The freedom of a vast number of people is now under threat. Instead of the ability to make their own decisions, the possibility of ordinary people to control the power, it is offered to humbly follow someone else’s will and the total dependence of the majority on the ruling class. Possible inaccessibility actualizes freedom and makes it especially desirable.
At the same time, one of the highest manifestations of freedom is mental liberty, the freedom to think and exist beyond the influence of subjective factors that distort the perception of reality. Mental liberty is something mythical, almost unattainable. It manifests itself, for example, in the behavior of Socrates, who refuses to do anything for his possible salvation and entrusts his life to the will of fate. The freedom of Socrates is, among other things, the freedom from the fear of death, which in most cases is an absolutely irrational phenomenon that fetters and paralyzes the individual. The fear of death affirms life as a main value, but reality refutes this value by the fact of the inevitability of death.
Mental Liberty is the main objective of psychoanalysis. By gradual discovery of the history of the individual’s formation, the psychoanalyst helps the patient to become aware of the unconscious feasibility of his symptoms and the satisfaction they provide. Such assistance can not be provided without the psychoanalyst’s understanding of the basic mechanisms and logic of the formation of the individual. That is the vital clue for the analyst throughout the entire work with the patient. Jacques Lacan formulated one of the psychoanalytic theories of the formation of the mental world of the individual in 1938 in his article “The Family”, which was written for the French Encyclopedia. This article differs in two ways: the first is the frankness of the author’s description of the mechanisms and the sequence of the formation of the individual, such frankness is not typical of Lacan’s later works; the second feature is confidence in most statements when it comes to describing the stages of the individual’s formation. Lacan does not make assumptions, does not put forward a controversial theory but makes assumptions from the viewpoint of perfectly aware person. Surprisingly, in later works, which have already become classic, he will develop his own theory by using completely different terms/definitions.
Many of Lacan’s ideas from his «The Family» article appear to be closely related to theses put forward 15 years earlier by one of Freud’s early associates, Otto Rank, in his book «Birth Trauma and its Significance for Psychoanalysis». The two authors’ common understanding of the logic of becoming an individual and the concurrence in minute details of some of the given examples allows us to consider their works as two benchmarks for achieving the same goal.
This article describes the formation of the individual’s psychic world on the basis of the claims made by Jacques Lacan and Otto Rank in their above-mentioned works.
The described below concept is based on the following key principles:
– each new stage of the development of the psychic structure is due to the emergence of a new instrument/a complex set of responses caused by the significant amount of displeasure that an individual faces and is unable to cope with the existing means of response;
– any manifestation of the individual’s psychic structure in the form of behaviour, response to external factors, attitude to yourself and others is reasonable and relevant to the situation in which the individual found himself and to that set of psychic instruments (complexes) which were acquired during the personally experienced interaction with traumatic events. To some extent, this principle is an expansion of Freud’s idea that the symptom is based on the individual’s desire.
1. Heaven and Hell
The subject’s psychic world begins to form in the womb with the ability to perceive and respond to stimuli. Apparently, the psyche does not develop actively until the fetus leaves stable conditions and faces with any radical change in existence.
We can assume that, before the birth, the fetus is in the comfort conditions in the mother’s body, in particular the mother’s womb. This comfort includes the following:
-Stable ambient temperature creates a sense of warmth;
– Continuous intake of nutrients promotes satiety;
– Oxygen supply complements the sense of comfort;
– Jiggling while the mother walks causes response to irritation of the vestibular apparatus
– Aquatic environment – promotes irritation of skin receptors.
At the same time, the birth of a child is accompanied by a dramatic change in these conditions and the appearance of a huge number of previously unknown unpleasant irritants of the new world:
– Lower ambient temperature – promotes the sense of cold;
– Cutting off nutrients – leads to a sense of hunger;
– Interruption of oxygen supply – causes the sense of asphyxiation;
– Gravity – causes labyrinthine discomfort;
– An extremely bright light – causes an unpleasant feeling of blinding.
As Lacan points out: «Anxiety, the prototype of which manifests itself in asphyxiation of birth; cold because of nudity of skin; and labyrinthine discomfort, which is replaced by satisfaction at the rocking cradle, this triad sets an excruciating tone of organic existence».
The suffering that accompanies the process of birth and the emergence of a new world perpetuates the individual’s desire to cease the existence in this world, the desire to return to the womb, which we can define as the desire for death. And, as Lacan pointed out, this aspiration is so significant that «The image of the mother’s womb dominates all human life».
