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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on January 2, 2019 @ 3:04 pm

In examining this Royal Road, Freud first clarifies his idea that every dream is a wish fulfilment, he states that people would question this assertion: “’There is nothing new,’ I shall be told, ‘in the idea that some dreams are to be regarded as wish-fulfilments; the authorities noticed that fact long ago… But to assert that there are no dreams other than wish fulfilment dreams in only one more unjustifiable generalisation, though fortunately one easy to disprove…’” (p.134). And Freud suggests that a counter-argument would be distressing anxiety dreams. He responds “It does in fact look as though anxiety dreams make it impossible to assert as a general proposition… that dreams are wish-fulfilments; indeed they stamp any proposition as an absurdity… Nevertheless, there is no great difficulty in meeting these apparently conclusive objections. It is only necessary to take notice of the fact that my theory is not based on a consideration of the manifest content of dreams but refers to the thoughts which are shown by the work of interpretation to lie behind dreams. We must make a contrast between the manifest and the latent content of dreams. There is no question that there are dreams whose manifest content is the most distressing kind. But has anyone tried to interpret such dreams? To reveal the latent thoughts behind them? If not, then the two objections raised against my theory will not hold water: it still remains possible that distressing dreams and anxiety dreams, when they have been interpreted may turn out to be fulfilment of wishes.” (p.135).
Is it this that Deleuze and Guattari question when they state “These indifferent signs follow no plan, they function at all levels and enter into any and every sort of connection; each one speaks its own language, and establishes syntheses with others that are quite direct along transverse vectors, whereas the vectors between the basic elements that constitute them are quite indirect” and yet they seem to acknowledge manifest content when they say “No chain is homogeneous; all of them resemble, rather a succession of characters from different alphabets in which an ideogram, a pictogram, a tiny image of an elephant passing by, or a rising sun may suddenly make its appearance. In a chain that mixes together phonemes, morphemes, etc., without combining them, papa’s moustache, mama’s upraised arm, a ribbon, a little girl, a cop, a shoe suddenly turn up. Each chain fragments of other chains from which it ‘extracts’ a surplus value, just as the orchid code ‘attracts’ the figure of the wasp: both phenomena demonstrate the surplus value of a code. It is an entire system of shuntings along certain tracks, and of selections by lot, that bring about partially dependent, aleatory phenomena bearing a close resemblance to a Markov chain. The recordings and transmissions that have come from the internal codes, from the outside world, from one region to another of the organism, all intersect, following the endlessly ramified paths of the great disjunctive synthesis” The relation to latent content is understood thus: “If this constitutes a system of writing, it is a writing inscribed on the very surface of the Real: a strangely polyvocal kind of writing, never a biunivocalized, linearized one; a transcursive system of writing, never a discursive one; a writing that constitutes the entire domain of the ‘real inorganization’ of the passive syntheses, where we would search in vain for something that might be labelled the Signifier – writing that ceaselessly composes and decomposes the chains into signs that have nothing that impels them to become signifying.” But the clincher where they differ from Freud is this: “The vocation of the sign is to produce desire, engineering it in every direction.” The tendency for desire to engineer in every direction is the relation of Freud’s wish fulfilment to Deleuze and Guattari’s machinism. This is clearly a move towards cybernetics post-Saussure, and Lacan’s working of Freud after Saussure. And for this reason, in a while, it is worth looking at Laing’s understanding of machines as well. However, I would first like to momentarily return to Voice Dialogue and point out that the interpretation of voices by this technique still retains the knowledge that manifest content and latent content are separate. However, to look at this as a biopolitical point of view one must then look at machines in Marx’s Grundrisse, and Foucault’s understanding of the relation of machines to ordo-liberalism as an aspect of biopolitics in order to then return to the use of Voice Dialogue (and CBT for that matter) in contemporary mental health treatment, why one gets widespread policy assent (especially under austerity) and the other still lacks traction. In the meantime, let’s return to Freud’s theory of the dreamwork and its relation to the unconscious.
Upon elucidating the concept of latent and manifest content of dreams to explain wish-fulfilment in anxiety dreams, Freud suggests to effectively interpret the latent content as part of the dreamwork one must ask another question which is “Why is it that dreams with an indifferent content, which turn out to be wish-fulfilments, do not express their meanings undisguised?” that is; what is the origin of dream-distortion?

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace