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|The intuitions of Freud|
This paper aims to show that though Freud is rightly regarded as a painstaking scientist, brilliant in exposition, clinically logical in analysis, self-critical and willing to modify his theories when found necessary, he also possessed acute insights, which should be viewed as natural intuitions. These intuitions or flashes of inspiration constituted an innate part of his mental and emotional make-up and were the mainsprings of his original psychological discoveries such as the Oedipus Complex, the Dynamic Theory of the Unconscious and the Theory of Repression.
Despite disparaging them as unscientific and reckless, they managed to slip through the iron control of his disciplined mind. Of course, by definition, nothing can prevent the lightning flash of inspiration, but Freud himself confessed that he was the subject, or rather the object, of them in his younger, solitary years.
‘Deliria’ is also examined in this paper. Freud introduced this concept as ‘hybrid structures’ of thought, which lie between obsession and reason and are used by the patient to effectively combat his obsessive ideas, where rational ones fail. The hypothesis is put forward that ‘deliria’ is not just confined to neurotics, but is universal. All human beings possess it.
Keywords: History of Psychoanalysis – Dreams – Character - Obsessions - Intuition.
Freud in his writings on the 'rat man' case, refers to the need for a phenomenology on the thought structures of the obsessional neurotic. This type of structure Freud ascribed to a kind of delusion or delirium, and further likened it to an endopsychic perception that had been repressed.
The patient in Freud's case, when a child of six, believed that his parents knew his thoughts, because he spoke them out aloud, without he hearing himself doing it. In other words, either he was in a trance, or he was not conscious of articulating his thoughts aloud. Which perhaps amounts to the same thing. ‘I speak my thoughts out loud, without hearing them’ Freud (1981, p.45).
In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar required Daniel to relate and interpret for him the dream which he had dreamt but could not remember. So it could be that the King himself in similar fashion believed that the dream which Daniel then told him, belonged to him and was his very own. Because this was the dream he probably would have dreamt and only Daniel could possibly know this (Daniel 2, The Bible). Nebuchadnezzar had declared his dream without knowing it! But only to Daniel. The magic of the supernatural mechanism operating in the unconscious! The king had already betrayed himself unconsciously in the transmission of his manifest dream thoughts and images.
Certainly Freud, the painstaking scientist, would scarcely approve the use of the word, supernatural, or even magic in this instance. Yet he did say, 'But I have had good reason for asserting that everyone possesses in his own unconscious an instrument with which he can interpret the utterances of the unconscious in other people' (my italics, Freud, 1983, p.137-8).
So everyone then is a potential Daniel. Everyone has this special instrument. From unconscious to unconscious there is a positive route through which not only clusters of ideas weave its way from one person to the other, but also the various stratagems to interpret them. The means by which this is accomplished, the actual instrument, is neither demonstrated nor named. Presumably because it can only be inferred. Which in this respect does not damage Freud's hypothesis in the least. Though it is more of an affirmation, for which he has ' good reason’ rather than a hypothesis. This ' good reason’ turns out to be the following.
Freud was treating a woman who had been suffering for several years from anxiety hysteria. This was the result of learning that she could not have any children by her husband. It was impossible. She did everything in her power to stop him from finding out that he was the cause of her becoming ill. But her husband surmised this. Presumably from intangible signals coming from her unconscious. Now in response to her anxiety hysteria, he becomes neurotically frustrated, and fails her one night in sexual intercourse for the first time. This again rebounds on her. ‘One day, however, it suddenly changed into an obsessional neurosis of the severest type’ (Freud, 1983, p.136).
Perhaps Freud's 'good reason' is not based on this one particular case. However, it represents an unusual departure from his customary scientific caution. Not that his assertion might not be true, but that it lacks proper analytic support. It appears to be the kind of unwarranted speculation which he severely condemned in other psychoanalysts.
For instance, Wilhelm Stekel was bitterly criticized for his wild conjectures and outlandish theories. Yet at first Stekel had a great influence on Freud, and was an admired colleague for close on twelve years, until his final break with him. In fact, Stekel gradually made him realize the tremendous importance of symbolism in dreams. 'But it was only by degrees and as my experience increased that I arrived at a full appreciation of its extent and significance, and I did so under the influence of the contributions of Wilhelm Stekel …' (Freud, 1991, p.466).
'It was only later that I came to appreciate to its full extent this mode of expression of dreams. This was partly through the influence of the works of Stekel, who at first did such very creditable work but afterwards went totally astray' (Freud, 1986, p.77).
His one-time close follower went totally astray. ‘For the examples by which he supported his interpretations were often unconvincing, and he made use of a method which must be rejected as scientifically untrustworthy. Stekel arrived at his interpretations of symbols by way of intuition thanks to a peculiar gift for the direct understanding of them' (my italics, Freud, 1991, p. 466-7). And Freud continues 'Regard for scientific criticism forbids our returning to the arbitrary judgment of the dream-interpreter, as it was employed in ancient times and seems to have been revived in the reckless interpretations of Stekel' (Freud, 1991, p. 469-470).
So the way of intuition leads to reckless interpretations. Intuition is by its nature completely unscientific, and leads the trained psychoanalyst astray, and indeed any disciplined investigator in the various provinces of science.
Yet Freud himself had to struggle on from an early age to restrain the overwhelming urge to speculate on the mysteries of human life. 'In my youth I felt an overpowering need to understand something of the riddles of the world in which we live and perhaps even to contribute something to their solution. … I became a doctor through being compelled to deviate from my original purpose (in Jones,1964, p.54).
What was the source of this compulsion to deviate? Did it involve conscious repression? And how far did it succeed?
Obviously the immediate response to the last of these three questions is the existence of that great body of work which constitutes the art and science of psychoanalysis. And the answer to the first question could only be that philosophical speculation demanded an effort that he was not prepared to make, and was not quite ready for; it was also too ethereal, and perhaps the magnitude of the task frightened him.
'… Wittels has made the shrewd suggestion that Freud was perhaps one of those whose bent toward speculative abstractions is so powerful that he is afraid of being mastered by it and feels it necessary to counter it by studying concrete scientific data' (Jones, 1964, p.55).
Freud himself declared ‘As a young man I felt a strong attraction toward speculation and ruthlessly checked it (Jones, 1964, p.55).
Ironically, when he stood alone in defense of his great discoveries for 11 years, from 1895 to 1906, the scurrilous opposition to his theories seemed to point to the unfettered resurgence of this strong attraction which Freud summed up in a letter to Wilhelm Fliess, ‘They regard me rather as a monomaniac, while I have the distinct feeling that I have touched on one of the great secrets of nature’ (in Clark, 1980, p.114).
The second question appears to be answered by Freud himself. He preferred to tread on safer ground, and so the necessity of conscious repression came to the rescue long before he had any inkling of its double-edged sword.
For it exacted a heavy toll on his future life. And this was not just due to external factors, namely, the universal opprobrium which first greeted his great pioneering works. They were castigated as absurd, grotesque, freakish, scandalous, offensive, depraved, corrupt, idiotic, but also to internal ones, perhaps as a consequence of the first, namely, the innumerable frustrations, aches and pains which unceasingly dogged him: frequent sinus infections, rheumatism, brachial neuritis, severe nasal catarrh, sciatica, writer's cramp and migraine, from which he suffered all his life. In 1882, he contracted typhoid fever and also angina of the throat; and in 1885, smallpox. Then, as if this was not enough, there was his intestinal problems which embraced under its wing a fair number of different diagnoses: listlessness, depression, colitis, inflammation of the gall bladder, prostatic trouble, burning indigestion, chronic appendicitis, and finally chronic constipation which constantly outmaneuvered the other intestinal symptoms in battle (see Jones, 1964, pages 440 and 458).
Freud himself considered the latter group of illnesses as functional, deriving from his own neurosis or neurasthenia as he termed it. Yet the former group might have had similar origins, and therefore could also be possibly classed as functional. In the complicated circumstances of this prodigious innovator, whose life for so long was dominated by his unconscious, the boundaries between the psychosomatic and the purely organic cannot be so easily separated.
Finally, on top of all this suffering came the excruciating disease of cancer of the jaw, which plagued him for the last sixteen years of his existence.
Perhaps these two groups of illnesses could be seen as the result of the return of the repressed. Or rather, the repressed was never really absent - it was continually returning. In fact, it signified a fundamental psychic process which Freud knew only too well, namely, the failure of repression.
The conflict within him had never really been resolved: the conflict between his powerful urge towards philosophical speculation and the single-minded determination to travel the alternative road of science.
However, the return of the repressed also had its positive aspects. It surreptitiously allowed his speculative instincts and his intuitions to slip through. The enormous contributions which Freud made to the understanding of the human mind could not have been made possible without this. Of course this is not to decry or diminish his skilful accumulation of factual material and his unswerving devotion to their value as the foundation of the young science.
