Once upon a time, perhaps during the summer of 1900, Freud chanced to meet a young man. They chatted, and the young man began eloquently to protest his position as a Jew in Vienna at the beginning of this century. He declared his regrets that Austria had passed from a period of relative liberalism to one of reaction. Now Jews (like himself and Freud) were deprived of full freedom to develop their talents.
He waxed stronger and stronger on the theme, finally ending his speech with a line from Virgil's Aeneid in which Dido, queen of Carthage, expresses her rage at her lover Aeneas who has abandoned her. She leaves her revenge, she says, to the Carthaginians who will follow: Exoriare-- But then the young man could not remember the word that came next. He put together a semblance of the line by changing word order: Exoriare ex nostris ossibus ultor. Let an avenger arise from my bones! But at last, in some embarrassment he asked Freud for help. Freud supplied the missing word: Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor. Let someone (aliquis) arise as an avenger from my bones (1901b, 6:8-14).
At this point, the young man remembered some of Freud's
psychological work and his claim that one never forgets
something without a reason.
|Young Man:||I should be very curious to learn how I came to forget the indefinite pronoun aliquis in this case.|
|Freud:||That should not take us long. I must only ask you to tell me, candidly and uncritically, whatever comes into your mind if you direct your attention to the forgotten word without any definite aim.|
|Young Man:||Good. There springs to my mind, then, the ridiculous notion of dividing up the word like this: a and liquis.|
|Freud:||What does that mean?|
|Young Man:||I don't know.|
|Freud:||And what occurs to you next?|
|Young Man:||What comes next is Reliquien [relics], liquefying, fluidity, fluid. Have you discovered anything so far?|
|Freud:||No. Not by any means yet. But go on.|
|Young Man:||I am thinking [and he laughed scornfully] of Simon of Trent, whose relics I saw two years ago in a church at Trent. I am thinking of the accusation of ritual blood-sacrifice which is being brought against the Jews again just now, and of Kleinpaul's book in which he regards all these supposed victims as incarnations, one might say new editions, of the Saviour.|
|Freud:||The notion is not entirely unrelated to the subject we were discussing before the Latin word slipped your memory.|
|Young Man:||True. My next thoughts are about an article that I read
lately in an Italian newspaper Its title, I think, was "What
St. Augustine Says about Women." What do you make of
|Freud:||I am waiting.|
|Young Man:||And now comes something that is quite clearly unconnected with our subject.|
|Freud:||Please refrain from any criticism and--|
|Young Man:||Yes, I understand. I am thinking of a fine old gentleman I met on my travels last week. He was a real original, with all the appearance of a huge bird of prey. His name was Benedict, if it's of interest to you.|
|Freud:||Anyhow, here are a row of saints and Fathers of the Church: St. Simon, St. Augustine, St. Benedict. There was, I think, a Church Father called Origen. Moreover, three of these names are also first names, like Paul in Kleinpaul.|
|Young Man:||Now it's St. Januarius and the miracle of his blood that comes into my mind--my thoughts seem to be running on mechanically.|
|Freud:||Just a moment: St. Januarius and St. Augustine both have to do with the calendar. But won't you remind me about the miracle of his blood?|
|Young Man:||Surely you must have heard of that? They keep the blood of St. Januarius in a phial inside a church at Naples, and on a particular holy day it miraculously liquefies. The people attach great importance to this miracle and get very excited if it's delayed--as happened once at a time when the French were occupying the town. So the general in command--or have I got it wrong? was it Garibaldi?--took the reverend gentleman aside and gave him to understand, with an unmistakable gesture toward the soldiers posted outside, that he hoped the miracle would take place very soon. And in fact it did take place . . . [And he broke off.]|
|Freud:||Well, go on. Why do you pause?|
|Young Man:||Well, something has come into my mind . . . but it's too intimate to pass on . . . Besides, I don't see any connection or any necessity for saying it.|
|Freud:||You can leave the connection to me. Of course I can't force you to talk about something that you find distasteful; but then you mustn't insist on learning from me how you came to forget your aliquis.|
|Young Man:||Really? Is that what you think? Well then, I've suddenly thought of a lady from whom I might easily hear a piece of news that would be very awkward for both of us.|
|Freud:||That her periods have stopped?|
|Young Man:||How could you guess that?|
|Freud:||That's not difficult any longer; you've prepared the way sufficiently. Think of the calendar saints, the blood that starts to flow on a particular day, the disturbance when the event fails to take place, the open threats that the miracle must be vouchsafed or else. . . . In fact, you've made use of the miracle of St. Januarius to manufacture a brilliant allusion to women's periods.|
|Young Man:||Without being aware of it. And you really mean to say that it was this anxious expectation that made me unable to produce an unimportant word like aliquis?|
|Freud:||It seems to me undeniable. You need only recall the division you made into a-liquis and your associations: relics, liquefying, fluid. St. Simon was sacrificed as a child--shall I go on and show how he comes in? You were led onto him by the subject of relics.|
|Young Man:||No, I'd much rather you didn't. I hope you don't take these thoughts of mine too seriously, if indeed I really had them. In return I will confess to you that the lady is Italian and that I went to Naples with her. But mayn't all this just be a matter of chance?|
Against those doubts, however, stands the striking convergence that Freud's explanation represents, two convergences, really. First, the young man himself became aware that something was on his mind of which he had been unaware. An unconscious idea became conscious. Second, the unconscious idea served as a centering theme around which Freud could fit the other themes of the young man's associations.
That is, his associations went: liquids--relics--Saint
Simon--Jews vs. Savior(s)--Italian--St. Augustine--women--an
"original"--(St.) Benedict--St. Januarius--blood flowing on a
certain day. We could group these into two large themes:
first, liquids, liquefying, flowing; second, relics and a
series of saints. These two lines relate in form to the Latin
syllable liqu--and in content this way:
 Fluid, blood, saints, calendar, and months converge toward a centering theme of monthly bleeding. As Freud states his final interpretation:
The speaker had been deploring the fact that the present generation of his people was deprived of its full rights; a new generation, he prophesied like Dido, would inflict vengeance on the oppressors. He had in this way expressed his wish for descendants. At this moment a contrary thought intruded. "Have you really so keen a wish for descendants? That is not so. How embarrassed you would be if you were to get news just now that you were to expect descendants from the quarter you know of. No: no descendants--however much we need them for vengeance."Freud's final formulation of the young man's thought--I wish and I don't wish for descendants--brings together not only the themes of liquis, liquid flowing, blood, and saints but also the particular word forgotten and the larger conversation around the theme of generations.
Freud began in the 1890s by taking seriously this kind of unifying interpretation of meaning in people's symbolic actions. At the same time, he found he could enlarge and strengthen that kind of analysis by free association, nicely defined in his first words to the young man. Each of these techniques sustains and confirms (or disconfirms) the other. Association provides evidence for interpretation to unify. That unity then becomes a source of further associations, as the young man recalls a trip to Naples with his Italian lady friend. Together, association and interpretation make up the essence of psychoanalytic insight.
In form, Freud's proof rests on probability. How many elements in the young man's talk could he bring together and how directly and easily could he connect them?
At the same time, however, the proof of his interpretation simply happened. Indeed, there was no need for a proof. The young man's sudden perception demonstrated the truth of what Freud had arrived at by reasoning alone.
In patient-therapist encounters whether face to face or across the analytic couch, I think psychoanalytic explanations usually draw on both these kinds of proof. In the first, the interpreter or explainer finds a way to create a verbal space between himself and the "other" in which they can each add and share words until they both feel convergence. "How could you guess that?" asked the young man. The second proof is less interpersonal and more formal. Eighty years after the event, I, a literary critic, can supply other themes for Freud's explanation to bring together: that the young man knew he was "no saint," that Origen castrated himself (thereby ending any possibility of descendants), or that "a-liquis" could be read as "without liquid."
Indeed, we can see Freud himself trying such hypotheses with the young man, essaying a theme of saints as first names, the notion of Origen-origin, and "Paul in Kleinpaul" (literally, little Paul). He was evidently reaching for a theme having to do with "first" or birth or children (who are addressed by their first names), but he got little confirmation from the young man--the first sort of proof--and dropped it.
Characteristically, a psychoanalytic explainer draws on both the creation of a shared verbal space through free association and a thematic analysis of that space. The sharing provides the basis for cure, although one can use the technique to explain other, more casual events like this young man's forgetting. The second move, thematic analysis, links psychoanalytic thought to many other disciplines. It is, however, quintessential to psychoanalysis. It deserves fuller treatment and its proper name:
If his work is crowned with success, the discoveries are self-explanatory: the ruined walls are part of the ramparts of a palace or a treasure-house; the fragments of columns can be filled out into a temple; the numerous inscriptions . . . [may] yield undreamed-of information about the events of the remote past, to commemorate which the monuments were built. Saxa loquuntur! (1896c, 3:192; see also 1937d, 23:259-60)One feels that the very stones speak that theme which unifies all the data, and this is the sense one often gets that a holistic interpretation is self-evident.
We reason this way in everyday life, for example, when figuring out the function of an unknown device. Once I know that this conglomeration of clamp, crank, spikes, and blade is an apple-peeler, I understand that the clamp holds the device to a table, the spikes hold the apple, the crank turns it, and the blade shaves the skin off. In short, once I have grasped the central theme of peeling apples, I can use the theme to relate a host of otherwise baffling details.
We toy with this same kind of reasoning in detective stories. Listen to the immortal Sherlock Holmes at the end of "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."
The good Dr. Watson evidently glimpses a theme: fixed physical connections leading from the stepfather's room through the ventilator down the rope onto the heiress in her immovable bed. Holmes phrases this idea later as "a bridge for something . . . coming to the bed." The idea of a bridge unifies these four details and their dates. Again and again, Holmes demonstrates this basic strategy of holistic reasoning: bringing clusters of details into mutual relevance around themes, until finally he infers that the doctor has been letting a swamp adder down the rope, hoping it will kill the heiress whose fortune he craves. The "solution" brings together both the details the distressed heiress told Holmes and Watson in London and those they have discovered "on the ground."
"Well, there is . . . a curious coincidence of dates. A ventilator is made, a cord is hung, and a lady who sleeps in the bed dies. Does that not strike you?"
"I cannot as yet see any connection."
"Did you observe anything very peculiar about that bed?"
"It was clamped to the floor. Did you ever see a bed fastened like that before?"
"I cannot say that I have."
"The lady could not move her bed. It must always be in the same relative position to the ventilator and to the rope--for so we may call it, since it was clearly never meant for a bell-pull."
"Holmes," I cried, "I seem to see dimly what you are hitting at."
Holmes also demonstrates--elegantly--two criteria for judging the validity of a holistic explanation: one quantitative, coverage, the other qualitative, directness. At first, Holmes mistakenly entertained a less viperous explanation:
"When you combine the idea of whistles at night, the presence of a band of gypsies who are on intimate terms with this old doctor, the fact that we have every reason to believe that the doctor has an interest in preventing his stepdaughter's marriage, the dying allusion to a band, and finally, the fact that [the surviving sister] heard a metallic clang, which might have been caused by one of those metal bars which secured the shutters falling back into their place, I think there is good ground to think that the mystery may be cleared along those lines."The pattern of reasoning is the same, converging details toward a centering theme: the doctor somehow let the gypsy band through the shutters to do the sister in. That would interrelate the whistle, the clang, the presence of gypsies, the doctor's finances, and the dying cry of "the band!" but not all the details (the ventilator or the bell-pull).
A good holistic explanation, like Holmes's second, covers the relevant data. One can compare two interpretations quantitatively in the number of details they relate and qualitatively by the relative importance of those details (which in part depends on the quantitative effectiveness of the explanation). Holmes's swamp adder explanation accounts for a great many more details than the gypsy hypothesis. Indeed, the second explanation renders the presence of gypsies relatively unimportant compared to more telling details like the ventilator linking the two rooms, the dummy bell-rope, or the heel-marked chair on which the villain stood. Having arrived at the ingenious idea of the swamp adder, Holmes comments on the earlier hypothesis: "'I had,' said he, 'come to an entirely erroneous conclusion, which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.'"
Second, a holistic explanation that neatly and directly relates the details it covers satisfies us more than one that establishes only tenuous or devious connections. Holmes's gypsy explanation simply says "the band" did something. The clang was caused by some movement of the shutters. With the second explanation, however, the phrasing "the band" is explained very exactly by the appearance of the snake, and "The metallic clang heard by Miss Stoner was obviously caused by her father hastily closing the door of his safe upon its terrible occupant."
Holmes demonstrates other characteristics of holistic reasoning, notably the need to move away from categories and toward particulars. For example, the category "poisonous snake" does not account for as many details as the more particular "swamp adder" (poisonous plus speckled). The more general the category, the less it explains, like the biblical conclusion Holmes draws: "Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent."
Because of this need for particulars, holistic research does not proceed by counting or by the repetition of experiments but by gathering more data. Holmes has to visit the scene of the death, where, having surmised that the ventilator ran from the victim's room to the doctor's, he can now see its size and position. He can find an iron safe to explain the clang. He can discover that the victim's bed is clamped to the floor. Research leads to more data that require a stronger explanation, one that leaves no loose ends in the new, larger body of material.
To put one's own mind actually to work in this kind of interpretation, the best exercise I can think of is a rather trivial one, a children's game that was taught to me under the name of Puzzling Polly. The one who knows the game starts listing things that Puzzling Polly does or doesn't like. As the other players catch on to Puzzling Polly's secret (her identity theme, really), they join in, until the secret finally has to be explained to the last players, who may be much puzzled and annoyed by this time. For example, I might start by saying, "Puzzling Polly likes puppies but not dogs." "Puzzling Polly doesn't like flowers, but she does like blossoms." "Puzzling Polly likes trees but not shrubs." If you have caught on, you might chime in, "Puzzling Polly likes the funnies, but not the comics." "Puzzling Polly likes summer and fall but she doesn't like winter or spring."
If you have not recognized the theme behind her likes and dislikes, you are probably trying out hypotheses. Polly likes small things better than large--puppies not dogs, blossoms not flowers--but then the hypothesis fails with trees not shrubs. You might hypothesize that the pattern runs: like, dislike, dislike, like, like, dislike, dislike, like, like, and so on, based on the way the sentences are phrased. This works for the sentences I gave, but it fails on the second sentence after someone else joined in, fall but not winter. Then, too, that hypothesis doesn't seem to deal with the constancy or particularity of Polly's likes and dislikes. One could just as well say, if it were the third sentence, "Puzzling Polly likes shrubs but not trees." But, in fact, Polly does like trees and not shrubs.
For a pattern explanation, we require that the theme explain every last one of the details and that it be itself specific or precise enough to account for the specificity of the details it must explain. Most of all, we ask that we recognize that precision by a kind of "Aha!" when the answer comes, as when you realize for the first time (and this is very much harder to do when the game is spoken, not printed) that Puzzling Polly likes things with doubled letters in them, or should I say twinned? "Puzzling Polly likes summer but not spring." "Puzzling Polly likes cartoons and newsreels but not feature films." And Puzzling Polly is, of course, narcissistic.
The game is trivial but it offers one a chance to experience in one's own mind three basic characteristics of holistic thinking toward a centering theme. First, the theme works by convergence into classes, rather than by sequences of cause-effect or if-then. That is, it is not correct to relate the data by saying, "Because Polly likes blossoms, she doesn't like flowers." Or, "Polly's liking puppies implies that she doesn't like dogs." Rather, one sorts the data into themes or polarities: liking and not liking, words having similar meanings but with or without doubled letters. In the same way, we can focus the details of the young man's association to aliquis into a few subthemes which can then finally be stated as one central theme, (not) having descendants.
Second, such a theme states a law of a special kind: one can say whether particular outcomes obey it or not, but one cannot predict any one outcome. The law of gravity says that if I drop this typewriter then it will certainly fall at a constant rate of acceleration. We can be absolutely sure of that. A central theme, however, is more like a generative rule (as in transformational grammar). If you begin a sentence, "In the ________ . . .," I can be fairly sure a noun or a noun preceded by an adjective is coming next, but I cannot say exactly what the noun or adjective will be. If you begin, "Puzzling Polly likes cellars but not ________ . . . , " I can be quite sure the last noun will not contain a doubled letter, and I can be fairly sure it will have a class relationship to "cellars," but I cannot predict the precise word. "Basements?" "Kitchens?" In other words, we are dealing with a different kind of determinacy from that for physical objects like typewriters--but a determinacy nevertheless. In the same way, we can understand after the fact the young man's forgetting the line from Virgil. It is lawful, but we could not have predicted it ahead of time.
Third (and key), the theme has to come from and interrelate all the details it is supposed to account for. They may be details like the young man's associations to months, saints, and blood or the details of the murder of Miss Stoner, but the theme must deal with all the details. A statistical confirmation of part of the data may be adequate for an experiment in the social sciences, but there must be no loose ends in a holistic explanation.
"No loose ends" is an aesthetic criterion and this thinking-toward-wholeness has long dominated thought in the arts and humanities. The literary theorist René Wellek says this method is "the main source of knowledge in all humanistic branches of learning." The interpreter "proceeds from attention to a detail to an anticipation of the whole and back again to an interpretation of a detail" (1960). Holistic analysis or "pattern explanation" (as it is sometimes called in the social sciences) corresponds exactly to the everyday method of the literary critic, that is,
first observing details about the superficial appearance of the particular work . . . then, grouping these details and seeking to integrate them into a creative principle . . . and, finally, making the return trip to all the other groups of observations in order to find whether the "inward form" one has tentatively constructed gives an account of the whole (Spitzer, 1948, p. 19)A standard handbook for graduate students in literature describes the strategy as seeing "the whole design of the work as a unity. It is now a simultaneous pattern radiating out from a center, not a narrative moving in time." In other words, one arrives inductively at a central theme that can then be applied deductively to bring every detail into relation with every other and all "with the central theme . . . the unity to which everything else must be relevant" (Frye, 1963, p. 65).
The analyst of a poem or a fiction (or a painting or a symphony) usually proceeds as the archaeologist, the anthropologist, the clinical psychologist, or Sherlock Holmes does. One notices patterns of recurrence or absence. One articulates them as different themes, checking them against the evidence and fitting them together to form a model of the whole as one or more very general themes (themes of themes) at the center and a surface of lesser subthemes and variations. As a literary critic I would require of such large themes that I be able to include within them every detail of the text I am analyzing and, if there be one or more central themes of themes, that I be able to subsume all the lesser themes under them.
I should be able to trace any one detail, even the tiniest, up one or another ladder of abstractions to the very center of the thematic structure. Conversely, a central theme should serve as a kernel statement each one of whose terms can be expanded, transformed, and particularized back down the ladders until I arrive at the details of the text I am working with.
Evidently, if we credit Freud, we can use the same strategy to understand a patient. Freud spoke of the central fantasy of his patient the Wolf Man, and
how, after a certain phase of the treatment, everything seemed to converge upon it, and how later, in the synthesis, the most various and remarkable results radiated out from it; how not only the large problems but the smallest peculiarities in the history of the case were cleared up by this single assumption (1918b, 17:52).
The importance of holistic reasoning to the humanities does not, of course, imply that it is "unscientific." On the contrary, major scientific achievements of the last two centuries draw heavily on holistic analysis. Consider evolution. To give an explanation of the decline and fall of a certain species of sparrow (as Darwin did), one interrelates a host of facts about weather, grains, hawks, lice, squirrels, and the sparrow's anatomy or its eating and mating habits. The explanation will be a holistic one.
This kind of problem does not lend itself to the usual kind of laboratory experimentation. In holistic thinking, testing takes the form of getting new data to be converged around a given hypothesis or theme. Thus, astronomers study pictures from Mars or radio waves from a galaxy to acquire a variety of disparate facts. Then they reason like the evolutionist (or Sherlock Holmes) to arrive at a centering idea that will make them all fit.
