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Moss, D. (1987). On Obsessionality and Sublimation. Am. Imago, 44(3):185-194.

(1987). American Imago, 44(3):185-194

On Obsessionality and Sublimation

Donald Moss

Of obsessionality, Freud writes: “If an intense love is opposed by an almost equally powerful hatred, and is at the same time inseparably bound up with it, the immediate consequence is certain to be a partial paralysis of the will and an incapacity for coming to a decision upon any of those actions for which love ought to provide the motive power … A man who doubts his own love may, or rather must, doubt every less thing” (1909, p. 241).

The obsessional doubts his love, yes, but with no uncertainty knows the abundance of its objects. Incapable of the violence of selection, he/she is plagued by excess. Always there are too many. The obsessional's objects are ubiquitous. Since those objects occupy every locus of both cause and effect, consciousness can only know itself as passive to them. The shadows of the obsessional's objects eclipse not only his/her ego but the very body from which that ego springs. A swarm, they have commandeered the drive-apparatus, an apparatus known only by way of its “demand made upon the mind for work” (Freud, 1915, p. 122). The obsessional's objects are the medium of that demand.

For the obsessional, then, means have become all, with no end in sight. The obsessional is consumed by problems of method. Juggling variables—love, hate, this excess of objects—he/she turns each moment into an experiment. The experiment's informing question: how to quiet the present noise and then to transport (re-find) the noble objects of a mythologized past into a triumphant, peaceful, future? Like Nicholas Roeg's “Man Who Fell to Earth” (He and his family the last survivors of a barren, waterless planet. He has come to Earth for water, but his ship breaks down and return is impossible.),

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