The evolution of the unconscious

Psychoanalysis is reconceptualized as the scientific study of conflicting biological propensities. According to neo-Darwinian theory self-deception arose as a result of an evolutionary arms race between intraspecific deception and detection amongst hominids. The evolution of self-deception modified an earlier split between conscious and unconscious mental activities. Unconscious social cognition emerged to avoid conscious overload when dealing with highly complex Machiavellian social relations. Evolutionary theory suggests that countertransference, in the classical Freudian sense of the word, is inevitable. Psychoanalytic clinical literature provides support for the hypothesis of unconscious social cognition, as does cognitive science. Evolutionary theory suggests that unconscious responses to the psychoanalytic situation should be particularly responses to modifications of the frame. A clinical example is presented.

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“Suddenly, they appear…”: On genuine, small and other Freudian case-studies

Reflecting on the three symposia recently organised by Idesça in cooperation with the Gezelschap voor Psychoanalyse en Psychotherapie, the author queries the status of so-called “small case-studies”. With reference to (i) his own clinical experience; (ii) so-called small Freudian case-studies (in contrast with Freud’s case-studies of Dora, The Ratman, The Wolfman, Little Hans and Schreber); and (iii) the short stories of the Belgian writer Peter Verhelst (Mondschilderingen [“mouth paintings”] (2002)), it is argued that a small Freudian clinical fragment bears witness to (i) the enigmatic presence of the clinician with respect to the sudden appearance of the unconscious; (ii) the use of a certain style and a certain measure; (iii) the circumvention of imaginary reality; and (iv) the clinical structure of fantasy.

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Time for the Unconscious: On the Organization of the Psychic Apparatus

Freud’s characterization of the psychic apparatus is profoundly ambiguous. On the one hand, it tends towards a reductionist framework that explains psychic phenomena largely in terms of mechanical processes in the energetic economy of the psyche. On the other, it points towards a framework that affirms the autonomy and holistic nature of the psychic and the radical contingency of psychic phenomena with respect to mechanical processes. In this text, an attempt is made to develop the latter conceptualization as the most fruitful aspect of psychoanalysis for current reflections on the psyche. This is done by via an alternative interpretation of the negative determinations of the unconscious in Freud’s works, in particular that of the timelessness of the unconscious. These determinations can be clarified by relating them to Freud’s theory of association from the study on aphasia. In this view, the timelessness does not refer to the theory of regression, grafted onto the naïve interpretation of trauma, but to non-linear processes of (self-) organization that produce the radical, creative singularity of that which is psychic.

Finding one’s Tongue

For children who are deaf – that is to say, who cannot hear sound – from the outset communication involves what they can see, touch, feel, sense, and transmit to others through gestural signs (body language). This happens intuitively , and this process is as incomprehensible to those who use speech as it is to these children. In analysis the deaf (and those who try to “get through to them”) attempt to convey, despite efforts to validate their experience and the historic disparagement of sign language, the difficulty of finding a language that is shared by all. It needs to be understood that a deaf child is neither dumb nor stupid and that a mainstream system of education that recognizes this reality is required.

The Maulwerke 2005 by Dieter Schnebel and the Kunstarbeidersgezelschap

This article is the result of a collaboration between the author and the Kunstarbeidergezelschap of Ghent on “Maulwerke” by the contemporary composer Dieter Schnebel. It outlines briefly the importance of the figure Dieter Schnebel for contemporary experimental music and the idea behind his “Maulwerke”. The “Maulwerke” (1968-1974), generally considered to be his masterpiece, was written during the period that Schnebel undertook his analysis. Schnebel calls this work the product of his analysis and it is here he introduces his concept of “psychoanalytic music”. The author explores the meaning of “psychoanalytic music” and asks whether the psychoanalytic framework can help us to understand something of the gripping character of this musical work.