Today in the Babelisation and disorder of the psychoanalytic movement, the Lacanian theory constitutes the open reformulation of the psychoanalytic theory invented by Freud. It is a reformulation which takes into account the transformation of scientific epistemology and progress of mathematics.
“In every writer on philosophy there is a concealed metaphysic, usually unconscious; even if his subject is metaphysics, he is almost certain to have an uncritically believed system which underlies his specific arguments” (Bertrand Russell).
There were many Freuds: the scholar, the academic, the researcher, the neurologist, the founder of the new discipline: psychoanalysis, and Viennese professional. All were noted for their rejection of religion and their identification with prevalent German culture. This was the picture painted by Freud’s principal biographers: Ernest Jones, Peter Gay and Ronald Clark. They agreed that Freud came from an assimilated Jewish background and he was a completely secular intellectual.
This is a play on Hilda Doolittle’s analysis with Freud. The play is based on H. D.´s (Hilda Doolittle) Tribute to Freud, the letters, as well as some of her poetry, that she exchanged with Freud and her literary circle. Hilda, a forty-seven-year old poet met Freud, then in his late seventies, in 1930s Vienna. It was the beginning of a startling “love affair”, with exchanges of gifts, letters, and flowers, within and beyond the psychoanalytical setting. It was written to be performed by The Unconscious on Stage Company at the Freud Museum London from 12th to 16th November 2013.
By presenting a series of interconnected studies, effort is made to approach timely questions regarding the social nature of human beings. A new part of the structural theory of the personality is presented, called “nos”. Instead of attempting a definition at the beginning, it is more expressive of our subject if slowly, chapter by chapter some of it emerges, always from a specific viewpoint. Such method may not satisfy some disciplined minds, as it lacks a tightly organised frame in which everything duly falls into its place. I want to introduce the subject not only from an intellectual viewpoint, but allow relevant feelings to come in also. The result awakens not only our logic, but hopefully the whole person.
The subject of the mother-son relationship had never been broached with such psychological insight as in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (1921). Indeed, we had to wait until 1969 before Philip Roth revisited the subject in Portnoy’s Complaint.
Yet Proust writes about the mother in such an innocuous and idealizing manner that to the unsuspecting reader it appears an unambiguously loving relationship. However, in earlier works, such as Jean Santeuil (c.1897) and short stories dating from his youth, Proust expressed himself in a less veiled style. Moreover, a letter to his mother written when he was more than forty years old is even more revealing. In it he complains that she still treats him as a four year-old child. Her aim seems to have been to control him mentally as well as physically.
Proust developed a sexual perversion. He became a sadomasochist and shows in his novel how this preference can develop. Generations of analysts after Sigmund Freud have maintained the explanation of masochism put forward in Freud’s paper, ‘A Child is Being Beaten’: the boy wants to be beaten by father as a replacement for being loved by him. The Oedipal father is the central figure in this account, rather than the mother. Indeed, Freud idealized the mother-son relationship, calling it ‘the least ambivalent and the most loving’ of all human bonds. He used only female cases for his theory of masochism. No male cases at all were explored, with only a mention of how passive feminine strivings are the source of masochism in males.
Like Proust, Freud derived his psychological knowledge in great part from subjective experience. But his experience with his mother was very different from that of Proust, who never overcame her domination. Consequently, Proust felt that in order to enjoy his (homo)sexuality he had to escape her control. Because his pleasure insulted his mother, then profaning and even murderous phantasies concerning mother figures became a condition for his pleasure and sexual excitement. This is the perversion that drives all his male protagonists throughout his novel.
The Oedipal concept of ‘the boy in love with mother and wanting to kill father’ is turned upside down. The boy has not overcome his dependent position towards his mother. He has not reached a triadic Oedipal relationship. Consequently, he has to escape her control momentarily, to function as a sexual being at all. To channel his anxiety and aggression in a perverse sexual scenario enables him to become excited and potent. But this is compulsive, repetitive and not at all a free choice.
In my opinion, matricide (rather than patricide) has not received the attention within and outside of psychoanalysis that it deserves. Besides mother-son pathology, the concept clarifies much mother-daughter pathology as well. Such murderous phantasies and dreams are not uncommon in either men or women, but there is a crucial difference that must be observed: femininity is not threatened by unresolved dependency on the mother, unlike masculinity in males.
Hendrika C. Freud
Author of Men and Mothers: The Lifelong Struggle of Sons and Their Mothers, and Elektra vs Oedipus: The Drama of the Mother-Dauighter Relationship