1. Some Similarities in the Mental Life of Primitive and Neurotic People—The Taboo and the Ambivalence of Emotional Excitations. Prof. Sigm. Freud.
2. Colored Audition; an Attempt to Explain the Phenomenon on the Basis of Psychoanalysis. Dr. H. V. Hug-Hellmuth.
3. The Cause of Chromesthesias Associated with Acoustic Impressions and the Meaning of Other Synesthesias. O. Pfeister.
4. Symbolic Representation of the Principles of Pleasure and Reality in œdipus Myth. S. Ferenczi.
Taboo and the Ambivalence of Emotional Excitations.—Taboo is a Polynesian word which cannot be rendered into an exact equivalent in any modern language; its meaning approaches that of the Latin sacer, also the agos of the Greeks and of the term kodausch of the Hebrews.
The term has a double meaning. It signifies: holy, consecrated; also, dangerous, forbidden, unclean. An additional shade of connotation may be gathered from the fact that the Polynesian autonym for taboo is noa, which means: ordinary, common.
Thus taboo relates to the character of persons or things which are either holy or the opposite; it also refers to certain proscriptions which follow from that character and to the consequences with which trespass of those proscriptions is bound up.
A Western mind accustomed to subtle classifications distinguishes readily a natural or direct taboo, due to some residual Mana or mysterious power and an acquired, or indirect taboo, derived from that Mana; the latter may be either inherited or delivered unto a person
- 113 -
by some priest or chieftain possessing it; finally, a taboo may partake of both characters.
The manifest object of taboo seems to be the protection of various categories of people against mysterious, demoniacal powers; unlike ordinary religious or moral proscriptions the taboos are not justified through reference back to some divine volitions or powers; taboos are taken for granted by those subjected to them though unintelligible and meaningless to outsiders. Taboos do not dovetail, they do not form a coherent or systematic body of beliefs and practices; they are like individual strands that have come down from an archaic period and are older than religious systems and codes of morals with which, however, they have in common the categorical imperative; thou shalt not!
Thus, the description of a taboo, sounds not unlike that of an ordinary compulsionneurosis and contains some elements of familiarity for the psychanalyst. Freud draws the parallel; the remarkable similarity which he uncovers must stand as an additional proof of the rich suggestiveness of the psychoanalytic method of research.
Both, taboo and compulsion appear similarly unmotivated, mysterious, self-justified, categorical; they are not enforced by any external promise or threat but by an unexplainable inner something which acts like a conviction. In addition to the characteristic absence of motivation and the strong, overpowering sense of inner compulsiontaboos and Zwangsverbote are inexplainably “infectious”: he who touches that which is taboo, becomes taboo; in the same way Zwangsverboten spread making an ever increasing circle of objects “taboo” in the neurotic sense.
Both, taboos and compulsions lead to the development of ceremonials; ceremonials sometimes are the only part remaining of an earlier taboo or compulsionneurosis. It is significant, too, that most taboos relate to touch and the sense of touch is also the nucleus for all compulsion neuroses, the délire de toucher being their prototype. Both have in common the injunction: do not touch; from that point the injunction spreads to: do not get in touch with, and to all the adjacent territory that may be opened up by figures of speech.
Freud relates: “The clinical history and psychic mechanism of compulsionneurosis has become known to us through psychoanalysis. The history of a typical case of Beruehrungsangst reads as follows: At the very beginning, during earliest childhood, there developed a strong touch-pleasure sense possessing a much more highly specialized aim than might have been suspected. Contrary to this pleasure sense there came from without an order against “handling one's self.”
- 114 -
The order was accepted since it found support in strong inner emotions (love for one's elders); it proved stronger than the instinct which prompted to a handling of the genitalia. But because of the child's primary psychic constitution the order did not succeed in destroying the instinct. The effect of the order was merely to repress the instinct, the pleasure of touch, into the subconscious. Both, order and instinct remained, the instinct because merely repressed and not destroyed, and the order because its disappearance would have brought the instinct to consciousness and into action. Thus an unsolved (unerledigte) situation was created, a psychic fixation, and everything else ensued through the continuous conflict between order and instinct.”
The chief manifest feature of this psychic constellation thus fixed is the ambivalent attitude of the subject towards the object or act in question. A similar ambivalent attitude is discernible in the taboo. The awe that stands back of the taboo has its roots in contrary emotions which Freud designates as Ehrfurcht and Abscheu, respectively.
Thus, in every essential characteristic taboo and compulsionneurosis are alike. This leads Freud to conclude that: “The taboo is an aboriginal restriction impressed from the outside (by an authority) and directed against the strongest pleasure of man. The desire to resist the restriction persists in the subconscious; those subject to taboo manifest an ambivalent attitude towards the object of their taboo. The magic power ascribed to the taboo is traceable to its capacity to lead men into tempattion; it is conceived as an infection, because an example is infectious, also because the repressed pleasure spreads unto other objects through the subconscious. The expatiation of a breach of taboo through some sacrificial act indicates that the obeying of a taboo entails a sacrifice.”