It is only in the earliest forms of modern science, kinetics and statics, the physics of the eighteenth century and of freshman year in a modern university, that events are reversible and hence predictable. That kind of science can rely almost entirely on if-then, covering laws, obscuring the role of holistic reasoning. At bottom, what differentiates holistic method and the covering laws of these kinds of science, however, is their treatment of time. In a given happening, the fall of a sparrow, say, if-then reasoning looks at some events as prior to others, whereas a holistic reasoner would look at all the separate events as though they coexisted. Hence in holistic reasoning one uses more data as confirmation, while in if-then reasoning "more data" takes the specific form of a future event--prediction. The sparrow will fall at so-and-so-many inches per second.
Otherwise, however, even in statics and kinetics it is possible to regard Newton's principles or Hooke's law as "centering themes" that interrelate such disparate events as the orbiting of Jupiter and the fall of an apple, the flex of a bridge and the crack of a tooth. The confirmations of science look different from those of the holistic interpretation, but are they? Don't both systems, finally, appeal to the facts (or what the systems define as the facts)? It should be no surprise, then, that one can use, at least in part, the same reasoning to interpret a dream as to probe the origins of a galaxy. In the natural sciences, holistic and if-then reasoning overlap and work together.
In the social sciences, the situation is more problematic. In his fine study Patterns of Discovery in the Social Sciences (1971), Paul Diesing distinguishes four methods of exploration in common use: the formal analysis characteristic of economics or linguistics; survey methods as used in sociology; experiments, as in academic psychology; and the case-study, participant-observer method, pattern explanation, or holistic analysis used in anthropology, history, and clinical settings like psychoanalysis. Each of these four methods has different criteria for validity, confirmation, and generalization. Each is differently useful. Errors arise from confusing them or insisting that one alone can claim to be scientific--an issue I shall return to in the last part of this book.
One can think of holistic analysis, then, as the hermeneutic circle of the humanities or the pattern explanation of the social sciences or the holistic analysis of the hard sciences. However we think of it, this kind of interpretation by means of details converging into themes and themes into one centering theme plays a dominant role in psychoanalytic thinking from the very beginning, as such writers as W. W. Meissner (1966, 1971), Michael Sherwood (1969), and Erik Erikson (1958b, p. 72) have shown.
Consider, for example, Freud's analysis of the brief dream he used as the "specimen" for his short book "On Dreams."
Company at table or table d'hôte . . . spinach was being eaten . . . Frau E. L. was sitting beside me; she was turning her whole attention to me and laid her hand on my knee in an intimate manner. I removed her hand unresponsively. She then said: "But you've always had such beautiful eyes." . . . I then had an indistinct picture of two eyes, as though it were a drawing or like the outline of a pair of spectacles . . . ' (1901a, 5:636-40, 648-50, 655:nd57, and 671-73, see also 1901b, 6:120, 136.)
Frau E. L., Freud drily comments, was not a friend, and the dream as a whole seemed without emotion, disconnected, unintelligible. To discover its meaning, Freud began to free associate, first dividing the dream into its separate elements, then associating to each separately.
Company at table or table d'hôte (Freud seems to mean a meal to be divided among a group, all paying the same fixed price and helping themselves from the same serving dishes). On the day before, Freud recalled, a friend had driven him home in a cab and the friend paid for it. He had joked that he liked a cab with a meter--it gives you something to watch. Freud continued the joke: "A cab with a taximeter always reminds me of a table d'hôte. It makes me avaricious and selfish, because it keeps on reminding me of what I owe. My debt seems to be growing too fast, and I'm afraid of getting the worst of the bargain; and in just the same way at a table d'hôte I can't avoid feeling in a comic way that I'm getting too little, and must keep an eye on my own interests." He had gone on to quote one of the songs of the harpist in Wilhelm Meister:
Ihr führt ins Leben uns hinein,Addressing the heavenly powers, the harpist says, "You lead us forth into life, / You make the poor wretch guilty." But Armen can mean monetarily poor and schuldig, in debt. Thus Freud could have been addressing a cabdriver: You lead us forth into life, / You put the poor man in debt--rather droll for so impromptu a recollection.
Ihr lasst den Armen schuldig werden (I, xiii).
Freud associated something else to this first element of the dream. He and his wife had been sitting at a table d'hôte at a resort, and she was paying more attention to a gentleman of distinguished name across the table than to Freud. Further, Freud had reasons for not renewing his acquaintance with this man. He became irritated, impatient, and finally asked her to concern herself more with him than with these strangers. "This was again as though I were getting the worst of the bargain at the table d'hôte." Freud erased the disagreeable experience and expressed his wish that his wife would turn her whole attention to him by dreaming a situation exactly opposite to what had in fact occurred.
In fact, he had reproduced an episode during their courtship: after a particularly pressing loveletter Martha had responded by putting her hand on his "under the table," and he then recalled that that phrase was also represented in the dream. However, "the intimate laying of a hand on my knee belonged to a quite different context"--about which he is discreetly silent.
It is clear, nevertheless, that he had cast Frau E. L. in the role he wanted his wife to play. Associating to her, he remembered that he had once been in debt to her father, and at this point Freud that realized his associations were bringing out a theme not directly visible in the dream itself--money and debts.
In connection with Frau E. L.'s statement that he had beautiful eyes, he associated the phrase, "Do you suppose I"m going to do this or that for the sake of your beaux yeux?"--just because you're so charming? But she had said he had beautiful eyes. In the dream, that must have meant, "People have always done everything for you for love; you have always had everything without paying for it." Again, this was a reversal, Freud felt. "I had never had anything free of cost"--except that his friend had taken him home in a cab "without my paying for it."
Further, he remembered, on the evening of the cab ride he had felt in debt to their host--an eye surgeon. Freud had given him one present, an occhiale, an antique bowl with eyes painted round it, but he had let slip a more recent opportunity of repaying him. That night, Freud had inquired after a woman he had referred to the oculist for spectacles.
Finally, Freud asked himself "why spinach, of all things, was being served in the dream." Notice the form of his question. He assumes an aesthetic unity for the dream. Everything is there for a common expressive purpose.
What came to mind was the Freuds' family dinner table: precisely the son who deserved to be admired for his beautiful eyes refused his spinach. (Another reversal: as a child, Freud, too, had disliked spinach, but it had become one of his favorite foods.) Martha urged the boy "just to taste [kosten] a bit of it." (Kosten can mean 'to taste' or 'to cost' or 'costs.') The word, notes Freud, thus "fits into the 'table d'hôte' circle of ideas." It could be represented by the spinach. Martha had said, in the way of most mothers, "You should be glad to have spinach. There are children who would be only too pleased with spinach!" Freud now recalled Goethe's words as though they were addressed to parents: "You lead us forth into life, / You make the poor wretch guilty."
At this point, Freud stopped his associations to the dream. He had gone through one "circle of ideas" after another, each leading by association to the others until he had arrived at "certain central ideas" (I would call them themes): "the contrast between 'selfish' and 'unselfish,' and the elements 'being in debt' and 'without paying for it.'" "I might draw closer together the threads in the material revealed by the analysis, and I might then show that they converge upon a single nodal point, but considerations of a personal . . . nature prevent my doing so in public" (5:640).
In later comments on the dream, Freud introduced another element. He had recently had to come up with 300 kronen (about $200 in 1984) to help out a relative who was ill, with whom he had had several cabdrives and of whom he was quite fond. Nevertheless, he admitted, "I cannot escape the conclusion that I regret having made that expenditure." Although he felt no conscious regret, he had been passing through a thin time financially. "No wonder," said the dream-thoughts, "if this person were to feel grateful to me: love of that sort would not be 'free of cost.' Love that is free of cost, however, stood in the forefront of the dream thoughts"--another reversal (5:672, 656-57).
Freud's candor and fullness of association make it possible to
set out the four themes in relation to a single nodal center:
as he phrases it, "a wish for once to enjoy love, love which
'costs nothing.'" That unitary idea comprises two polarities:
being in debt;
without paying for it
Frau E. L.'s father
child to parent
the grateful relative
the touch of the hand
the free cabdrive
"love that is free of cost"
cabdrive with meter
table d'hôte: I'm getting too little
my wife should concern herself with me, not strangers
keep an eye on my interests
I regret having made that expenditure
friend paid for cab
loving fiancée during courtship
parent to child
"love that is free of cost"
As the role of money in this interpretation might suggest, holistic analysis can apply to any event that can be translated into any kind of symbols. Take, for example, a seemingly random number:
The patient was the youngest child in a large family, and at an early age he had lost his greatly admired father. While he was in a particularly cheerful mood the number 426718 came to his mind, and he asked himself: "What ideas occur to me in that connection? First of all, a joke I have heard: 'When a doctor treats a cold it lasts for 42 days; when it is not treated, it lasts 6 weeks.'" This corresponds to the first figures in the number (42 = 6 x 7). Then the patient was silent. Freud intervened to point out that the six-figure number he had chosen contained all the first digits except for 3 and 5. The patient was immediately able to continue the interpretation. "There are 7 of us brothers and sisters, and I am the youngest. In the order of our age, 3 corresponds to my sister A., and 5 to my brother L.; they were my two enemies. As a child I used to pray to God every night for him to remove these two tormenting spirits from life. It seems to me now that in this choice of numbers I was myself fulfilling this wish; 3 and 5, the wicked brother and the hated sister, are passed over."
Freud then asked, "If the number represents the order of your brothers and sisters, what does the 8 at the end mean? There were only 7 of you after all."
"I have often thought," replied the patient, "that if my father had lived longer I should not have remained the youngest child. If there had been 1 more we should have been 8 and I should have a younger child after me to whom I should have played the elder brother."
The patient's associations had explained the whole number, but Freud still wanted to establish the connection between the first part of the interpretation and the second. He found it in the necessary precondition of the last figures: "if my father had lived longer." "42;me6;mt7" symbolized the patient's derision and anger at the doctors who had not been able to help his father. Therefore it expressed his wish for his father to go on living.
The whole number, 426718, thus worked out the fulfillment of his two infantile wishes about his family, that the brother and sister he disliked should die and that the baby should be born after him. He expressed his wish in the shortest form: "If only those two had died instead of my beloved father." The numbers, including one after 7, were all there, except for 3 and 5.
The themes that interrelate the numbers form polar opposites:
42 days of doctoring
all 7 sibs, except--
a loving father and 1 more child
6 weeks of no doctoring
numbers 3 and 5
the missing 8th child
For this patient, for the young man who forgot aliquis, and for the dreaming Freud, the relations among the themes and numbers and words are established by these individuals, and they have highly individual meanings. Like an electrical engineer examining signals or a literary critic interpreting a text, I might arrive at an extraordinarily coherent holistic interrelation of symbols, but the usual psychoanalytic interpretation draws on an additional source of persuasiveness, the personal witness of the person whose symbols are being interpreted, the interpretee.
The symbols being interpreted form a verbal space which both interpreter and interpretee enter. The act of interpretation makes it possible for both of them to own the symbols between them, but differently, the interpreter by thinking, the interpretee by his actual experience. These two different ways to experience symbols can come together. If I associate to and interpret my own dream (as in the psychoanalytic setting), I explicitly fuse the active, intellectual effort of understanding with the more passive, emotional creation of the symbols I seek to understand. If interpreter and interpretee are one person, the act of interpreting makes it possible for that one person explicitly to join two intellectual stances that in disciplines like electrical engineering or literary criticism we believe we keep separate.
Nowhere is this shared symbolic space more visible than in the "squiggle" technique developed by D.W. Winnicott for the analysis of children. Consider
Winnicott had been invited to present a case to the staff of a children's hospital in Finland. So as to discuss someone the staff knew, he interviewed (through an interpreter) Iiro, a nine-year-old boy who was in the hospital not for psychiatry but for hand surgery. He had been born with his fingers joined together and unseparated toes (syndactyly).
Winnicott asked the boy to take turns with him in "the squiggle game." One of them would shut his eyes and scribble with a pencil on a piece of drawing paper. Then the other would take the pencil and turn it into something, saying what it had become. In effect, the drawings elicit free associations from the child.
Winnicott went first, and Iiro quickly said, "It's a duck's foot." Winnicott realized that Iiro wanted to talk about his own webbed hands, and he offered the boy a second squiggle, even more explicit. Iiro in turn drew his own version of a duck's foot. Winnicott concluded that "we were firmly entrenched on the subject of webbed feet."
Then, given Winnicott's next, open squiggle, Iiro drew a line that closed it off and said it was a duck swimming in a lake. Finland being a land of lakes, Iiro being like all Finnish boys involved in swimming and boating, Winnicott concluded that Iiro was expressing a positive feeling about ducks and swimming and lakes, hence a positive feeling about his own webbed hands.
Iiro turned his own next squiggle into a horn, and began to talk about music, the way his little brother played the cornet. "I can play the piano a little," he said. Iiro said he was fond of music and would like to play the flute--a manifest impossibility. Winnicott then made his first reference to the material as it related to Iiro's hands. Knowing that Iiro was a healthy, happy boy with a sense of humor, Winnicott remarked that it would be difficult for a duck to play the flute. Iiro was amused.
After some intervening squiggles, Winnicott turned one of Iiro's into a swan, asking Iiro if he could swim. " Yes," he said, warmly. Winnicott's next squiggle Iiro said was a shoe. He said it did not need anything done to it. Winnicott's made his squiggle half-consciously into a kind of hand. Iiro turned it into a flower. From this sequence Winnicott inferred that Iiro was unwilling to look at his own hands.
Iiro, however, did a more deliberate drawing that looked like a drawing of a deformed hand. When Winnicott asked him what he was thinking of, he said, "It just happened," and he seemed to have surprised himself.
Winnicott wanted to let things rest a bit and asked about dreams. Iiro said, "I sleep with my eyes closed so I don't see anything." His dreams, he said, were "mostly nice." "I have not had a nasty dream for a long time." I sense, from Winnicott's presentation, that Iiro was saying he could look away from the unpleasant reality of his hands. In technical terms, he was able to deny or disavow them.
Iiro's next drawing put an arc around an angle like the angle between the two prominent fingers of his left hand, which was a few inches away on the table. Winnicott commented, "It is like your left hand, isn't it!" and Iiro replied, "Oh yes, a bit." Winnicott felt that Iiro had become, perhaps for the first time in his life, objective about his hands. He said that he had had a lot of operations and would have more and that his feet were the same way (hence the shoe in his earlier drawing). Winnicott commented, "It is rather like the duck, isn't it!"
At this point, Winnicott made something of an interpretation: "The surgeons are trying to alter what you were like when you were born." Iiro talked about his hope to play the flute and about future operations. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be like his father, a contractor, or perhaps the man who taught handicrafts at school. When Winnicott asked him if it ever made him cross to be operated on, he brushed the idea aside. "I am never cross." "I choose to be operated on." "It is better for work to have two fingers than it was when I had four all joined together." Winnicott felt that Iiro was both refusing to acknowledge his problem and reaching out toward the therapist, trying to put his problem into words.
Returning to the squiggle game, Iiro turned Winnicott's scribble into the hilt of a sword, and then provided his own drawing, an eel (although Winnicott took it to be the sword for the hilt). Playing with the idea of an eel, Winnicott asked, "Shall we put it back in the lake or cook it and eat it?" to which Iiro replied, "We will let it go back and swim in the lake because it is so small."
Winnicott concluded that Iiro had identified himself with the eel, in a sort of prebirth imagining, and ventured on an interpetation:
If we think of you as small, you would like to swim in the lake or swim on the lake like the duck. You are telling me that you are fond of yourself with your webbed hands and feet and that you need people to love you that way as you were when you were born. Growing up, you begin to want to play the piano and the flute and to do handicrafts, and so you agree to be operated on, but the first thing is to be loved as you are and as you were born.Iiro's answer seems to say that he and Winnicott were truly communicating, no matter how obliquely: "Mother has the same thing that I have got." One of his subsequent squiggles accurately copied his deformed left hand, and he was surprised by it. "It's the same again!"
By way of relief, Winnicott asked about his family and home, and Iiro was positive about both, particularly about new babies. "One knows if one is sad."
Winnicott made Iiro's next squiggle into feet and shoes. Iiro turned Winnicott's last drawing into a duck again. He was restating, Winnicott felt, both his love of himself and his need to be loved in the state in which he was born, without surgery any alteration.
Between them, Winnicott and Iiro made a record of Winnicott's extraordinary tenderness and intuition as well as a tribute to the boy's trusting candor in dealing with the cruel inheritance fate had dealt him. The case shows psychoanalytic method at its best, the combination of a search for the emotionally telling detail with the search for themes about which to focus those details.
Obviously, it is easier (in some ways) for me, thinking through this printed transcript for the umpteenth time, to outline themes and themes of themes than it was for Winnicott. He had to respond in real time, to the boy sitting there in front of him, waiting, while I write in the timeless time of literary criticism. Nevertheless, I think it is useful to spell out Winnicott's sensitive thematic analysis.
In effect, he grouped Iiro's associations to the drawings into three themes. First, there were swimming and the ducks (they appear in four squiggles). These Winnicott identified with Iiro's feeling that he could love himself and had been loved with his webbed feet and hands. The water suggested to Winnicott an Iiro at or before birth. Second were horn, cornet, flute, and carpentry. All involve abilities of the hand (which were so problematic for Iiro) and the relation of those abilities to Iiro's growing up to be a man like his father or his teacher.
Third were Iiro's images for his real situation: shoe, hand, sword hilt, sword, and eel, and his remarks on his father and mother. The shoe and hand imaged the way Iiro's hand and feet then were. The eel had to do with swimming, but it was also a sword, something a boy Iiro's age might use to play martial, masculine games, an emblem for his ability to become a man like his father. In this symbolic sequence, the sword hilt, which resembled his deformed hand, became an eel or a sword blade.
Then, in talking about his parents, Iiro noted that his mother shared his deformity. He declared his acceptance of his father and his father precisely as a source of new babies. It seems to me that these remarks combine with the other clusters of images to say, "In order for me to grow up and become a man, I need to be loved as I am now, handicapped like my mother." Winnicott had broached this theme to Iiro, that he needed to be loved as he was, webbed feet and all, like a little duck. By returning to the theme of the ducks, the two of them brought this exquisite interpretation round to its beginning and a natural close.
Winnicott's interview, like the other three instances in this chapter, shows two basic characteristics of psychoanalytic thought. First, analyst and analysand create a space between them pregnant with symbols they each own. In a way, this is what we do in any ordinary conversation, even if we are not so learned as to include quotations from Virgil. What is especially psychoanalytic, however, is the deliberate enlarging of this symbolic field through the technique of free association. Thus Freud asked the young man (in the classic psychoanalytic method) to tell him, "candidly and uncritically, whatever comes into your mind." Thus Winnicott and Iiro each drew random squiggles for the other to "turn into something."
Psychoanalysis, then, offers a mode of analysis for that shared space. We can call it the hermeneutic circle of the humanist, the pattern explanation of the social scientist, or (best, I think) holistic analysis. An interpreter groups details together into similar or contrasting themes, then brings those themes together toward a still more central theme so as to structure the symbolic space into a focal generalization and peripheries of detail. The interpreter interrelates the details and makes them mutually meaningful in the light of that central focus.
Psychoanalytic method usually operates in a therapeutic context where one party in the dialogue is creating a verbal space in order to remedy something perceived as wrong or sick (as the young man wanted to understand his forgetting). Yet as Holmes and the apple peeler show, holistic analysis and psychoanalytic interpretation apply just as well when the motive is simply a wish to understand--as when Winnicott wanted to present a case to his Finnish colleagues or Freud to demonstrate his methods through an "obscure and meaningless" dream.
Often, in finding a centering theme, especially in a therapeutic setting, the interpreter or interpretee will suddenly become aware of some thought that was formerly unconscious, but this is not necessarily the case with all holistic analyses. Holistic method serves in geology, astronomy, evolutionary biology, and many other disciplines where what is revealed by the analysis may be hidden without being unconscious. In these contexts, the success of a holistic interpretation, its validity or accuracy or satisfactoriness, does not depend on a cure or sudden perception. The more details from its discourse a holistic analysis interrelates, and the more directly it interrelates them, the more valid it is--for any purpose.
In all these settings we make a holistic analysis stronger by creating more data, more symbolic entities in the space between the interpreter and the interpreted. In this need for ever more data, holistic interpretation differs from other kinds of analysis, notably the "if this, then that" hypotheses one tests by experiments. An experimenter needs to define the this and the that quite narrowly and to exclude or control for data outside the definitions, an altogether different procedure.
