The Psychophysiological Unconscious – Gustav Theodor Fechner and the Moon

The author explores Fechner’s understanding of the unconscious and in doing so emphasises the ambivalence of his conceptualisation, i.e., the scientific and the spiritu¬alistic side of his thinking. The Elemente der Psychophysik (1860) form the central, al¬though not the only, reference: texts such as Das Büchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode (1836) and the posthumously published report on his illness will also be discussed. Fur¬ther, in order to compare and highlight Fechner’s own conception of the unconscious other ideas about the unconscious from the same period (Carus, Helmholtz, von Hartman) will be considered. The Fechnerian “unconscious” is actually conceived as a state of sleep or as a state of unconsciousness. Put into the cosmic context, Fechner’s unconscious levels the finality of death. The difference between Freud’s and Fechner’s notion of the uncon¬scious becomes obvious and is delineated on the basis of a close reading of Freud’s reference to Fechner’s “other scene”.

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Contemporary Subjectivity: A Psychoanalytical Analysis of Postmodernity and its Symptoms

In this article the author explores the possibility of a structural link between several cultural changes in contemporary society, better known as the very idea of a postmodern culture, and a significant change in clinical practice. Since the crisis of 1968, which was in essence a revolt against paternal authority, and since Lyotard wrote his La condition postmoderne (Lyotard, 1979) it is incontestable that western culture has been marked by a structural shift. As post-political, liberal subjects we are perceived as being free, detached from the obstacles of our primal identifications with our parents, country or socio-economic class. Nowadays, we are free-floating subjects in a decentralised universe trying to transgress the symbolic law and to achieve the ultimate object of desire. But it is quite paradoxical that this extreme liberalism finds its counterpart in both the explosive violence of the real and the massive pressure of the imaginary order. The main aim of this article is a psychoanalytical exploration of a possible structural connection between those two orders.

On bilingualism and the language of the unconscious

In psychoanalysis, as the talking cure, language asserts itself pre-eminently as the mode of treatment. Formations of the unconscious, like symptoms, dreams and slips of the tongue, can be interpreted on the basis of their underlying linguistic structure. Bilingual analysands, however, possess more than one language code by means of which they can put such manifestations of the unconscious into words.. This raises the question of how the ‘language of the unconscious’ finds its expression through the discourse of the bilingual subject. Starting with Freud’s conceptualisation of the psyche based on word- and thing-representations, the author examines the status of the mother tongue and a second, later-learned language in the bilingual analysand‘s communication, on the basis of the following questions: (i) Are there any differences in transference, depending on the language in which the analysand expresses himself?; (ii) To what extent are the mother tongue and a language learned later in life interrelated and what does this tell us about verbal processes like repression?; (iii) What value should be attached to the initial choice of language and the language switch, if any, in relation to the process of transference?; and (iv) What conclusions can be drawn with regard to the required language competency of the psychoanalyst conducting an analysis in more than one language?

Medusa’s gaze: The panoptical ideal questioned

In the 18th century Bentham proposed the idea of the panopticon as a reliable method for exercising power. By capturing the gaze, the guard owns the power of seeing in order to force the prisoner to submit. In this way, the undesirable behaviour of the prisoner can be suppressed. In the 1970’s there were several interesting commentaries: Foucault (philosophical) and Miller (psychoanalytic). This article examines the effects of a panoptical architecture, starting from concrete experiences. A clinical fragment will allow us to argue that the panopticon cannot guarantee the one-sidedness of the gaze (namely, on the part of the guard). As a consequence the panopticon has not only suppressing effects, but is also a possible ground for transgression.

“Morphogenesis” of the body: marked by the signifier?

Starting from a number of remarks and hypotheses of authors such as Georg Groddeck, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Jean Guir and Colette Soler about the entanglement of psyche and body, which, amongst other things, manifests itself in the activation of latent genes under the influence of specific signifiers, the author explores the influence of the signifier on the development of the shape of the body. Her analytical practice led her to hypothesize that some aspects of the body – mainly those that carry an erotic meaning – are marked by the signifier in the development of their shape, according to an analogous structural dynamic such as those that occur in psychosomatic phenomena. This hypothesis about the “morphogenesis” of the body is illustrated using a number of brief clinical fragments. One particular case highlights how a woman, in order to satisfy the desire of her mother for a son, unconsciously tries to become a man via a body dysmorphia, which manifests itself in the real of the body via deregulation, increased height, and acromegalia, which results in the body taking on a male shape.

Between Language and Subject: On Thinking and Speaking in Aphasia

Based on his clinical work with patients experiencing severe aphasia, the author asks questions of both a scientific and existential nature. That language plays a role in thinking seems to be a commonly accepted proposition, but the nature and extent of that role are difficult to define. It is also generally suggested that people are distinguished from animals through their use of language, and that to be human is ‘to be a linguistic being’. This article explores the implications of these propositions for patients with severe language impairments and with very limited communication possibilities. How, and to what extent, do disturbed language processes play a role in the consciousness, feelings of identity and ‘being human’ of these patients? Some answers to these questions are sought in the linguistics of de Saussure, Freud’s theories of language considered in light of recent cognitive neuroscientific insights, and Lacan’s ideas concerning language and the subject.