Freud’s Masterplotting

Section 3
Extending Freud’s Masterplot:
A Reading of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety

Beyond the Pleasure Principle is often treated as a major turning point in the development of Freudian theory. With respect to Freud’s "metapsychological writings," according to Strachey’s introduction, "Beyond the Pleasure Principle may be regarded as introducing the final phase of his views" (XVIII 5). Given the reestablishment of the mastery of the PP with Beyond …, and of the oedipal and phylogenetic masterplot, I would de-emphasize this claim: the paradigm essentially remains the same. The new instinctual dualism of life/death, Strachey’s main evidence of a paradigm shift, does not affect Freud’s theorizing in any major way, as evidenced by the small role this dualism plays in his subsequent writings, even The Ego and the Id–perhaps even smaller than the role played by explicit appeals to phylogeny (the implicit appeals being ubiquitous). Life/death is yet another version of the "trauma"-structure trope found in myriad forms throughout Freud’s theory since the Project, especially with respect to origins or structural centers. The question becomes with every form whether and how the trauma-structure trope becomes a "trauma"-structure trope of oppositionality. In this section I will explore yet another version of this trope in the form of anxiety, along with what could be read, but never has been read, as the paradigm shift of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Freud’s masterplot, however, survives this shift. In fact, the shift was immanent in the masterplot since its inception.

One significant change represented by Beyond the Pleasure Principle–but not necessarily a paradigm shift–is Freud’s introduction of the economic or structural model. As with almost every introduction of new concepts in Freudian theory, Freud would supplement the old versions of his theory more than revise them, even if the new theories would conflict with the old. This particular supplementation would create an even more confusing and sometimes conflicted array of categories with vague boundaries, while also creating potentially powerful new ways of conceptualizing the "objects" of study. In significant ways, the economic model potentially conflicts with the masterplot and the mastery of the PP, especially if we accept Freud’s definition of the id as "chaos" (XXII 73). This conceptualization of the id is almost automatic for most theorists, as is the similar, if not identical, conceptualization of the primary process as rebellious. Yet this conceptualization of the id conflicts and negates a slew of other Freudian conceptualizations. So much of how we read Freud depends on sorting through such conflicts. Is it possible to accept the definition of the id as "chaotic," without negating much of Freud’s work prior to Beyond…? The economic model is based on a division between "agencies" that in turn is based on the ordering of the binding/unbinding of energy (investments). According to the Freud of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, "the ego is identical with the id, and is merely a specially differentiated part of it" (XX 97). But he also claims that in repression "the decisive fact is that the ego is an organization and the id is not. The ego is, indeed, the organized portion of the id" (ibid.). The ego is both identical to the id and, at the same time, radically different in terms of organization. According to Freud the id is "chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations" (XX 73), and simultaneously the locus of the instincts, which, according to his own, much fought for definitions, are rather organized. In The Language of Psycho-Analysis, Laplanche and Pontalis ask, "Does the id have a mode of organization–a specific internal structure?" (198). At first they answer with a quotation from Freud in the New Introductory Lectures: "it has no organization, no collective will" (XX 73). They continue:

The fact is, however–and it should be emphasised–that Freud transfers to the id most of the properties which in the first topography had defined the system Ucs., and which constitute a positive and unique form of organization: operation according to the primary process, structure based on complexes, genetic layering of instincts, etc. Similarly, the freshly introduced dualism of life and death instincts implies that these properties are organized into a dialectical opposition. Thus the id’s lack of organization is only relative, implying merely the absence of the type of relations that characterise the ego’s organization. This absence is epitomised by the fact that "contrary [instinctual] impulses exist side by side, without cancelling each other out or diminishing each other" [22: 73-74] (198-99).
What is at times defined by Freud as being radically otherwise to the ego, the id can only be "the absence of the type of relations that characterise the ego’s organization" if the predominance of Freudian theory before and after is not to be negated. The id goes from being radically other to a specific absence of a specific presence, an (op)positionality. What I question here is if even this differentiation between the id and ego can be maintained with respect to some of Freud’s speculations in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, and whether the typical or traditional differentiations are not either negated or completely turned around.

The first question I ask: can the id be differentiated from the ego due to the ego’s intolerance of something like the contradiction of instinctual impulses? We might even ask if the ego is not also a "cauldron full of seething excitations" for self-preservation? My answer is that Freud’s conception of the id, like that of the ego, is an (op)positionally structured organization of identities. As for the id being the "negative" of the ego, I will argue to the contrary that, for the Freud of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, the ego is also based on a castration trope, a "trauma"-structure trope of (op)positionality, making any differentiation between the two problematic, and therefore subverting any supposed "Freudian breakthrough" associated with something like the divided subject. Freud’s totality problematizes the odd "differentiation" he describes in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety: "the ego is identical with the id, and is merely a specially differentiated part of it" (XX 97). In other words, because the totality of the Freudian masterplot defines both the id and the ego, the two are difficult to differentiate for the same reasons it is difficult to differentiate between the normal and neurotic: there is no room for chance, and the "trauma"-structure trope of castration is treated as a transcendental truth.