Holistic analysis becomes more persuasive as the humans
involved in that analysis bring in more and more symbols for
the centering theme to unify. Hence the intellectual form of
psychoanalytic thought--its holism--meshes with the classic
psychoanalytic procedure--free association. To think
psychoanalytically, as one must to think about the I, is to
blend the creation of new symbols, spaces, and interactions
with their analysis so that association and analysis, whole and
theme, each will actively sustain the other in what another
kind of scientist might call a positive feedback.
2 / The Idea of Identity
Iiro's story differs from dreaming about a table d'hôte aliquis or thinking of 426718. They are isolated incidents that one can think through holistically (as a whole "fitting" around a center). They yield to psychoanalytic explanations that contrast unconscious and conscious motives. Winnicott's theme for Iiro's drawings and associations, however (the boy's need to be loved in the state in which he was born), suggests something far more pervasive: a style that permeates much of what Iiro thinks and does.
I mean "style" just exactly in the literary sense: as someone's characteristic choices of words, sentence structures, and perhaps even ideas. In effect, such a concept of style extends the traditional psychoanalytic method of holistic interpretation from particular acts (or "behaviors," one particular dream or symptom or slip of the tongue) to a whole life.
To construct someone's style in this general sense, you would draw out essentials from the many, many manifestations of that style, just as you would abstract a musical theme from its variations--or just as the young man's associations to aliquis led to a single worry underlying them all or just as Sherlock Holmes could fit many puzzling details into one coherent scheme by the hypothesis of a swamp adder.
Perhaps because it is a literary concept, writers are particularly good for instancing style, because in every work they leave behind hundreds of choices from which one can state holistic patterns of sameness and difference. Consider a man I think of as--
F. Scott Fitzgerald left in his letters an unusually full account of his choices and opinions about life in general.* For example, he wrote of his talent as a
There was a flutter from the wings of God and you lay dead.
Your books were in your desk
I guess some unfinished chaos in your head
Was dumped to nothing by the great janitress of destinies.
When, however, Fitzgerald felt that he had the necessary supplies, he felt confident, even omnipotent. "Poetry is either something that lives like fire inside you--like music to the musician or Marxism to the Communist--or else it is nothing, an empty formalized bore." "All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." "You know," he wrote to another writer, "I used to have a beautiful talent once. . . . It used to be a wonderful feeling to know it was there, and it isn't all gone yet. I think I have enough left to stretch out over two more novels. I may have to stretch it a little thin, so maybe they won't be as good as the best things I've ever done. But they won't be completely bad either, because nothing I ever write can be completely bad." The self-confidence a sense of inner supplies gave him could all too easily shade off into arrogance, as in those sentences or in something he said of himself: "As long as I'm unknown I'm a pretty nice fellow, but give me a little notoriety and I swell up like a poison toad."
Fitzgerald was much aware of the material and spiritual supplies he was given and how he responded, but he was much more aware of what he gave and what it cost him. As he half-laughingly wrote, "I am not a great man, but sometimes I think the impersonal and objective quality of my talent and the sacrifices of it, in pieces, to preserve its essential value has some sort of epic grandeur. Anyhow after hours I nurse myself with delusions of that sort." In a more somber vein, "Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager." And so it was that when Scott Fitzgerald felt rejected and unknown at the end of his career, his words for it were "to die so completely and unjustly after having given so much."
The imagery he uses--buying the next meal, holding his breath, nursing himself, hearing only the sound of his own breathing, giving of a body substance (or something that lives inside him), and being destroyed by "the great janitress of destinies"--these images echo to me a version of the early relation between feeding mother and dependent child. It was perhaps because of the style of that early experience that Fitzgerald tended to see the giving and withholding of inner supplies in terms of greater and lesser forces. Perhaps. We can never know, of course.
Fitzgerald did, however, interpret situations in terms of greater and lesser forces. It was this way of polarizing experience that lay behind what he called his "wise and tragic sense of life." "My view of life," he wrote, is "that life is too strong and remorseless for the sons of men." "The thing that lies behind all great careers," he said, is "the sense that life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat, and that the redeeming things are not 'happiness and pleasure' but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle."
"There was a book," he remembered from his childhood, "that was I think one of the great sensations of my life. . . . It filled me with the saddest and most yearning emotion. It was about a fight the large animals, like the elephant, had with the small animals, like the fox. The small animals won the first battle; but the elephants and lions and tigers finally overcame them. . . . My sentiment was all with the small ones. I wonder if even then I had a sense of the wearing-down power of big, respectable people. I can almost weep now when I think of that poor fox, the leader--the fox has somehow typified innocence to me ever since." As a teenager, Fitzgerald chose Princeton for his college because it always just lost the football championship, nosed "out in the last quarter by superior 'stamina' as the newspapers called it. It was to me a repetition of the story of the foxes and the big animals in the child's book."
In the same vein he idolized a man who came back from the Great War already a hero and the greatest polo player in the world, yet had the "humility to ask himself 'Do I know anything?'" and enter Princeton as a mere freshman.
Fitzgerald interpreted the advent of the movies in the same way, as a confrontation of greater and lesser forces. "There was a rankling indignity, that to me had become almost an obsession, in seeing the power of the written word subordinated to another power, a more glittering, a grosser power." "I saw that the novel, which at my maturity was the strongest and supplest medium for conveying thought and emotion from one human being to another, was becoming subordinated to a mechanical and communal art that . . . was capable of reflecting only the tritest thought, the most obvious emotion. It was an art in which words were subordinate to images, where personality was worn down to the inevitable low gear of collaboration." Yet it was typical of Fitzgerald that he found it necessary to identify with that grosser power and, in fact, to go to work for Hollywood himself.
All his life he identified with that greater power by molding, manipulating, and cajoling the human material around him, getting people to perform in one way or another. When, for example, there was a fire in Fitzgerald's house, he took command of the firemen. His chauffeur had a speech defect in which he substituted s for th. Fitzgerald composed a sentence full of ths which he then made the poor man repeat over and over. Late in life he set himself up as a tutor to his mistress, Sheilah Graham, as, much earlier, in his college years, he had written his sister long instructions on how to be a coquette, how to get boys to talk about themselves to her, how to flirt and tease, and how to have a good laugh and a charming smile. During his daughter's college years, he advised her on which books to read, men to date, and invitations to accept. He had something to say about every single course she took.
Although Fitzgerald kept trying to make himself into a superior power, he seems to have thought of himself as a lesser force, being given to by that power--or being withheld from. As he said about democracy, "The strong are too strong for us and the weak too weak." He particularly saw his own creativity this way. Sometimes he gave. Sometimes he was given to. "I don't know what it is in me or that comes to me when I start to write. I am half feminine--at least my mind is."
These extremes showed strikingly in the famous image of the crack-up with which Fitzgerald described himself during a depressed period: "his realization that what he had before him was not the dish he had ordered for his forties. In fact--since he and the dish were one, he described himself as a cracked plate, the kind that one wonders whether it is worth preserving." Again there is the duality, this time based on the double meaning of the word dish: "dish" as the food he hungered for; "dish" as the cracked container; and "he and the dish were one," the eater, the eaten, and the empty worthlessness.
He saw his marriage to Zelda as creating the same duality between his being filled or his being depleted so as to fill someone else. As a young bachelor, he said, "I lived with a great dream. The dream grew and I learned how to speak of it and make people listen. Then the dream divided one day when I decided to marry. . . . I was a man divided--she wanted me to work too much for her and not enough for my dream." Before the situation became totally hopeless, he said, "I had spent most of my resources, spiritual and material, on her."
In writing, he created by being given unto and then by giving again himself. As a boy, in a prototype of his later career, he would attend the old Teck Theatre in Buffalo and take in long sections of dialogue and then, with his prodigious memory, repeat the performance to the other children in the neighborhood. Essential to Fitzgerald's idea of writing was giving something to the reader: "I believe that the important thing about a work of fiction is that the essential reaction shall be profound and enduring." "I would rather impress my image (even though an image the size of a nickel) upon the soul of a people than be known"--that is, than receive personal recognition. "The purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader's mind."
One could only give something to the reader, though, if one had first taken it into oneself. The artist's purpose, Fitzgerald thought, should be to express in some palatable disguise emotions he had himself lived through. In this sense, Fitzgerald saw the purpose of fiction as "to recapture the exact feel of a moment in time and space, exemplified by people rather than by things . . . an attempt at a mature memory of a deep experience." "It was necessary for Dickens," he said, "to put into Oliver Twist the child's passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway's first stories, In Our Time, went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known." The idea turns up in one of Fitzgerald's own early stories, set in Elizabethan times. A fugitive rushes in to hide in his friend's quarters. The guards come looking for him and tell the friend that a lady has been raped, but they do not find the fugitive. The friend remonstrates, but the fugitive insists that he is responsible only to himself for what he does. Then, after his friend has gone to sleep, he sits down and writes The Rape of Lucrece.
The same giving and being given to, Fitzgerald felt, applied to character as to content. "It takes half a dozen people," he maintained, "to make a synthesis strong enough to create a fiction character." And also to style. "A good style simply doesn't form unless you absorb half a dozen top-flight authors every year." Your style should be "a subconscious amalgam of all that you have admired."
His creativity consisted of being given to by the world and giving in turn to his readers. Fitzgerald had an extraordinary flair for sizing people up as well as a remarkable ability to incorporate and reproduce vocabulary. Finally, he had a sense of himself as an actor, absorbing a part given him, making it part of himself, and then giving it to his public. He was greatly concerned with when and how his books would appear, with autographing them, for example, and otherwise making himself a public figure. Give unto others as you would have them give unto you. In effect, Fitzgerald was playing out his version of the Golden Rule on a public stage, and he was very, very good at it.
Yet there was a failure built in simply because of the magnitude of the demands he made. At the beginning of his career he saw himself entering a world of "ineffable toploftiness and promise," and he himself having "a sense of infinite possibilities that was always with me whether vanity or shame was my mood." Not to have that relation to infinity was to be fatally flawed--as he described a woman who he felt had failed, "She didn't have the strength for the big stage." As for himself, however, being inspired gave him an infinite power: "I can be so tender and kind to people in even little things, but once I get a pen in my hand I can do anything.
Writing would balance the books between the real and the fantastic, the finite and the infinite, the loving and the aggressive. For example, Fitzgerald advised a fellow writer, "Try and find more 'bright' characters; if the women are plain make them millionairesses or nymphomaniacs, if they're scrubwomen, give them hot sex attraction and charm. This is such a good trick I don't see why it's not more used--I always use it just as I like to balance a beautiful word with a barbed one." "Reporting the extreme things as if they were the average things," he once noted, "will start you on the art of fiction." Thus, his writings are full of marvelous aphorisms achieved by moving from human details to the grand scale, for example, "The faces of most American women over thirty are relief maps of petulant and bewildered unhappiness." Or moving from planetary forces to the helpless human, as in this closing of a letter: "Pray gravity to move your bowels. It's little we get done for us in this world."
Yet these attempts to get from the finite to the infinite were, inevitably, doomed from the start; and the deepest strain in Fitzgerald's life and works is the sense of inevitable loss and failure. "The utter synthesis between what we want and what we can have," he wrote, "is so rare that I look back with a sort of wonder on those days of my youth when I had it, or thought I did." "Again and again in my books I have tried to imagize my regret that I have never been as good as I intended to be." It was this sense of inevitable loss that gave rise to his "tragic" sense of life and a feeling for the chanciness of existence: "You have got to make all the right changes at the main corners--the price for losing your way once is years of unhappiness."
This sense of an unanswerable demand from the infinite could give Fitzgerald as stern an artistic conscience as any writer ever had. This work ethic could also, however, make loss and depression dominant themes in his work and life. As he said, "It is from the failures of life, and not its successes that we learn most." Once, simply from hearing someone recite Horace's Integer vitae ode, he sadly thought, "I knew in my heart that I had missed something by being a poor Latin scholar, like a blessed evening with a lovely girl." His sense of loss could yield this extraordinary image for the succession of the generations: "We are creatures bounding from each other's shoulders, feeling already the feet of new creatures upon our backs bounding again toward an invisible and illusory trapeze."
The same sense of reaching toward a vanishing security gave rise, I think, to Fitzgerald's special, magical feeling about money and being rich. It was as though those who had money proved they were in touch with the infinite by spending it, and he had to try to identify himself with them by his own spendthrift ways. "All big men have spent money freely," he wrote. "I hate avarice or even caution." "That was always my experience," he wrote near the end of his life, "--a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy's school; a poor boy in a rich man's club. . . . I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works." He told a friend that the whole idea of The Great Gatsby was "the unfairness of a poor young man not being able to marry a girl with money. This theme comes up again and again because I lived it."
The way out of Fitzgerald's doomed effort to climb into the infinite was to separate himself from it. Thus, breaking up an affair with a married woman, he wrote her: "The harshness of this letter will have served its purpose if on reading it over you see that I have an existence outside you--and in doing so remind you that you have an existence outside me." It is in this sense, I think, that we have to take his artistic conscience as represented in such statements as, "Work was dignity and the only dignity." "To me," Fitzgerald wrote, "the conditions of an artistically creative life are so arduous that I can only compare to them the duties of a soldier in war-time." And, in this context, I think of his image for himself in failure, standing at twilight on a deserted firing range with an empty rifle and the targets down.
The image of the soldier suggests some of the violence he felt in being separate from that infinitely giving source. A word he used even more for such catastrophes was "broken." Thus, of Zelda, he said, "She broke and is broken forever." And in still another style, his sense that being separated from the giver was a breaking could let him arrive at an aphorism like, "The insane are always mere guests on earth, eternal strangers carrying around broken decalogues that they cannot read." He advised a would-be writer, "If you want to be a top-notcher, you have to break with everyone. You have to show up your own father." And indeed, his father's being fired seems to have laid down for this man the prototype of the loss of inner resources as a breaking: "That morning he had gone out a comparatively young man, a man full of strength, full of confidence. He came home that evening an old man, a completely broken man." Then he in turn as a father conveyed all kinds of "breaking" messages to his own daughter.
If she went to the wrong kind of parties with the wrong kind of people, he said, he would have a "broken neurotic" "on my hands . . . for the rest of my life." At one point, he threatened to send her to work in a canning factory: "It would have made you or broken you (i.e., made you run away)." Again, to be separate is to be "broken." The line was a fine one, as when he wrote her about a social fiasco. "I don't want it to be so bad that it will break your self-confidence, which . . . is fine [if] founded on . . . work, courage, etc., but if you are selfish it had better be broken early." In a more playful vein, he threatened to change her nickname to "Egg, which implies that you belong to a very rudimentary state of life and that I could break you up and crack you open at my will."
How can I phrase Fitzgerald's life style? I see three basic polarities within which he interpreted his world. First,I think, he saw situations in terms of bigger powers and lesser powers, in particular, his own self and the much bigger world he resolved to conquer. Second, he tended to divide things into those which were magical and infinite as against those which were separate and broken. The most important such dualism involved himself and the world: either he magically participated in the world, or he was his stoically resolute, separate self at the risk of being emptied and broken by it. Third, actions for him took the shape of giving and being given unto as against not giving, not being given unto, and therefore being--in that word which he came back to over and over again--"broken." His great imaginative gift was that he could project all these inner ups and downs onto an infinite plane outside, as a child might.
If I try to put into a single sentence a Fitzgerald-ness based on these three complex polarities--giving and being given to, bigger and less powers, being part of a magical world and having a separate, broken self--I come out with this: By giving myself, I show I am part of a world that magically gives me infinite supplies of talent and grace; but by not giving I show I can stand alone, even at the risk of being broken.
Obviously, there are many ways of talking about a style besides trying to phrase it into a single sentence. I like the sentence method, though, because it allows me to state both the key terms I see and the relations I see among them. A noun like "supplies" can serve as a theme summarizing a variety of traits: Fitzgerald's perception of his own and others' talent; his preoccupation with wealth; or his drinking. Each of these words in turn, "talent," "wealth," "drinking," can serve as themes for grouping particular behaviors: this or that writing, a certain party, some advice to his daughter. "Supplies" in turn becomes the object of giving or not giving, being given to or not being given to. These verbs can be unfolded into diverse traits and the traits in turn into particular behaviors. In other words, such a sentence functions like a theme in a piece of music or a kernel sentence in the early transformational grammars. One can unfold it and transform it into an infinity of variations, each new and different, yet all echoing the original.
By giving myself, I show I am part of a world that magically gives me infinite supplies of talent and grace; but by not giving I show I can stand alone, even at the risk of being broken. In other words, Fitzgerald always headed in two directions at once: to give infinitely and so prove he himself had been infinitely given to; to withhold and so show that he had not been given to, that therefore he had a right to be angry and to break into that magical source or to be broken himself. In his own words, "I have no patience and when I want something I want it. I break people. I am part of the break-up of the times."
Thus, he was always involved in one of two cycles, giving or withholding. He was driven from one to the other as it became apparent that he was not going to receive infinitely (after all, none of us does), or as he needed to assert his own separate identity apart from the era in which he lived. He always created expectations but only sometimes did he live up to them. One word that (for me) might unify him or the way he saw his world is promising.
In his life, he worked--and played--very hard at making himself into a legend. As one way of uniting himself with a larger past he insisted that he was descended from Francis Scott Key. In another mode, he became the very embodiment of the Jazz Age. He carried on fabulous parties and debauches, many of them marked by recklessness and violence. At one party, for instance, when Zelda lay down in front of their car and told him to drive over her, he had released the brake before their friends could restrain him. Sober, Fitzgerald was the picture of grace, gentility, and generosity. Drunk, out came a mean streak of rudeness and cruelty that appeared in his sober self mostly as a liking for boxing and other contact sports and a persistent hobby of military history. But perhaps this violence was implicit in his sense of the conflict between the giver and the receiver--as in his imagery of breaking and cracking. He could say, for example, of Zelda's career, that she was working "under a greenhouse which is my money and my name and my love. . . . She is willing to use the greenhouse to protect her in every way . . . and at the same time she feels no responsibility about the greenhouse and feels that she can reach up and knock a piece of glass out of the roof any moment."
Finally, however, what interests me more about Fitzgerald than his wife or his life is his literary achievement. If what I have said about his having a style of choices is correct, then I should be able to trace in the ego choices his work embodies the same style as in the ego choices expressed in his opinions and his life. Consider, then, three of the passages I like best from my favorite among Fitzgerald's novels, Gatsby.
This, for example, is a single sentence describing college people coming home for Christmas vacation on the great passenger trains of the 1930s and 40s. I love it because I too stood between cars when I was coming home from college and breathed the wintry air between Boston and New York. "We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again." There is the taking in (air, dinner), the merger with the larger being (this country), the separateness from it and the melting into it again.
In those words, "indistinguishably" and "unutterably," you can hear the distinctive note of withholding. You could almost call Fitzgerald the Master of the Negative Prefix, particularly when he refuses to tell you something, that is, to give from his mouth. Listen to this astonishing statement of withholding from a narrator. A narrator is, after all, supposed to be telling us the novel:
Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something--an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever.And for the same majestic theme of wonder and loss, listen to this, to me one of the finest bravura paragraphs in all American literature:
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.As I read of that fresh, promising breast, I cannot help but remember the torn, empty breast two chapters before of wretched, slain Myrtle Wilson. Notice how Scott Fitzgerald the writer continues the concerns of Scott Fitzerald the man; how the great themes of his writing--expectation and promise, loss and movements to control loss--show the same style as his attitudes toward Zelda or Princeton or Hollywood. His managing others, his alcoholism, his hobby of military history, his use of negative prefixes, or even his famous saying ("The very rich are different from you and me")--all coact in his style of giving and receiving from an infinity magically conceived in the global, oral terms of the first giving. Truly he was looking for a diamond as big as the Ritz.