He was possessed of remarkable intuitions, without which his seemingly far-flung hypotheses, based as they were on clinical evidence could not have been advanced, rigorously tested and for the most part proven.
It could be said with reasonable justification that his most fundamental theories were intuition-linked. The Oedipus Complex; the Dynamic Theory of the Unconscious; the Theory of Repression; the Sexual Etiology of the Psychoneuroses; the Diphasic Nature of Sex in Humans, and the Psychoanalytic Technique of Free Association. These were produced in his earlier years when his powerful tendencies toward speculation were ostensibly crushed. But later on in life when he turned his attention to other fields such as social anthropology, civilization and religion, these tendencies proved difficult to restrain, and presumably, also those intuitions which he had dismissed in the past as insignificant and untrustworthy in role.
However, as late as 1920, Freud still dismissed the significance and value of intuition, when he stated in his article, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 'I do not think a large part is played by what is called "intuition" in work of this kind. From what I have seen of intuition, it seems to me to be the product of a kind of intellectual impartiality' (Freud, 1984, p. 333).
But 20 years earlier in one of his letters to Wilhelm Fliess, the opposite experience was evinced … ‘I find again here - days when I drag myself about dejected because I have understood nothing of the dream, of the fantasy, of the mood of the day; and then again days when a flash of lightning illuminates the interrelations and lets me understand the past as a preparation for the present.’ (my italics, in Masson, 1987, p.274).
The past as a preparation for the present, illuminated by a flash of lightning. No epitome could be more apt for the discoveries of psychoanalysis, and the crucial part played in it by intuition, as evidenced by Freud’s own confession.
That this is a one off lightning conjecture is nullified by a letter to Fliess, fifteen days earlier ‘Being totally honest with oneself is a good exercise. A single idea of general value dawned on me. I have found, in my own case too, [the phenomenon of] being in love with my mother and jealous of my father, and I now consider it a universal event in early childhood.’ (my italics, in Masson, 1985, p.272).
Although the phrase dawned on me can lend itself to the explication of the casual intrusion of a thought, it is more likely in the context here, that it came to Freud in a blinding flash, precisely because it was a single idea, and not a group of hazy, contending thoughts; furthermore it was not simply a single idea of general value, but more importantly – a universal event!
And of course, it turned out to be the genesis of the Oedipus Complex, his most startling theory of all. No doubt, it must have daunted him somewhat because of its tremendous implications, and the fact that it was such an intimate product of tortuous, self-analysis. An enigmatic and not unshameful memory tangled with guilt. Presumably, the reasons why he framed this benign lifting of childhood amnesia in a manner calculated to obscure what was indeed an inspirational discovery.
Richard Wollheim, one of many Freud’s biographers had no doubts about his exceptional intuitions. ‘From the fact that sexuality begins so early,’ he asserts, ‘there must be a strong likelihood that it will have a powerful influence on our life … and it is an often ignored strength of Freud’s argument that he bases himself upon an intuitive principle of such obviousness’ (my italics, Wollheim, 1971, p.123).
Interesting examples can be shown in other aspects of Freud’s writings where intuition surely was the link between fact and theory, because of the incredible, outlandish gap between them, which apparently precluded any kind of normal or sensible explanation, or direct clinical proof. For instance: the inveterate or compulsive gambler and masturbation; greed and anal eroticism; the irrepressible desire for knowledge and sexual curiosity; bed-wetting and ambition.
These examples represent tentative attempts to validate the origin of these fundamental character traits found in neurotics and so-called normal people. And since inductive logic has been, and still is, the necessary basis of psychoanalytical investigation, acceptance of the results are extremely arbitrary and paradoxically depend as much on the character predispositions of the analysts involved as on the clinical evidence itself. Nevertheless, because of the unraveling nature of reason when enlightened by intuition, the understanding of character formation has been considerably advanced, in spite of these subjective limitations. Moreover, it has appreciably influenced and assisted sociological research into the underlying, human character dynamics underlying the economic, political and cultural structures of civilization.