Whereas the id’s castration is phylo-"genetic" only–the inheritance of man’s primaeval split between individual desires and group needs–the ego’s castration is both phylogenetic and ontogenetic, which would account for its "special differentiation." If "external reality" can be reduced to the absence of phallic order, as in the phylogenetic tropology–that is, if the ego’s difference as determined by its relation to "external reality" (and, therefore, to chance) is insignificant–then it seems there would be no difference between the organizations of the id and ego with respect to the castration trope. In other words, if the ego’s relation to "external" objects–especially to the parents, if all objects are ultimately only "internal" objects–is reduced by Freud to a form of castration, then whence differentiation between the ego and id based on a difference in the relation to castration? If the privation demanded by the father’s "no," le "non" du pére (Lacan), the echo of the totemic law of the primaeval sons, le nom du pére (Lacan), that forces the child to give up "his" wish for a sexual connection (mastery) of the mother, does not require a "real" father, and is not subject to any chance concerning "real" objects–that is, if the symbolic father is destined to signify the le "non" du pére–then the "no" and the name of the totemic father would be the center of both the structures of the id and ego. There must be something potentially different about the world of "real," "external," or ontogenetic objects and the castration that stems from a relation with them, and the world of phylogenetically determined objects and its castration, for there to be some difference between the castration-centered structures of the id and the ego. Moreover, the difference of "reality"–its chance, its différance–must in some way survive whatever phylo-"genetic" memory-phantasy there might be.

Freud might rebut here that the castration complex requires repression by the ego, which makes the ego intolerant of the contradiction of the "trauma"-structure of castration, and therefore differentiates the ego from the id in terms of their relation to castration. But the "trauma" of castration, le "non" du pére, must in significant ways be a positive presence in the ego, and not something that never gets translated into the terms of the ego and therefore never enters into its organization. Moreover, and more simply, castration would not have to be conscious to be the center of the structure of the ego. The ego is both conscious and unconscious, a fact which by itself suggests that the ego is quite tolerant of contradictory positions. Also, Freud says the unconscious is tolerant of contradiction: the ego is partly unconscious. Regardless, the question remains: does the le "non" du pére coming from reality–which Freud argues is the "push" part of the repression; the "pull" part being the castration of primary repression–contain a trauma-structure of sorts?

For Freud, tolerance of contradiction–which is actually just the (op)positionality of castration–quickly transforms into "chaos," as Laplanche and Pontalis’ passage above suggests. For "psychic reality" to reduce mere contingency to castration, the id must be the source of "trauma," just as it must be the source of castration structure. The id as source of this "trauma" was foreshadowed, as I argued before, by the Qh that would have foreseen all possible Q allowed into the system. If the split of the ego between its conscious and unconscious systems does not provide the contradiction or opposition Freud equates with "chaos," and neither does the ego’s castration-structured center, perhaps the ego’s exclusive contact with the contingency of "external reality" might constitute a tolerance of "chaos" at least on par with the id’s. In other words, the ego has a potential relation to contingency, whereas the id, as I argue, is actually a determinist system when we factor Freud’s emphasis on phylogeny and his privileging of psychic reality over whatever might involve the system Pct.-Cs. The question becomes if the ego’s relation to contingency should be considered potentially traumatic, full of chance, or castration "trauma" foreseen by the id: a reality determined by psychic reality. Ironically, in a discussion of das Unheimlich, Freud writes that,

… the infantile element in [the uncanny effect attaching to magical practices], which also dominates the minds of neurotics, is the over-accentuation of psychical reality in comparison with material reality–a feature closely allied to the belief in the omnipotence of thought. (XVII 244)
Just as Freud’s initial take on castration as childhood sexual fantasy about females becomes a reality for him, the "belief in the omnipotence of thought" also becomes a central aspect of his theory, and psychic reality becomes simply reality, truth.

The ego, as Freud writes about it in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, can be read as more chaotic, more "otherwise," than the id since it can be read as centered on anxiety, a potentially "paradoxically disbanded" trauma-structure trope, one that might be read as not (op)positional. Whereas the a priori castration "trauma" of the id takes us back to the original Qh in the y system of the Project, the chaos of the ego takes us back to its f system, and the concept of anxiety takes us back to that study’s concept of "attention" and its difficulties with w neurons and "indications of reality." Regarding the chaos of unbound energy of the system Pct.-Cs., it was only the Project’s f neurons of perception that were unmarked, provided no resistance to Q, and remained that way in order to be open to all Q within certain intensity parameters. Freud’s 1925 concept of anxiety harkens back to his 1895 concept of "attention," so crucial for Freud’s apparatus of the Project as it somewhat magically guarded against potentially unpleasurable Q, like an ego within the ego of the apparatus. How these external Q could avoid being posited as possessing some a priori cathexes for which the apparatus was prepared was at issue for Freud in the Project, and this issue returns in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. I argued before that Freud would transpose the w of the f -y -w apparatus to the middle position, f -w -y , in order to attempt an accounting for the way this apparatus deals with the contingency of the "external world," the contingency of the Project being in the form of memory, perception, and experience. To distinguish the quality of "experience" from that of a "memory"–and this "memory" being in the form of a hallucination, suggesting that this "memory" is a super-charged "memory-phantasy," such as the perceptual identity of the primary process and pleasure principle–the w neurons of the ego would serve as a catalyst for inhibition, another theme from the Project elaborated on in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Attention and inhibition become hallmarks of the ego in the Project, written at a time when Freud still considered anxiety a product of excess libido percolating up from the system Ucs. For Freud, the raison d’être of reality testing is the differentiation of hallucination from perceptions of "external reality"; reality testing guards against the solipsistic threat posed by the pleasure principle (XXIII 162; Lap67 383). Freud’s privileging of "psychic reality" starting in the Wolf Man case will further problematize a Freudian concept which had only ever been riddled with problems: reality testing. Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety returns to some of the difficulties encountered in the Project, especially "reality testing" and how its conceptualization influences the conceptualization of the relation of the ego to the organism’s system of energetics, to "memory" (memory-phantasy), and, in general, to the organism’s relation to chance. I argue here that, in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, Freud repeats his "fort!" of the contingency of "external reality" in the Project via his conceptualization of anxiety, and, in doing so, must subvert the traditional definitions of the ego and the id with respect to issues such as "chaos," tolerance of contradiction, and even which is more powerful.

Ultimately, if the ego is the chaotic one, then the economic model may not only conflict with the topographical model, but it may ultimately turn it on its head. This would indeed be the case if trauma, the contingency of "external reality" par excellence, were not reduced to castration, and anxiety were not transformed by Freud from a trauma-structure trope into a "trauma"-structure trope of (op)positionality, the presence and absence of a specific structure. I will show that the trauma on which the definition of anxiety is based is treated by Freud as the absence of phallic order or presence–castration equates such presence and order–and his concept of anxiety becomes a "trauma"-structure trope of oppositionality if trauma is reduced to castration. If this is so, the economic model, and the phylogeny-based masterplot which precedes it, would constitute a paradigm shift in that the subject of the Freudian masterplot is not necessarily split since there is no clear differentiation between ego and id, which would be the expected outcome of a paradigm attempting to establish itself as a totality, a monism. One might conclude that Freud’s difficulties with the concept of "reality testing"–that is, his problem accounting for contingency in his etiologies and masterplots–are connected to his desire to maintain the supremacy of the psyche’s structured energetics over the ego and the ego’s supposed connection to the contingency of the "external" world.

Some might object to my hypothesis of an undifferentiated ego and id by arguing that the id, as the source of this energetics–Freud’s ultimately vitalist concept of "libido," which he presents as materialist (see Hol89)–is differentiated from the ego: the ego as epiphenomenal, a subset or aspect of the id: part of it, but different from it. Freud was as contradictory with regard to the id being the sole source of libido as he was regarding the relationship of anxiety to birth–and these contradictory aspects of this text by Freud, despite being intimately related for him, also help us to understand the context of his treatment of anxiety in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Strachey’s "Appendix B: The Great Reservoir of the Libido" is an unusual case of Freud’s English translator’s attempts to smooth over contradictions in The Ego and the Id beyond the usual means of translation or footnotes. Regarding the ego as a source of libido, Strachey straightforwardly points out that Freud writes in Beyond the Pleasure Principle: "Psycho-Analysis … came to the conclusion that the ego is the true and original reservoir of libido, and that it is only from that reservoir that libido is extended on to objects" (XVIII 51). Freud’s view here seems to be a product of his embracing of the idea of primary narcissism in his 1914 essay, "On Narcissism" (XIV). We might compare these positions of Freud’s–his primary narcissism and libido reservoir of the ego–to Derrida’s drive of the proper: all drives, the very drivenness of drives, being a drive for the proper. Libido would be the energetics of all drives, and the ego would be the "agency" of the proper, of appropriation. We can read Freud’s confusion regarding the source of libido with respect to the undecidability of what is Other to the drive of the proper, the (non)origin of repetition of this drive. I will return to this idea in chapter six.

In The Ego and the Id, however, Freud contradicts the quotation above: "Now that we have distinguished between the ego and the id, we must recognize the id as the great reservoir of libido …" (XIX 30n1). According to Strachey, the latter passage appears to be "a drastic correction" (XIX 64) to the former, but this appearance, Strachey continues, is dependent on narrow thinking that treats the ambiguous reservoir metaphor solely in terms of a "source" (XIX 65), as in caput Nili, rather than in terms of something more like a "storage tank" (ibid.). For Strachey, the corrective is not drastic because Freud had never really gotten away from the id or unconscious as the source of libido. His explanation does not explain how the ego as the "true and original reservoir" might be considered a storage tank for the "great reservoir" of the id. Strachey might argue that the ego is the source of object cathexes, and the id is the source of subject or ego cathexes. But would the "objects" of primary phantasies be included in the e go’s cathexes? Moreover, isn’t the ego an object, according to Freud in "On Narcissism"? Categorical confusion is unavoidable. For example, is the ego the source of object cathexes when the ego is the object? Given that the ego is the only source of object cathexes, wouldn’t the id need to be an ego of sorts in order for it to cathect the ego as an object? Primary narcissism seems to hypostasize an ego, an id-ego.