My literary term "style," however, does not quite do justice to my claim to have understood Fitzgerald holistically as an "all" and a "one" dialectically interplaying. The classical word for such an idea of a person is "character" (etymologically the same as "style," both having to do with carving letters). The classical psychoanalytic definition is Otto Fenichel's: "the habitual mode of bringing into harmony the tasks presented by internal demands and by the external world." In the language of ego psychology and multiple function, character is "the ego's habitual modes of adjustment to the external world, the id, and the superego, and the characteristic types of combining these modes with one another, constitute character" (1945, p. 467). Fenichel's word "habitual" takes us beyond the momentary balancings of ego or id (as described, for example, by Robert Waelder's principle of "multiple function") into something that over a long period of time remains the same (Lat. idem, the root of
Indeed, in recent years, the word "character" has yielded to "identity," particularly as used by Erik Erikson and his followers: "the confirmation of the individual's sense of selfhood by his membership in the community" (Mazlish, 1975, p. 85). Such a definition turns inward, toward the individual's own feeling of wholeness, but also outward toward the way both individual and community confirm each other. From this version of identity, a "sense of identity," really, has come a great deal of admirable work in psychohistory and psychoanalytic sociology, and even folk psychology, as in "This week I'm having an identity crisis."
I want, however, to add to Erikson's "identity" a literary critic's precision. I want to define identity by an operation or procedure for examining the style in which particular individuals function. In one sense, I am refining the key term of Fenichel's classic definition, "habitual." In another, however, I am drawing into this concept of the I the most exact of the modern theories of identity, that of Heinz Lichtenstein as developed in his book The Dilemma of Human Identity (1977). I want to define identity as having three simultaneous meanings, as
(1) an agencyAn agency. The "I" represented by "an identity" is the I that is the subject of sentences like "I see," "I remember," or "I repress." This "I" tends to disappear in abstract discussions with nouns like "vision," "memory," or "repression," one reason that abstracting away from the person in philosophy sometimes leads to confusion. If "vision" makes a person vanish, imagine what "intertextuality" or "intersubjectivity" do.
(2) a consequence
(3) a representation.
Identity, in this first sense, is the agent initiating the actions that systematically create identity. One needs therefore to think of identity as a system (probably a system of information-processing feedback). Identity is not only the active, agentic principle of such a system but also the passive self that that system creates as it interacts with the world. Hence, identity is also
A consequence. Identity is what is being created as the individual brings an already existing identity (identity in the first sense) to new experiences. Identity in this second sense is the "I" that results because "I see," "I remember," or "I repress."
Identity as what is created by living is necessarily correlative to identity in the first sense of agency. Hence identity is, if not paradoxical, at least circular. We shall need to resort to feedback or something like it when we wish a fuller model. The "we wish" and "model" remind me, however, of the third term: identity as
A representation. Identity is a way of putting into words the dialectic of sameness and difference that is a human life. As I did with Fitzgerald, a person looking on from "outside" can formulate for all the infinite choices by which someone manifests himself, a unifying style by looking at what is familiar and what is novel in each new action. I am constantly doing new things, yet I bring to each new thing my characteristic way of doing. I understand that sameness in what someone else does by seeing it persist though change. Conversely, I understand change by seeing it against what has not changed.
The poets have long recognized that unifying dialectic between sameness and difference. Emily Dickinson, for example, began one of her poems,
Each Life Converges to some Centre--
The insight is not only a poetic one, however. The philosopher Stephen Toulmin gives Newton, Darwin, and Freud as examples when he remarks how the very greatest scientists are often
dominated and guided by a simple enduring 'vision.' Quite early in their careers, these scientists formulate for themselves, and set down in writing, a tentative system of radically novel concepts and hypotheses, which can be seen at work throughout all their subsequent investigations, directing their curiosities and influencing the pattern of their analyses, like some kind of a cognitive 'field' (1978, p. 335).Similarly, the aesthetician Anton Ehrenzweig notes "how a great artist's lifework possesses an inner cohesion like the single movements of a symphony; they are seemingly different and yet elaborating the same inspiring idea" (1965, pp. 76-77). "A man's work," Camus wrote in the preface to his essays, "is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened." Or, as I once heard Bernard Malamud, the novelist, remark in conversation, "Each novelist writes one novel all his life." In the same way, the theories constructed by such major theorists of personality as Freud, Jung, Reich, or Rank reflect the theorist's own personality (Stolorow & Atwood, 1979).
Interestingly, at least one brain scientist suggests that this persisting unity is something intrinsic to the human brain itself. "The brain," writes J. Z. Young, "has many distinct parts but there is increasing evidence that they are interrelated to make one functioning whole, which gives a unique and characteristic direction to the pattern of life of that one individual" (1978, p. 265).
One way of wording that characteristic direction or pattern--the one Heinz Lichtenstein suggests--is to formulate a human identity as a theme with variations. That is, if we imagine a human life as a dialectic between sameness and difference, we can think of the sameness, the continuity of personal style, as a theme; we can think of the changes as variations on that theme. I can understand another person as living out changes and variations on a persistent core just as a musician might play out an infinity of variations on a single melody, as a mathematician might generate a myriad of functions from a single variable, or as a linguist might transform one kernel sentence into hundreds of different utterances.
I can use the term "identity theme" for the continuing core of personality that I see a person bringing to every new experience, their theme or style or, to borrow a French term, cachet spécifique. I would arrive at someone's identity theme as I would a personal style, by abstracting it from its many, many various expressions. Then I can use the term "identity" for the history of that theme and the history of its variations over a lifetime.
In other words, "identity" in this third sense means the history of a person looked at as a theme and variations. Identity is a "representation" in the sense that a history requires a historian.
Lichtenstein, from whom I am adapting this concept of identity, thought in terms of a "primary identity" in the individual. Not unreasonably. We are born into the world with a certain hereditary endowment. That heredity manifests itself in a rather general style of "temperament" or "initial organizing configuration." As every parent knows, babies differ. Some are "easy." Others are "difficult" or "slow to warm up" or "persistent" or "distractable" (Thomas, Chess, & Birch, 1968, 1970; Burks & Rubenstein, 1979). Obviously, such traits are so general as to admit of a great range of behavior, some of which will suit the mother (or mothering person) and some not. Accordingly she will favor some and not others, and the infant will sense itself according to the way she reflects the baby back to itself. Out of the "fit" of mother and baby, close or jarring, easy or abrasive, abrupt or gradual, the child's personality will develop. According to Lichtenstein, "The specific unconscious need of the mother . . . actualizes out of these infinite potentialities one way of being in the child, namely being the child for this particular mother, responding to her unique and individual needs." This way of being Lichtenstein calls a "primary identity," "a zero point which must precede all other mental developments" (1964, pp. 53, 54, 1977, pp. 215 and 218-19).
Lichtenstein intends by "primary identity" a style of being which is a structure in the person, like the ego of traditional psychoanalysis. Created out of heredity and the earliest relationship between a baby and its first caretaker, such an identity is in, even is, that person. Formed before speech, it is a preverbal thing that can never be put precisely into words, can never be "known" in that sense. Just as we can never know the mind of another person, so we can never know this primary identity which is the essence of that mind, although we can approximate it by phrasings like the "style" I phrased for Scott Fitzgerald.
It seems to me, however, that people no more agree on "true" or "right" readings of identities than of poems. A statement of identity is a representation of some person but it also represents the representer's identity. If Fitzgerald interpreted Hollywood as a powerful, withholding mother, that says as much about Fitzgerald as about Hollywood. In the same way, when I read Fitzgerald in a series of polarities, that says as much about the way I see things as about Fitzgerald.
By the very act of interpreting someone, a representer of identity does something which thereby becomes part of the representer's style or identity. "Identity" thus has the same ambiguity as "history." It claims to say how things actually were, but it is necessarily someone's account of how things actually were.
Identity as representation leads to two possibilities. How do I represent the wholeness of you? How do I represent the wholeness of me? Identity can be perceived by the person in question, as when I think about me, or identity can be perceived by another from "outside," as when I think about you. The distinction is important because, even with empathy, we will never feel exactly the pleasure another mind feels, we will never know the knowledge we share in the same way, never love as that other person loves.
This distinction between the "inside" and the "outside" interpreter is also important because in it a theme-and- variations concept of identity poses and preserves the classical psychoanalytic polarity: conscious and unconscious. That is, to someone formulating an identity from outside, like Freud observing the young man or me interpreting Fitzgerald, a given piece of behavior is neither unconscious nor conscious. It is simply behavior. To someone experiencing identity from inside, however, like Freud's young man, behavior, and hence identity, are necessarily partly unconscious. (See the Appendix, pp. 334-36.)
Identity as representation is my view, however, not Lichtenstein's, and it may not be Freud's either. Freud himself seems to have believed in a unity in the personality. On November 6, 1907, Freud was speaking in his large waiting room, presenting a case history to colleagues and questioners assembled as the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. One question he answered almost as though he were anticipating Lichtenstein's theme-and-variations version of primary identity. "In general, the human being cannot tolerate contrasting ideas and feelings in juxtaposition; it is this striving for unification that we call character" (Nunberg, 1962, I, 236).
The patient who occasioned Freud's remark has been known for many years by a horror movie epithet taken from the symptom that brought him to psychoanalysis:
He wired ahead for new glasses, but when a fellow-officer delivered the package to him he found he could not repay the postage because he was baffled by a series of "commands" that he pay different people, traveling to different towns to do so. Finally, completely paralyzed by the problem, he sought advice from a friend in Vienna. The friend suggested he consult a physician--Freud. Lanzer and Freud had their first interview on Tuesday, October 1, 1907.
The "commands" were his presenting symptom. They were not, he felt, his own inner moral principles, and thus they represented what he called "a dissociation of personality," some alien force. He felt he could resolve the dilemmas they created only by turning to someone else. His friend, as an outside authority, could counter these commands from outside (as he had done previously when Ernst felt commanded to take his law examinations before he was ready). In his first interview with Freud, Lanzer told how he had turned (when he was much younger) to a male friend for moral forgiveness when he felt particularly guilty of criminal impulses. In this craving for absolution from outsiders, he showed his need to appease and yet deceive a superego still sought in external figures.
Lanzer sought other forms of outer authority. For example, he had to consult his mother about entering treatment. All that kept him from suicide was his fear of causing his mother pain, particularly in view of the early death of his sister. Certainly it fits the rest of Lanzer's personality that he was trying to become a lawyer and that the particular part of his studies that these obsessional commands disrupted was criminal law.
Although Lanzer craved external laws, he also wanted to be released from them. He recalled two occasions when he became sexually excited (and masturbated) on hearing commandments broken. One was when a postilion broke a city ordinance. The other time, he was reading how Goethe overcame his mistress's prohibition against kissing.
Indeed, Lanzer became able to masturbate at all only after his father's death. He would work on his law examinations until late at night (thereby pleasing his then-dead father). He would even leave the door open so that his father might reappear and see him hard at work. Then he would take out his penis and look at it in the mirror--hardly an action calculated to win paternal approval. Years before, on the occasion of his first sexual intercourse, the thought had flashed through his mind, "One might murder one's father for this." Similarly, he had felt that, if his father died, he could marry his lady.
Hence, not only did Lanzer feel conflicting demands from "outside," he also suffered from mixed feelings of love and hate toward the significant persons in his life. He reported these mostly about his father for, at this stage in psychoanalysis, Freud did not explore the early relation of mother and child as deeply as an analyst would today.
That early relationship, one would say today, necessarily couples love to dependency, frustration, and anger. It therefore poses one of the basic tasks of infancy: learning to live with feelings of love and hate toward the same person--like Lanzer's feelings toward his father. Today, one would guess that the roots of his ambivalence toward his father lay in his relation with his mother.
Freud, however, wrote of his patient's ambivalence in all kinds of other relationships. He noted, for example, how Lanzer attended all the funerals in his family, even of distant relatives. He was constantly killing people off in his imagination so he could show sympathy for their relatives. For example, he wished that his lady might lie ill in bed forever. On a solitary walk, he moved a rock out of the path of her carriage lest it hurt her, but then he put it back lest he seem foolish.
Freud interpreted, both in his theoretical remarks on the case and in his comments to Lanzer, these doings and undoings as the acting out of ambivalence. More specifically, he thought that in Lanzer's development, the sadistic components of love had been exceptionally developed (probably by his father). Lanzer had therefore developed an unconscious hatred of his father which he then repressed. This unconscious hatred had given rise to an especially strong love as a disguise--and that love had constantly to be doubted (because of the hate underneath).
This pattern, said Freud, applied not only to his father and to Ernst's strong identification with his father but also to Gisela, the lady he loved (who was also his cousin). Thinking of her, he sharply separated love from copulation, which he perceived as a hostile act. Thus he could fantasy, while he was with another, non-Platonic girlfriend, a dressmaker, "a rat for my cousin." He was punishing her but he was also imagining his sex with the dressmaker as a loving preliminary to sex with Gisela.
In the manner of 1907, Freud interpreted all these conflicting impulses as showing that Lanzer had disintegrated into three personalities. One was unconscious, made up of the passionate, evil impulses he had suppressed at an early age. A second was conscious--the law student. Then a third was conscious or preconscious, involved in the superstitious and ascetic rituals he had developed to counter his repressed wishes.
Given such a splitting, Lanzer overestimated the effects of his feelings on the world because he was unconscious of their internal, mental function. His love and hate seemed magically powerful because they overpowered him with these obsessional thoughts.
From the age of seven, he told Freud, Lanzer had felt that his parents knew his thoughts and that his sexual or aggressive impulses would be followed by disastrous consequences. Thus, he became a coward out of the fear of the violence of his own rage.
Lanzer's ambivalence, however, did not contrast love and hate only. He also expressed his mixed feelings in the more primitive emotions of simple pleasure and disgust--notably about rats. In telling the story of the rat torture, for example, he showed a mixture of horror and enjoyment. Rats themselves made him think of disease, notably sexual disease (syphilis). Hence they also had erotic values (as with the dressmaker).
In other words, as one would expect with a personality so bound up in commands and compulsions from outside, Lanzer was preoccupied with excrement. A child's excretions are not only the subject of parental commands; they are also the first objects to combine pleasure and disgust. Lanzer represented his excrement as his money--coins--or as his father's gambling debts (Spielratte) that had to be paid out, hence like Raten (installments) or Ratten (rats). Sometimes his concern with money revealed its bodily origins directly as when he dreamed that Freud's daughter had patches of dung instead of eyes. That is, he dreamed of marrying Freud's daughter, not for her charms, her beaux yeux, but for her money. In a still more blatant fantasy, he thought of himself lying on his back, copulating with Freud's daughter by means of the stool hanging from his anus. Lanzer took pleasure in sniffing and smelling, another derivative of the erotic value he put on excretion and its products.
At the same time, to excrete is to put out something that may be a living part of one's own body or may be dead matter. Two episodes Lanzer recalled bear on this aspect of anality.
When he was three or four years old, his father beat him for having done something naughty. The boy flew into a rage, but, since he knew no swear words with which to attack his father, he called him the names of all the common (dead) objects he could think of: "You lamp! You towel! You plate!"
Related to this episode was what Lanzer called the greatest fright of his life. He got from his mother a stuffed bird from a hat to play with. As he was running along with the bird in his hands, its wings moved. Terrified that it had come back to life, he threw it down.
These two strongly remembered episodes admit a pattern: a frenzy in forcing out of himself something dead and bad; then terror at the prospect that it could come to life and return. It was this pattern that Lanzer was acting out in another childhood episode he remembered, the time he played a cruel trick on his younger brother. Hoping to hurt his brother very much, he promised him he would see something if he looked up the barrel of a toy gun. Then Ernst pulled the trigger. In effect, he was forcing on his brother the thing he himself most feared: the disastrous recoil of his own wishes on himself. He made himself the active one, however, mastering the feared situation instead of fearing it.
Excreting was a highly charged modality for Lanzer. So was looking. Throughout his childhood, he wanted to look at naked girls but, he said, he feared something awful would happen if he thought about such things. For example, his father might die. Nevertheless, he enjoyed peeping at his sister's body until his mother put a stop to it. He had exhibited himself to his mother and to his governess while he seemed to be asleep. Earlier another governess (Fraulein Peter) had let him crawl up under her skirt and finger her genitals. Ever after, he was left with a tormenting desire to look at the female body, especially smooth surfaces like thighs. In later life, he fell in love with his lady's body, which his sister had described to him. During the analysis, he brought out a number of fantasies of looking at women's genitals, but associated with rats, insects, feces, and other sources of disgust.
In other words, Lanzer's lookings had acquired multiple functions in his mind. A looking could serve as a source of pleasure if it was also a source of reassurance, that is, when looking excluded the orifices of the female body. Looking also took the place of touching for him, and it is worth remembering that the whole crazy series of symptoms that drove him to seek a doctor's help began with a pair of dropped eyeglasses.
Freud's suggestion that looking had taken the place of touching for his patient matches another theme: a regression from risky acting to safer thinking. Thus, Lanzer impulsively attacked his servant girl and just as impulsively left off. Freud suggested the real purpose of this acting out was to evoke the inner prohibition. In general, Lanzer's compulsions to look instead of touch and his substitution of thoughts for overt actions, like his obedience to "external" commands, reversed outside and inside. Activities in the outer world he converted to forces in his mind, and he gave his thoughts existence in external reality.
This is a reversal in spatial direction, so to speak. Equally important in Lanzer's psychic economy were reversals in temporal sequence. For example, at the age of twelve, Ernst had had a crush on a little girl. The idea came to him that she would be kind to him if he were to suffer some misfortune, specifically, his father's death. Here again Freud could see a reversed logic. She loves me. If I love her, my father will be angry at me, and I will want to kill him. If, however, he were already dead, then it would be all right. He would not be angry were I to love her.
At one point in Lanzer's long romance with his cousin Gisela, she was called away to nurse her seriously ill grandmother. He suddenly had a "command" to cut his own throat, and he was even going to fetch the razor, when he received another "command": "You must first go and kill the old woman." Freud interpreted these two "commands" as, first, Lanzer's hostile wish to go and kill the old woman who had deprived him of his love; second, a command to kill himself as punishment for this hostile wish. But, Freud pointed out, these wishes came in the reversed order so typical for this patient.
The same kind of complex reversing process gave rise to his presenting symptom, the contradictory commands about paying back the postage for his new pince-nez. The idea (or wish) had flashed into his mind: "As sure as my father and the lady can have children, I'll pay him back the money." To punish himself then, for this double insult, he had to promise himself to do an impossible deed, namely, to pay back the money to the wrong person. Otherwise the rat-torture would be carried out on his father (now eight years dead!).
This sanction was itself a reversal. To the image of rats creeping into the anus he associated babies coming out (or the intestinal worms from which he had suffered as a child). In this presenting symptom, as in his whole illness, Freud pointed out, "What appears to be the consequence of the illness is in reality the cause or motive of falling ill." That is, by falling ill, he avoided the task of reconciling his love for the lady with his father's pattern of marrying a rich woman--and indeed his father's more general role as the inhibitor of his sexuality.
This general pattern of reversal underlay his relations with men in many contexts. For example, once he got the idea that his lady was showing a preference for his brother. To quell his jealousy, he asked his brother to wrestle with him. Not until he himself had been defeated (and thus punished for his hostile wish) did he feel pacified. It was as though he had always to deal with hostility toward males before he felt free to turn to a woman.
What he described as the first great blow of his life took place when he was fourteen or fifteen. It involved a nineteen year old student who was a prototype of the male friend on whose external authority he relied--as he did Freud's. This student made much of him until he succeeded in being appointed his tutor. Then he began treating him like an idiot. Ernst realized that the student had simply used him to gain admission to the Lanzer household to court one of his sisters.
This, his first recollection on the couch, led him to memories of his governess Fraulein Peter's genitals (and her male name was not without significance). In other words, as Freud comments, it was (again!) as though Lanzer had to bring out his hostile feelings toward males as sexual beings and external authorities before he could trust his male therapist enough to go into sexual material dealing with a woman.
Thus, in the presenting conflict about paying postage, he had displaced his duty to repay the young woman in the post office onto a male lieutenant. Further confusion arose because he transferred his wish to go see two girls who had looked on him with favor onto the two lieutenants. Again, he had had to deal with males before turning to females. Indeed, his whole confusion about women and money while he was in military service was much colored by his identification with his father's experiences while in the army.
