Psychology of the Unconscious/Part I/Chapter II

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CHAPTER II

THE MILLER PHANTASIES

We know, from much psychoanalytic experience, that whenever one recounts his phantasies or his dreams, he deals not only with the most important and intimate of his problems, but with the one the most painful at that moment.[1]

Since in the case of Miss Miller we have to do with a complicated system, we must give our attention carefully to the particulars which I will discuss, following as best I can Miss Miller's presentation.

In the first chapter, "Phénomènes de suggestion passagère ou d'autosuggestion instantanée," Miss Miller gives a list of examples of her unusual suggestibility, which she herself considers as a symptom of her nervous temperament; for example, she is excessively fond of caviar, whereas some of her relatives loathe it. However, as soon as any one expresses his loathing, she herself feels momentarily the same loathing. I do not need to emphasize especially the fact that such examples are very important in individual psychology; that caviar is a food for which nervous women frequently have an especial predilection, is a fact well known to the psychoanalysist.

Miss Miller has an extraordinary faculty for taking other people's feelings upon herself, and of identification; for example, she identifies herself to such a degree in "Cyrano" with the wounded Christian de Neuvillette, that she feels in her own breast a truly piercing pain at that place where Christian received the deadly blow.

From the viewpoint of analytic psychology, the theatre, aside from any esthetic value, may be considered as an institution for the treatment of the mass complex. The enjoyment of the comedy, or of the dramatic plot ending happily is produced by an unreserved identification of one's own complexes with the play. The enjoyment of tragedy lies in the thrilling yet satisfactory feeling that something which might occur to one's self is happening to another. The sympathy of our author with the dying Christian means that there is in her a complex awaiting a similar solution, which whispers softly to her "hodie tibi, cras mihi," and that one may know exactly what is considered the effectual moment Miss Miller adds that she felt a pain in her breast, "Lorsque Sarah Bernhardt se précipite sur lui pour étancher le sang de sa blessure." Therefore the effectual moment is when the love between Christian and Roxane comes to a sudden end.

If we glance over the whole of Rostand's play, we come upon certain moments, the effect of which one cannot easily escape and which we will emphasize here because they have meaning for all that follows. Cyrano de Bergerac, with the long ugly nose, on account of which he undertakes countless duels, loves Roxane, who, for her part unaware of it, loves Christian, because of the beautiful verses which really originate from Cyrano's pen, but which apparently come from Christian. Cyrano is the misunderstood one, whose passionate love and noble soul no one suspects; the hero who sacrifices himself for others, and, dying, just in the evening of life, reads to her once more Christian's last letter, the verses which he himself had composed.

"Roxane, adieu, je vais mourir!
C'est pour ce soir, je crois, ma bien-aimée!
J'ai l'âme lourde encore d'amour inexprimé.
Et je meurs! Jamais plus, jamais mes yeux grisés,
Mes regards dont c'était les frémissantes fêtes,
Ne baiseront au vol les gestes que vous faites;
J'en revois un petit qui vous est familier
Pour toucher votre front et je voudrais crier—.
Et je crie:
Adieu!—Ma chère, ma chérie,
Mon trésor—mon amour!
Mon coeur ne vous quitta jamais une seconde,
Et je suis et je serai jusque dans l'autre monde
Celui qui vous aime sans mesure, celui—"

Whereupon Roxane recognizes in him the real loved one. It is already too late; death comes; and in agonized delirium, Cyrano raises himself, and draws his sword:

"Je crois, qu'elle regarde. . . .
Qu'elle ose regarder mon nez, la camarde!
(Il lève son épée.)
Que dites-vous? . . . C'est inutile!
Je le sais!
Mais on ne se bat pas dans l'espoir du succès!
Non! Non! C'est bien plus beau, lorsque c'est inutile!
—Qu'est-ce que c'est que tous ceux-là?—Vous êtes mille?
Ah! je vous reconnais, tous mes vieux ennemis!
Le mensonge!
(Il frappe de son épée le vide.)

Tiens, tiens, ha! ha! les Compromis,
Les Préjugés, les Lâchetes! . . .
(Il frappe.)
Que je pactise?
Jamais, jamais!—Ah, te voilà, toi, la Sottise!
—Je sais bien qu'à la fin vous me mettrez à bas;
N'importe: je me bats! je me bats! je me bats!
Oui, vous m'arrachez tout, le laurier et la rose!
Arrachez! Il y a malgré vous quelque chose
Que j'emporte, et ce soir, quand j'entrerai chez Dieu,
Mon salut balaiera largement le seuil bleu.
Quelque chose que sans un pli, sans une tache,
J'emporte malgré vous, et c'est—mon panache."

Cyrano, who under the hateful exterior of his body hid a soul so much more beautiful, is a yearner and one misunderstood, and his last triumph is that he departs, at least, with a clean shield—"Sans un pli et sans une tache." The identification of the author with the dying Christian, who in himself is a figure but little impressive and sympathetic, expresses clearly that a sudden end is destined for her love just as for Christian's love. The tragic intermezzo with Christian, however, is played as we have seen upon a background of much wider significance, viz., the misunderstood love of Cyrano for Roxane. Therefore, the identification with Christian has only the significance of a substitute memory ("deckerinnerung "), and is really intended for Cyrano. That this is just what we might expect will be seen in the further course of our analysis.

