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Emerson, L.E. (1919). Internationale Zeitschrift für Arztliche Psychoanalyse. Psychoanal. Rev., 6(3):343-349.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Internationale Zeitschrift für Arztliche Psychoanalyse

(1919). Psychoanalytic Review, 6(3):343-349


Internationale Zeitschrift für Arztliche Psychoanalyse

L. E. Emerson, Ph.D.Author Information

(III Jahrgang, 1915, Heft 2)

1.   Freud's Theory of the Libido Compared with Plato's Teachings concerning Eros. Dr. M. Nachmansohn (Zurich).

2.   Impulses and their Mutations. Prof. Sigmund Freud.

a)   Freud's Theory of the Libido, Etc. The results of psychoanalysis compelled Freud to enlarge his concept of the libido. He found himself forced to include in the concept all that love, in the widest sense, meant; and also, in the narrowest sense, all that was meant by sex.

With astonishment he noted the early erotic life of normal children. He saw that pleasure sucking, for instance, had a sexual significance. He saw that nail-biting, sticking the fingers in the nose, in the ear, etc., sometimes led to masturbation, which, from this point of view, was nothing but a prolongation of infantile habits. He also saw that infantile eroticism followed no fixed paths, but may select, any portion of the body for expression. He suggested that perhaps the sexual impulse was not simple but complex, composed of elements which were the perversions, when the impulse itself broke down.

Now why did he include love under the concept of libido? Intuitively he felt that love, abstracting from its object, was psychologically the same. Furthermore he noted the fact that a strong social interest, or scientific or artistic activity followed a narrowing of sexual expression. Thus he employed the concept of the libido, which originally had only a sexual significance, to include the concept of love. This led him to perhaps the next important discovery in psychoanalysis, the capability of sublimating the libido. Two factors in psychic life must be distinguished: the erotic and the intellectual. Sublimation, or the changing of the one into the other, is one of the most important teachings of pedagogy and also of Plato.

Eros, according to Plato, belongs to the whole of living nature. He identified it, in a wide sense, with the instinct of propagation. But he

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did not limit it to the body only; he also saw it manifested in the spirit. He identified it with the creative faculty in general. All desire to produce, be it in the passion of an animal or the creative desire of an artist, was included, by Plato, in the concept of Eros.

Plato taught the doctrine of sublimation. He distinguished three forms which he spoke of as steps in the development of the soul. As a preliminary step he distinguished between human and animal sensual desire. Then he speaks of a psychic, or soul, eros; of a philosophical eros; and a mystical eros; or love of God. The love of the soul is individual; the love of knowledge is abstract, or universal; the love of God is mystical.

Thus, according to Plato, the love of parent for children or vice versa, or for art, science, or God; all are identical. Only the object changes, not the love. This is eros.

The author finds, therefore, that Freud's enlargement of the concept of libido had its beginning in Plato. Allowing for the 2,000 years difference in the time of writing of the two authors, they come to the same conclusions.

b)   Impulses and their Mutations. It is often thought that science should start with clear and definite fundamental concepts. In reality, however, science never does so start. It really starts through observations, descriptions, ordering and grouping, and the tracing of the causal relations. Fundamental concepts are obscure and difficult to understand. Such a fundamental concept is impulse.

Impulse may be subsumed under the concept of stimulus, but one must not make the mistake of thinking the two are coextensive. Not all stimuli are impulses—i. e., a flash of light on the eye is not an impulse. We can distinguish impulse from stimuli in several ways. An impulse, for instance, originates within the organism, not without; it is a constant force, rather than a periodic, or repeated force. It is recognized as a need and is only adequately met by satisfaction. Further, a stimulus may be escaped by running away; an impulse cannot be escaped in any such manner; we carry our impulses around with us. Through distinguishing between those stimuli which we can escape from and those we cannot avoid by any muscular movements we learn to distinguish between an inner and outer world.

In order to work with psychological phenomena we need many complicated presuppositions. The most important of these presuppositions is that the nervous system is an apparatus enabling us to reduce a stimulus to a lower level, or, if possible, to hold ourselves as if we had not been stimulated. In plain English the principal function of the nervous system is to inhibit reflex action; in other words, the subjugation of stimuli. We now see how the entrance of impulses complicates the simple physiological reflex schema. Thus it appears as if the

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impulse were a sort of limit-concept, serving as the psychical representation of a stimulus arising in the body and as a measure of the work imposed on the mind in consequence of its relation to the body.

The terms “pressure,” “limit,” “object” and “source,” which are necessary in any discussion of the concept of impulse, are defined as follows: “pressure” is the force or the ability to do work of an impulse; “limit” is the satisfaction which takes place only when the exciting condition at the source of the impulse is suppressed; the “object” of the impulse is that through which it reaches its limit. (It is the most variable aspect of an impulse; not connected with it originally; it is not necessarily a foreign body but may be part of the same body; it may change in the course of the life of the impulse; and the same object may satisfy simultaneously many impulses); the “source” of the impulse is that somatic process in an organ, or part of the body, the stimulation of which is represented in the mind as an impulse. It is unknown whether this process is of a chemical nature or associated with other processes, say, such as mechanical.

Freud distinguishes two fundamental impulses or instincts, the ego or self-preservative and the sexual impulses. Biology teaches that the sexual function is not identical with other individual functions. It teaches, further, two conceptions as to the relation between the ego and sexuality, either of which may be right; one is that the sexuality is secondary to the individual, the satisfaction of which is one of his perquisites; the other is the individual, is secondary and is only entrusted with the germ plasm for the purpose of generation and the preservation of the species.

Speaking generally some of the characteristics of the sexual instinct are as follows: It is made up of numerous more elementary impulses arising in different parts of the body the immediate aim of which is the satisfaction of particular organs. Later these partial tendencies become more or less synthetized, and only then have the unity of purpose known as the instinct for the propagation of the species. From the first they are dependent on the self-preservative impulse, following the way pointed out to them by the egoistic impulses for finding their object. A part of them remain for life associated with the ego, carrying with them their libidinous components, which are overlooked during normal functioning and only noticed clearly in illness. They are well adapted for functioning vicariously for one another and can only change their objects. This is what makes sublimation possible.

Freud limits the rest of his paper to a discussion of the better known sexual instinct, reserving the discussion of the ego or self-preservative instinct till more knowledge has been gained through psychoanalysis.

Observation teaches, he says, the following transformations of the instinct: “The reversal into the opposite.” “The turning back on the same person.” “Repression and sublimation.”

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Reversal he analyzes into two parts: Activity and passivity on the one hand and love and hate on the other. For the first transformation he instances sadism and masochism, and looking and exhibitionism, as the transformations of active into passive instincts. The case of love and hate he thinks is not so clear, though one cannot doubt of their intimate relation to the sexuality. Love is not so hard to understand, perhaps; it is the synthesis of sexual purpose; but how can hate have any biological significance?

Love has three pairs of contraries: (i) Love and hate; (2) love and beloved; (3) love and indifference. The psychic life, in general, is ruled by three “polarities” of opposites: (1) Subject—object; (2) pleasant—unpleasant; (3) active—passive. Love arises through the possibility of the ego satisfying a part of its instinct autoerotically by the gaining of satisfaction through an organ. It is originally narcissistic Hate is a relation to an object older than love, associated originally with the repulsion of an unpleasant object of the external world. Thus love may be defined as the relation of the ego to its external source of pleasure.

If an object gives us pleasure we feel a tendency to go towards it and say we “love” it; if it gives us displeasure, on the contrary, -we feel a tendency to flee and say we “hate” it.

Finally, we may name the three polarities as follows: Activity— passivity as biological; subject—object as reality; pleasure—displeasure as economical.

If the abstractor may venture a -word of criticism of the above analysis he will say that it lacks in not giving sufficient emphasis to the fundamental social character of all psychic processes and in making the dichotomy between subject and object absolute instead of relative, and thus failing, as Leibnitz failed, in trying to describe reality in his Monadology.

Miscellaneous Abstracts.

A Study of Symbolism Occurring in a Patient's Dreams.1 James J. Putnam.

The patient was described as a lady of fine character and excellent education, whose life had been a restricted one on account of considerable ill health from childhood and who had been subjected to a rather rigid “religious” education from her earliest years. The following points were the ones mainly dwelt upon:


1 Abstract of a paper read at the meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Boston, May 23, 1917, on symbolisms and other evidences of unconscious thinking presenting themselves in the case of a patient' whose clinical history has been partly described elsewhere.

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Influence of Emotional Impressions on the Handwriting.—During a visit to the country when a very small child, she saw pigs at close range for the first time and under conditions which called her own anal complex peculiarly into evidence. The residual effect was an over-emphasis of her memory of the pigs' tails. This memory was preserved in the form of a modification of her handwriting, noticed by her schoolteachers, and by a strong fascination which pitchers and other vessels of domestic use had for her, in so far as they represented the curves of the pigs' bodies by their shapes and the pigs' tails by their handles.

Recurrent “Pursuit” Dreams.—While still very young she began to have a recurrent “pursuit” dream, in which she was driven from room to room by an ogre, from whom she escaped in either of two ways: (a) by flying up through the roof, which opened to let her pass; or (b) by falling in a passive heap on the ground.

The tendencies corresponding to these two modes of escape are in general terms clear enough. In a more complex form this dream has reappeared even in recent years. But the ogre was then represented by a breeze or wind, which began in her but soon appeared to be outside of her, and then took on a personal form which was evidently that of her father on horseback. Here also the patient soared up into the tree-tops and thence enjoyed the sight of her pursuer. Special interest attaches to the idea of this pursuer being closely related to an influence within herself.