Colored Audition.—The associative persistence of certain optic illusions, of form or color, with the perception of various aural stimuli is a curious phenomenon that has attracted the attention of the scientific world during the past fifty years. Pseudochromesthesia, or colored audition, as the phenomenon has been called, has given rise to various theories more or less fanciful; of these the anatomo-pathological viewpoint, according to which the contemporaneous perception of sound and color upon aural stimulation alone must be due to a peculiarity of nerve paths, is the easiest to conjecture but at the same time the least satisfactory. Most writers recognize that the various synesthesias are traceable to certain definite experiences of early life, when impressions are most vivid. This has been pointed out with particular emphasis as early as 1881 by Bleuler and Lehmann in their joint study of the subject.
- 115 -
In the present contribution Dr. v. Hug-Hellmuth summarizes the chief facts which clinical observations on so-called colored audition have yielded and after pointing out the unsatisfactory character of the theories evolved thus far proceeds with a detailed examination of her personal experience to which she applies the psychoanalytic method of investigation. A careful analysis of her own synesthesias in the light of her childhood experiences as revealed by early memories and awakened associations reveals that the psycho-sexual sphere furnished the background for a series of intimate and persistent associations between certain colors and sound, or words, letters and numbers. The numerous, minute details of which the analysis consists are not “abstractable.”
The author concludes that synesthetic phenomena require for their production: (o) a constitutional predisposition (whatever this may be); (b) early erotic experiences incorporating associated chromatic and aural impressions as means either for affective repression and displacement or for mnemonic preservation of the experiences in question, according to their emotional tone (pleasant or unpleasant).
Cause of Chromesthesias Associated with Acoustic Impressions.—The author points out certain similarities between synesthesias and ordinary hallucinations. Since the latter are due to fixed repressions, according to the psychoanalytic concept of hallucinosis, it follows that, if the similarity between them and chromesthesia be more than superficial, these as well as all other synesthesias ought to be amenable to psychoanalytic treatment. In other words, synesthesias ought to be cleared away with the uncovering of the repressed memories to which they are due.
Several cases have furnished the author an opportunity to test the matter. The results have been gratifying. One case in particular, the analysis of which was carried out at some length, showed a clearing up of the synesthesias promptly upon the discovery of their repressed causation, as well as the disappearance of a coexisting pavornocturnus.
Such findings tend to support the presumption that many synesthesias, possibly all,—are manifestations of neurotic order, and like all neuroses, are due to various repressions and infantile fixations.
Symbolism of Pleasure-pain in œdipus Myth.—In 1815 Schopenhauer addressed a letter to Goethe in which he wrote: “The courage to hide no question in one's heart is what makes one a philosopher. The philosopher must be one who, like Sophocles' œdipus, looks for light on his terrible fate, and keeps on searching even after he begins to suspect that the search will yield him most horrible truths; but
- 116 -
most of us bear within ourselves the Jocaste who bids œdipus, in the name of all gods, to search no further; and we yield to her and that is why philosophy is in the state in which she is as yet.”
Ferenczi selects this passoge to show how well the great philosopher of pessimism understood the requirements for a scienitfic mind as well as Schopenhauer's essential agreement with some of the cardinal principles of psychoanalysis.
Thanks to the researches of Freud we have learned that the Jo-caste which we carry within ourselves and to which Schopenhauer refers, consists of inner resistances which have become fixed during early childhood and which may be entirely unconscious; it follows, therefore that every psychologist, before undertaking the study of the human mind, ought to analyze his own, down to its earliest formative periods. A similar self-analysis, aided and facilitated by the usual psychoanalytic technique should be equally useful to every person endeavoring to carry on any scientific work; it helps remove prejudices of an unconscious order and reveals as nonsensical, many of the controversies among men of science. Unconscious motives are responsible for considerable misunderstanding and controversial partizanship; uncover the former and the latter have no ground for existence.
Ferenczi points out further that Schopenhauer's reference to the œdipus myth as an illustration of what a true thinker's attitude should be is by no means accidental. Other portions of the letter in question show that Schopenhauer's affective state at the time was determined by unconscious conflicts not unlike those symbolized in the œdipus story.
œdipus himself symbolizes the principle of reality; Jocaste who bids him, in the name of all gods, to search no further, represents the hedonic principle which governs the unconscious. The representation of the former principle as male and of the latter as female (similarly, in the analogous Germanic myth, Wotan-Erda) points to an unconsciousrecognition of the bi-sexual psychic nature of man. A number of other observations about the meaning of the œdipus story and its pertinence to Schopenhauer's unconsciously motivated reference to it in the letter to Goethe show that Ferenczi possesses a keen insight into mental mechanisms.