Lanzer dealt with male inhibitors before female gratifiers. This pattern suggests that Lanzer's (anal) reversals of space and time relationships came before, and hence served as, the psychological strategy this son brought to his (oedipal) rivalry with his father for his mother. He came out of that oedipal struggle still more firmly committed to a pattern of reversal. In any case, the pattern appeared constantly in his adult re-creations of oedipal situations. For example, he had a fantasy that, if his lady were to marry somebody else, he would himself rise to higher rank in that man's department until one day he could grant his lady's entreaty and rescue her husband from the consequences of a dishonesty (like his father's?) that he had foreseen all along. Another example: his sister petted him and kissed him like a lover to the point where he felt he had to assure his brother-in-law, "If Julie has a baby in nine months' time, you needn't think I am its father; I am innocent!"
In general, of course, he found father-figures everywhere around him. Freud himself became one, specifically, a father trying to marry his daughter off to the patient. While telling the story of the rat torture, he addressed Freud as "Captain." The cruel captain had, by his very cruelty, become another father-figure. Indeed, in his response to the story of the rat torture, Lanzer thought of his father as alive, as he did in many of his obsessional ideas, although in fact his father had died eight years previously.
While Lanzer created fathers in the outer world, he also identified himself (in his inner world) with his own father. For example, he equated his own unpaid post office debt to his father with his father's gambling debt while in the army. What caused his neurosis was his conflict as to whether to marry his love or marry into the rich family of his mother (as his father had done). As Freud succinctly put it, he could not choose between his father and his sexual object.
His cousin Gisela was a relative, too old for him, perhaps sterile, and certainly in poor health--in general, a doubtful candidate for marriage. In this more or less unavailable woman, Lanzer had perhaps re-created his sister Katherine. She in turn may have played for Lanzer in childhood the role of the mother in the family triangle. Then his love for her would have been tempered by the opposite feeling: that when she was gone, what was left--his relationship with his father--was better. As Lacan points out in his reading of the case, Lanzer re-created in his present life and his inner world the family constellation or mythe of his father (1953; Evans, 1979).
He felt both love and hate for both his father and "the woman" in this constellation, be she mother, Katherine, or Gisela. His resentment of his lady therefore combined with his attachment to his father, and conversely his hatred of his father joined to his love for his lady. He could not choose between two such alternatives, Freud noted, since it was this very uncertainty that protected him from injuring either his father or the lady. "Our present patient had developed a peculiar talent for avoiding a knowledge of any facts which would have helped him in deciding his conflict," notably the facts about the operation on his lady's ovaries. "He had to be forced into remembering what he had forgotten and into finding out what he had overlooked," Freud wrote.
In other words, he used denials of his perceptions, memories, and knowledge in order to control what was inside and what was outside--to "place" his emotions outside himself. "He was at once superstitious and not superstitious." "He believed in premonitions and prophetic dreams," creating their effects by "peripheral vision and reading, forgetting, and, above all, errors of memory." Then he would project those shadowy, repressed connections into the outer world of reality evoking his superstitious awe. Finally, after analysis cleared up these obsessions and superstitions, he would smile at his own credulity.
By these rituals, he said, he was able to ward off both of the bad ideas that came to him about the rat torture, namely, that it would be done to both his father and his cousin. Similarly, he was able to suppress the episode of the captain who had told him where he really should pay the postage, to the young lady at the post office who had been attracted to him. By such means he had been able to think of his father as alive years after his actual death.
Closely related to these denials of obvious facts and perceptions was the patient's ability to keep things split. He could always keep up several attachments to women, to work, or to ideas simultaneously. That way, he never had to choose one and thus express his hatred of the other. As he imagined the rat torture, he split it: there were two rats in the pot. One bored into the victim and one did not.
That was the real issue: the denials, forgettings, and splits all served to control what went in and what went out. His greatest fear was that he would not be able to keep control, that something would burst in against his will. The rat torture, although it meant many things, meant this one above all others. It implied rats boring their way into his anus, his father's, or his lady's. In all these settings, "rat" could imply a penis (heiraten, to marry). The rats also seemed to be associated with the idea of coming out (like the popgun hitting his brother), particularly babies (or worms) coming out of the anus (confirming a childish fantasy that men as well as women can have babies, through the anus).
These were fantasies of things coming into or out of the body. Lanzer had similar fantasies about language. He feared that things could enter into his phrases and turn them into their opposite. For example, he dreamed that Freud's mother died and that he sent Freud a card with "p.c.," pour condoler, on it, but, as he wrote, something changed p.c. into "p.f.," pour feliciter. He used the conjunction aber ("but" or "though") as a verbal formula for repudiating "commands," but then he got the idea that the mute e of the second syllable was "not a sufficient protection against intrusions." Accordingly, he began accenting the word, abER, thus making it, Freud noted, almost Abwehr, "defense," a word he had learned in therapy.
He had another magic word, Glejisamen. After various complicated explanations, he concluded it came from combining his lady's name, Gisela, with Samen (semen) with no gaps in between. He had to say this magic word quickly so that nothing could slip into it, and he added the phrase "without rats." Even this was not enough, however, and to prevent its being reversed into its opposite, he contracted the whole word into just Wie.
In short, Lanzer distorted words by taking things out in order to prevent bad things creeping in. Taking out made what was left more secure. Coming in violently and catastrophically reversed the sense of what was being said.
This pattern applied generally to what went into and out of Lanzer's mouth. He began to heap the grossest abuse on Freud and his family, reporting it in a state of terror lest Freud beat him as his violent father had. It was only by getting it out this way that he could believe he had felt hostility toward his father. He had various related fantasies of defecating into the mouth of a cousin of his, or the mouths of Freud's children, or of Freud doing this to his mother. He associated these fantasies to his father's use of excremental swear words, but I think what is equally clear is the difference in his feelings between what is going in and what is going out. One threatens, the other improves.
He imagined Freud's daughter performing fellatio on a deputy judge (really himself). He was horrified at the idea of the fellatio, because for him the mouth had strong connotations of biting. As a child, he had been apt to bite people when he was in a rage. He associated rats with himself as a biting child, the rat he once saw on his father's grave (eating him? he wondered), and with the operation for the removal of his lady's ovaries. Syphilis gnawing and eating reminded him of rats--and he had feared that his cousin and his father were syphilitic. He fantasied that he saw Freud's mother naked and that the lower part of her body and especially her genitals had been entirely eaten up by Freud and the children.
Embodied in rats, venereal disease, sexual perversions, and coprophagy, taking in through the mouth became in Lanzer's fantasies as grotesque and repulsive as other forms of taking in. Thus, his feelings as an adult testify to a deep ambivalence toward his mother's feeding him. Theory in 1909 had little or nothing to say about early ambivalence toward a mother, but today it would explain his feelings about things coming into his mouth and the rest of his body. As an adult, he had handed over all his money to his mother (putting it "outside" himself), so he would not have to take from her anything that originated with her. He got from his mother, he said, everything bad in his nature; what was bad in him was what she put into him.
Nowhere does Rat Man's inside-outside pattern appear more clearly than in his imagining his diseased emotions as a lump of blood in his head. He had the fantasy of making a funnel-shaped hole in his head to let what was diseased in his brain come out. In doing so he had forgotten his father's description of the Nuremberg funnel, an instrument of torture for pouring water into a victim. As a child, he thought his parents knew his thoughts, supposing he had spoken them out loud without having heard himself do it. He had let them out without control.
One can see from unfolding one session's variations on Lanzer's
identity how events like talking and listening could have a
double meaning for him, coming in and going out, but also
preventing and testing the entrance of things from outside.
Then this adaptation, alternating between barring and
permitting entrances into his psyche, would mesh with the
general ambivalence Freud pointed to, heightening Lanzer's
obsessive oscillations. Similarly, one can see how his father
and the army served him as external controls, therefore as points
for identification with the control he sought, yet, since they
were literally controlling, they could also be threatening
|I. Getting things out||improves what is left behind|
| 1-b must reject food
3-b if father falls out . . .
4-b wants to challenge officer
6-b compulsion to talk
9-a protectively moving rock out
|1-b dieting, exercise
3-b L. wants to help his father
|II. Things coming in||catastrophically reverse what they enter|
| 1-a food from Freud
2-b command to climb mountain
7-a compulsion to listen and
8-b compulsions to kill himself
2-a jump off mountain
4-a beaten for not obeying
7-a repeatings that sound different
[Preventing things coming in]
6-a compulsion to count between
lightning and thunder
7-b compulsion to put cap on his lady
[Testing things coming in]
7-a compulsion to listen
9-b hostilely moving rock into road
[Identification with father]
|must control these reversing movements|
| 5-a His father would be upset
(at L.'s failure to manage in army)
5-b His father both pleased and affronted superiors.
|2-b fell out, marching up mountain
3-a was confined to barracks
4-a not obeying orders
8-a vow not to commit suicide
All these pairings involve a variety of polarities that, in turn, work out variations on the key terms of Lanzer's identity theme. By writing the several motifs of his analytic hour under the important words, one can trace the sequence of his free associations as a restless, cycling movement back and forth among the themes of his identity--as in the outline below which lists, under his identity themes, the successive motifs of his associations for one analytic session (numbered sequentially, a and b indicating opposites within one motif).
Such a tracing of motifs by means of a person's identity theme lets me give coherence to a stream of thoughts that would otherwise seem quite arbitrary. One can see Lanzer's characteristic neurotic cycle, for example, in 4-a: orders are perceived as a threatening penetration, so he disobeys them, and lapses into his typical passivity, which can only be relieved if he can arrive at an outward movement. So he challenges the harsh officer (4-b).
In general, then, one can see the details of what Lanzer was telling Freud in relation to the whole of Lanzer and the whole man in relation to those details. This dialectic is one purpose of a theme-and-variations concept of identity.
To control the reversals in the self caused by things going out and coming in--that would be one possible statement of an identity theme which would interrelate the many details we know about Ernst Lanzer. Similarly, by giving myself, I show I am part of a world that magically gives me infinite supplies of talent and grace; but by not giving I show I can stand alone, even at the risk of being broken--that would be a way of linking features of Scott Fitzgerald's writing like negative prefixes, incapable narrators, or magical but withholding women to features of his life like a fondness for booze or boxing.
Such themes are both like and unlike the type of unifying reconstruction Freud spoke of in describing a crucial scene from another patient's infancy:
how, after a certain phase of the treatment, everything seemed to converge upon it, and how later, in the synthesis, the most variable and remarkable results radiated out from it; how not only the large problems but the smallest peculiarities in the history of the case were cleared up by this single assumption (1918b, 17:52).Freud always thought the reconstruction of specific "historical" truths an essential part of psychoanalytic treatment. He meant, not an isolated interpretation, but a "construction" that would unify large chunks of the patient's experience. In the words of Michael Sherwood's study of psychoanalytic explanation, "What is needed is not simply a filling in of missing information, but rather an explanatory reorganization of the data into some meaningful whole" (1969, p. 170). If you look at the behavior of a person as unified around a central organizing principle, you can reorganize the data out of a merely chronological sequence into a hierarchy of greater and less generalization.
The two modes of thinking, reconstruction and holistic analysis, thus complement each other. As early as 1896 Freud recognized the unity implicit in his patients: "Giving an account of the resolution of a single symptom would in fact amount to the task of relating an entire case history" (3:197). Freud's most frequent way of abstracting analytic material into a unity (not only with patients but also in works like Totem and Taboo and Moses and Monotheism) was to discover one or a few crucial events in time that laid down a prototype for later events. I am suggesting a complementary mode of abstraction: from many events at many times toward a single theme that makes all events, both early and late, characteristic, thus allowing us to see the change from early to late thematically, as the continuation--and changing--of themes.
Such themes will show in large patterns and in small details. Sherwood suggests that psychoanalytic explanation is based on a "psychoanalytic narrative," that is, "a general, over-all account of the patient's life history and 'life style,' the peculiar modes and patterns of behavior which mark that history," "a narrative about an individual patient within which isolated pieces of his behavior come to be understood, fitted together and organized into a comprehensible whole" (1969, p. 110). Such an explanation seems grounded in a model of mind as ongoing history or fiction--narrative, anyway.
The model of mind I have used in these studies of Ernst Lanzer and Scott Fitzgerald is very close to that: mind considered as an aesthetic object like a literary work or a piece of music, and therefore open to an analysis of themes and patterns through the assumption of organic unity which has proved useful since Aristotle. The aesthetics of an I. In Aristotle as in our own phrase, "organic unity," the deepest level of the analogy links work of art to mind to the zoon, the unified and holistic animal that has evolved beneath them both.
I realize that my emphasis may seem to run counter to the "deconstructionist" movement now so influential in modern literary criticism. Deconstruction proceeds by looking for the ways a literary text fails or undermines the assumptions on which it is based. Deconstruction looks for--and proves--disunity.
I do not, however, see this procedure as flatly contradicting the regular method, looking for unity. After all, to look for disunity, one must presume a unity against which to see the "dis-." Similarly, applying a theme and variations strategy, one is constantly aware of thrusts away from the unity being sought or imposed. One could think of any given variation on an identity theme as either the construction of that theme or its deconstruction. A variation is, after all, both.
In short, to see either unity or disunity one must seek--and one will find--its opposite. The two methods, holistic and deconstructive, seem to me complementary rather than contradictory. In that sense, identity theory is deconstructive as well as holistic.
Identity theory extends the holistic analysis that psychoanalysis has used from the very first to a field larger than the single dream, lapse of memory, symptom, or psychoanalytic session--to a whole I. Personal identity in this theory has at least three senses: an agency, a consequence, and a representation. As an agency, "I" is the subject of Fitzgerald's "I drink," "I am a poor boy," "I am broken," or Lanzer's "I lost my glasses." The second, the consequence, is the I who results from drinking, lacking wealth, feeling broken, or losing one's glasses and the I who results from saying "I drink," "I am a poor boy," "I feel broken," or "I lost my glasses on a military halt." And finally, identity is my way of representing Fitzgerald's or Lanzer's I (or my own) as a theme and variations.
By this theme-and-variations strategy, you can relate something as precise as a writer's choice of prefixes to his alcoholism, his attitudes toward money, his political beliefs, his pervasive sense of loss, his relation to his wife, or his continually promising and not quite delivering. You can relate an obsessional neurotic's bizarre rituals and compulsions to his made-up words, his love affair with a cousin, or his wishing--and failing--to be a criminal lawyer. A concept of identity as a theme and variations lets us organize myriads of details--in principle, all--of behavior into coherence.
Such a concept leads to an aesthetic model of mind. Unlike some models in which one "answer" rules out another, this aesthetic structure admits different interpretations. Indeed, it requires them, for in claiming that Scott Fitzgerald saw the world through his identity theme, the theory must also claim that I see the world--and Scott Fitzgerald in it--through mine. My interpretations of Ernst Lanzer or Scott Fitzgerald make up a part of my history; they must be variations on my identity theme.
Identity, then, is paradoxical because the identity of each of us comes from an act of understanding that itself depends on identity. This concept of identity puts not only psychoanalysis into a shared symbolic dialogue, but every other human intellectual activity--for they are all functions of someone's identity. This loosening of the old moorings to an "objective" reality is the real revolution Freud began.
To be sure, some interpretations of Fitzgerald or Lanzer will bring together the details of their personalities with more completeness and directness than others. Some interpretations will therefore be more sharable by other interpreters who require completeness and directness. Yet there is a wide range of interpretations that are acceptable and that other interpreters can share.
Hence this kind of analysis does not offer a "truth" of the
kind that the natural sciences promise, but a truth of the kind
that has developed naturally in the human sciences. We
construe an event collectively. We arrive at a sharing of
interpretations. In the world of psychiatry, that may imply no
more than clinical conferences. In the world of ideas and
values, however, interpretations through identity ask for the
traditional "marketplace of ideas" and all the politics and
ethics of intellectual freedom.
3 / Three Identities and an Identity Principle
By looking at Ernst Lanzer and Scott Fitzgerald through a concept of identity, we have been able to see the small details of their daily lives as part of a total life-style. We humans are constantly doing something new, but doing it in the same style or manner in which we have done everything before it. We can think through that human mingling of sameness and change by means of a verbal theme and variations. We can think of the sameness as a style or identity theme. We can think of the newness as variations on, and away from, that theme.
Each of us constantly meets new realities, to which we bring a preexisting identity (the history of that theme and its variations--"history" being understood always as someone's tracing of same). Then, in a dialogue of self and other, we shape responses which are new in substance but familiar in style. Identity cumulates.
The question one naturally asks, then, is, How constant is that personal style? To what extent does a person's "identity theme" change? To what extent does it become more of the same?
The classic case in the development of identity theory is also the first, a patient of Heinz Lichtenstein's,
She would fall passionately in love with another woman. So long as she felt sure of her partner's love, she would live with her quite contentedly, as she said, like husband and wife, she being the wife. Eventually, she would become intensely possessive of her lover and begin to torment her with jealousy. Fearing she would be deserted, she would panic, become depressed, and start drinking. Finally, as she became more and more despair-ing and lonely, she would begin to prostitute herself, often ending with a "flight" into a brothel. Once there, she said, she would regain some degree of inner composure and start the cycle all over again.
She had very special attitudes toward her prostitution. She felt strongly that she was not "really" a prostitute, that her "real self" was not involved. She was very threatened by the idea of being loved as a woman by a man, particularly in sexual intercourse. "More exactly," Lichtenstein reports,
prostitution was for Anna a defense against the experience of shame that overwhelmed her when a man tried to flirt with her, court her, or wanted to make love to her because he liked her. To escape this deeply disturbing sense of shame she went to extreme lengths to make the relationships with men as businesslike and matter of fact as possible. She had a set of rules that a man who wanted to have intercourse with her should follow. He should not use any names of endearment. She liked it best if the man came out quite straightforwardly with his desire to have sexual intercourse with her. He should neither pretend to be affectionate, nor should he be vulgar or brutal. If a man offered her a specified amount of money in exchange for her services, this made her much more comfortable.In general, not only the money but thinking of something else while she was having sex, or rushing out as soon as the experience was over to perform some other task--these were ways she proved to the man and to herself that she "really did not participate in it."
By contrast, the person she regarded as her "real self" was proud to have educated herself by her reading (including ethical and religious works as well as the books on psychology which led her to seek psychoanalysis). Family circumstances, she felt, had deprived her of any chance for a formal education, but she nevertheless loved poetry, painting, concerts, and ballet performances (she had once wanted to be a dancer). Although she never denied "the facts," she thought of her prostitution as a social role imposed for some external reason and quite alien to the artistic, intellectual person who was trying to grow culturally and whom she regarded as her "real self." She hoped that treatment would resolve the contradiction and enable her to be what she "really was." It did.
Anna and Lichtenstein found a paradigm for her problem in her early relations with her mother, whom she passionately wooed. Above all, she wanted to be what her mother wanted her to be and to replace all the others in her mother's glamorous if chaotic, theatrical world. She plotted constantly against her stepfather, intensifying her mother's own fights with the man. Finally, after he left her mother, Anna falsified her age (fourteen) and worked "like a robot," selling Fuller brushes or laboring in factories, to have her mother to herself. In effect, she played husband to her mother's wife. Nevertheless, her mother began a love affair with a man, and Anna felt completely betrayed and defeated. She ran away and worked as a dancer in a gay bar, where she eventually began the disastrous and self-destructive cycles for which she sought Dr. Lichtenstein's help.
In his account, Lichtenstein shows how a therapist can use an identity theme to interrelate the different branches of the patient's life, even though the patient herself thought of them as quite separate. Lichtenstein suggests that Anna's identity theme could be "transcribed"--and by the metaphor he highlights the importance of words for the purpose--as "being another's essence." That is, Anna tried to become a sort of distilled extract of what she took to be permanent and unchangeable in another human being. In particular, because of the separations and chaos of Anna's childhood, "essence" had a great deal to do with food, drink, and other forms of motherly nurture.
Unfortunately, Anna's mother was the kind of woman of whom one might say, she is nothing without a man. For her, the "essence" or "life-giving food" was a man, and as a female child Anna could not possibly succeed in giving her mother what she wanted and needed. Not for lack of hoping and trying, however. As a girl, Anna wished for large feet and no breasts, to be big and strong, to be a dancer, that is, an ensemble of body members. But finally, no such effort to be a manlike member for her mother could take the place of her mother's actual men. Further, the mother wanted her daughter to be a decorative part of her own self, an addition without individuality, but not her "essential" part.
Thus, later, Anna never felt she was as "life-giving" or "essential" to her lesbian lovers as she needed to be to fulfill the terms of her identity theme. In effect, Anna was saying to her homosexual lovers, I can add to you what you need, but the lesbian women were usually saying, I have everything already. Thus, she could never feel close enough in the homosexual setting. As Lichtenstein says, "The fulfillment of her symbiotic identity theme was possible only in relationship to a man, because only a man could convey to her the experience of being his very 'essence.'"
The trouble for Anna with being in love with a man, however, was that by becoming his essence, she feared she would lose her own existence. As a life-giving essence, she imagined she would be devoured and so destroyed.
By becoming a prostitute, she reached a manageable compromise. She could fuse with a man, yet keep a margin of separateness. She could permit the man to treat her as an extension of himself, negating her separateness and proving his own masculinity. In that sense, she became his life-giving essence, but she was able to keep her "real self" safe. The business ritual made her a mere purchasable object, but this very isolation set limits to the complete loss of self she would otherwise have suffered in the sexual act.
Lichtenstein does not say much about the therapy as such, since he is more concerned in his essay with presenting a theory of identity. Nevertheless, the therapy was successful. Anna did give up the sorrows and disorders of her previous life to become an English teacher.
Anna used therapy to change the variations she was playing out on her identity theme, but she did not change the theme itself--and, so Lichtenstein would argue, could not. A person's identity theme (he would say) acquires the strength of a compulsion or drive, and to change it, one would have to die.
For example, during her troubled life from fifteen to twenty-three, Anna enjoyed what might be called Mad Lover fantasies, sometimes writing them down as prose poems. Her Mad Lover comes to make love to her, but, by doing so, he destroys her mind and body. This carrying of her identity theme to its ultimate, she fantasied as an ecstatic happiness. (With real men, it had threatened her with overwhelming shame.) As one might expect, Anna used imagery of food and drink in her prose poems to convey the idea of being both inseparable and the "essence" of her lover.
Is that you beloved, is that you returning to Drown in my madness, to baptize me with the Sweetness of our foolishness? . . . Bless you, and drink with me my blood to quench our starved thirstiness.--Farewell, loneliness of Sanity, for madness has come to save my Soul . . . Embrace me oh madness, let my nakedness and nudity quench thy thirst for madness with love of a longing heart.To be loved this way is to be eaten, drunk--wholly, madly, and ecstatically merged into the loved one. By contrast, to be separate is to be sane and desperately alone.
Don't leave me, for with you I am not alone. Keep me safe in your oblivion, safe from the haunting night with its thousands eyes [sic] upon my naked soul--for the love I have for you, I need you, for when you leave I find my Self in a reality upon this God's hell on earth, to breathe only the contemptuousness of man's Sanity. Come back, come back, my Sweet love, don't turn me out, let me bathe my Soul in your torment, bleed my body of its blood for a Smooth Vintage of men's liqueur. Let me drink to our holy madness, to our love of Solitude, Oh madness, I love you, come back to keep me free from Sanity.
After therapy, Anna had for the first time a love affair with a man. This is an excerpt from a letter she wrote about her new feelings:
Never before have I felt peace of mind with anyone, warmth and feeling of wanting to do. I feel so much part of him that when he tells me something that was unpleasant to him, no matter what . . . I hate the thing or person for it. I feel it displeased him and that makes it terrible. If he is very tired, fatigue takes hold of me, and I seem to share his feeling and usually end up relieving him of it. Does real loving make one feel a part of another? When he makes love to me I really feel that I'm way down deep inside of him, that his arms are my arms, etc. When he laughs, and he does not often, but he really does, I am filled with sheer glee. When he is sad I long to whitewash all that has caused him his miseries and I feel compassion so deep that I usually have indigestion. . . . I seem not only to suffer these days with my own grieves but his too if only it [sic] could lessen his, it would be worth it, but it does not.She goes on to renounce the idea of women working ("How can I like work when all it ever did was make me feel like a boy? . .").
As a feminist, obviously I deplore such a renunciation or the merger of her own personality into her lover's. It is not for me to judge, however. What is desirable for Anna must finally be left to Anna. It was she who sought therapy and she who felt happier as a result. The point here is not the right or wrong of prostitution, lesbianism, or women working. The point is that the concept of an identity theme makes it possible to think about the sameness and difference in Anna as a result of her therapy. As for ethics, one can infer no more from this concept of identity than from the ancient Greek maxim: Find out who you are--then be that person.
After analysis, Anna began to live a radically new life, but she lived it in the same style as before. She was still "being the essence of another" when she was "way down deep inside" her lover, laughing or sad or angry as he was, with her "indigestion" a colicky echo of her earlier ecstatic eating and drinking. Yet now she could love. She could enjoy her life with a sense of freedom that she missed when she was lurching through her cycles of drink, despair, and departure. In this new life she continued to embody the identity theme which was, is, and (so Lichtenstein would claim) will always be the organizing principle of her being.
The case of Anna S. gives us the testimony of a psychoanalyst that even psychoanalysis did not change his patient's identity theme. Lichtenstein was able, to be sure, to help Anna to change her variations on that theme in a fundamental, pervading way. She was able to stop her painful, self-defeating, conflicted cycles and find other transformations equally in tune with her underlying theme but more satisfying. Psychoanalysis changed her behavior, but not her style. A psychoanalysis, according to Lichtenstein, changes the variations (perhaps in a completely pervasive way), but not the theme they are variations upon. Psychoanalysis can change the places you walk to but not the style of your stride.
Is what Lichtenstein says true? Are we all so determined? Or is he speaking only of people as troubled as Anna or the Rat Man? What about personal creativity and innovation without a therapist? Do they change the theme itself or only the variations and transformations of the theme? Suppose Scott Fitzgerald had been able to free himself enough to try for the novelistic heights. He might have been able to stop documenting the Jazz Age and move on to the nature of history (as in War and Peace) or guilt (as in Crime and Punishment). According to Lichtenstein's experience, however, he would still have used his negative prefixes, his incapable narrators, his balancing "a beautiful word with a barbed one"--in short, his cachet spécifique.
But isn't what we mean by creativity precisely the ability to change one's style? We would do well to judge the persistence of an identity theme by a writer, indeed, one of the most creative people of our century,
As another psychoanalytic student of Shaw, Daniel Dervin, describes it, his was "one of the most elusive, most unbelievably expansive, contradictory, and achieved lives of recent times," yet he finds "organic unity." He finds Shaw's character, as I do, "a unified personality with a center out of which it acted and created . . . [and] brought to life the variety of works we call Shavian" (pp. 333, 207).
My phrase for the Shavian-ness of that center is: trying either to find or to be a purposeful and fulfilling opposite. As you may have noticed with
Further, it is part of my own identity to need to unify a life as elegantly as possible. I want a theme that will relate, key word by key word, to the details of the life. To find or to be a purposeful and fulfilling opposite--that phrasing brings together for me a series of terms, each of which I can use to encompass a cluster of Shaw's traits.
To find or to be: sometimes Shaw sought an outer force to put his trust in--it could be anything from Joe Stalin to osteopathy--and sometimes he became that purposeful force himself as when he tried to persuade people by his writing and speaking. By purposeful I mean a mentally directed--willed--opposite: the way Shaw always tried to impose his own will on the raw, bodily material of life. I mean the contrary of what Shaw attacked as the lies and unrealities of the bourgeoisie or the average theatergoer of his day. In fulfilling I include not only mental fulfillment but also Shaw's deep concern with physical well-being, quite literally how he and others would be filled with food and drink and warmth--and, of course, ideas. By opposite I intend any other person or force, really, lovers as well as enemies, but always seen through Shaw's eye for change and reversals. Again, he might be the opposite himself, or he might seek an opposite in some outer force.
Given a myth or "identity theme" like this, I can say how Shaw made the great, fertilizing ideas of his day (and, indeed, our own) functions of his personality. For example, he rejected the evolutionary principle of natural selection because it was (he said) a "fatalism" leading only to chance and randomness. He insisted instead on the Lamarckian idea that acquired characteristics can be inherited (which had no more scientific backing then than now) and on what he came to call Creative Evolution. Biology, to suit Shaw, had to have a purpose and direction, the improvement of the human species. Similarly he regarded Marxist communism not as the inevitability of "economic determinism" but rather as something to be arrived at Fabianly, constitutionally--in short, by purposeful choice. Freud he rejected out of hand as a "morbidity." "I did not believe," wrote Shaw, "that an author so utterly devoid of delicacy as Sigmund Freud could not only come into human existence, but become as famous and even instructive by his defect as a blind man might by writing essays on painting."
The pattern I see is that Shaw rejects "blind" determinisms in favor of a fulfilling purpose. Thus, he spoke of "the horror of [Darwinism's] banishment of mind from the universe." He substituted Creative Evolution, which Shaw often imaged as feminine, a muse-matriarch who would lead us to greater knowledge, understanding, and power over ourselves and our circumstances. Shaw was so opposed to determinisms that he scarcely even accepted death as reality. He did not deal with death in his plays until he answered William Archer's challenge to do so with The Doctor's Dilemma in 1906; even in that play, death has surely lost its sting.
To find or to be a purposeful and fulfilling opposite: if this identity theme truly enables us to say the consistency in what Shaw did and thought, then we should be able to see a rationale not only behind Shaw's intellectual style but also the strangest aspect of the man, his sex life, notably his much-vexed virginity, much vexed by biographers, anyway. "I lived a continent virgin," he tells us, "but an incorrigible philanderer, until I was 29, running away when the handkerchief was thrown to me; for I wanted to love, but not to be appropriated and lose my boundless . . . liberty." Then, at the age of forty-three he entered on a marriage marked, so he reports, neither by sexual intercourse nor infidelity. Shaw's only period of sexual activity, then, according to Shaw, was the fourteen years from twenty-nine to forty-three. In that time, he tells us, "there was always some lady in the case; and I tried all the experiments and learned what was to be learnt from them." (I find Shaw's phrasing quite clinical; Hesketh Pearson notes "a strain of fastidiousness in him.")
Shaw, says Pearson, told Cecil Chesterton that he found the sexual act "monstrous and indecent," and he "could not understand how any self-respecting man and woman could face each other in the daylight after spending the night together." In the opening play of Back to Methuselah, Shaw had Eve finish the first act with an expression of repugnance at the serpent's revealing the secret of sexual activity, and (according to Pearson) Shaw explained her expression to St. John Ervine as her reaction to God's incredible "combination of the reproductive with the excretory organs, and consequently of love with shame." When Shaw himself designed men and women, in the final play of the pentalogy, he had them not excrete at all, come from eggs rather than childbirth, and leave sex to the young and unthinking.
In this fastidiousness, I think, Shaw is expressing a fear of being enclosed or trapped by his lover. He is saying, "I will keep that sexual opposite truly an opposite--separate, away from me--unless I can give myself to it or her as part of my purpose, unless I can be a fulfiller, too." Thus Shaw did not prize sexuality as an end in its physical self. "I liked sexual intercourse," he wrote Frank Harris,
because of its amazing power of producing a celestial flood of emotion and exaltation of existence which, however momentary, gave me a sample of what may one day be the normal state of being for mankind in intellectual ecstasy. I always gave the wildest expression to this in a torrent of words, partly because I felt it due to the woman to know what I felt in her arms, and partly because I wanted her to share it.As for physical, not mental ejaculation, he was almost contemptuous, complaining of his first mistress's "silly triumph with which she takes, with the air of a conqueror, that which I have torn out of my own entrails for her." His language treats ejaculation as a defeat or a mutilation of his body, the sort of thing lack of mental purpose leads to.
Shaw explicitly placed the importance of sexuality, of everything really, in its enabling him to enter into a larger, controlling force: "It is only when I am being used that I can feel my own existence, enjoy my own life. All my love affairs end tragically because the woman can't use me. . . . Everything real in life is based on need." As he said in the preface to Man and Superman,
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments. . . . And also the only real tragedy in life is the being used by personally minded men for purposes which you recognize to be base.I hear in that eloquent statement of the joy of being used the other side of Shaw's attitude toward sex, "I wanted to love, but not to be appropriated and lose my boundless . . . liberty." Two sides of the same coin. The danger is being incorporated into some larger, needing, hungry being. The defense is purpose, a guarantee of one's own mental existence. Together they make an unchanging inner core with which Shaw could shape every phase of his life from the most public to the most personal.
Because Shaw could talk so freely about himself and his childhood, he lets us imagine how such a personal core might start. He tells us that he saw in his family's snobbish pretensions (which they had not a fraction of the money they needed to keep up) the same kind of anticlimax that he liked in his own writing. He traced it to his father's inability to resist capping a serious lecture to his son with a final, deflating joke. Yet George Carr Shaw represented in life a more painful kind of anticlimax: a devout teetotaler, he was at the same time a confirmed drunkard who could not even enjoy his own drinking because of his insistence that he be a teetotaler. "It had to be either a family tragedy or a family joke," Shaw wrote. "If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." Shaw's father was weakened in still another way, by the presence of the voice teacher G. J. Vandaleur Lee, who took up residence in the house. From him, Shaw says he learned "the scepticism as to academic authority which still persists in me."
Erik Erikson has written a brief study of Shaw in which he treats Shaw's relation to his father as crucial. I think it certainly was, but I also think that the shape of that relationship--the way Shaw perceived these two men in his family--was set even earlier, in Shaw's relation to his mother. Or nonrelation, really, since she very largely left him to servants, who fed and otherwise treated him poorly.
From her, I think Shaw learned that he could not rely on ineffectual, anticlimactic others--opposites. He himself had to create himself. Late in life he said in a playful way that his mother was "the worst in the world," "the worst mother conceivable . . . within the limits of the fact that she was incapable of unkindness." "When her death set me thinking curiously about our relations, I realized that I knew very little about her." Other of Shaw's remarks suggest that his mother's indifference passed beyond mere "domestic anarchy" and into real aggression:
Everybody had disappointed her, or betrayed her, or tyrannized over her . . . but as she never revenged, she also never forgave. . . . If at last you drove her to break with you, the breach was permanent: you did not get her back again. . . . From my mother I learned that the wrath on which the sun goes down is negligible compared to the clear vision and criticism that is neither created by anger nor ended with it.Lucinda Gurley Shaw must have been Shaw's first great disappointment, the prototype for his later sense of his father as an anticlimax and his persistent efforts in the face of such indifference to create his own nurturing world.
Under all the circumstances it says a great deal for my mother's humanity that she did not hate her children. She did not hate anybody, nor love anybody.
Another trait in Shaw leads me to think that the style of his early relation with his mother persisted throughout his adulthood. All of us first meet life in terms of body activities like eating, handling, standing, walking, talking, and seeing. It seems to me that Shaw's dominant body mode was the very first way we take in the world, especially as it is represented in the persons of our mothers: eating. Years later, he would have Jack Tanner proclaim in Man and Superman: "There is no love sincerer than the love of food," and suggest to the lover Tavy, "Your head is in the lioness' mouth: you are half swallowed already," only to find that he (Tanner) himself is "the bee, the spider, the marked down victim, the destined prey" for Ann the "boa constrictor." This, however, his Don Juan says, is what ought to happen: "Life seized me and threw me into [the lady's] arms as a sailor throws a scrap of fish into the mouth of a seabird." Again, that fantasy of being swallowed, contained, or enclosed.
Shaw was a lifelong teetotaler, a nonsmoker, and a vegetarian. He was a man much concerned with his mouth, but less with taking in (like the usual baby or adult), more with keeping things out of it. For example, he defined meat-eating as "eating the scorched corpses of animals--cannibalism with its heroic dish omitted." This was a man who never shaved and who, in the privacy of his home, every night before he went to bed, heard only by his mother or his wife or those who cared for him, he sang. Opera, folksong, lieder--he used anything at all for his cantatory constitutional. This was a man who first made headway in the world as a compulsive orator of truly astonishing power. At the end, his cook Alice Laden reports (in her salutary collection of vegetarian recipes), he would dawdle over breakfast for two and a half hours and lunch for another two and a half. He was constantly nibbling on mango, chutney, marzipan, and thickly iced cakes. All of this suggests to me a man whose life-style--from beginning to end--might well be a response to an absent mother and an empty mouth.
Focusing down to just Shaw's mouth uses identity like the earliest psychoanalytic characterology, looking backward into infantile body modes. I can also use the concept of identity, however, to trace Shaw's development upward and outward from that baby, who seems never to have been an infans, unspeaking and helplessly dependent, to the hardworking but unsuccessful novelist, the overpowering Fabian speaker, the sparkling music and drama critic, and finally the magnificently quirky dramatist. Through all those changes, I can phrase a persistent style--an identity theme.
Shaw's childhood may have had peculiar deprivations, but from them Shaw must have built some extraordinary strengths. As I read him, he responded to hunger and perhaps a fear about things coming into his mouth by deciding to make things go out of his mouth. His father's early letters describe him as another noisemaker in that family of noisemakers. Instead of being the usual dependent child, he became a do-it-yourselfer. He would himself create the nurturing mother and stable father his family did not provide. His mother's "almost complete neglect," he wrote, "had the advantage that I could idolize her to the utmost pitch of my imagination and had no sordid or disillusioning contacts with her." It seems to me, too, that this necessity of creating and even being his own mother, father, sustenance, and world is the source of Shaw's boundless imagination and idealism. This is the bodily root for a mind that could imagine other people, places, and even universes.
The child, however, must also have felt loss and anger at the absence of those nurturing persons. As Shaw himself wrote, "The fact that nobody cared for me particularly gave me a frightful self-sufficiency, or rather a power of starving on imaginary feasts, that . . . leaves me to this hour a treacherous brute in matters of pure affection." Why "frightful"? Why "treacherous"? Perhaps because of the fearful knowledge that what his parents were was not what they purported to be, that whatever is, is not as it ought to be (including, perhaps, Shaw himself). Such a belief would provide an emotional base both for his ambition (to be something other) and his intellectual fury at all cant, humbug, illusion--or looked at another way, all his own futile wishes that things would be as they purport to be, that his mother would be a mother, his father a father, and the singing teacher only a singing teacher. Out of the early disillusionment perhaps, came that strange combination of idealism and realism that reveals Shaw as a disappointed romantic.
I am getting ahead of my story. Think back to the neglected child and to the identity you might form from a sense that the world was not as it ought to be. Try to feel the child's sense of loss and his resolution to do or be that world himself, a fierce sense of opposition which took the bodily form of putting things out of his mouth instead of taking them in. All this could have been the first body version of the distinctively Shavian style of the later life. Sensing it, we can unshrink Shaw. We can unfold that inferred identity theme as Shaw transforms himself into the adult genius.
"I must have been born able to read," Shaw remembered, "or else I acquired the power along with my first set of teeth." "I have no more recollection of my first book than of my first meal." He recalled a novel that greatly influenced him as a child: "The hero was a very romantic hero, trying to live bravely, chivalrously and powerfully by dint of mere romance--fed imagination, without courage, without means, without knowledge, without skill, without anything real except his bodily appetites." From his reading, Shaw imagined a fictional world that would compensate for his dissatisfaction with his family reality, a world in which he was all-powerful and victorious, supreme in war and irresistible in love, completely alone without friends or relations, a foundling superman. "In the world of reality," writes Hesketh Pearson, "he was excessively sensitive, diffident, and shy, quickly reduced to tears and wretchedly timid." But not in fiction, and his preference for fiction over fact persisted all his life. "You may read [an almanac like] the Annual Register from end to end," he told Pearson, "and be no wiser. But read Pilgrims Progress and Gulliver's Travels and you will know as much human history as you need, if not more." He could have said, as someone else might, Madame Bovary or War and Peace or even the Bible, but that would not be Shaw. Shaw picks two works about solitary, adventuring, and largely autonomous heroes.
