‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part eight)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on June 3, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

There is an interesting point in Book I of Lacan’s seminars discussing ego-ideals and ideal-egos between LeClaire and Lacan in which they bring up paranoiac delusions of being watched, as was discussed in part 6, it is worth going over Lacan’s observations to further illuminate this experience, but first let us distinguish between ego-ideal and ideal-ego.
In a not to dissimilar vein to Attachment theory (although Bowlby denies the existence of the Freudian death instinct) Lacan argues Freud locates what he calls narcissism in the need for support (Anlenung) of the child (His Majesty the aby), as an exchange in this care giving role to the dependent, the parents project their ideals onto the child. Freud isolates ‘the fixation of love’ (Verliebtheit) in four forms of love: 1. What one is oneself, 2. What one was, 3. What one would like to be and 4. The person who was a part of oneself – the caregivers of childhood (amongst others). This is the Narzissmusttypus. There is a reversal where the subject takes its bearings from the woman who feeds and the man who protects. One can argue looking at the less theorietical and more evidence based attachment theory, that we can to an extent degender these roles, but still see them as bearings. And of course any failure as a consequence will also add to what, as was discussed later, tends towards the subject’s relation to the later fully formed Superego. However at this stage we are talking ego development and at this stage Freud’s argument according to LeClaire is that the parents projection of their ideals onto the child dictates the form the narcissism takes, and its relation to the fourfold typology above. One can think of Charles Fernyhough’s book on memory, ‘Pieces of Light’, where he notes that some of our earliest memories when they are in the third person are most likely memories made up of stories told to us throughout our life, and less memories of actual events that develop later, around 3-4 years, where the ‘I’, the ego takes centre stage and those memories are more likely to be first person (although if played with repeatedly such memories can sometimes take a simulation of first person narrative).
With regards the adult ego, they question whether it gets subsumed in object investments. However it seems in Freudian analysis one of the purposes of repression is the ego’s ethical and cultural requirements in that “the same impressions, experiences, impulses and desires that one man indulges or at least works over consciously will be rejected with the utmost indignation ny another, or even stifled before they enter consciousness” (p.132-133) LeClaire then goes on to say that Freud formulates the issue such as “We can say that one man has set up an ideal in himself by which he measures his actual ego, while the other has formed no such ideal. For the ego the formulation of an ideal would be the conditioning factor of repression. This ideal is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true [veritable/real – Das wirkliche Ich] ego… Narcissism seems to make its appearance displaced onto this new ideal ego, which finds itself in possession of all the ego’s precious perfections, in the same way as the infantile ego was. As always where the libido is concerned, man has here again shown himself incapable of giving up a satisfaction he once enjoyed… This ideal ego is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true[/real] ego… He is not willing to forgo the narcissistic perfection of his childhood and… he seeks to recover it in the form of an ego-ideal.”(p.133).
If we go back to the first article on Gombrich and Paredoilia, we can get a sense of what is projected. But we also have to bear in mind that this is an individual’s relation with the world, what Husserl would call a life-world, as well the reality principle which is the social, economic and discursive organisation of the lifeworld plus aleatory effects that are beyond the individual’s control, somewhat similar to Lacan’s Intrusions of the Real. From this we can see the individual is situated in many overlapping cybernetic dynamics that some theorists call a network, however some of these dynamics are closer to the individual for longer periods, such as family, school, work, including the intense time period of childhood especially up to the age of four and during puberty. This later adult then has this relation to a more worked through ideal-ego that has a history. However these dynamics that haunt the individual through memory and sometimes trauma can stem from dynamics that were authoritarian nexi, and these formations will remain if not worked through.

LeClaire then discusses sublimation sought out of the relations of the formation of the ideal. “Sublimation is a process involving object libido. In contrast, idealisation deals with the object which has been ennobled, elevated and it does so without any modification in its nature. Idealisation is no less possible in the domain of ego libido than that of object libido” (p.134). Freud places the two libidos on the same plane. It is possible for the idealisation of the ego and a failed sublimation to then coexist. This formation of the ego-ideal intensifies the demands on the ego and as a consequence of the ethical and cultural needs of the ego mentioned earlier that have to interact with other egos who may not desire to be the object of sublimation so brings repression to the full. Lacan then points out that one of the libidos is on the plane of the imaginary and the other the symbolic – the law. “the demand of the Ichideal takes up its place within the totality of demands of the law” (p.134) Leclaire adds that “Hence sublimation opens up the expedient of satisfying this demand without repression” And Lacan responds that “That is successful sublimation”

We are left with the relation now of sublimation to psychosis. And from there we can look at how Foucault’s modern man’s life as art is relevant. Leclaire notes the relation of a psychical agency that ‘performs this task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego-ideal is ensured and which, with this end in view, constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal” would ultimately lead to the formulation of the Superego. Here we can refer back to Freud’s comments on subjects who feel they are watched discussed earlier

It is here that I want to reference Bowlby again and recognise that he notes that Freud had a major turning point in his theory where he rejected early abuse and took his argument back to the child’s fantasies. But as Bowlby acknowledges violence and abuse can have major impacts on upbringing. Much of attachment theory is the importance of providing good enough parenting to create a reasonable ego-ideal. Trauma can negatively affect this. There is much research under the auspices of the Hearing Voices specialist institute Intervoice (Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, John Read and others) that links trauma to voice hearing, in some meta-analyses 65% of voice hearers have some kind of CSA or CPA. It is also woth noting that the subject of Freud’s research on psychosis, Schreber, had a father who was an inventor of equipment that was used to physically restrain and discipline children and Schreber’s father used it on his son.

One of Lacan’s students Maud Mannoni in her book the child and his illness, argued that the child developed symptoms threw the language ‘between’ the parents, in their relation, this creates a symbolic law that projects an ideal onto the child, the child learning through the phrases said what is expected of him/her, whether spoken directly to or spoken about the child. We can see here the beginnings of an authoritarian nexus and a cybernetics as described by Bateson and Laing. It is also worth noting that in the gestalt therapy of the Stones used in the Talking With Voices therapy, one of the ‘alters’ or personalities, that closest to the SuperEgo, is known as the Inner Critic, Hal and Sidra Stone argue that this protective alter develops more effectively my watching how others’ are treated and creating precautionary injunctions to prevent the subject getting into similar trouble. We can also understand this as listening to descriptions of character by third party witnesses that are between other rather than to the subject.

We can now imagine the situation post-2010 (or even earlier see my article Return of the Poor Law) where an increase in narratives of scroungers and welfare cheats, ‘skivers and strivers’ repeated in the media in a sustained propaganda attack on the welfare system would affect psychotics and other people with mental health issues who are already paranoid. What affect does this have on the sublimation of the ego-ideal?


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace