I am deriving the inspiration to write this article from Claudio Naranjo’s The Divine Child and the Hero: Inner Meaning in Children’s Literature, and a presentation I have to give to the class on the topic :Work with the inner child in Gestalt therapy.
It is often said, that there is a child in every adult. Some individuals are better able to recognize this child than others. If this inner child were to exist, it lives in the intra-psychic world of the adult person. Being a child, it is vulnerable. Being vulnerable, the inner child is often the one that feels the fears (in panic attacks, perhaps?), feelings of abandonment, the rage in depression, the loneliness of existence… In gestalt therapy, this inner child is sometimes synonymous with the “under-dog”.
Existing with the “under-dog” is, of course the “top-dog”. The “top-dog” is the grown-up person’s psyche. This is made up of the introjected voices of a person’s mother and father. It is also sometimes referred to as the super-ego. The super-ego protects the individual as he/she grows into an adult. The top-dog steers the person to achieve all the things he/she want’s in life (e.g. sense of self worth, protection, etc.).
In our strife to get the most of life, to be more autonomous and less vulnerable, the inner child gets sidelined. This “under-dog” suffers in secret. This suffering often goes unnoticed. The suffering sometimes also manifests itself as psychological or physical (a.k.a psychosomatic) distress.
What is the inner child about, really?
I hope you enjoy this short presentation:
There are many types of children’s stories. Naranjo (1999) shows us how these stories can be categorized into 2 broad groups: The matriarchal- and patriarchal-type stories.
The stories he cites as patriarchal are:
The lion, the witch and the wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis; The Hobbit, by J.J. Tolkien; The book of three, by Lloyd Alexander; and The Sword and the Stone by T.E. White.
Others I can think of are: princess stories, stories of overcoming good and bad…
The stories cited as matriarchal are:
The little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry; Tistou of the green thumbs by Marcel Druon; The Animal family, by Randall Jarrell and Charlotte’S Web by E.B. White.
Others include: Alice in wonderland, Life of Pi, Dr. Seuss.
How are these groups different?
Stories change us. Time changes us. We develop. We develop to be adults, while our inner child remains the innocent “divine” child. Children stories tell us much about ourselves. We are not one or the other, we are both. We are both top-dog and under-dog. We live with our internalized matriarch (mother) and our internalized patriarch (father). These adult voices help us to grow up and gain autonomy. The inner child, however, remains always curious and trusting.
Naranjo, C. (1999). The divine child and the hero: Inner meaning in children’s literature. Gateways/IDHHB Publishers.
The organizations like Atelier 10, and Atelier Gugging in Vienna, Austria discussed in this essay, are 2 of many psychosocial initiatives that can be found in Vienna today. Both initiatives are similar only in the sense that Art— in particular, visual art— is the theme of the organizations. This essay explores the work of these two institutions, their philosophy and the possible impact these have on psychosocial intervention.
Atelier 10 and Atelier Gugging
The modus operandi of both Atelier 10 and Atelier Gugging, involves the production and exhibition of art produced by a small group of artists with mental disability. Apart from apparent similarities, these two organizations are strikingly different.
Atelier 10 was founded by Caritas in 2012. Situated in an up-market fine-art enclave in the city of Vienna. The look-and-feel of its 1000sqft premises gives no indication that it is a non-profit, charitable organization. Atelier 10 is managed by one full-time Art Director, who insists that his purpose is to select promising artists who are afflicted with psychosocial difficulties, assist them by providing them time and space to create art, and curating these art works for presentation in their art gallery. The art is chosen strictly, and only artists capable of producing world-class work would be selected. There is pre-concerted effort to establish this art gallery as a mainstream art gallery and not that which is associated with a social care organization.
Atelier 10 does not house the artists, but rather provides them with a place to work and a pension.
Art Gugging is an “Art Brut” or “outsider art” museum. It is run by a private foundation supported by the government of lower Austria. It is situated away from the city on sprawling 870 sq yard grounds. The museum was founded in the 1960s by Psychiatrist, Leo Navratil (1921-2006) who transformed the premises from a psychiatric hospital into a place to house artists who are psychiatric patients (or “kunstlerhaus”) and provide for these artists a space to work and exhibit their masterpieces. Unlike Atelier 10, Art Gugging is steeped in history and is known worldwide as a home for art created the mentally disabled. The Kunstlerhaus is home to about 10 patient-artists, and they are equipped with the services of nursing and medical professionals.
On visiting both premises, both organizers emphasized that their role in the lives of the artists is to provide daily structure and not art therapy. The art activity is purely a creative process and work. Both galleries seem keen to challenge public perception on mental illness with relation to art creation.
During our interviews with the spokesmen of both organization we learnt that their purported role is in psychosocial intervention which is not specific to providing psychotherapy.
Art in Psychosocial Intervention
Psychosocial intervention is a collection of initiatives done (mainly by) government and non-profit agencies with the intent to facilitate the integration of people with disabilities into the general population. In Austria, this goes in line with the health authorities aim to improve the quality of life for all persons through the principle of solidarity, by means of a compensating system for balancing our differences between persons with higher need of protection and the general public (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, 2013).
In the best of times, funding of the psychosocial model of a country is resource limited. Perhaps for this reason, as well as ethical reasons, policymakers have to work towards achieving positive impact from these social welfare activities. In order to understand the impact of a psychosocial model, there has to be a psychological understanding of these social problems. This is “more important than the sum of individual initiatives that specifically come under a psycho-social label.” (Pupavac, 2001).
What can be said of the impact of the Atelier 10 and Art Gugging models of psychosocial intervention? What can be said of the achievement of both organizations?
For sure both Atelier 10 and Art Gugging have produced excellent works of art. This leaves us to question the link between mental illness and art. Many books and reviews have been written on this topic, and the conclusions are varied (Silvia and Kaufman 2011). There are many researchers that believe that mental illness and creativity are totally unlinked (Schlesinger, 2009), since psychosis and other forms of mental instability hinder creative work (Rothenberg, 1990). Having been an artist myself, I would tend to agree with this point of view that creating art requires a certain degree of focus.
There are others who disagree with the above points of view, that through case studies that here is a link between creativity and pathology (Post, 1994 and Nettle, 2001). Seeming to contradict myself, as an artist, I also agree with this point of view. This arises from my experience of experiencing loss of emotional quality of my art following a series of Gestalt therapy sessions.
While it is not within the scope of this essay to answer these questions, I would offer my observation on the art as I see them while in visiting Atelier 10 and Atelier Gugging.
The works in Atelier 10 seems to be more similar to that which one would find in an international art exhibition: formal, stilted but professional. This could simply be that at the time of our visit, the art was arranged in such a way to give me that impression.
The works at Art Gugging gave the impression of playful simplicity. They were accessible and likeable. There is familiarity in some of the works, and I am not thoroughly convinced of the claim that these are pure “outsider art” as described in the article by Cardinal (2009).
Art is a unique experience, which belongs to the art creator and the observer. It is therefore difficult to understand what role art really has in psychosocial intervention.
Art in the context of Atelier 10 and Atelier Gugging is used as an instrument (or a commodity) to provide work to people who otherwise would not be able to find a place in society and at worse, be isolated and institutionalized.
As a form of psychosocial intervention, art is used as a means of creating work, and hence structure for the mentally disabled. This is proven to be a success in Atelier 10 and Atelier Gugging. While these organizations have changed the lives of the artists supported by the efforts, there are still opportunities for accessing the real impact of this mode of psychosocial intervention in society at large: one of which is addressing going beyond providing structure to providing healing. Many artists remain with the institutions for life and don’t get to integrate with society, or become economically viable. This perhaps requires a paradigm shift in thinking of these organizations as a means to integration rather than an end.
Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. (2013). The Austrian health care system: key facts updated version 2003. (pp. 8).
Cardinal, R. (2009) Outsider art and the autistic creator. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 364, p. 1459-1466.
Nettle, D. (2001). Strong imagination: Madness, creativity and human nature. NY: Oxford University Press.
Post, F. (1994). Creativity and psychopathology: a study of 291 world-famous men. Br. J. Psychiatry 165, 22–34.