It is also necessary to take into account that back in 1920, in his work «Beyond the principle of pleasure» Freud introduced the concept of the death drive. Freud considered the «aspiration to decrease, to remain at rest, to stop the inner irritating tension», which he called «the dominant tendency of psychic life» to be the basis for the death drive existence. According to Freud, the life drive corresponds to the libidinal drive to the Ego and to the object, and the death drive corresponds to the destructive attraction of the ego. In addition, it was indicated that «the principle of pleasure is subordinate to the death drive». In 1933, in the 32nd lecture on the introduction to psychoanalysis, Freud defined the death drive as «a drive that seeks to once again destroy the life and restore an inorganic state».
A few years after the publication of «Beyond the Principle of Pleasure», in 1924, one of Freud’s closest disciples, Otto Rank, for the first time described in detail the individual’s desire to return to the womb in his book «Birth Trauma and its Significance for Psychoanalysis». As Ernest Jones recalls, Rank’s book made a lasting impression on Freud: «At first he [Freud] reacted with suspicion, and four months after the book was published, he spoke of his first shock and fear that all his life’s work on the etiology of neuroses would lose its significance or even become meaningless because of the significance of birth trauma. But soon Freud stopped thinking that Rank had made a fundamental discovery».
In his book, Rank describes his experience of analyzing patients when, at the final stage, the libido moves to the final, «intrauterine stage», as evidenced by a variety of materials, especially dreams. The analyst is identified with the mother. As the author further points out: «almost all infantile experiences can be defined as «concealing memories», and the ability to reproduce them should be due to the fact that just «the primal scene» can never be remembered, as with it the most painful of all «memories» – birth trauma» is «associatively» connected. In this case «primary displacement of birth trauma could be considered as the basis of memory in general».
In his work, Rank, actually, shows the way for us to understand the mechanism of the emergence of consciousness, when he considers such first sensations after birth as «fear, which is, so to say, the first psychological content in which a person begins to be aware». This fear, according to the author, is the basis on which the system of symbols is built, which in its turn becomes later the basis for the speech system structuring.
Rank points to the connection of the concept of Death with the mother Womb, thus revealing the meaning of Freud’s discovery of the Death drive: «the thought of death from the very beginning is associated with a strong unconscious affect of pleasure from the return to the mother’s body». Lacan seems to imply that too, when he writes, «that the aspiration to death is experienced by a person, as an object of attraction – a reality, that is revealed with the help of the analysis at all levels of the psyche; this is reality, the inventor of psychoanalysis had to recognize its indestructible character».
It should also be remembered that most of the time the newborn spends in a sleep, which is probably not different from the sleep of the fetus during its stay in the womb. It can be assumed that the sleep of any individual is his return to the state before birth. This is evidenced by:
– sleep position – often with knees bent and arms pressed to the body (embryo position);
– the need to cover the body before falling asleep and during sleep (imitation of the womb);
– dreams about being in the aquatic environment (analogue of amniotic fluid);
– dreams about being in a certain enclosed space (imitation of the Womb);
– dreams about moving up or down the stairs (similar to the rhythmic swings of the fetus during pregnancy).
This is how Rank writes about it: «In the state of sleep, we return to the intrauterine situation to a large extent every day». In this case, the author explains the essence of the basic types of dreams:
A dream of desire – the return to the primary situation of being in the womb;
An anxiety dream – is a painful interruption of a stay in the womb by the trauma of birth.
As it has already been pointed out, childbirth is associated with lots of irritants, due to both changes of environmental conditions and new nutrient pathways and, of course, the newborn can not cope with most of these negative factors alone.
In his work, Lacan points to the key importance of premature birth, when the newborn is not adapted to an independent survival: «the delay of teething and walking, corresponding to the delay of most other systems and functions, determines the child’s total helplessness, which lasts longer than the first two years». It looks like Rank considers the same when he writes, «A newborn would not have been able to survive if the nearest part of the outside world, and this world itself, would not immediately substitute the mother’s body: whether the hands of a midwife or warm water, later a diaper, a crib, a room».
Thus, the quick reduction or even total disappearance of most of the irritants, and the subsequent desired relief, are associated with the simultaneous activation of the visual analyzer – the appearance of the Mother’s image. In addition, the activation of the auditory analyzer connects this image with the Mother’s voice and the activation of the tactile skin and lips receptors leads to the sensations of her touch.
We can admit that after birth:
– The sensation of cold is replaced by the sensation of warmth from the wrapping and embracing of the mother;
– A feeling of hunger is transformed into a feeling of satiety, which is provided by the mother’s breasts;
– The irritation of the labyrinthine discomfort is replaced by the pleasure of rocking in the Mother’s arms;
– And even the sensations of being in the aquatic environment are sometimes returned during bathing the newborn, mostly performed by the mother.