The first example of the link between the compulsive gambler and masturbation is so tenuous and virtually invisible, that only a flash of inspiration could help to explicate and ostensibly validate it. In an essay on Dostoevsky, Freud boldly asserts that ‘The vice of masturbation is replaced by the addiction to gambling; and the emphasis laid upon the passionate activity of the hands betrays this derivation. Indeed, the passion for play is an equivalent of the old compulsion to masturbate; ‘playing’ is the actual word used in the nursery to describe the activity of the hands on the genitals’ (my italics, Freud, 1987, p.459). Significantly, Freud here condemns masturbation, by implication, not only as a vice in itself, but also because it spawns the vice of gambling addiction.
Peter Fuller presents an equally direct and apparently forcible illustration. ‘The masturbatory use of the hands in a gambling situation can readily be seen in the manual language of racing’s “tic-tac” signaling code, and the complex finger-talk of commodity speculators in the broking exchanges’ (Halliday and Fuller, 1977, p.105).
The inveterate gambler lives in a phantasy world. Otto Fenichel expresses this escape from the real world in extremely lurid terms. ‘The excitement of the game corresponds to sexual excitement, that of winning to orgasm (and to killing); that of losing to punishment by castration (and by being killed). Just as compulsion neurotics invent various kinds of oracles to force God to permit masturbation and to free their guilt feeling (which as a rule fails) the gambler, too, tempts fate to declare whether it is in favor of his playing (masturbation) or whether it is going to castrate him. As in all conflicts around masturbation, here too, the activity serves as the scapegoat for the objectionable (hostile) phantasies of which it is the agent’ (in Halliday and Fuller, 1977, p.28).
Comparing ‘winning’ to ‘killing’ seems absurd, though popular parlance would appear to support this. A gambler poised to make a big win talks about making a kill, and in suffering a loss in proportion - of being taken to the cleaners, stripped bare, cleansed of sin - that is, emasculated for his sexual guilt.
The second example, ‘greed and anal eroticism,’ is not far removed from ‘gambling neurosis’, the common basis being the repression of infantile sexual eroticism. However, clinical evidence for certain character traits resulting from anal eroticism is more abundant, direct and compelling, although Freud himself did not pursue it much further, but was merely content to provide the basis for his extraordinary analysis and interpretation on the subject. He posits three character traits, orderliness, parsimony and obstinacy which have their origin in the pre-genital, anal erogenous zone. ‘Orderly covers the notion of bodily cleanliness, as well as conscientiousness in carrying out small duties and trustworthiness. Parsimony may appear in the exaggerated form of avarice; and obstinacy can go over into defiance, to which rage and revengefulness are easily joined’ (Freud, 1981, p.209).
Karl Abraham relates some pertinent cases in point, ‘… I know of a rich banker who always urges his children to retain their bowel movements as long as possible, so as to derive as much benefit as possible from the food they have eaten … I know one man who used to run around the house with his trousers open, in order to save the buttonholes … In many patients we find a specialized form of this thriftiness: they are very economical in the use of toilet paper. Here the co-determining factor is the dread of soiling clean things … Many neurotics are terribly worried about wasting time … they hate inactivity and pleasure’ (in Fromm, 1978, p.194-5).
Desire for knowledge and sexual curiosity, the third example, differs from the first two in that the oral and anal erogenous zones are not connected with the search for knowledge. Freud refers to it as ‘The Instinct for Knowledge.’ ‘This instinct cannot be counted among the elementary instinctual components’ (Freud, 1981, p.112). Although he discounts sexuality as the root cause, he maintains that it cannot be excluded ‘since we have learnt from psychoanalysis that the instinct for knowledge in children is attracted unexpectedly early and intensively to sexual problems and is in fact possibly first aroused by them ’ (my italics, Freud, 1981, p.112-3). These sexual problems are: the question of where do babies come from? The anatomical differences between the little boy and the little girl (the absence of a penis in the latter.) And the observation of sexual intercourse in the parents and the nature of the sounds and scuffles involved in the act. What are aroused in these problems are wonder, curiosity and the awakening of reason. This incipient, cognitive awakening is naturally infused with fantasy, and because it is virtually dispassionate, it has no pleasurable sensations as are associated with the oral and anal erogenous zones. The child cannot help but invent what reason demands in the jumble of questions: where, what and why? And the farcical products that emerge, the absurd and the gruesome are testimony to its bewildered mind … ‘babies come out of the breast, or are cut out of the body, or the navel opens to let them through.’ Or … babies are born through the bowel like a discharge of faeces’ (Freud, 1981, p.114). This confusion of sexual thinking in the child sows the seed of doubt and distrust and leads to a crucial divergence. On the one hand, its sexual searchings are repressed and on the other, its awakened intellectual capacities are partially or substantially released to grapple with other secrets of its environment which confound it. The future course of the child’s development is dictated by the failure to obtain comfort answers to these sexual thoughts. For example, the repressed wish for a penis ‘may contribute to the motives that drive a mature woman to analysis’ from which … ‘she may reasonably expect … a capacity, for instance, to carry on an intellectual profession’ (Freud, 1983, p.159). She might become a gynecologist, a biologist or perhaps an astronomer. The possibilities are endless in the outcome or resolution of sexual repression, and sublimation favors neither sex. Neither does the alternative mechanism of reaction formation. ‘The difference between reaction formation and sublimation is essentially that the former always functions to resist and keep down a repressed impulse, from which it draws its energy, while the latter represents a direct transformation, a “canalization” of instinctual impulses.’ Fromm. E. (1978, P.182)
The artist, the writer and the surgeon; the gravedigger, the scavenger and the shop assistant exemplify respectively the more or less determined products of sublimation and reaction formation. Of course, genetic and environmental factors which influence either one or the other of those transformations cannot be left out.
