This article deals with the formidable challenge of repetition for therapeutic or educational care. Two forms of repetition are differentiated: one driven by the Oedipal life drive, the other by the death drive. Through a close reading of the classic myth of Oedipus Rex, the encounter of these forms of repetition is demonstrated. This myth also offers three main perspectives from which this work may be grasped: good, truth and writing. Originating in a project for abandoned children in a school for special education (De Sassepoort), the possible benefits of assisting children through writing is supported.
This paper concerns a clinical fragment from the analysis of a four year old child. Several topics relevant for child analysis are addressed. We learn that a child who had abruptly decided to be silent, through the particularity of the transference bond, is once again enough at ease to tell his story. Symbolic exchange, together with the answer of the Other as mirror of language, allows the boy access to the oedipal constellation and allows him to reorient himself psychically. Through a process of drawing, of signifying, being signified, and of writing, we get a glimpse of the significance of language for the Oedipal structuration process.
The way in which obsessional neurosis is dominated by the attempt of the subject to liberate itself from the grasp of the mother is illustrated with a fragment from the analysis of an obsessional man. Both the castration of the mother and the problematic character of the Name-of-the-Father take a central place. It is observed how the subject is hired by the mother in her search for an object capable of filling her lack. This is the seduction of the mother: by pretending that the child would be able to be or to have what she is missing, she strokes its narcissism, and in the process, she rejects the desire of the future obsessional. For its part, the subject starts to desire what the mother demands and is captivated by the metonymic glide of objects, none of which are able to fill the maternal lack. Because of the mortal immobilisation and the constant frustration following from the identification with the phallus, the subject will try to buy itself out of being the phallus by having it. That is what happens at the stage of privation. Refusing to accept the castration of the mother, whether through identification, possession or exploitation of the phallic object, each time the desire of the mother surfaces, it presents an anxious threat for the obsessional, who fears being reduced to that same phallic object. Trying to fine-tune anxiety and desire leads him to construct a paradoxical universe, the frame of which is formed by an Other, designed as both total and without object simultaneously. This Other is no longer grounded in a cut, but is based on a distance: everything which belongs to the field of the real is being pushed into the realm of the hypothetical. Delay and doubt play an important role in this and help to create an “impossible” object, enabling the virtual existence of the Thing to contine.
Referring to Freud’s correspondence with Wilhelm Fließ, it is argued that Freud did not so much “apply” clinical insight concerning his own archaic and incestuous desires onto literature, i.e., Hamlet (Shakespeare) and Oedipus Rex (Sophocles). On the contrary, it was only after he had assimilated the significance of Hamlet’s words, “The readiness is all”, that he arrived at his interpretation of Hamlet’s behaviour and the effects of both tragedies on the spectator. In this sense, it was Shakespeare who “read” and interpreted Freud, rather than the other way round. This important episode in the history of psychoanalysis also illustrates how literature can function as Other, i.e., in the position of the psychoanalyst.
The story of Oedipus has been used throughout the ages in a variety of ways, by both artists and scholars. In this paper, the author highlights the host of aspects and motives which have turned this story into a myth, a tragedy and a very popular literary model in Western cultural history. As a myth, it can be read horizontally or vertically, synchronically or diachronically, and on the basis of either a masculine or a feminine imagination. It is argued that when it is read as just proof of the Oedipus complex, as Freud did, many equally important aspects are ignored. But whatever the interpretation we give to the story of Oedipus, it remains a construction told by men for men, a myth of male truth.