Pupavac, V. (2001). Therapeutic governance: psycho-social intervention and trauma risk management. Disasters. 25 (4). (pp. 358-372). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Rothenberg, A. (1990). Creativity and Madness: New Findings and Old Stereotypes. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Schlesinger, J. (2009). Creative mythconceptions: a closer look at the evidence for the “Mad Genius” hypothesis. Psychol. Aesthet. Creativity Arts 3, 62–72.
Silvia, P. J. & Kaufman, C. K. (2011). Creativity and mental illness. In Kaufman J. C. & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.). The Cambridge handbook of creativity (pp. 381). NY: Cambridge University Press.
Thought and speech are constituted by language. The medium of our consciousness, also known as our psyche, can be understood from verbal thought, as Lacan says, “the unconscious is structured like a language.”
In this blog, I re-post an interesting lecture “Introduction to Theory of Literature ” by Fry (2009). Fry talks about the essay of Peter Brook, “Freud’s Masterplot: a Model for Narrative”, a chapter in his book, “Reading for Plot, Design and Intention in Narrative“. From this essay the psychological meaning of discourse is developed and discussed.
Metaphor and Metonymy:
Metaphor unifies, brings together different ideas, situations.
Metonymy brings things together “by a recognizable gesture toward contiguity but which nevertheless does not make any claim or pretension to unify or establish identity” — without unifying. Metonymy is a figure of speech which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept.
Reading Jakobson and de Man, Brooks helps us understand the terms described to us above. In Brooks’ essay, “Freud’s Masterplot,” the that the framework for argument is psychoanalytic and that the author is draws primarily from the text of Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle.
In this essay Brooks takes from Freud is the idea of structure. The idea that the unconscious is structured like a language. Hence in psychoanalysis is considered a “talking cure”, in which the unconscious is revealed via narrating and free association. “Talking cure” was first coined in the case of Anna O.
In terms of creating fictional plots, in terms of the nature of fiction, which is what interests Brooks–well, what does this mean?
Aristotle tells us that a plot has a beginning, a middle and an end. It seems almost logical, but we should consider this … A beginning, of course–well, it has to have a beginning and it has to have an end… but why does it have a middle? What is the function of the middle with respect to a beginning and an end? Why does Aristotle say, that a plot should have a certain magnitude? Why shouldn’t it be shorter? Why shouldn’t it be longer?
What does the middle have to do with the necessary connection with the beginning and the end, in such a way that resolves a kind of logic that makes the story worth being? How does all this work? Brooks believes that he can understand it in psychoanalytic terms.
From Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, Brook finds the methodological idea that text can be “mechanized”.
The central two mechanisms of the dream work are simultaneously:
- Condensation : takes essential symbols of the dream and distills them into a kind of over-determined unit, so that one can see the underlying desires and wishes expressed in a dream, manifest in a particular symbolic unity.
- Displacement: essential symbols of the dream, the way a dream attempts to manifest that which it desires, are not expressed in themselves but are displaced into obscurely related ideas or images or symbols.
Displacement is a detour of understanding. Condensation is a distillation of understanding. SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Jacques Lacan probably noticed that the work in every day discourse, and also in our dreams, and our narratives, can be understood as operating through these two mechanisms, condensation and displacement.
Condensation is metaphorical in nature, and displacement metonymic in nature. Metonymy is delaying, and a “différance of signification”– or deferring to a later time. Metaphor is in trying to bring together meaning “in a statement of identity of the discourse that’s attempting to articulate itself”, bringing together identity, “affirmation of resemblance”.
So we can see how Brooks combines Freud’s structure in the interpretation of dreams, showing its correlation with Jakobson and de Man’s structure of literature. Brooks is not interested in the psychogenesis of the author, nor the characters.
The text is not there to tell us about the author or the character. The text is alive, to express desire, put in motion. The structure of the text is there to manifest desire. Freud has a particular desire to fulfill a desire for reduced excitation. can be associate the death wish as the reduction of excitation.
Brooks’ Departure from Freudian Criticism
Brook is taking a different angle with his essay by not getting involved in freudian criticism nor does he talk about how freudian ideas are used in literature.