Manifestly, the transformations effected by reaction formations, generally bear a somewhat inferior and derogatory connotation in contemporary society. They are considered as non-cultural as opposed to sublimations
Although Freud stated that the instinct for knowledge was not exclusively based on sexuality, the theory that it was nevertheless substantially derived from the child’s polymorphous curiosity about sexual situations does not appear less far-fetched or absurd than the previous two on gambling and masturbation and greed and anal eroticism; certainly not less than his theory on the connection between ambition and bed-wetting (the fourth example). This latter theory on the face of it seems to be an extravagant generalization, which had it come from Stekel, in all probability he would have denounced it as a ‘reckless interpretation.’
On the whole, Freud contributed very little material on the subject of characterology and the evidence which he produced for enuresis and ambition is to the say the least, scanty, flimsy, and unsubstantiated, despite his statement in The Interpretation of Dreams that the connection between them had been learned from the psychoanalysis of neurotics (Freud, 1991 p.309). Moreover, it seems at odds with his blank admission eight years later, in 1908 that ‘At present I only know of the intense “burning” ambition of people who earlier suffered from enuresis’ (Freud, 1981, p.215).
In fact, the first clinical data on which he based this theory probably came directly from his own childhood recollections, when he embarked on his self-analysis in 1897. As a child of two he sometimes lapsed into bed-wetting, and on being reprimanded by his father, promised to buy him ‘a nice new red bed.’ (Freud, 1991, p.308) ‘This promise of mine exhibited all the megalomania of childhood’ (Freud, 1991, p.309). The color ‘red’ is already highly significant as the ‘flame’ of ambition, and the word ‘new,’ not so much a promise but a resolution, a ‘burning’ determination not to let it happen again. A ‘new bed’ would be the fulfillment of this ambition. And so the seeds of ambition would be planted in the megalomaniac bed of a two-year old.
Five or six years later, when he was seven or eight, Freud in a helpless moment urinated in front of his parents in their bedroom. He could not control himself. It brought an angry, despairing response from his father, ‘The boy will come to nothing’ (Freud, 1991, p.309). The incident was indelibly registered in Freud’s mind for the rest of his life. Thirty-eight years later, he incorporated it in The Interpretations of Dreams. ‘… references to this scene are still constantly recurring in my dreams and are always linked with an enumeration of my achievements and successes, as though I wanted to say: “You see, I have come to something” (Freud, 1991, p. 309).
Since the memory of this episode never left him, it was only natural that echoes of it should appear when the occasion arose. Two years before ‘Dora’ was brought to him as a patient by her father in 1900, he was engaged in analyzing a neurotic, from whom he elicited the fact that he had continued to wet his bed while still at school. ‘Now, a child who regularly wets his bed until his seventh year … must have experienced sexual excitation in his earlier childhood …’ (my italics, in Masson, 1985, p.329.)