The same do-it-yourself spirit governed his education. By rejecting the Church, the classics, arithmetic, the values of his family and class, and even death (so ridiculed in the galloping funerals his family practiced), he set himself free to create himself. "I hated school, and learnt there nothing of what it professed to teach." In the same way, he taught himself the piano, rejecting the conventional texts and exercises. "All the work of educating, disciplining and forming myself, which should have been done for me as a child I had to do for myself as an adult." Not least of that work, in a characteristic phrasing, was "purging us thoroughly of the ignorant and vicious superstitions which were thrust down our throats in our helpless childhood."
The young Shaw was a thoroughly disagreeable young man by all accounts, especially his own, precisely because of this fierce spirit of opposition for the sake of independence. "Never spare the feelings of touchy people," he told Pearson. "Hit them bang on the nose, and let them hit back. Then they can't quarrel with you." (As though that were not a quarrel!) Surely a remarkable audacity in someone as inwardly timid as Shaw. Yet he did not show the timidity--just the opposite in his search for opposites. "I had . . . an unpleasant trick of contradicting everyone from whom I thought I could learn anything in order to draw him out and enable me to pick his brains."
Yet this fierce opposition so as to feed on his elders, so displeasing in the brash young Irishman newly arrived in London, was to become one of the great English prose styles. "It is always necessary," he wrote in Everybody's Political What's What, "to overstate a case startlingly to make people sit up and listen to it, and to frighten them into acting on it." Or as Rodin slyly said, "Mr. Shaw does not speak French well, but he expresses himself with such violence that he imposes himself." It was not mere "paradox," said Shaw in the preface to Man and Superman. Rather, "I take hold of a stick by the right instead of the wrong end." The better to beat us with. It was this violent casting of himself as the opponent that gave him the tone for his outrageously perverse criticism of music and drama, even in such minute details as his idea that we should say not "my catching the influenza" but "the influenza catching me."
Shaw's need to find an opposite made his discovery of Marx no merely intellectual event, but, in his own words, a "conversion." He became, he said, a "speaker with a gospel." He "sermonized." This man who based his own motives in his physical needs found a theory that said the whole world ran by need. Shaw now could say that economics played the same role in his characters as anatomy in the figures of Michelangelo.
Marx promised the fulfillment of still another deep wish of Shaw's, the need to feel that whatever is, is not as it purports to be. In particular, said Shaw, "Marx convinced me that what the [Socialist] movement needed was . . . an unveiling of the official facts of Capitalist civilization." "I had no . . . difficulty . . . understanding that private property produces a government of 'damned thieves,' who cannot help themselves, and must, willy nilly, live by robbing the poor."
At the same time, the theory being a theory and therefore bigger than any one person, it could serve Shaw as the idealized, all-powerful, all-giving parent he never had. Further, because it was a theory that embraced not only contemporary politics and economics but all of human history, it offered Shaw the sense of purpose he so deeply needed. Even more, it was a theory of opposition, set out in the dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Hence it could provide a structure for any play he wanted to write or even any one sentence. Some well-made cliché would provide the thesis, Shaw would turn it inside out into an amusing antithesis, and finally he would resolve the conflict into a not quite so revolutionary finale--the synthesis.
Yet since Marxism was a determinism, Shaw had to oppose it. "My mind does not work in Hegelian grooves," he insisted, and he revised orthodox Marxism away from its revolutionary stance into its milder, Fabian, constitutional, and less inevitable form. Thus Shaw limited Marx's determinism, insisting in his later years that experience had required Joseph Stalin himself to become a Fabian!
Shaw's Marxist conversion led him in turn to Sidney Webb and a great friendship, perhaps because he felt it so precisely filled his need for an opposite. "Each of us was the other's complement," Shaw told Pearson.
He knew everything that I didn't know; and I knew everything he didn't know, which was precious little. He was competent: I was incompetent. He was English: I was Irish. He was politically and administratively experienced: I was a novice. He was extraordinarily able and respectable: I was a futile Bohemian. He was at all points the very collaborator I needed; and I just grabbed him."From that time I was not merely a futile Shaw but a committee of Webb and Shaw."
Webb, Marx, and the Fabians all contributed in turn to Shaw's astonishing career as a political orator from 1879 to 1898. At first he was, in his own words, "an arrant coward, nervous and self-conscious to a heartbreaking degree," but once he had made his maiden speech he became irrepressible. "I spoke in the streets, in the parks, at demonstrations, anywhere and everywhere possible. In short, I infested public meetings like an officer afflicted with cowardice, who takes every opportunity of going under fire to get over it and learn his business." The energy he poured into this battle suggests how precisely it matched his inner need to become the purposeful opposite, "to make people sit up and listen to [the case], and to frighten them into acting on it." While he was the purposeful opposite to his audiences, he had his own purposeful opposite in Webb: "I was often in the center of the stage whilst he was invisible in the prompter's box."
Looked at as a child, Shaw was gratifying his deepest needs in their most primitive mode--he was putting something out of his mouth. Looked at as an adult, Shaw was shaping a part of his later dramatic triumph, the overwhelming, operatic style of the Shavian hero. He was to become the only playwright in English to achieve the Corneillian and Racinian tirades of French drama, and he learned how to do it by talking to provincial Sunday Societies and the crowds of Hyde Park.
As the great playwright at sixty-five looked back to the young writer at work on his first novel, he described that
deeper strangeness which has made me all my life a sojourner on this planet rather than a native of it. Whether it be that I was born mad or a little too sane, my kingdom was not of this world: I was at home only in the realm of my imagination, and at my ease only with the mighty dead. Therefore I had to become an actor, and create for myself a fantastic personality fit and apt for dealing with men, and adaptable to the various parts I had to play as author, journalist, orator, politician, committee man, man of the world, and so forth.At some time during the eighties, however, "My imposture was at last accomplished, and I daily pulled the threads of the puppet who represented me in the public press. . . . Applause . . . greeted it."
At the time of which I am writing, however (1879), I had not yet learnt to act, nor come to understand that my natural character was impossible on the great stage of London. When I had to come out of the realm of imagination into that of actuality I was still uncomfortable.
That passage seems to me extraordinarily rich in the identity of both the young and the old Shaw or, indeed, all the Shaws. I can hear in it the child retreating from the indifference of his actual world into the idealized realm of the imagination, "not of this world," where he could be king or messiah. In the phrase, "I was at . . . ease only with the mighty dead," I sense that the great unresolved relation for this man is that between parent and child; I think of a playwright who would dramatize that relation almost to the exclusion of all others. I hear, too, the frank lack of emotion in a man who is at home only with fantasies, puppets, disguises, and applause. I can understand in it Shaw's discomfort with others who have not had to transform themselves as he has, his profound distrust of people-as-they-are, hence his dislike of pure democracy, and his feeling that human nature itself had to be changed before people could govern themselves on this planet. In that need to tranform oneself, I find the solution to Shaw's odd admiration for abstract Creative Evolution and the ugly realities of self-styled supermen like Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini.
Above all, I hear in the dramatic metaphors of this passage the man who finally found that the theater was the natural expression for his own personal myth, his identity. He had to become an actor. He had to make himself into a puppet in order to be controlled and fulfilled by others, but he also had to become that purposeful, fulfilling opposite himself and control the puppet and the actor. In short, he had to become a playwright.
Yet, being Shaw, he would define his new art into its opposite. Drama, he said, is "an art which is nothing more than the most vivid and real of all ways of story-telling." Hence his novelistic stage directions. His own vocation for the theater, he said, "was to give to tragedy itself the tactics of comedy." Hence, when he came to write plays, Shaw virtually created a form of drama to express his own identity: the vocal, perverse, emotionless extravaganza whose dominant theme is the rejection of parents by children or children by parents which we call "Shavian."
Like all of us, Shaw did to others what he did to himself. He made others into puppets to act his plays, spending long hours coaching his actors down to the last details of their performances. Then, in a larger sense, he decided that he and all of us were ourselves puppets in the hands of the Life Force. "The true job of life [is] being used for a purpose." Hence he gave us, his audiences, his kind of joy by making us into his puppets, too. "What I say to-day, everybody will say to-morrow, though they will not remember who put it into their heads. Indeed, they will be right; for I never remember who puts the things into my head: it is the Zeitgeist."
Thus Shaw was living out a kind of proportion in which his actors and his audiences played the puppets to his puppetmaster; but he in turn was the puppet to the Zeitgeist, socialism, Creative Evolution, life force, or whatever. He found a purposeful opposite in those larger forces. Then, in the theater, he became himself a purposeful and fulfilling opposite to us.
In effect, Shaw all his life was trying to free and not free himself from an overwhelming but emotionless parent. He both submitted to and became that figure, and in doing so, he achieved his own unique style of playwriting. He turned the conventional plots and wisdom of his day inside out, giving his characters arias of paradox and inversion. By his prefaces, he imposed his mind on the physical events of the drama, turning his plays into social pamphlets. He revealed painful realities--and denied them as well. Where other dramatists submerged their personalities in their characters', he exhibited himself throughout his plays, as if he had to insist, "I am still here." Indeed, he lived ninety-four years, as if to insist again and again, "I am still here." And we still listen to him. For all his dated themes and quirky plots, we are still giving him that life-giving attention, that immortality, his mother denied him.
Shaw was one of the most creative individuals our century has known. If anyone is capable of complete and radical self-transformation, surely he--with his energetic, self-creating style--was. He did greatly transform himself, politically, literarily, and sexually. His life is marked by radical conversions like his discoveries of Marxism and Sidney Webb and drama. He reached out to the world for people and ideas that he could convert to his own uses in his forceful, antagonistic way, and these "clicked." Yet from the conversions themselves I can phrase a Shavian style just as much as in, say, his schooling or his childhood. From infancy to death I can trace a Shaw-ness.
Through all the radical changes I can see a Shavian identity theme evolve new variations. Similarly, Anna S. radically transformed her life through psychoanalysis, yet I can trace a continuing personal style from before her therapy to after. Consider, however, a still more dramatic "therapy"--brainwashing. Consider the case of
There, he described his life before his arrest. He had preferred to keep his distance from his children, and he said his wife was a "'a very nice woman' because 'she never gave me any trouble and always respected my freedom.'" His career was of utmost importance to him. "To be a doctor-- I liked it by instinct." After a troubled adolescence, he "embarked on the study of medicine, with a passion for his subject which almost totally consumed his intellect and his emotions. He worked night and day, . . . devoted all his spare time to extra work in clinics, and he graduated at the top of his class at the age of twenty-six."
After this brilliant career in medical school, however, he turned his back on Europe and sought work in China. "He was excited by the challenge of the difficulties, and by the absence of hospitals, physicians, and even rudimentary sanitary conditions. This opportunity for lonely accomplishment and exaggerated autonomy was probably the strongest attraction for him," concludes Lifton, and Dr. Vincent himself said:
In my training I always liked to do things for myself, to do what is necessary. For a doctor to be master of himself is what the patient needs. . . . I took to China my microscope, all of my books and equipment, and a small microtome so I could do everything for myself and be completely independent.Once in China, he worked with other doctors only at the beginning: "'The competition started so I left.'" Outside his practice, he avoided personal relationships: "'If I have a friend I have to invite him, and I don't like to be a slave to convenience.'" He developed solitary occupations like writing, painting, and hunting, and after World War II, he moved himself and his practice into the country (always placing his clinics near hunting areas):
I lost myself completely living this kind of life. In the early morning and in the evening I would fish and hunt. I would work all day, sometimes travelling three hours to get to a patient, sometimes sleeping at his home. . . . There was no other doctor, and I was giving life to plenty of patients. . . . It was a necessity to see life in contact with poor people and with nature in order to have emotions--emotions which I can translate into writing and painting. . . . There was no man as happy as I.Lifton does not use Lichtenstein's term "identity theme" to describe Vincent, but he does speak of "three convictions which he had been seeking to prove to himself almost from the day of his birth: I need no one. No one can have my insides. I transcend other mortals." As Lifton sees him, Charles Vincent had to be "always on guard against his own inner urges in the opposite direction: his tendencies to seek intimacy, work cooperatively, and rely upon other people. These social and cooperative urges were, ironically enough, his negative identity"--a term from Erikson.
To arrive at a single identity theme, I can combine Dr. Vincent's positive and negative tendencies by thinking in polarities: needing or not needing; being above or below others; giving or not giving (but being given) insides. I can shape these polarities into one theme: to need is to be below and to give up one's insides. Two major variations on this theme would constitute the positive and negative poles for Dr. Vincent. If I need, then I am below others, giving up my body to them. Dr. Vincent's avoidance of this feared (but unconsciously deeply desired) outcome, led to what Lifton calls his "exaggerated sense of individual mastery." Conversely, if they need me, then they are below me, giving up their bodies to me. This variation suggests Dr. Vincent's career as a lonely doctor, working in isolated areas where no one else could compete with him, "giving life to plenty of patients." Both variations include what Dr. Lifton found "most remarkable," "his need to experience--and to manipulate--all thought, feelings, and actions through the medium of his own body."
Notice, by the way, how this description of a man through a theme and variations or polarities contrasts to conventional psychiatric categories: "prominent schizoid and paranoid character trends." Lifton tries these and concludes that they do not adequately express Dr. Vincent's successful adaptation as a "mystical healer," "lonely adventurer," "an isolated seeker of high aesthetic values," "a magical manipulator who could master his environment only through maintaining his distance from other people." From my point of view, the early and late characterologies, diagnostics as contrasted to identity (see pp. 000-00), differ in the degree to which I can use them to interrelate Dr. Vincent's choices in the various parts of his life, particularly as he describes them in his own (chosen) words. By means of an identity theme like to need is to be below and to give up one's insides, I can understand the way he used fishing or hunting or indeed the doctor-patient relationship itself to act out a pattern: the patient (or prey?) gives his body to Dr. Vincent, and the doctor gives something "higher," art or medicine or knowhow.
He played out a darker variation in an incident that preceded his going to medical school. At the age of nineteen, he fell in love with a fourteen-year-old girl. "'She must fall in love with me,'" he decided, but he never even spoke of his feelings to her. "Instead, he studied an anatomy book to find out where on his body he could shoot himself without causing permanent damage, [sent the girl a one-sentence note,] took his father's pistol, and put a bullet through his shoulder. In telling me this," Lifton notes, "he showed me his scar" ("he" being the brainwashed Vincent).
I realized I was foolish, but I had to go through my experience . . . I was sure that in this way she would have to have love for me. . . . I never had a thought to touch the girl--to let her know I was interested in her. But only through myself, you see, I did it. I am the master of myself, and do what I want to myself.Lifton interprets his act as expressing "the conflict between his asocial style of remaining the 'master' of his own 'insides,'" and a sudden feeling of needing intimacy and love from another person, a conflict which his vocational decision to become a doctor then enabled him to master. Medicine provided a "solution to his identity crisis."
Before the episode with the girl, he had systematically isolated himself in school. "'I was not interested in people around me, you understand--just looking only my way--just wanting to be out because I thought that way I could be more independent--to put a distance between persons who might still influence my goings on." "Vincent," says Lifton, "(with a certain pride) remembers school authorities complaining to his father: 'Your son has been here for four years and we don't even know him.'"
Even earlier, Charles tended to cut himself off from the people around him, notably his father. Lifton quotes him:
My father looked at me as a wild child. . . . He was telling me all the time I didn't have any relationship with him. . . . We were in the same house but not in fusion. . . . He didn't succeed to have my inside."Charles," continues Lifton, "sought always to escape the confinement of his house: 'I didn't like to sleep in a bed. I wanted to sleep in a tree.' He remembers his father, on one occasion, chaining him to the house, but to no avail: 'I succeeded in escaping and I was happy.'"
In short, Lifton gives us a picture of a man with an unusually rigid adaptation to reality. I can phrase variations on his identity theme through his childhood, schooling, adolescent love, married life, parenthood, vocation, and avocations, but the variations get narrower and narrower. They do not branch the way Shaw's did, into different relationships, many-sided political activity, and novel literary creations. Rather, Dr. Vincent's variations on his theme seem to get more and more extreme, like a plant with one constantly lengthening stem, his medical career, and a few leaves clustered at the top. Yet, under brainwashing even he changed.
After his arrest, Vincent was placed in an 8' x 12' cell with eight other prisoners. The first night, he was interrogated in another small room for ten successive hours until 6:00 a.m. At the end of this first session he was chained hand and foot for his uncooperativeness and returned to his cellmates. All day they spent in a "truggle" with him, continuously telling him to confess his guilt. He received little help from them despite his chains, for he was "too reactionary." He ate as a dog does. They had to open his trousers and clean him up after he went to the toilet, a tin can. By the end of the second day, Vincent was concerned only with getting some relief. "'You start to think, how to get rid of these chains. You must get rid of the chains.'" At that night's interrogation, he made a "wild confession"--which was rejected. By the third night he had begun "building a confession." Nevertheless, the routine of all-night interrogation followed by all-day "struggle" continued uninterrupted for eight more days and nights. Finally he ceased all resistance:
You are annihilated . . . exhausted . . . you can't control yourself, or remember what you said two minutes before. You feel that all is lost. . . . From that moment, the judge is the real master of you. You accept anything he says. When he asks how many 'intelligences' you gave to that person, you must put out a number in order to satisfy him. If he says, 'Only those?,' you say, 'No, there are more.' . . . You do whatever they want. You don't pay any more attention to your life or to your handcuffed arms.Thus he completely surrendered himself, losing control. This fiercely autonomous man was putting out what others wanted.
Vincent began to construct an elaborate confession, but it was not until two months later that the chains were removed (and, even then, they would be reapplied for periods of two to three days if he showed "resistance"). At the same time, he entered actively into his cell's organized reeducation procedures of discussion and study, ten to sixteen hours a day of applying the "people's point of view" to every detail of cell routine, past life, or world events. After a year of this, the interrogations resumed, in order to build his confession further. Then he went through fourteen months of full-time "reeducation." After three and a half years, he signed his completed confession and was expelled from China to Hong Kong, where Lifton met him five days after his release.
Lifton got the impression that by the end of his imprisonment Vincent had integrated "his new identity configuration." He had brought the Communist version of "the people" into his mysticism. He had begun "helping" his cellmates in the role of "the teaching physician." "For he was a man no less vulnerable to human influence than others; behind his lifelong avoidance of people was both a fear of and a desire for such influence."
When Dr. Vincent was imprisoned . . . everything was suddenly overturned: the manipulator was now being manipulated, the healer was considered "ill" and in need of "treatment," the aesthetic wanderer was thrown into a crowded dingy cell, the isolate was forced to lay himself bare before strangers. . . . Under these circumstances, his personal myth of absolute independence and superhuman self-mastery was exploded. He had no choice but to become emotionally engaged in a human society, perhaps for the first time in his life. This reversal of such a basic identity pattern was a mark of thought reform's power. . . .From Lifton's point of view, the external forces of brainwashing had changed Vincent's identity. As Dr. Lifton points out, however, thought reform was able to build on something already there in Vincent. The reversal "was achieved only through the reformers' success in bringing out Vincent's long-buried strivings toward human involvement, strivings which he had until then successfully denied." Lifton describes these strivings as his "negative identity."
In my vocabulary, his "identity theme" remained unchanged, but to cope with thought reform he had had to work out a radically new variation on it. To need is to be below and to give up one's insides. The thought reformers forced Vincent to pay the price of being the lowest and most self-exposed prisoner in the cell. Once the price was paid and, however painful, tolerated, he could accept the need to yield himself. What before had been conscious anathema but unconscious desire, now became not only possible to consciousness but compulsively sought. What before he had sought now became anathema.
Later in his ordeal, he was able to adapt by re-creating his old way of being above and getting out the insides of others, because his final role in prison was that of teaching physician. Yet he could even then need others in a new way.
When Lifton first met him in Hong Kong, he thought Vincent after release "was closer to psychosis . . . than he had been during the worst assaults of imprisonment," because he now found himself without the controls and support of the thought reformers that made the new variation on his identity possible while he could not practice the older adaptation at all.
When I am doing something I feel someone is looking at me--because from external manifestation he is anxious to look at what is going on inside of me. We were trained this way in our re-education.He hovered between these two sides (or variations) only briefly, however.