“I would remind you in passing that although we don’t pause over traditional Freudian criticism in this course, it can indeed be extremely interesting: just for example, Freud’s disciple, Ernest Jones, wrote an influential study of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which he showed famously that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex. Think about the play. You’ll see that there’s a good deal in what Jones is saying; and in fact, famously in the history of the staging and filming of Shakespeare–as you probably know, Sir Laurence Olivier took the role of Hamlet under the influence of Ernest Jones. In the Olivier production of Hamlet, let’s just say made it painfully clear in his relations with Gertrude that he had an Oedipus complex. Again, there were actual sort of literary texts written directly under the influence of Freud. One thinks of D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, for example, in which the central character, Paul Morel, is crippled by an Oedipus complex that he can’t master and the difficulties and complications of the plot are of this kind.”
“Moving closer to the present, an important figure in literary theory, Harold Bloom, can be understood to be developing in his theories of theoretical text, beginning with The Anxiety of Influence, a theory of the author–that is to say, a theory that is based on the relationship between belated poets and their precursors, which is to say a relationship between sons and fathers. So there is a certain pattern in–and of course, I invoke this pattern in arguing that Levi-Strauss‘ version of the Oedipus myth betrays his Oedipus complex in relation to Freud. Plainly, Freudian criticism with these sorts of preoccupations is widespread, continues sometimes to appear, and cannot simply be discounted or ignored as an influence in the development of thinking about literature or of the possibilities of thinking about literature.”
The text is there to express desire, to put in motion, and to make manifest desire or a desire. Brooks says that he has a particular desire in mind.
The structure of the text, or the way in which the text functions is to fulfill a desire for reduced excitation. This means that the desire which can be associated with the pleasure principle in sexual terms and can be associated with the idea of the death wish that Freud develops in Beyond the Pleasure Principle.
In these ways Brooks understands the structure, the delay, the arabesque, or postponement of the end.
Within the text there involves a kind of coexistence between the possibility through “desire of reducing excitation, being excited, and reducing excitation.”
Dreams and stories don’t just express this desire; they also delay it.
Many of the dreams we have are neither exciting, and are tedious. Fiction, as art, has structure, and is thus precisely designed to create delay to a desired degree but not unduly beyond that degree.
Middle of fiction involve this process of delay, they seem also to revisit un-pleasurable things. The experiences that constitute the middles have a tendency to un-pleasurable. The middles are not un-interesting, but they are page turners because they reflect un-pleasant episodes… which we seem to be fascinated with.
Why, in other words, return to what isn’t fun, to where it isn’t pleasure, and what can this possibly have to do with the pleasure principle?
Beyond the Pleasure Principle
In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud considers the phenomena experienced with trauma victims. Written at the end of the First World War, many of the contemporary books written in that time dealt with the subject of war experiences: Virginia’s Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, that her treatment of Septimus Smith in Mrs. Dalloway is a treatment of a traumatized war victim and Rebecca West, wrote one in particular called The Return of the Soldier, the protagonist of which is also a traumatized war victim. It seemed to be the theme of the period and Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle contributes to this theme.
Brooks himself likes to refer to the text of Beyond the Pleasure Principle as itself a master plot–in other words as having a certain fictive character, like The Return of the Soldier or Mrs. Dalloway.
Freud begins by saying, “The weird thing about these trauma victims whom I have had in my office is that in describing their dreams and even in their various forms of neurotic repetitive behavior, they seem compulsively to repeat the traumatic experience that has put them in the very predicament that brought them to me. In other words, they don’t shy away from it. They don’t in any strict sense repress it. They keep compulsively going back to it. Why is that? How can that possibly be a manifestation of the only kind of drives I had ever thought existed up until the year 1919, namely drives that we can associate in one way or another with pleasure–with the pleasure principle, obviously; with a sort of implicit sociobiological understanding that the protraction of life is all about sexual reproduction and that the displacement or inhibition of the direct drives associated with that take the form of the desire to succeed, the desire to improve oneself, and the desire to become more complex emotionally and all the rest of it? All of this we can associate with the pleasure principle. How does this compulsion to return to the traumatic event in any way correspond to or submit itself to explanation in terms of the pleasure principle?”