What is at stake here is whether the id is primary, and whether it is something "otherwise"–that is, whether Freud runs into the problem of subverting his breakthrough of privileging the power of the unconscious over that of consciousness, and whether the unconscious is some timeless, a-logical realm potentially radically other to the reason and temporality of consciousness. The way I have structured the issue here is complicated by the ego being both conscious and unconscious. But the id, or the "it," is solely unconscious for Freud, and it seems like it would be the material source of the physicalist-sounding libido, including the ego instincts, such as the instinct for self-preservation.

What is also at stake is whether Freud ends up positing an ego at the very origin, a hypostasized ego, even a phylogenetic Ego–even though he criticized Adler and Rank along the same lines (Web82 52). If the primaeval drives of the primaeval sons for immediate gratification, not knowing death or deferral, constitutes the inherited model of the id, wouldn’t their totemic law constitute the model for the ego? The law of the Father and the ego ideal or Über-Ich? These stakes, combined with the stakes of whether the ego can be differentiated from the id with regard to libido, and whether "external reality" and its contingency play a role in this differentiation–that is, whether the psychoanalytic postal relay could ever be theorized as adestinational with respect to Freud’s later theory–all combine to threaten what is usually the most fundamental aspect of most claims to a Freudian breakthrough, and perhaps even a good deal of the authority of psychoanalysis in general. I will argue that Freud’s conception of anxiety as being both primary and situated in the ego combine to hypostasize the ego, and this hypostasization suggests that the ego is determined by the "trauma"-structure of the primal phantasies, which, in turn, constitute scenes that are privileged over "external reality’s" scenes. Moreover, I see these theoretical troubles of Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety as a repetition of Freud’s paradigm-busting transposition of the w neurons in the Project, and in general related to how Freud could not account for "reality testing" and contingency.

Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety was, to a significant degree, a response to Otto Rank’s The Trauma of Birth, where Rank argues that all anxiety attacks are a mode of abreacting the effects of the trauma of birth. Freud first claims it was originally his own idea (see Web82 52) and assumes the anxiety of birth as a basic principle: "The first experience of anxiety which an individual goes through (in the case of human beings, at all events) is birth …" (XX 130). According to this Freud, repression is not first or primary, anxiety is: "It was anxiety which produced repression and not, as I formerly believed, repression which produced anxiety" (XX 108-9). This is another case of Freud making a radical change in his theory without working out how the resultant and new paradigm conflicts with the old, attempting to maintain the old within the new even though they are contradictory. Contrary to his earlier beliefs that anxiety was the product of excessive libido, Freud now argued that anxiety "never arises from repressed libido" (XX 109). Freud argued that "the ego is the actual seat of anxiety" and that we must "give up our earlier view that the cathectic energy of the repressed impulse is automatically turned into anxiety" (XX 93). Quite simply, with the anxiety-before-repression theory we immediately run into the problem of how the ego, which is needed for anxiety, came to be prior to repression, especially since Freud has consistently defined the ego as the product of the repression of the sexual drives and their representatives. This theory cannot account for the origin of the ego; it requires the ego’s hypostasization.

If anxiety is experienced at birth, as Freud argues, and anxiety "is an affective state and as such can, of course, only be felt by the ego" (XX 140), then there must be an ego at birth: a hypostasized ego. Freud criticizes Rank for assuming a hypostasized ego at birth:

In the act of birth there is a real danger to life. We know what this means objectively; but in a psychological sense it says nothing to us. The danger of birth has as yet no psychical content. We cannot possibly suppose that the foetus has any sort of knowledge that there is a possibility of its life being destroyed. It can only be aware of some vast disturbance in the economy of its narcissistic libido…. It is easy to say that the baby will repeat its affect of anxiety in every situation which recalls the event of birth. The important thing to know is what recalls the event and what it is that is recalled…. [Rank] assumes that the infant has received certain sensory impressions, in particular of a visual kind, at the time of birth, the renewal of which can recall to its memory the trauma of birth and thus evoke a reaction of anxiety. This assumption is quite unfounded and extremely improbable. It is not credible that a child should retain any but tactile and general sensations relating to the process of birth. (XX 135)
It seems that only Freud is allowed to hypostasize the ego. We also find in this passage that Freud’s ego, castration-based as it is, is also an oculocentric one: it is required to see the lack of the penis in the mother. Vision is required for an awareness of castration; Oedipus blinds himself. Freud seems to be accusing Rank of theorizing an ego at birth that could be aware of castration. Freud’s hypostasized ego, it seems, only needs to see "psychical reality" because his hypostasized ego is a castration-based one: why else would it sense anxiety? Perhaps Freud imagined that his hypstasized ego "saw" phylo-"genetic" castration.