Bed-wetting at seven or eight then appeared to become the key childhood ages in which ambition took root as a consequence, though in the case history of ‘Dora,’ it was never mentioned at all. Dora, prompted by Freud confessed that she used to wet her bed up to her ‘seventh or eight year,’ and her brother also ‘up till his sixth or seventh year’ (Freud, 1990, p.108). Her brother Otto later fulfilled his ‘burning’ ambition in becoming Foreign Minister of Austria. (Billig, 1997, p.10)
Yet apart from the age-related occurrence, there was a deeper significance to this neurotic symptom. ‘Bed-wetting of this kind has, to the best of my knowledge, no more likely cause than masturbation, a habit whose importance in the etiology of bed-wetting in general is still insufficiently appreciated’ (Freud, 1990, p.111). ‘It happens particularly often that the little boy is threatened with castration, not because he plays with his penis with his hand, but because he wets his bed every night and cannot be got to be clean. Those in charge of him behave as if this nocturnal emission, was the result and the proof of his being unduly concerned with his penis, and they are probably right’ (Freud, 1981, p.317). ‘Most of the so-called bladder disorders of this period, (nocturnal emissions in later childhood) are sexual disturbances … its determinants seem to be conditioned by a period of earlier active masturbation’ (Freud, 1981, p.108).
So if active masturbation causes regular bed-wetting, and bed-wetting in turn promotes ambition, then logically, a very good case is made out for masturbation being the master behind the scenes of ambition, and not its obedient servant, bladder disorders.
The mystery is why Freud did not proceed and identify his own active masturbation as laying the foundations for his own burning ambitions? Why did he hide this sexual addiction behind the mask of bed-wetting? The answer is that masturbation was the one and only sexual practice that Freud took a severe moral stance on. Therefore it was something he could never admit to. His attitude to it was quasi Biblical in hostility … ‘It (masturbation) vitiates the character through indulgence’ (Freud, 1991, p.51). It could render him dissolute, depraved and corrupt. It was a sin if not against God, at least it was in some sense of religious feeling. The unconscious guilt of countless generations was inextricably associated with it.
‘The insight has dawned on me that masturbation is the one major habit, the “primary addiction,” and it is only as a substitute and replacement that the other addictions – to alcohol, morphine, tobacco, and the like – come into existence’ (my italics, Freud in Masson, 1985, p.287).
‘Calling masturbation an ‘addiction’ is really no different than calling it a sinful or bad habit: the former is to condemn it in the language of medicine, the latter in that of morals.’ …j ‘Freud remained opposed to masturbation throughout his life.’ (Szasz, 1977, p.224).
Obviously then, Freud could not conceal from himself the conviction that active masturbation had been the cause of his own tobacco addiction and also perhaps, some of the illnesses both functional and organic from which he suffered all his life. At the same time however, he could not attribute ambition to this pernicious habit, for ambition in general was a healthy and laudable desire, and certainly in his case, a noble and monumental obsession, the remarkable goals of which he had already achieved.
‘The association of masturbation with ambition is … much more convincing than that of urination with ambition’ (Krull, 1987, p.112). In fact, it makes more sense to equate ambition with gambling, as derivative of masturbation. The addictive gambler by nature is inordinately ambitious. To win a fortune, the jackpot no less, in any sphere of gambling, is his greatest desire. He wants to take on chance, grapple with it, destroy it, for the greatest obstacle to the fulfillment of his ambitions is its unbending will, its unpredictable and anarchic nature. That he is doomed to failure is beside the point. Repetition is the name of the game. It is the core of unregenerative neurosis.
If masturbation is the ‘primary addiction,’ what can be said of the universality of gambling?
Despite the fact that Freud excluded masturbation as the cause of his own numerous neurotic ailments, it in no way diminishes or subverts its general truth, based as it is on inductive logic. His own particular case helps to establish it. Intuition presupposes the fiery spark of enlightenment which flashes like lightning from fact to theory and vice versa, displaying a relevant intellectual bias and not the kind of impartiality in which Freud believed.
This spark of enlightenment is the same phenomenon which spontaneously springs from the unconscious of the woman, whose anxiety hysteria, on account of this, is suddenly transformed into an obsessional neurosis. Similarly, the same unconscious illumination operates in the dream interplay between Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel.
Intuition then is the instrument or special category of the psyche which enables the unconscious of one person to speak to the unconscious of the other. And also enables it to interpret, where necessary, and often at times of crisis, its crucial contents of the moment. Moreover, it completely bypasses the conscious, as though it did not exist, and curiously enough, like telepathy, it can operate at any distance, space being no obstacle. For intuition does not necessarily require person to person contact, except of course for final resolution, whether mutually accepted or not.
'It is a very remarkable thing that the Ucs of one human being can react upon that of another, without passing through the Cs. This deserves closer investigation, especially with a view to finding out whether preconscious activity can be excluded as playing a part in it; but descriptively speaking, the fact is incontestable' (Freud, 1925. p.198-9).