“The Aim of All Life is Death”
The compulsion to repeat, manifests itself in adults in various forms of neurotic behavior. We can think of it in terms of effort at mastery of something, like a rehearsal of the inevitability of death. The trauma of death which awaits and which has been heralded by traumatic events in one’s life, a near escape: for example, in a train accident or whatever the case may be. So Freud in developing his argument eventually comes to think that the compulsion to repeat has something to do with a kind of repeating forward of an event which is in itself unnarratable: the event of death, which is of course that which ultimately looms.
Freud’s argument is that there is somehow in us a compulsion or a desire, a drive, to return–like going home again or going back to the womb to return to that inanimate state. “The aim of all life,” he then says, “is death.”
We need at present to follow Freud into his closer inquiry concerning the relation between the compulsion to repeat and the instinctual. The answer lies in “a universal attribute of instinct and perhaps of organic life in general,” that “an instinct is an urge inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things.“…
This function [of the drives] is concerned “with the most universal endeavor of all living substance–namely to return to the quiescence of the inorganic world.”
But there’s a reason as to why novels are long: “not too long, not too short, but of a certain length–of a certain magnitude, as Aristotle puts it.”
The organism doesn’t just want to die. The organism is not suicidal. That’s a crucial mistake that we make when we first try to come to terms with what Freud means by “the death wish.” The organism wants to die on its own terms, which is why it has an elaborate mechanism of defenses–“the outer cortex,” as Freud is always calling it–attempting to withstand, to process, and to keep at arm’s length the possibility of trauma. You blame yourself as a victim of trauma for not having the sufficient vigilance in your outer cortex to ward it off. Part of the compulsion to repeat is, in a certain sense–part of the hope of mastery in the compulsion to repeat is to keep up the kind of vigilance which you failed to have in the past and therefore fail to ward it off.
According to Freud, the organism wants to evolve toward its dissolution.
So there is this tension in the organism between evolving to its end and being modified prematurely toward an end, a modification which in terms of fiction would mean you wouldn’t have a plot, right? You might have a beginning, but you would have a sudden cutting off that prevented the arabesque of the plot from developing and arising.
Now what Brooks argues following Freud is that to this end, the creating of an atmosphere in which with dignity and integrity… this is where the pleasure principle and the death wish cooperate.
Hence Freud is able to proffer, with a certain bravado, the formulation: “the aim of all life is death.” We are given an evolutionary image of the organism in which the tension created by external influences has forced living substance to “diverge ever more widely from its original course of life and to make ever more complicated détours before reaching its aim of death.” In this view, the self-preservative instincts function to assure that the organism shall follow its own path to death, to ward off any ways of returning to the inorganic which are not imminent to the organism itself. In other words, “the organism wishes to die only in its own fashion.” It must struggle against events (dangers) which would help to achieve its goal too rapidly–by a kind of short-circuit.
… [W]e could say that the repetition compulsion and the death instinct serve the pleasure principle; in a larger sense [though], the pleasure principle, keeping watch on the invasion of stimuli from without and especially from within, seeking their discharge, serves the death instinct, making sure that the organism is permitted to return to quiescence.
Two differing drives coexist in the developing and enriching of the good plot.
The problem in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, is that it’s awfully hard to keep death and sex separate. The reduction of excitation is obviously something that the pleasure principle is all about. The purpose of sex is to reduce excitation, to annul desire. The purpose of death, Freud argues, is to do the same thing.
For example, the compulsion to repeat nasty episodes, to revisit trauma, and to repeat the un-pleasurable. It could be called something which is a kind of pleasure and which therefore could be subsumed under the pleasure principle and would obviate the need for a theory of the death drive as Freud develops it in Beyond the Pleasure Principle.
As with the plot: desire emerges or begins as the narratable.
What is the unnarratable? The unnarratable is that immersion in our lives such that there is no sense of form or order or structure. Anything is unnarratable if we don’t have a sense of a beginning, a middle, and an end to bring to bear on it. The narratable, in other words, must enter into a structure. So the beginning, which is meditated on by Sartre’s Roquentin in La Nausee and quoted to that effect by Brooks. The narratable begins in this moment of entry into that pattern of desire that launches a fiction. We have speculated on what that desire consists in, and so the narratable becomes a plot and the plot operates through metaphor, which unifies the plot, which shows the remarkable coherence of all of its parts.