Earlier, with a twisted rhetoric, Freud associates his relationship of the mother, birth, and castration with his critique of Rank’s hypostasization of the ego:

The first experience of anxiety which an individual goes through (in the case of human beings, at all events) is birth, and, objectively speaking, birth is a separation from the mother. It could be compared to a castration of the mother (by equating the child with a penis). Now it would be very satisfactory if anxiety, as a symbol of a separation, were to be repeated on every subsequent occasion on which separation took place. But unfortunately we are prevented from making use of this correlation by the fact that birth is not experienced subjectively as a separation from the mother, since the foetus, being a completely narcissistic creature, is totally unaware of her existence as an object. (XX 130)
If you are wondering if Freud is concerned with the anxiety of the mother or the child at birth, and which anxiety is to be associated with castration, it is both. He later writes that the anxiety of the child, who longs for the lost object,
appears as a reaction to the felt loss of the object; and we are at once reminded of the fact that castration anxiety, too, is a fear of being separated from a highly valued object, and that the earliest anxiety of all–the ‘primal anxiety’ of birth–is brought about on the occasion of a separation from the mother. (XX 137)
Freud’s next move equates loss of the loved object (not the "penis-child" but the "penis-mother") to the absence of satisfaction and a subsequent "growing tension due to need, against which it is helpless" (ibid.). The primary danger is consistently reduced to this kind of buildup "without its being possible for them to be mastered psychically or discharged" (ibid.) and equated with the danger situation experienced at birth. Though Freud discusses birth and the tension build up as a real danger, he puts "danger" in quotes in the next sentence. Freud has just described birth exactly as he describes trauma in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. This feeling of tension becomes an "affective symbol" (XX 94), or what Freud calls a "signal," of possible danger: "It is unnecessary to suppose that the child carries anything more with it from the time of its birth than this way of indicating the presence of danger" (ibid.). So the birth trauma is repeated in every experience of anxiety that succeeds it, even if it is not abreacted as Rank argued. It seems the reason Freud was so anxious about Rank’s thesis was that it threatened Freud by being too close to his own reconceptualizations of the early 1920s. By focusing on how Freud’s theory of anxiety requires a hypostasized ego, however, we should not lose track of how it is also, and relatedly, a logical extension of his masterplotting and its movement toward being a totality.

According to the Freud of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, anxiety is the signal of the possible onset of a "danger-situation," or "situation of helplessness" in the face of growing internal tension. But how would a signifier be attached to a signified in such a context? How would such a signal or symbol be created out of an experience of the ego being overwhelmed? Does the particular dissolution of the primary narcissism create a particular affect which is transformed into a particular signifier then to be associated with the whatever traumatic experience? The problems here are many. For example, any experience of "external reality" would require an ego in a state of not being overwhelmed. Also, the "transformation" of the affect into a signal that combines both signifier (affective experience) and signified (affective experience in terms of "experience") would require some stable signifying chain, some context which would allow for significance, the sign always being a product of difference. The experience of being overwhelmed by tension would supposedly subvert such a context. How is the "anchoring point" of the signal established within a context of unmastered and overwhelming internal tensions? This reminds me of the question of the relationship of the "perceptual identities" to the "mobile cathexes" of the primary process, but now we are concerned with the economic model’s ego rather than with the topographical model’s system Ucs. Freud calls the signal an "affective symbol." For Freud, the affect of being overwhelmed by internal tension would always be the same, therefore Freud reduces the experience of trauma to this affective state: a symbol, not a signifier; a signified as symbol. The quality of the symbol, however, would not be a product of an "indication of reality" or reality testing; it would not be exogenic. It would be a product of psychic reality: endogenic.

Weber’s treatment of these issues in The Legend of Freud considers the relationship of anxiety to the primary process. Weber first makes it clear that, for Freud, trauma

cannot designate any particular, determinate objective reality, for what it entails is precisely the inability of the psyche–or more specifically the ego–to determine, its inability to bind or to cathect an excess of energy that therefore tends to overwhelm it. (53)
After Weber insightfully reads Freud as assuming that "the trauma constitutes the point of departure for the development of anxiety," he quotes Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety: "what is decisive is the first displacement of the anxiety reaction from its origin in the situation of helplessness to an expectation of that situation–that is, to the danger-situation" (ibid.). Weber notes, as Freud does, that this first displacement "marks the emergence of a subject-object relationship" (Web82 53; XX 138). One might question whether anxiety could ever account for an objective world for two reasons. First, because the trauma "object" is indeterminable by the ego, and, second, the "affective symbol" would not be specific to the object, but only a general reaction to the situation of helplessness. Weber then refers to Freud’s earlier essay "Negation," where Freud argues that the object is never discovered but always rediscovered (XIV 237), but Weber does not consider how, with respect to anxiety, Freud might account for what seems to be an infinite regress of discovery. Weber shows us that a trauma cannot simply be "discovered" or "experienced" for two reasons: first, it must be rediscovered or re-experienced, and, again, this must happen despite the fact that trauma subverts the ego’s ability to discover or experience. How does Weber account for the infinite regress and impossibility of object relations in terms of anxiety? He doesn’t: he leaves Freud’s take on anxiety as enigmatic and sees it as potentially an aspect of Freud’s recognition of the irreducibly conflictual nature of the psychoanalytic project.