Freud raises no objection here, as he sometimes does against his own findings. The fact cannot be disputed! In its broadest sense, intuition perhaps constitutes a dynamic constituent in the involuntary dialogue of 'transference' and the reciprocal interpretations of both analyst and patient, which are filtered through and alongside it. This would also include of course its negative and unsuccessful results, where both intuition and transference have missed their mark.
Other special categories of thought have been found to reside in the unconscious. Lying between obsession and reason they make use of both thought processes. Freud believed that such structures of thought should be named 'deliria.' ‘They are not purely reasonable considerations arising in opposition to the obsessional thoughts, but, as it were, hybrids between the two species of thinking; they accept certain of the premises of the obsession they are combating, and thus, while using the weapons of reason, are established upon a basis of pathological thought … these deserve to be given the name of ‘deliria.’’ Freud (1925. p. 102)
The patient in the 'rat man' case provides an excellent example of this hybrid structure of thought. He was an intelligent 29 year old lawyer who suffered from obsessions and fears, which plagued him for years. While working hard for an exam until the early hours of the morning, he would stop to exhibit his genitals in the mirror, and then open the door to admit the ghost of his dead father. Then, as Freud explains ‘He tried to bring himself to his senses by asking himself what his father would say to it all if he were really still alive. But the argument had no effect so long as it was put forward in this rational shape. The specter was not laid until he had transformed the same idea into a delirious threat to the effect that if he ever went through this nonsense again some evil would befall his father in the next world.’
In other words, an irrational fear came to the rescue. The irrational had to conquer the irrational. Rational arguments had no effect. This is the essence of hybrid structures, of deliria. It is a form of thinking in which the contents can be virtually limitless in diversity. Though pathological in nature this mode of thought seems to have a logic of its own, similar to others like projection, displacement, rationalization, distortion and introjection. All used to camouflage the real sources of aberrant mental disorders concealed in the unconscious. They can be designated as bizarre weapons of defense in the arsenal of neurotics and incurable types of psychotics despite the latters’ wall of imperviousness.
An interesting illustration of psychotic delirium as a specific category is encapsulated in one of Edgar Allan Poe’s (1993) famous short stories entitled, The Tell-Tale Heart. As usual, it is told in the first person. There are 22 Short Stories in this edition, and all of them are narrated in the first person singular. The paradoxical ingenuity of narcissistic fixation!
The protagonist conceives a perfect murder, meticulously plots it, and executes it triumphantly, all with the conviction that it will never be discovered. The victim, an old man with an evil eye - one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture - which provoked the murder, is then dismembered. His head, arms and legs are cut off, and placed under the floor boards of his room, for which three of the planks had been taken up. ‘I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye - not even his - could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out - no stain of any kind - no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all - ha! ha!’ (Poe. 1993, p.340).
However, not long afterwards, three policemen arrive. They had been summoned by a neighbor who had heard a loud cry coming from the house. The killer confidently invites them in, has them seated, and casually disarms their suspicions by stating that the cry had come from him during a dream. To further bolster his confidence, or perhaps to tempt fate, or to spite it, he positions his own chair directly over the place under which lie the concealed remains of his victim, sits down, and engages in friendly conversation with his unexpected visitors. But soon he begins to hear the heart-beat of his victim, which gradually becomes more and more intense. He believes that the policemen hear what he hears but they give no sign of it. On the contrary, they continue to chat away more friendly than ever. But the noise reaches terrifying proportions that threaten to tear the walls asunder. ‘It grew louder- louder- louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!- No, no! They heard!- they suspected!- they knew!- they were making a mockery of my horror! … I felt that I must scream or die! … louder! louder! louder! louder!---
“Villains!” ‘I shrieked, ‘dissemble no more! I admit the deed! - tear up the planks! - here, here! - it is the beating of his hideous heart!’ (Poe, 1993, p.342).
Arguably ‘the beating of his hideous heart!’ applies to the murderer’s own heart. The pronoun ‘his’ brings the two hearts together in a common, potentially explosive tachycardia, transcends the space between them and foreshadows a common destiny, which unites them both. Victim and slayer are irrevocably bound together. The terrifying sound of the heart beat gradually reaches an unbearable pitch which almost bursts his ear-drums. It is projected on to the corpse’s heart. In fact it is a twin projection, directed simultaneously to the corpse, and to the ears of the police.