In narrative theory there’s no such thing in fiction as irrelevant detail. Nothing is there by accident. The nature of the underlying desire that’s driving the plot forward; but on the other hand, metonymy functions as the principle of delay, the detour, the arabesque, the refusal of closure; the settling upon bad object choice and other unfortunate outcomes, the return of the unpleasurable–all the things that happen in the structure of “middles” in literary plots. The plot finally binds material together, and both metaphor and metonymy are arguably forms of binding. Brooks says:
To speak of “binding” in a literary text is thus to speak of any of the formalizations (which, like binding, may be painful, retarding) that force us to recognize sameness within difference, or the very emergence of a sjužetfrom the material of fabula.
Tony the Tow Truck Revisited
Tony the Tow Truck. I would suggest that in the context of Beyond the Pleasure Principle we could re-title Tony the Tow Truck as The Bumpy Road to Maturity. It certainly has the qualities of a picaresque fiction. It’s on the road, as it were, and the linearity of its plot–the way in which the plot is like beads on a string, which tends to be the case with picaresque fiction, and which by the way is also a metonymic aspect of the fiction–lends the feeling of picturesque to the narrative. Quickly to reread it–I know that you all have it glued to your wrists, but in case you don’t, I’ll reread it:
I am Tony the Tow Truck. I live in a little yellow garage. I help cars that are stuck. I tow them to my garage. I like my job. One day I am stuck. Who will help Tony the Tow Truck? “I cannot help you,” says Neato the Car. “I don’t want to get dirty.” “I cannot help you [see, these are bad object choices, right?],” says Speedy the Car. “I am too busy.” I am very sad. Then a little car pulls up. It is my friend, Bumpy. Bumpy gives me a push. He pushes and pushes [by the way, this text, I think, is very close to its surface a kind of anal-phase parable. In that parable, the hero is not Tony in fact but a character with whom you are familiar if you’re familiar with South Park, and that character is of course the one who says, “He pushes and pushes…”] and I am on my way.” [In any case that is part of the narrative, and then:] “Thank you, Bumpy,” I call back. “You’re welcome,” says Bumpy. Now that’s what I call a friend.
So that’s the text of Tony the Tow Truck. Now we’ve said that it’s picaresque. We can think in terms of repetition, obviously, as the delay that sets in between an origin and an end. We’ve spoken of this in this case as–well, it’s the triadic form of the folk tale that Brooks actually mentions in his essay; but it is, in its dilation of the relationship of beginning and end, a way of reminding us precisely of that relation. He comes from a little yellow garage. The question is, and a question which is perhaps part of the unnarratable, is he going back there? We know he’s on his way, but we don’t know, if we read it in terms of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, whether he’s on his way back to the little yellow garage or whether–and there’s a premonition of this in being stuck, in other words in having broken down–whether he’s on his way to the junkyard.
In either case, the only point is that he will go to either place because the little yellow garage is that from which he came; in either case–little yellow garage or junkyard–he’s going to get there on his own terms, but not as a narcissist and not as the person who begins every sentence in the first part of the story with the word “I,” because you can’t just be an autonomous hero. On your journey, and this is also true of the study of folklore, you need a helper. That’s part of fiction. You need another hero. You need a hero to help you, and having that hero, encountering the other mind as helper, is what obviates the tendency, even in a nice guy like Tony, toward narcissism which is manifest in the “I,” “I,” “I” at the beginning of the story. Notice that then the “I” disappears, not completely but wherever it reappears it’s embedded rather than initial. It is no longer, in other words, that which drives the line in the story. So the arabesque of the plot, as I say, is a matter of encountering bad object choices and overcoming them: neatness, busyness–choices which, by the way, are on the surface temptations. We all want to be neat and busy, don’t we? But somehow or another it’s not enough because the otherness, the mutuality of regard that this story wants to enforce as life–as life properly lived–is not entailed in and of itself in neatness and busyness. Resolution and closure, then, is mature object choice and in a certain sense there, too, it’s a push forward, but we don’t quite know toward what. We have to assume, though, in the context of a reading of this kind that it’s a push toward a state in which the little yellow garage and the unnarratable junkyard are manifest as one and the same thing.