Besides this story of identification with Christian, there follows as a further example an extraordinarily plastic memory of the sea, evoked by the sight of a photograph of a steamboat on the high seas. ("Je sentis les pulsations des machines, le soulèvement des vagues, le balancement du navire.")

We may mention here the supposition that there are connected with sea journeys particularly impressive and strong memories which penetrate deeply into the soul and give an especially strong character to the surface memories through unconscious harmony. To what extent the memories assumed here agree with the above mentioned problem we shall see in the following pages.

This example, following at this time, is singular: Once, while in bathing, Miss Miller wound a towel around her hair, in order to protect it from a wetting. At the same moment she had the following strong impression:

"Il me sembla que j'étais sur un piédéstal, une véritable statue égyptienne, avec tous ses détails: membres raides, un pied en avant, la main tenant des insignes," and so on.

Miss Miller identified herself, therefore, with an Egyptian statue, and naturally the foundation for this was a subjective pretension. That is to say, "I am like an Egyptian statue, just as stiff, wooden, sublime and impassive," qualities for which the Egyptian statue is proverbial. One does not make such an assertion to one's self without an inner compulsion, and the correct formula might just as well be, "as stiff, wooden, etc., as an Egyptian statue I might indeed be." The sight of one's own unclothed body in a bath has undeniable effects for the phantasy, which can be set at rest by the above formula.[2]

The example which follows this, emphasizes the author's personal influence upon an artist:

"J'ai réussi à lui faire rendre des paysages, comme ceux du lac Léman, où il n'a jamais eté, et il prétendait que je pouvais lui faire rendre des choses qu'il n'avait jamais vues, et lui donner la sensation d'une atmosphère ambiante qu'il n'avait jamais sentie; bref que je me servais de lui comme lui-même se servait de son crayon, c'est à dire comme d'un simple instrument."

This observation stands in abrupt contrast to the phantasy of the Egyptian statue. Miss Miller had here the unspoken need of emphasizing her almost magic effect upon another person. This could not have happened, either, without an unconscious need, which is particularly felt by one who does not often succeed in making an emotional impression upon a fellow being.

With that, the list of examples which are to picture Miss Miller's autosuggestibility and suggestive effect, is exhausted. In this respect, the examples are neither especially striking nor interesting. From an analytical viewpoint, on the contrary, they are much more important, since they afford us a glance into the soul of the writer. Ferenczi[3] has taught us in an excellent work what is to be thought about suggestibility, that is to say, that these phenomena win new aspects in the light of the Freudian libido theory, in so much as their effects become clear through "Libido-besetzungen." This was already indicated above in the discussion of the examples, and in the greatest detail regarding the identification with Christian. The identification becomes effective by its receiving an influx of energy from the strongly accentuated thought and emotional feeling underlying the Christian motif. Just the reverse is the suggestive effect of the individual in an especial capacity for concentrating interest (that is to say, libido) upon another person, by which the other is unconsciously compelled to reaction (the same or opposed). The majority of the examples concern cases where Miss Miller is put under the effects of suggestion; that is to say, when the libido has spontaneously gained possession of certain impressions, and this is impossible if the libido is dammed up to an unusual degree by the lack of application to reality. Miss Miller's observations about suggestibility inform us, therefore, of the fact that the author is pleased to tell us in her following phantasies something of the history of her love.

  1. A very beautiful example of this is found in C. A. Bernoulli: "Franz Overbeck und Friedrich Nietzsche. Eine Freundschaft," 1908 (Pt. I, p. 72). This author depicts Nietzsche's behavior in Basle society: "Once at a dinner he said to the young lady at his side, 'I dreamed a short time ago that the skin of my hand, which lay before me on the table, suddenly became like glass, shiny and transparent, through which I saw distinctly the bones and the tissues and the play of the muscles. All at once I saw a toad sitting on my hand and at the same time I felt an irresistible compulsion to swallow the beast. I overcame my terrible aversion and gulped it down.' The young lady laughed. 'And do you laugh at that?' Nietzsche asked, his deep eyes fixed on his companion, half questioning, half sorrowful. The young lady knew intuitively that she did not wholly understand that an oracle had spoken to her in the form of an allegory and that Nietzsche had revealed to her a glimpse into the dark abyss of his inner self." On page 166 Bernoulli continues as follows: "One can perhaps see, behind that harmless pleasure of faultless exactness in dress, a dread of contamination arising from some mysterious and tormenting disgust." Nietzsche went to Basle when he was very young; he was then just at the age when other young people are contemplating marriage. Seated next to a young woman, he tells her that something terrible and disgusting is taking place in his transparent hand, something which he must take completely into his body. We know what illness caused the premature ending of Nietzsche's life. It was precisely this which he would tell the young lady, and her laughter was indeed discordant.
  2. A whole series of psychoanalytic experiences could easily be produced here to illustrate this statement.
  3. Ferenczi: "Introjektion und Übertragung," Jahrbuch, Pt. I (1912).