Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
:
Login
Tip: To zoom in or out on PEP-Web…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

Are you having difficulty reading an article due its font size? In order to make the content on PEP-Web larger (zoom in), press Ctrl (on Windows) or ⌘Command (on the Mac) and the plus sign (+). Press Ctrl (on Windows) or ⌘Command (on the Mac) and the minus sign (-) to make the content smaller (zoom out). To go back to 100% size (normal size), press Ctrl (⌘Command on the Mac) + 0 (the number 0).

Another way on Windows: Hold the Ctrl key and scroll the mouse wheel up or down to zoom in and out (respectively) of the webpage. Laptop users may use two fingers and separate them or bring them together while pressing the mouse track pad.

Safari users: You can also improve the readability of you browser when using Safari, with the Reader Mode: Go to PEP-Web. Right-click the URL box and select Settings for This Website, or go to Safari > Settings for This Website. A large pop-up will appear underneath the URL box. Look for the header that reads, “When visiting this website.” If you want Reader mode to always work on this site, check the box for “Use Reader when available.”

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Litowitz, B.E. (2009). Introduction. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(5):1121-1122.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(5):1121-1122

Theory

Introduction

Bonnie E. Litowitz

In the following section, a paper by William Meissner and a commentary by Leo Rangell address the topic of volition and will in psychoanalysis. Since ancient times philosophers and theologians have debated whether we have “free will.” That is, do we have the capacity for making choices in a world ordained by the gods; or, after monotheism, by God? If we do not, then what is our motivation to lead a good life, to avoid sin? If our actions are preordained, are we responsible and should we be held accountable for them?

The myths, epics, and dramas that form the foundation of the Western tradition provide cathartic and explanatory narratives for the anxieties these questions rouse in us. I think the historical Cassius would not have said to his fellow Roman that “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”; yet by the beginning of modern times Shakespeare's audience understood that answers lie less in the laps of the gods than in the powers of human reason.

Three hundred years later Freud reread Sophocles’ classic drama through that modernist lens to hold Oedipus responsible, if unconsciously, for his tragedy. Freud turned the Oedipus tragedy into a universal narrative of the cost that humans pay for civilization: guilt over our unconscious wishes even when not put into action (as Oedipus's were). In his second model, Freud located the seat of decision making over the fate of unconscious wishes in the agency of the ego. Psychoanalysis as a treatment modality took as its goal then to strengthen and extend ego capacities through insight made possible through the analyst's mutative interpretations.

It is at this point that Meissner's paper engages the topic by asking, Is it enough that the patient gain insight, or must he or she have the will to put that new knowledge into action? Meissner suggests that in our focus on psychic determinism we have neglected the role of will and volition, ego functions that lead to action and, with action, to responsibility and accountability. In his commentary, Rangell reviews his own engagement with these topics over the course of numerous publications, many of which are cited in Meissner's paper.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2021, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.