Now as metonymy, the delays we have been talking about, the paratactic structure of the way in which the story is told–all of those, and the elements of repetition, are forms that we recognize as metonymic, but there’s something beyond that at the level of theme. This is a story about cars. This is a story about mechanical objects, some of which move–remember those smiling houses in the background–and some of which are stationary, but they’re all mechanical objects. They’re all structures. In other words, they’re not organic. This is a world understood from a metonymic point of view as that which lacks organicity, and yet at the same time the whole point of the story is thematically metaphoric. It is to assert the common humanity of us all: “That’s what I call a friend.” The whole point of so many children’s stories, animal stories, other stories like this, The Little Engine that Could, and so on is to humanize the world: to render friendly and warm and inviting to the child the entire world, so that Tony is not a tow truck–Tony’s a human being, and he realizes humanity in recognizing the existence of a friend. The unity of the story, in other words, as opposed to its metonymic displacements through the mechanistic, is the triumphant humanization of the mechanistic and the fact that as we read the story, we feel that we are, after all, not in mechanical company but in human company.
That’s the effect of the story and the way it works. In terms of the pleasure principle then, life is best in a human universe and in terms of–well, in terms of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the whole point of returning to an earlier state, the little yellow garage or junkyard, is to avert the threat that one being stuck will return to that junkyard prematurely or along the wrong path.
What is interesting?
Narratives are interesting. We compulsively repeat the unpleasant, return to the un-pleasurable… why? In order to gain mastery of what might otherwise be a moment of helplessness in the face of traumatic experiences. I am not sure if it is a death-wish as much as a defying of death. It is as if repeating the event is a means of making “banal” that which has caused so much “excitement” in the form of anxiety.
As in psychotherapy, patients with psychological issues talk away their suffering. How does the talk do this? Talking or narrating, is a form of repeating unpleasant events. It is not the mere talking about something, but talking to someone who is listening. If there are more people listening, the healing effect gets better.
There is also an effect of hearing another person’s narrative on the listener. The listener is touched by the unpleasant narrative of the other. There is a vicarious effect (something to do with our mirror neurons) and our sense for empathy. Hearing another’s narrative, has a spiritual effect on the listener. This is the reason why we are drawn to such stories and narratives, of plots in literature. NIk
Brooks, P. (1992). Reading for the plot: Design and intention in narrative. Harvard University Press. p. 90.
Fry, P. (2009). Introduction to Theory of Literature. Lecture retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnnWbVvnYIs.
The art with the theme of the “mother” or good and evil mothers by 19th Century painter, Giovanni Segantini, enlivens us to the concept of the good and bad internalized mother in psychoanalysis.
According to scholars like Don Carveth, this idea of the bad mother was blindsided by Sigmund Freud, who was thought to have idealized his relationship with his own mother, and hence could not bring himself to the realization of the bad mother concept.
It was believed that the artist Sagentini lost his mother as a child. He felt guilty with the idea that he was a cause of her death. He was brought up by relatives after his father left him with them. This means that he lost also his father. Sagentini suffered mood swings, which Abraham attributes to the repression of the image of the bad mother (the mother complex). Sagentini’s traumas are not reducible to the Oedipus complex. He was nevertheless susceptible to revenge on the (internalized) mother (and the abandoning/vain…etc. mother) who abandoned him, and he depicts them in his painting.
Abraham points out that excessive hatred/hostility to the mother can be replaced by exaggerated by the opposite: the love of the mother, putting mothers on the pedestal (as in the case with Freud). Sagentini lived with depressive guilt (of having hate for mother turned against himself), and in a way made reparation by depicting the mother & child in his art.
Art is a reparative creative way of healing, and an essential to being healthy. Reparation of one’s internal objects (e.g. internal mother). When one repairs internal objects one can feel whole again and no longer broken. This is the central theme in Kleinian Theory.
The internalized mother is important in the lives of humans. It is the relationship to this internalized mother that we are able to feel protected in this world. In time of trauma, and existentially frightening setback, it is this relationship that gets broken.