About Rank’s work in general, Freud wrote: "Rank’s theory completely ignores constitutional factors as well as phylogenetic ones" (XX 151). Weber’s take on anxiety so far ignores how Freud might have "solved" what even Freud considered to be the enigma of anxiety: a phylogenetic solution where the trauma "objects" are predetermined and not in need of "determination" with respect to the ontogenetic ego. The primal "experience" of castration as "trauma"-structure could provide some sort of solution. The "affective symbol," the signal, would be associated with castration and a phylo-"genetic" ego. All trauma, as it is reduced to the dissolution of the psychic order, and the affective experience of such dissolution, would then be reducible to castration as the universal symbol of such dissolution. Accordingly, the phylogenetic "experience" or "discovery" of the (loss of the) object (the whole bodily ego as loved object) could preclude an infinite regression of repetition: the ontogenetic "first time" would be a phylo-"genetic" repetition. Furthermore, with Freud’s ideal phylogeny, the cohesion of the ontogenetic ego would not be required to establish the signal, especially if its primal phantasies were ordered in such a way as to provide the ultimate context of meaning. Like Rank, and almost every other reader of Freud, Weber ignores phylogeny. This is also evident in his decision with respect to the primary process. Discussing the importance of perception, particularly vision, for the ego, Weber argues,

… the ego develops its organization through the formation or cathexis of perceptual objects. These are precisely not the "perceptual identities" of the primary process, which, as we have argued, are not identities at all but rather constantly shifting alterations. (Web82 55)
Due to my factoring in of Freud’s phylogeny, my decision regarding the primary process is the opposite: the "constantly shifting alterations" only shift after a phylo-"genetically" determined identity has been established ontogenetically, and they shift with respect to the memory of that identity, a memory which establishes the tendency of shifting, the absence of presence being at the center of the structured shifting, as with Lacanian desire and "the Freudian cause" of das Ding. This tendency will be in a significant way a factor of the difference between the primary and secondary process, and therefore a factor of the difference between the ego and the id. Moreover, the primary process as Freud describes it, as well as the pleasure principle, does not work, does not make sense, without the original experience of satisfaction constituting the mnemic trace Freud calls the perceptual identity–that is, without an original identity that is indeed an identity.

With regard to anxiety, Weber argues that the "rediscovery" required to establish the "first displacement" first requires the "inhibition or deflection of the unpleasure principle that dominates the primary process, which otherwise would tend to produce ever-changing cathexes as an effort to reduce tension" (Web82 53). The primary process does not produce ever-changing cathexes; the inhibition of the secondary process does. Moreover, the reduction of tension is never a product of ever-changing cathexes and is always the product of "rediscovering" or rebinding cathexes that brought "satisfaction" before. The primary process attempts to "rediscover" the "original experience of satisfaction" in order to reduce tension, and it does this regardless of "external reality." Again, the only way this process can make sense is if the ever-changing cathexes are considered the product of the secondary process’s inhibition of the primary process’s goal to rebind the original identity. Weber concludes his line of argument as follows:

Thus, what Freud calls the ‘first displacement’ is, strictly considered, not first at all but rather the displacement of the displacements of the primary process, which in turn have culminated in the ‘situation of helplessness.’ Through a process of repetition, then, the psyche displaces the displacement of ‘helplessness’ and thus alters the incessant alteration implied by the primary process. It does so by the production of what Freud calls a signal. (Web82 53)
Weber associates the primary process, as Freud does at times, with the chaos caused by trauma. I would associate the identity of the primary process with the identity of anxiety, the signal. The supposed chaos of the primary process, like the supposed chaos of the id, cannot be factored into Freud’s more dominant theorizations of the organizations of the id, the primary process, and of anxiety (and even trauma). As with the supposedly chaotic id, Freud treats the "trauma" of the "trauma"-structure (op)positionality of castration as chaos. It would be a mistake to read Freud’s claims to "chaos" with the id, the primary process, and anxiety as anything but (op)positionality. As with Derrida, it seems that Weber’s decision to treat the primary process as "essentially rebellious" leads to a reading of "trauma"-structure trope as a trauma "structure," or in terms of différance, rather than in terms of (op)positionality. The "first displacement of the anxiety-reaction" can be considered the reduction of what is other to the phallic order to castration via the reduction of the experience of trauma to one affect (castration anxiety), the signal to one "affective symbol," and therefore the object world to a binary of phallus/castration, or phallic presence/absence: possible difference is reduced to identity, or, as Levinas might put it, the Other to more of the Same. Without any altering of alteration–indeed without any alterity at all–the signal of castration is established: it is always already established as the center of psychic reality and its destinational postal relay.