This tale can be viewed as a perfect illustration of the structure of deliria, similar in this respect to the belief of the patient in the 'rat man' case, when he was a six year old child, except, and it is a cardinal exception, that the child was deaf to his own ears. He did not hear what he uttered aloud, whereas the murderer in the Tell Tale Heart was driven mad by the thunderous heart beat in his ears, which were wide-open. In fact, he was possessed by divine ears. At the beginning of the story, he proclaims ‘I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell’ (Poe, 1993, p.336).
But he emphatically refutes that he is mad; merely that he is … ‘very, very dreadfully nervous … ‘ (Poe, 1993, p.336) which is a disease that compensates him with extraordinarily heightened senses, of which the principal one is his hearing.
Another exception, equally paramount, was that there was no counter- irrational to liberate the single obsessive irrational of the murderer - the explosive heart beat of the victim - as there was in the incident of the protective irrational of the ‘rat man’ patient for his father’s ghost in the next world, to counter or alleviate the distress caused by the first irrational fear.
These two crucial exceptions highlight the enigmatic borderlines which separate the neurotic from the psychotic, although the latter in this hypothesis is a fictional example of schizophrenic processes which occur when the barriers between the two collapse. However, this should not constitute a legitimate reason to invalidate the hypothesis, as artistic imagination of genius sometimes captures a psychopathological mechanism in human nature well in advance of its scientific discovery.
The findings of psychoanalysis have shown that these modes of thought are not solely possessed by the mentally infirm, but they also inhere in the mental apparatus of the so-called normal.
'Deliria' might be said to be a universal element, a category in normal thinking. Specifically, as a mode of thought, a form of irrational thinking. A predetermined, cut out channel of the psyche, resident in the vast, twilight world of the unconscious, instrumentally utilized by the existing complex or fixations of the day, subject to the contingencies and vagaries of repression.
Between the apparently healthy and the diagnosed infirm, there is a difference in the kind of contents, and their degree of pathology; and their manifestation varies according to the conscious and unconscious cunning and ingenuity of the individual. The thought forms of psychological weapons of defense - engineered by the instinct of self-preservation - already pre-exist in all human beings, having evolved since primordial times.
Perhaps ‘deliria’, one of the mental categories that Freud tentatively introduced and designated as ‘hybrid structures, might throw some light on other forms of irrational thinking such as that involved in acts of criminality and in the rigid, impenitent nature of prejudice. He probably had this in mind when he referred to the need for a phenomenology on the thought structures of the obsessional neurotic, the implication being that it could be extended to the so-called normal.
After all, it would be consistent with his earliest ambitions to make some contribution towards solving some of the mysteries of the world; to proffer speculations on the grand scale and universalize his findings. Speculations which presupposed, and went hand in hand with flashes of intuitions, which he so adamantly devalued and deprecated throughout his life.
Yet without these superb, involuntary intuitions, it is doubtful whether Freud would have contributed so much to the understanding of the human psyche, and founded the science of psychoanalysis.
Perhaps the strongest confirmation of this assertion is in a letter to Jung (17th Dec. 1911) in which he confessed: ‘I am already in possession of the truths I am trying to prove. I can see … that I was not cut out for inductive investigation, that my whole makeup is intuitive, and that in setting out to establish the purely empirical science of psychoanalysis I subjected myself to an extraordinary discipline.’ (McGuire, 1991, p. 251)
On May 6th, 1956, in celebration of the Hundredth Anniversary of Freud’s birth, Erik Erikson delivered a lecture at the University of Frankfurt. It was entitled ‘The First Psychoanalyst’, thus embodying a commendable lifetime appraisal for this creative genius. He could also have added, And Its First Patient, and so perfected his titular tribute. (Erikson, 1964, p.19)
However, Erikson quickly made amends for this blameless omission. For the relative connotation of ‘patient’ is scarcely laudatory. Within a few minutes into his address, he unexpectedly extolled Freud in a brilliant metaphor, … ‘psychoanalysis had sprung from his head like Athena from the head of Zeus.’ (Erikson, 1964, p. 20)
Erikson might not have been aware of it, but this perfected tribute uncannily provided an excellent revelation of the innate, intuitive sagacity of the man. For Athena was the Goddess of Wisdom. Her favorite bird was the Owl, and she sprang forth from Zeus fully armed, of which the Aegus (Protective Goatskin Shield) was her principal weapon.
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