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Lawrence, T.E. Turner, J. (1991). Note on Endogenous Opioids. Am. Imago, 48(3):412-416.

(1991). American Imago, 48(3):412-416

Note on Endogenous Opioids

T. E. Lawrence and June Turner

Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895, though he himself did not settle for any title for the work) was Freud's heroic attempt to forge a link between neurology and psychology. He abandoned the draft as unpublishable and formulated his insights thenceforth in psychological terms only. But the intense analytic scrutiny behind the Project, his study and use of cocaine and his clinical familiarity with morphine must all have led him to the conviction that neuronal transmission was a strictly quantitative electro-chemical process. In formulating the pleasure/unpleasure principle the quantitative factor was there from the start (e.g. Freud, 1895, 1: 312). It was restated (1900, 5: 598), critically examined (1915, 14: 120-121), qualified but nevertheless reendorsed (1920, 18: 7-8):

We have decided to relate pleasure and unpleasure to the quantity of excitation that is present in the mind but is not in any way ‘bound’; and to relate them in such a manner that unpleasure corresponds to an increase in the quantity of excitation and pleasure to a diminution.

The unravelling of the pleasure principle, the reality principle (which should moderate the pursuit of pleasure in the interests of self-preservation) and the Nirvana principle or principle of constancy was attempted in 1924, perhaps significantly in The Economic Problem of Masochism (19: 159-161). The basic neurological concept of pleasure/unpleasure corresponding to diminution/increase of excitation was again only modified by the hypothesized temporal factor (rhythm of change). It is upon this quantitative aspect of the pleasure/unpleasure series, to which Freud adhered throughout his life, that I wish to focus.


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