I had dinner last night at the home of Mr. Su [a wealthy, retired Hong Kong Chinese merchant]. I had the feeling that Mr. Su was a pro-Communist. I had this manifestation. Everytime he spoke, I wanted to say, "Yes." I thought he was a . . . judge in contact with the Communists and can report everything. . . .
But this morning I wrote a letter to my wife, and . . . I denied completely my crimes. I know my wife--I know her well--she can't do anything to me, so I wrote, "How cruel they were to make a criminal out of someone like me"--and yet last night I admitted guilt. Why? Because there was a judge there. . . .
Today at lunch with the Jesuit Fathers, I know them well--I denied everything because they are my friends. When I feel safe I am on one side. When I have the feeling I am not safe, right away I jump on the other side.
"He was ill-equipped for close relationships." "He quickly sensed that hope lay . . . in a reversion to what he was best equipped to be--the mystical healer." As his recurring phrase, "I know [someone]," suggests, he reversed from the man who let others have what was inside his mind and body back to the man who possessed (knew) others' insides.
According to Lifton, he himself thought he had most significantly changed by becoming willing to "open myself to others." As for their interviews, "This is the first time a foreigner knows my character. I believe this comes through re-education--because we were instructed to know our internal selves. . . . I have never talked so frankly."
"Through thought reform," says Lifton, "he had learned to surrender his 'insides,' and had therefore been able to reveal more of himself to me than he had to anyone before." Having learned to open himself, Lifton continues, "first in prison, and then with me in Hong Kong, he was bent upon unlearning his lesson." As Vincent himself said, "I have left part of myself in Hong Kong." He began to crystallize again into the unneeding and therefore closed, transcending man he had been before. "'You,'" he told Lifton, "'cannot know--you cannot understand . . . about the compulsion they use. . . . I know everything about [it]. . . . It is the difference between a man who studies anatomy in a book and a man who studies anatomy on the body.'" "'I can see the situation through my experience, a personal experience--physical and spiritual.'"
Here [concludes Lifton] are echoes of the youth who put a bullet through his own shoulder to express his love for a young girl: the experience must be his or it is no experience at all. This basic core of character had survived parental criticism, strict Catholic schools, medical study, twenty years of life in China, and even thought reform itself.If I read "identity theme" for "core of character," I hear in Lifton's words precisely Lichtenstein's theory of the persistence of an identity theme.
In Charles Vincent, we can find and formulate a sameness or continuity or invariance that persisted through as crushing a force as a society can impose and the ostensible change of personality that resulted from it. His captors turned him inside out like a glove: right became left, but the glove was still a glove. The unfortunate Dr. Vincent is someone to be remembered in all discussions of "nature vs. nurture" or the "impact" of culture on personality.
The sad exemplum of Dr. Vincent suggests that we humans hold onto identity even to the limits of physical and mental endurance. So does Anna S.'s case history. Even psychoanalysis did not change her identity theme. So does Shaw's more fortunate and creative life story. Seeing this persistence, Lichtenstein formulated what he called
By "principle" in this context, I understand psychoanalysts (from Freud on) to mean a basic trend that regulates mental functioning. Freud first described motivation this way: the human organism seeks to avoid unpleasure. After The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), Freud called this first principle the pleasure principle, but he still intended its negative meaning. We avoid unpleasure, notably the diffuse sense of objectless fear called anxiety.
Such a regulatory principle is not enough, however, for us to survive. Any organism must find ways of avoiding unpleasure or achieving satisfaction in the real world. Hence Freud also posited a "reality principle." The addition of the reality principle, however, implies no deposing of the pleasure principle but only a safeguarding of it. A momentary pleasure, uncertain in its results, is given up, but only in order to gain along the new path an assured pleasure at a later time (1911b, 12:213-26, see also 1915c, 14:134-36).
In this picture, the child begins life with the pleasure principle and an id and an ego yet undivided, both given over to wishing or hallucinating gratification. Therefore, the child begins living by the logic of dreams, daydreams, hallucinations, and symptoms. Gradually an ego oriented to reality develops and with it capacities for delay, judgment, attention, action in the world, and, above all, thinking as "essentially an experimental kind of acting." In general, by relating to reality, the ego arrives at secondary-process or problem-solving thought.
With these two principles, Freud thought (as of 1911) that he had arrived at a comprehensive theory of motivation. He went on to classify human activities according to the proportion they had of these two kinds of thought or these two orientations to reality: fantasying, sex, religion, science, education, art, and dreams. In effect (and as discussed in the Appendix), Robert Waelder's principle of multiple function brought this first concept of motivation into the later, structural view of the psyche. Heinz Hartmann's autonomous ego enshrined the reality principle in a separate corner of the mind.
It soon became clear, however, that this two-level concept of motivation was not enough. Under a variety of circumstances, people deliberately sought unpleasure, and all these situations seemed to have something to do with repetition. People suffering from traumas dream the original shock over and over. Children repeat in play painful experiences from reality (the doctor game). Patients in analysis transfer onto the analyst earlier failures with parents and other loved people. Moreover, practicing analysts found that merely interpreting a symptom to a patient did not end it. The analysand had to "work it through," repeating the pathological behavior for many interpretations. "Here I go again."
Freud concluded that there was a compulsion to repeat, a basic conservatism in the instincts (or, we could say, the ego). The individual tries an old solution to the competing demands from inner and outer reality before trying to find a new solution. Anna goes through many painful cycles before she turns to therapy.
Freud went further, however. He thought the compulsion to repeat was part of a generalized tendency in all living things to return to an earlier state, ultimately the earlier, inorganic state of death. That was the reason he posited a principle opposed to the pleasure principle, seeking not just an equilibrium, but zero excitation--a death instinct (1920g, 18:3-64). Few later analysts in England or America have found much evidence or usefulness for such an instinct (although there is the notable exception of Melanie Klein and her school). Many French analysts also accept the idea of a death instinct.
I find the idea very general, difficult to make precise, consorting oddly with the exactitude I am used to in Freud's psychoanalytic interpretations. I find I can better use the "identity principle" Lichtenstein has proposed as a substitute for the death instinct. Lichtenstein suggests that "the capacity to maintain or hold on to an identity is a fundamental characteristic of all living organisms, one to which we refer when we think of 'self-preservation' and 'self-reproduction.'" Animals and children deprived of identity maintenance simply die. Hence it is more than an ego function, more even than a drive. Like the death instinct, it overrides the pleasure principle.
"Thus," Lichtenstein concludes, "identity establishment and maintenance can be considered basic biological principles--principles defining the concept of living matter itself" (1961, pp. 246-47, 1977, p. 114). Such an identity principle would be stronger than desire or the drive for pleasure. Everything the individual does evolves variations on identity. Work ("useful" labor or "useless" art) and love ("nonprocreative sexuality") are both powerful ways we sustain identity--hence their importance in the psychoanalytic scheme of things. In this context, "repetitive doing"--the very phenomenon Freud sought to explain by the death instinct--serves the biological function of safeguarding the sameness within change which is identity (1961, p. 235; 1977, p. 103).
Thus, we arrive at a very large theory of motivation. It is double. That is, our lives proceed like sentences from beginnings to endings. Partly that forward movement answers to the momentary logic of the words. If I use a "the," a noun will soon follow. Yet an overall thought also guides the forward movement so that each choice of word is governed by the words preceding but also by the centering theme of my idea, as in, say, The Great Gatsby. Gatsby's monumental parties lead, event by event, to his meeting Daisy again. Each episode causes the next, but the whole answers to Fitzgerald's special vision of the world as promising and failing, "the colossal vitality of his illusion."
We can think of each event in our lives as one in a sequence of events, each "causing" the next and each describable in the language of ego psychology and multiple function (see p. 000-00). On each event a constantly changing reality impinges, but also a personal identity. Any given event takes its shape from preceding events, present reality, and identity. An account of an event like Dr. Vincent's "conversion" that talks only about the "force" or "impact" of society or about preceding causes leaves out an essential dimension, the identity which will give that conversion its highly specific form.
Accepting, along with hundreds of millions of others, a new China will be for this man an individual commitment to confessing guilt. As Lifton's book shows, Dr. Vincent's conversion will not assume the same form as anyone else's, however, even if all those hundreds of millions were subjected to the same coercion.
If Lichtenstein's "identity principle" is true, the need to maintain identity is fundamental and permeates each paragraph of a Fitzgerald, each session of Anna S.'s or Ernst Lanzer's analysis, and each quip of a Shaw. Further, we seek to maintain that identity and do so, even against such strategies for fundamental change as psychoanalysis or brainwashing.
Even the act of ending one's life, since it is a chosen act, affirms one's identity. Summarizing some studies by others of literary suicides, I was able to show that an individual chooses death when he or she can no longer sustain a life that is bearable in terms of that individual's personal style. The mode of death, moreover, often continues the same style (or identity theme) the rest of the life did (1977).
Similarly, a study of people taking LSD shows that the effects of personality persist and shape the total experience more than the drug itself does (Zinberg, 1974, p. 32; Barr et al., 1972, pp. 158, 164-65). The same applies to other psychoactive drugs, according to an experimenter at the National Insitutes of Health: "Even if one were only attempting to control the minds of a homogeneous group of psychiatric patients with a drug with which one had had considerable experience, the desired effect would not be produced in all patients, and one would not be able to plan specifically that any particular effect would be produced in a particular patient" (Calder, 1970, p. 76).
Drugs, I think, are the ultimate in physical determination of the mind, yet even with drugs we respond individually. We keep a measure of idiosyncrasy, living a mixture of freedom and determinism. Society acts on us. Other individuals do. Language and culture both limit and enable us. Physical events and substances control us. Yet through it all we show traces of a personal style. Identity theory gives us a way of describing that mingling of freedom and constraint. By means of identity we can talk about individual differences in response even to brainwashing or drugs and still be rigorous and precise enough to meet at least some of the demands of a science.
According to Lichtenstein, we live by a principle of identity: we seek to maintain identity at all costs and through every experience. Even so, we need not assume as much as Lichtenstein does. We need not assume that there is some identity "in" a person that cannot be changed and that controls and limits behavior. We need only assume that we can formulate an identity theme. We can read a constancy in someone's chosen actions whether or not such a constancy is "there" in some abstract, impersonal sense.
We can think of identity simply as a way of inquiring into human actions. What in this action fits the pattern of earlier actions? Sometimes that inquiry will be successful, as I feel these readings of Fitzgerald, Lanzer, Anna, Shaw, and Vincent are. I can find a theme running through what I know of each of their lives. To that extent, I have confirmation of my identity inquiry. I have neither need nor warrant, however, to assume that I have "correctly" read their identity themes in some "objective" sense.
For example, another psychoanalytic student of Shaw, Daniel Dervin, traces a number of psychoanalytic entities in Shaw's life: the wish for union with a mother, a flight from reality into fantasies of omnipotence, a prodigious and prolific activity of creation, narcissism, and romantic fantasies of an exalted family. Dervin brings these together as three recurring character types, "rooted in Shaw's development and nearest his creative center." These three are: "the Diabolonian son, the symbiotically accessible mother, and later on the accomplished artist as creative father." "From these sources not only did the vital genius evolve, but Shaw's conception of the role of artist as well" (Dervin p. 301n1). In his own way, Dervin has described a Shavian identity.
Now what are we to do with these differences between Dervin and Holland? One response would be to say Holland is right and Dervin wrong (not, I hope, the contrary). Such a verdict proceeds from the assumption that there is an identity theme in Shaw and the business of the identity theorist is to find it and report it correctly.
This one-right-one-wrong, zero-sum response is not a very clever use of the objectivist model, although an altogether too common one among reviewers of nonfiction. A more sophisticated use of the model would seek some compromise or combination or resultant of Dervin's and Holland's readings, and it would add still others, for example, David J. Gordon's reading of Shaw as combining martyrs and conquerors (Gordon, p.158n1). By combining more and more such readings, one should come finally to the correct, objective answer.
Unfortunately, humanistic knowledge seems never to arrive at that utopian destination. Humanists rarely come to consensus, and then only in the most general, even vague terms--nothing like the formidably precise analyses from which Dervin, Gordon, and Holland proceed.
A more sophisticated response to divergent readings of identity themes would recognize that identity is a paradoxical concept. It would be quite inconsistent of me to claim "objectivity" about Shaw since any interpretation I make of him must be a function of my own identity. The words and episodes I choose to discuss will be functions of my identity. My interpretations make up a part of the history of me. They must be variations on my identity theme, as Dervin's and Gordon's are of theirs.
My view of Shaw has changed over the three decades I have been teaching his plays and thinking about him. If my own view in 1984 differs from my own view in 1954, I ought to expect Daniel Dervin's and David Gordon's views to differ from mine. The question is not, Which of us is right and which wrong?, but, What can we learn from one another about Shaw? Also, What can we learn about ourselves and why we see Shaw in our several ways?
Stating an identity theme for Shaw or Anna or Lanzer is not throwing a dart, hitting the target, and walking away from it. It is a continuing discussion. Naturally there is agreement and disagreement, but one does not expect final answers. Rather one hopes for an improvement in the clarity and precision of the discussion.
The similarity between Dervin's reading of Shaw and mine comes about because we are both looking at the same person in the same way. Had we different methods, we would read the same event differently.
To the extent that they are alike, then, our readings show a like commitment to psychoanalytic ideas and the principle that one can and should seek a unity in a person's life. Such consensus as human beings have about events comes not only from the events but also from a prior consensus about the way to read them.
Conversely, some differences between Dervin's reading of Shaw and mine stem from differences in the psychoanalytic concepts we apply to finding a unity in Shaw. He uses clinical and diagnostic categories, often in the technical language of psychoanalysis. Mine are ad hoc efforts to express identity in language like Shaw's own. Those differences in method reflect choices in method that are (in part at least) functions of our different identities.
Now, if two people chose to think about Bernard Shaw in exactly the same way, their two interpretations might resemble each other more closely than mine and Dervin's. But only resemble. They would not be exactly the same, and the differences, far from invalidating one reading or the other, are precisely what identity theory seeks to account for.
If we take the concept of identity seriously, then, we begin to go from simply agreeing or disagreeing to seeing why we think the way we do. We begin to understand how all knowledge is personal knowledge, bound up in the process of knowing. Even what we know scientifically, we know through methods. No matter how widely shared they are, we adopt these methods personally. They become part of our identities. These identities are themselves but forms of knowledge, ways we interpret others and ourselves.
We come again to the paradox of identity and to the new understanding that psychoanalysis proposes of our own understandings. Hence, Lichtenstein's identity principle leads to
In one of his last essays, Freud spoke of "the Witch Metapsychology" (1937c, 23:225). Earlier and less dramatically, he explained that he meant by metapsychology the kinds of statements a psychological (psychoanalytic) explanation had to include to be complete (1915e, 14:181). In setting them out, I can do no better than quote the fine summaries by David Rapaport and Merton M. Gill (1959; see also Rapaport, 1960b). They give five metapsychological points of view, this being the first:
The dynamic point of view demands that the psychoanalytic explanation of any psychological phenomenon include propositions concerning the psychological forces involved in the phenomenon.That is, a psychoanalytic explanation should include an assumption that there are psychological forces (like "drives"), that they have direction and magnitude like forces in physics, and that they add and subtract in both simple ways and complex overdeterminations (as in multiple functioning).
The second metapsychological point of view is similar. A psychoanalytic explanation should "include propositions concerning the psychological energy involved in the phenomenon." The assumption is that there are mental energies like physical ones and that they obey principles of conservation, entropy, and transformation, like the energies of physics.
Both these points of view derive from Freud's Helmholtzian commitment to create a psychology with principles like those of physics and chemistry (1915e, 14:117). More and more, however, today's psychoanalysts see psychoanalysis as a science that rests on interpretation, not physiochemical forces. Hence Freud's Helmholtzian ideal has come increasingly to be revised toward twentieth-century science, and the economic point of view, with its unmeasurable psychic energies, wanes.
The third metapsychological principle takes us to second-phase psychoanalysis (as described on pp. 000-000): A psychoanalytic explanation must "include propositions concerning the abiding psychological configurations (structures) involved. . . . " That is, a psychoanalytic explanation must include reference to the long-lasting configurations, of id, ego, and superego among which short-term mental processes take place.
Fourth is the "genetic point of view," requiring statements about "psychological origin and development." Central to psychoanalysis through every phase, the genetic or "developmental" point of view rests on such basic assumptions as the explanation of present behavior by past history, the notion of biological stages of human development all of us pass through, the idea that earlier actions, even though superseded, remain potentially active, and the fundamental assumption of psychologial determinism: "At each point of psychological history the totality of potentially active earlier forms codetermines all subsequent psychological phenomena," as Rapaport and Gill phrase it.
The fifth, adaptive point of view evolved largely after Freud's death, although Freud did say that the tension between ego and external world was one "of the three great polarities that dominate mental life" (1915e, 14:140). This metapsychological principle demands an account of "relation to the environment." Here again, the assumptions are fundamental: that we are constantly adapting, that we must do so to survive, that we change in response to our physical and social environment, but also that our environment adapts to us.
I believe that the concept of identity developed in this and the preceding chapter leads to a sixth metapsychological point of view. Call it the personal--
The personal point of view demands that the psychoanalytic explanation of any psychological phenomenon include propositions concerning the continuing identity of the person involved.I am saying that, since any given psychological phenomenon involves the interaction of self and reality, the fifth metapsychological point of view entails a sixth. It is just as essential to talk about what the individual personality does in a given psychological transaction as to talk about the effect of reality.
Were we discussing the effect of World War I on Shaw, it would be important to take into account not only World War I but Shaw's personality. That seems obvious enough. What is less obvious, perhaps, is that we also need to take into account the personality of another "person involved," the one analyzing the effect of World War I on Shaw.
This personal point of view rests on a basic assumption parallel to the assumptions of the other metapsychological points of view: A holistic, theme-and-variations analysis of a person's chosen actions can succeed. For any one of a number of reasons, of course, it may not, but in order to analyze "any psychological phenomenon" from the personal point of view, I need to begin by assuming that a holistic analysis can work. Then, according to the feedback I get from the event and from other, parallel interpretations, I can say my assumption did--or did not--succeed in fact, and I can learn from the ways it failed.
One could, of course, assume more than one theme and variations, let's say, one theme for Shaw's literary and political career and another for his sex life. One would lose parsimony and I do not see what one would gain, but in principle one could analyze a life by positing two, three, or a dozen themes with variations on them. Alternatively one could treat these as subthemes and propose a master theme to unify them. The sixth metapsychological principle asks only that one address the continuity of Shaw's personality in time and the continuity as Shaw shifts from, say, novels to plays, from shyness to oratory, or from mother to wife.
The examples of Dr. Vincent's brainwashing, Anna S.'s psychoanalysis, and Bernard Shaw's political and literary creativity suggest further that an identity theme persists despite radical changes in the variations the individual plays upon it. Here again, we can make this assumption in more and less demanding ways. We can assume that there is an identity theme in the individual that persists no matter how radical the changes. We can be less demanding and assume simply that one can formulate an identity theme that applies to all past living and may apply through all subsequent living no matter how radical the changes.
Thinking of identity themes in the realm of constructs seems to me logically consistent with what must surely be a corollary to this sixth metapsychological point of view, namely: Interpretations (of identity, for example) can themselves be understood as functions of the identity of the interpreter. This proposition, as we shall see in the next chapter, enables us to talk psychoanalytically about the ways we perceive and know the world.
In the meantime, identity has given us a way to grasp the mystery of selving that Gerard Manley Hopkins describes in the poem that serves as epigraph to this book--
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:Hopkins, like Lichtenstein, speaks of an identity "indoors," in, each mortal thing. It is an eloquent and consoling measure of our century to hear how a twentieth-century poet, Elizabeth Jennings, describes personal identity as personal knowledge. The poem is called just that, "Identity."
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves--goes itself; myself it speaks and spells;
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
When I decide I shall assemble you
Or, more precisely, when I decide which thoughts
Of mine about you fit most easily together,
Then I can learn what I have loved, what lets
Light through the mind. The residue
Of what you may be goes. . . .
That you love what is truthful to your will
Is all that ever can be answered for
And, what is more,
Is all we make each other when we love.
Back to the cover page?