As Weber points out, castration narratives conserve "the belief in the ubiquity of the phallus" through their ability to "repeat difference as identity" (Web82 56). The "trauma"-structure trope of castration, the fundamental trope of Freudian theory, reduces what is totally other to identity via the reduction of "chaos" to a phallic presence/absence (op)positionality: Derrida’s "castration-truth." That the beyond of the unconscious is reduced in this way is not surprising if we assume, as Freud does, that there is no contingency in psychic reality. The organization of the id, an organization not disrupted by chance, is for Freud a phylogenetic inheritance. With respect to the beyond of "external reality," however, its reduction of its disturbances or disruptions to the opposite, loss, or absence of a phallic order (the logic of lack) suggests that its contingency can be reduced to the terms of the psychic order–which means there is ultimately no contingency.

Because Weber, like Rank, does not factor in phylogeny, anxiety remains enigmatic. For Weber, if "the ego is … the ‘seat’ of anxiety, then anxiety is equally the site of the ego" (Web82 57). The signal is the center of what Weber argues is a crucial concept for Freud, the "Auseinandersetzung":

The "infantile sexual theories" are thus stories the child tells itself to confront the "narcissistic" shock as which Freud always characterizes "castration." The story allows for the Vorurteil [prejudice] that is absolutely constitutive for narcissism, and hence also for the development of the ego: the conviction that the child inhabits a world of "sameness," in which difference and alterity can be regarded merely as privative, negative forms of an original and pervasive identity: as a Mangel or loss of what once was. But this original identity, which the castration-story seeks to confirm, dialectically as it were, is increasingly subjected to the difference it seeks to deny. The term that Freud uses to designate this process of subjection, which is also the process by which the subject is constituted, is: Auseinandersetzung. (Web82 24)
Weber then quotes Freud: "… and now the child is faced with the task of dealing [sich auseinandersetzen] with the relation of castration to himself" (ibid.). Since Weber reads Freud’s signal as part of what he reads as the enigma of anxiety, he will not read Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety as Freud’s own Auseinandersetzung of psychoanalysis in the face of the "difference and alterity" of what might be experienced as trauma. Yet the conceptions of trauma and anxiety are reduced to the "privation" of castration-truth and (op)positionality. For Weber, anxiety cannot be grasped "in the dyadic, dichotomized space and time that anxiety itself engenders and disrupts at once" (Web82 58). Anxiety engenders dichotomized space and time by being the signal and the center of Auseinandersetzung. For Weber, anxiety disrupts this space and time because it is a product of the contingency and irreducibility of "external reality" or "real danger," and with respect to his reading of the primary process. Weber’s conception of anxiety, therefore, is based on what Freud calls the "capital X," or as Weber describes, quoting Freud, "the unknown variable that ‘we are obliged to carry over into every new formula’" (Web82 59):
This "X" marks the spot to which psychoanalytic thinking is constrained, often against its will, to return, a spot that is impossible to occupy (besetzen) because it is impossible to locate. Any attempt to identify it, situate it, name it–for instance, as "trauma"–must be regarded as the signal of a danger that can be apprehended, but never recognized as such. The "capital X" of Freud’s metapsychology can therefore be designated as the signal of psychoanalytic thinking. (Web82 59)
For Weber, "anxiety has no proper place" (Web82 58). Contrary to Weber, I read anxiety as establishing the proper place of the phallus negatively via its dichotomization of space and time, what I call (op)positionality. Therefore it is not surprising that Weber would associate the signal of his take on anxiety with the "capital X" of indeterminacy. Weber’s conclusion is that the Auseinandersetzung of psychoanalysis, based as it on the signal of the "capital X," is conflictual, undecidable, indeterminable. Due to the enigma of anxiety and the "capital X" we are left with only "the ineluctable imposition of the dynamic, conflictual factor as that which characterizes the psychoanalytic conception of the psychic" (Web82 59). Weber "finds" in his (non)center of the psychoanalytic Auseinandersetzung the very (non)center he brought as an assumption of what is the essence of psychoanalysis, as evidenced by his reading of the primary process. Psychoanalysis has supposedly found itself (Der87a 413). Or has Weber found himself? Is this a self-posting via a reading of psychoanalysis?

Freud’s Auseinandersetzung is about achieving identity by denying difference, as Weber describes the process:

identity … appears increasingly to be the effect of a process of reduplication or of reciprocal separation (aus-ein-ander). Such a process seems to necessitate a form of articulation that is inevitably narrative: the ‘story’ that ‘begins’ with the primal scene, and which continues in the denials of difference that constitute ‘castration,’ culminates in the Auseinandersetzung with the relation of castration to the developing subject. (Web82 24)
But, for Freud, this process is not "the ambivalent, conflictual effect of an interminable struggle to alter alterity," since alterity is never part of the process as he conceptualizes it. I read castration as this signal, the center of the Auseinandersetzung of psychoanalysis. With the topic of anxiety we are led once again into the mise en abyme of when "the related is related to the relating," and of the self-posting of an identity in the face of something totally other–a self-posting which tries to exclude the totally other, but ends up "revealing" it the only way it can be: as something totally other in the spaces caused by a disruption of an identitarian discourse or "subject."