Significance of Wind; Partly Physiological, Partly Spiritual.—(a) Reference to early Bible studies, which made wind equivalent to spirit, and thus suggestive of God and so of her own father. Many ideas of creativeness, even in a narrow sense, were based on this conception.

(b) Breath or air coming from herself with a similar outcome, with special reference to a highly emotional episode which covered several years of her life which embraced a fantasy in which through her breath she seemed to make herself the mother of her lover's child.

Hermaphroditic, or Bisexual Ideas Represented by Symbolisms of Striking Character.—Umbrella, knife, etc.; representations of the transformation of herself into a young man dressed in khaki; dream of man assumed to have given birth to a child, etc.

Frequent Occurrence of the Number 3 (or idea of Triplication), or One of its Multiples6, p, 12.—This use of the number 3 evidently was sexual in origin, and it is especially interesting as having also, like the symbols just mentioned, a bi-sexual significance. This part of the subject cannot be dealt with in brief form.

Author's Abstract.

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The Etiological Relation of the Notion that Sexuality is Indecent, to Psychic Impotence, Dirnenliebe, and a Certain Type of Male Homosexuality.2 H. W. Frink.

Psychic impotence, whether in the form of an inability to perform coitus, or of an inability to enjoy it normally, is, as Freud has pointed out, a psychoneurotic disturbance due to the development of an inner inhibition in the course of the ontogenetic evoultion of the sex impulse in the individual. This inhibition is absent with some types pf sexual object, while present with others, and there consequently develop certain anomalies of object-choice the underlying purpose of which is to evade this inhibition. One has been described by Freud under the term Dirnenliebe, the passion for prostitutes; another, in the opinion of the writer, is represented by certain homosexuals who are masculine in every sense save that the sexual object is not a female. Thus all three of the conditions mentioned appear to have an underlying identity.

The essential psychological factors consist in the development of an asexual image of the mother (in consequence of the idea implanted by educational influences to the effect that sexuality is essentially vile or indecent) and a fixation of a large portion of the libido upon this asexual image. The libido is in consequence split into two qualitatively different streams, of which the one is “affectionate,” the other “sensual.” In the normal love-life these streams both flow to the loved person; in these abnormal cases they remain separate and each requires a different type of love-object. Those qualities in the woman which recall the mother, purity, virtue, cultural attainment, etc., excite affection or admiration only, while passion can be experienced in its full measure only with those women who are not considered virtuous, and for whom admiration, affection and respect are lacking. Thus results Dirnenliebe. Psychic impotence, total or occasional, occurs when an even smaller portion of the sensual stream escapes repression and is left free to be applied to persons outside the family. Homosexuality, of the type described, represents a further extension of the mechanisms which leads to Dirnenliebe. Whereas the sufferer from Dirnenliebe puts all good women in the class with the mother and can love them only as he loved her, while the sensual libido is left free for expression only with women of the prostitute type, the homosexual of the type mentioned puts all women in the class with the mother and has no avenue left open for expression of the sensual libido save that represented by the male.

The paper was illustrated by extracts from the analyses of a case of each of the three conditions, showing how the excessive affectionate fixation on the mother, combined with too vigorous repressive influences


2 Read at the seventh annual meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, May 23, 1917.

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firmly implanting upon everything sexual the stigma of vileness and indecency, had led the individual to the endeavor to keep his sexuality away from loved or respected women and tended to divert it into channels of anomalous object-choice.

Author's Abstract.

The Future of Psychoanalysis.3—Isador H. Coriat

As a therapeutic procedure, psychoanalysis is not only new, but epoch-making, in the help it furnishes to nervous sufferers. The future of psychoanalysis is very broad and hopeful, in both its medical and cultural aspects. Physicians are beginning to recognize the efficacy of the psychoanalytic method, as being immeasurably superior to the older methods of suggestion and to the pernicious rest cure. The medical profession is learning that the technique of psychoanalysis can only be mastered through experience and through a knowledge of the fundamental principles of psychoanalysis. The technical methods of psychoanalysis are undergoing modifications by the various workers in the field and more stress is laid upon the handling of the resistances and transferences rather than on the digging out of repressed material. A great deal of the future of psychoanalysis depends upon the improvement in its technique and upon the publication of the statistical results of the method, such as has been already done by the author of this paper. The spontaneous sublimation of the patient should be encouraged. Religion is one of the most effective and satisfactory routes for the sublimating process. The popularizing of psychoanalysis, if done by those who are familiar with the science, is of value for the spread of its principles among the intelligent public. Psychoanalytic principles should be used for the prevention of nervous and mental disorders and are of great value for clergymen and social workers.


3 Read at the seventh annual meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, May 23, 1917.

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Article Citation

Emerson, L.E. (1919). Internationale Zeitschrift für Arztliche Psychoanalyse. Psychoanal. Rev., 6(3):343-349

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