All of these accompanying sensations, namely Look, Face, Breast, Voice, the Lip and Body touches create the concept of the maternal PRESENCE, which is a guarantee to reduce the impact of unpleasant irritants and to simulate as much as possible the conditions of the womb. As Lacan says: «When we consider a breastfeeding baby, this satisfaction reflects the signs of the greatest fullness and satisfaction of human desire». Mother, in this case becomes the first substitute for the Womb.
Lacan characterizes this stage as follows: «Cannibalism», but glued cannibalism, inexpressible, both active and passive, always living in games and symbolic words, which in the most developed love resembles the desire of the larva».
Often, the mother can not constantly be around the baby and leaves it alone for a while. We can assume that in such a case, due to the hunger and the cessation of the tactile as well as visual and acoustic stimuli coming from the Mother, the child begins to experience dissatisfaction and, to some extent, it’s coming back to a traumatic situation of birth. There are two possible solutions:
The first solution is the already-known, initial, and constitutive individual’s desire to return to the womb, the desire to get rid of the outer world, or the Death drive, which is based on the vague memories of the image of the womb. In such a case, the deprivation of the mother’s presence is accepted.
It is likely that the child is more prone to the Death drive if the mother fails to meet the above-mentioned needs of the child and if the mother and child do not spend enough time together.
– The second solution is a new, previously unknown aspiration, the aspiration to be back with the mother, the aspiration aimed at the outside world, in other words, the aspiration to life. This aspiration is based on memories of the presence of the Mother (look, voice, touch), which creates the image of the mother, but the real deprivation of the mother’s presence is rejected. The image of the mother substitutes it. As Lacan writes: «non-acceptance of removal from the breast, gives the complex a positive side, namely the image of caring relationships, which he seeks to restore».
Perhaps the child’s predisposition to the Aspiration to Life is determined by the mother who meets most of the child’s needs and spends the considerable time together with the child.
This psychic instrument Lacan calls the weaning complex. This is how Lacan describes his emergence: «This life crisis [weaning] is actually gets worse by a psychic crisis, which is undoubtedly the first one which decision has a dialectical structure. It seems that for the first time the vital tension is transformed into mental intention. In this case the weaning from the breast is either accepted or rejected».
It is worth to pay attention to the fact that Rank also distinguished the trauma of weaning from the breast as one of the significant stages of development of the individual, and considered this trauma to be «the second, quite consciously experienced and forced out».
According to Lacan, the two above-mentioned solutions always coexist simultaneously, as he points out: «neither acceptance nor rejection can be considered as one option. They do not contradict each other; but as coexisting and opposite poles, they determine an extremely ambivalent attitude, even if one of them prevails».
The simultaneous existence of two aspirations may be the reason why Lacan would later describe the splitting of the subject.
The Mother’s insolvency, and hence the activation of the complex at this stage, is not the rule, but only the most frequent scenario. At the same time, one should not forget about the relatively rare cases of total maternal care, which forms a complete analogue of the womb after birth. Being in such conditions it eliminates much of the displeasure associated with birth, but at the same time permanently loses the opportunity to form such a necessary tool for interaction with traumatic events in the future. This is likely to be the path of a psychotic subject whose inadaptability is further linked to diagnoses such as autism and schizophrenia. It seems that Rank writes about the same thing when he points out that «at paranoia the whole world becomes the womb».
It is noteworthy that at this stage of development Lacan connects the philosophical formula «ideal assimilation of the fullness of being» with the concept of wholeness. Among other things, this formula implies a «social utopia of totalitarian custody», a condition implying a dark, archaic aspiration to be in the position of the newborn, who is in absolute dependence on the mother, which at that moment proves to be the absolute master of both the subject’s life and death. It is a regression at this stage that can determine the pleasure of members of a totalitarian society, who completely dependent on the state.
Therefore, we can generalize that the birth crisis is the cause of the subject’s desire to return to womb, and the presence of a maternal object that eliminates most of the stimuli and is, at the same time, inaccessible, contributes to the emergence of a desire for reunification with the object. In the future, depending on the real sense of the presence of the mother or her substitutes, the subject will be at the mercy of either the aspiration for life or the aspiration for death. The aspiration for life is aimed at the imaginary image of the mother, and the aspiration for death is focused on the imaginary image of the womb.
Dominance of a certain aspiration is formed in the ontogenesis process.