The conflictual dynamism Weber speaks of is lost in psychoanalysis as the ego becomes indistinguishable from the id, both being the products of an Auseinandersetzung centered on castration. The "trauma"-structure trope of castration is consistently the fundamental trope of Freudian theory, reducing what is totally other to (op)positionality (identity, lack). A Negative Concord. Whatever potential beyonds there might be are reduced to the mastery of the PP when phylogeny’s relation to the primary process is taken seriously and not overlooked, as is the case with so many readings that, seemingly in order to make him more amenable to contemporary theory, either decide some of the undecidables of Freud, read him out of context, or privilege his potentially "otherwise" ideas even though they have been made inoperable by a deluge of subsequent "establishment" ideas. The stakes are high, as Derrida makes clear with respect to the navel of the dream. What I am arguing here calls for a reconsideration of the "Freudian breakthrough." There is also the potential for a radical re-evaluation of the authority of psychoanalysis, given the aporetic aspects this reading "finds," such as the privileging of the ego in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety: In this light, I mention what I find to be a bizarre passage by Freud, even if it does fit my argument:

At this point it is relevant to ask how I can reconcile this acknowledgment of the might of the ego with the description of its position which I gave in The Ego and the Id. In that book I drew a picture of its dependent relationship to the id and to the super-ego and revealed how powerless and apprehensive it was in regard to both and with what an effort it maintained its show of superiority over them. This view has been widely echoed in psycho-analytic literature. Many writers have laid much stress on the weakness of the ego in relation to the id and of our rational elements in the face of the daemonic forces within us; and they display a strong tendency to make what I have said into a corner-stone of a psycho-analytic Weltanschauung. Yet surely the psycho-analyst, with his knowledge of the way in which repression works, should, of all people, be restrained from adopting such an extreme and one-sided view…. I must confess that I am not partial to the fabrication of Weltanschauungen. Such activities may be left to philosophers, who avowedly find it impossible to make their journey through life without a Baedeker. (XX 95-96)
Freud’s early "cornerstone of psychoanalysis," repression, assumed the power of the id over the ego. With "interdiction of translation," the ego became relatively stronger, and with Freud’s positioning of anxiety as primary with respect to repression, the ego became even stronger. In "Analysis Terminable and Interminable," Freud returns to his earlier position and stresses the power of the id, and even questions the potential efficacy of psychoanalytic technique, a position which I will treat more fully in the next chapter.

I have argued here that Freud’s Baedeker is his phylogeny-based masterplot. It both describes and acts out an Auseinandersetzung centered on the signal of castration. It reappropriates what is potentially Other by making it the absence at the center of a Negative Concord. The danger situations of/for Freudian theory have changed over time. It is to the first danger situation to which Freud applied a potential trauma-structure Auseinandersetzung that I turn in chapter two: what Freud called "hysteria." The supposed gaps in the hysterics were both the effects of trauma, and absent center of Freud’s etiological structure, his speculations. In chapter five, I trace his psychoanalytic Auseinandersetzung with respect to his conceptualizations of sexual difference in order to show how it is with respect to this theme we most clearly find the monistic self-posting, the irreducible division of such attempts at totality, and, therefore, the evidence of something radically other. Sexual difference seems to act as the most threatening of differences, which may account for why his Auseinandersetzung is always in terms of castration, or that which establishes sexual difference (as an identity) for Freud. What we will (re)construct is yet another form of the master narrative of Freud’s Baedeker, and Freud–despite his railings against speculation and philosophy, and his disavowal ofthe debt he owes to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer (see Der87a 266)–philosophizing like a pre-Socratic philosopher on the nature of activity and passivity, another dualism. The question will be: is this dualism "beyond" (or before) his usual "trauma"-structure trope? Is it reduced to what I have posited as the fundamental trope of psychoanalysis? What we will "find," again, is a fort:da of Nietzsche in terms of the will to power and the question of Woman, and this time "power" is the masculine form of activity. Towards the end of this evolution, late in Freud’s theorizing, the caput Nili, or "bedrock," not surprisingly, will be conceptualized as "the repudiation of femininity" (XXIII 250). And, once again, the caput Nili begins to look more like a "trauma"-structure trope, as femininity is defined as the opposite to a self-same, self-posted, phallic order. Freud’s "will to power" is sexed, sexing: mastery of Woman and femininity. Woman constitutes the only remaining "beyond" that I have not argued is usurped by the totality of the Freudian masterplot. Not surprisingly, given that this totality is one of "castration-truth," I venture to do so. Only one question follows me: is this my way of "finding" myself? Ausein-anders-etzung? But, "I think," what else could it be?

next —>
Copyright 2000 by Eric W. Anders