesars, not already with the Hellenistic excesses in technnique and sensuality. During Augustus, a last outburst of “healthy neuroses” came to fruition, the next few centuries showed a decay of mastery over matter compensated by a religious collectivist zeal, in a horrible form demonstrated in the triumph arch of Constantine as I remember from my half year in university. Much suffering was needed to turn that sickness into a stimulant, I can imagine - the early romantic cults of France may have been the next healthy neuroses - obsessive virgin Mary cults turned around into a renewed appreciation for nature and fertility.

I also perceive a border between ecstatic departure from the body such as the shaman, Plato, mystic poets in general, perhaps Parmenides even, and on the other side people who deemed matter worthy to try to master it, such as Pythagoras and Archimedes. PP vs RP applies there as well by my current understanding.

I think it is hard to know what facets of the pleasure principle are created by the ‘reality’ principle. I do not think we can simply assume we understand what the former would be like in the absence of the latter. We cannot, also, assume that what has been performed in the name of the reality principle was based on reality or was hallucination - for example on the part of the parents. Much of the teaching parents do is non-verbal. Children pick up tensions and reactions that are not verbalized and ‘punishments’ and limits are set even unconsciously by the parents. So we have, I would say, in every case, unnecessary repression. (Which is why I put ‘reality’ in citation marks in the first sentence above.) If this is the case, than what we see as inevitable may not be inevitable.

Yes, repression is basically self-repression in the face of one’s idea of reality.

Yes, but then my ‘dialectic’ was only a formulation. It’s really rather like this:

The person wants to jump to joy (Lust):


But he cannot, as there is a low roof (or as Moreno suggested, the roof seems low to him). Reality (seems to) stand in the way of pleasure:



But as he still wants to jump—that is, as he still has the longing for pleasure—, instead of a high one (into consciousness/the public sphere), he now makes a long jump:


person —> neurosis

Insofar as his neurosis, however, is, or seems to him to be, safe/acceptable, it can take the form of a sublimation (note: ignore the underscores):

person —> neurosis

Methinks the history of this is written in The Logical Song:

“When I was young”, I tasted the fruit of the tree of life (the pleasure principle);
“But then” I was confronted with knowledge of reality (the reality principle);
And now I sing my ‘rebellious’ song, which tragic-ironically has proven to be “acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable”.

And yes, I’m being cynical here.

[size=95]We permit ourselves a tame barbarism: just look at our artists and statesmen.
[Nietzsche, WP 869.][/size]

Yesterday I could not understand this. Now, after replying to you in the other thread, I can sense your meaning. But only by looking at the type of song you quote, which is not the type of music I relate to.

I am tempted to tell myself now that I am too proud (or incapable) as an artist to put my repression or neurosis into an acceptable form. When I express repressed things, they come out raw, i.e., not sublimated. Few people would call them sublime, I suppose - so much for the word play - but at least they are not tamed, but untamed barbarism.

It follows that art for me is not a viable means to social acceptance and ascension, but only a means to ‘get unraveled’. If success would come with that, it would also put me in the spotlight as a barbarian. Which is not accurate, since I am not so repressed that I can find enough meaning in sublimating or directly expressing my repressed will to pleasure. Rather, my will to power has been repressed by my idea that art is my only means to power.

What kind of things are you talking about?


I mean the films I made in my youth - some of my music - everything I make that I can really laugh about. “De Waanzin”, for example, is as a song the approaching of that state - synthetic barbarism, as opposed to barbary, which is actually what I mean when I say untamed. The last verse finally makes me laugh, I’ve reached barbary there. The first eight of the 16 lines below are still conceptually synthetic, after that, the energy breaks loose from it’s context and becomes an expression of what I am instead of of what I think.

Dus alle schyzofrene psychopaten rook je wietplantage
Op en laat niets je vertragen, doe die mythen en sagen
Pyromanen licht die vuren en verbrandt iedere klagende
Priester Daag Hitler uit en laat Nietzsche betalen
Voor de rite van zn passage naar de Hades over de Styx
Roken myriades van wieries in series sticks
Gestenigd als de Pyreneen als rivieren naar beneden
Als sneeuw uit de Hemel totaan wier in zeven zeeen

Wordt het erop of er onder offer je op aan de dondergod,
je wordt de zondebok en wordt zonder lot in een grot
vol botten gepropt. Verstoor de vormen van de kennis
mep het universum van tafel als tennis.
Hou je waffel beter yo je gaat niet biechten bij kadhaffi
slettebakken beffen elkander met zachte bekkies
en records sellen best als caps aan crackheads
de class oozet van mn shit als van een berg merk-mest.

I expend myself to say something to myself in the first so many lines and finally manage to say something back, as myself. I’m admitting that I just use those concepts to feel cool as a rapper, among other things. What happens is that I laugh at myself, as myself, which may be exactly what a small child does, who has no mind of himself yet, and merely responds to contradicting and contageous stimuli. 'Mindless" laughter belongs as a concept to the child, I think as well as ‘child’, and I do not think Freud dealt with this subject exhaustingly. I would think Deleuze has more to say on it, although I do not think clowns are funny - they’re rather the embodiment of dread.

Though these things are certainly less ‘sublime’ (sophisticated/tame) than that Supertramp song, I still regard them as sublimations.

I disagree in part. I think the first part is 100% sublimation, in the second part an opposing process takes hold. It is still partly sublimated, but it is breaking down into the rawer energies again.

I think this breaking-down of constructs (concepts, sublimated energies) is probably crucial in treatment for neuroses if you don’t want to sublimate further, which I think might lead to psychosis.