Book Summaries Psychology

Chapter 5: On the Threshold of a New Dynamic Psychiatry (The Discovery of the Unconscious)

The 19th century gave birth to a new dynamic psychiatry. At the time, Europe was a society that was dominated by men. It was a world for men by men, and women had no say in politics and were not admitted into universities. Male values were celebrated. Among the aristocracy, women and men who had private means were in love with the idea of love. But there were differences in ways of thinking between countries.

The Germans were authoritarian and disciplined while the French claimed to personify creativity, freedom, and spontaneity.

Scholars at the time would undergo an intense classical education, they would spend years gaining perfect command of Latin. Some people scoffed at the wasted time learning dead languages that had no practical use, but it fitted the intellectual atmosphere of that period. This education was comparable to the spiritual exercises of the Jesuits. It was a way of becoming more adept at mental synthesis and concentration. Men who went through this kind of training gained the ability to synthesize vast amounts of information on their own. That is how we can understand Janet, Freud, or Jung.

The center of science and culture was the university. All cultured men went to university, but there were very rare exceptions like Darwin and Bachofen who were both very rich. A university career was long and arduous, and it was rare for a young scholar to become a professor while he was still young. The 25-year-old Nietzsche was an exception. But his career ended when he shifted his work, as was the case for other scholars at the time. When he published the Origin of Tragedy and other works, his career was over.

The Prophet of a New Era: Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s father was a protestant minister. In 1872, he surprised and disappointed his colleagues when he wrote The Birth of Tragedy. An illness 7 years later forced him to resign from the University of Basle. He had already started writing books with brilliant aphoristic style and a prophetic tone, which called for the overthrow of contemporary values of society. The will to power, the superman, and the eternal return are examples. In 1889, he was paralyzed and spent the rest of his days in isolation, before his death in 1890.

Nietzsche had a problematic nature; his personality was complex and gave rise to conflicting opinions. His development was a result of a series of crises: his loss of Christian faith in early youth, and his enthusiasm for Schopenhauer and Wagner, a shift from philology to philosophy, his break of friendship with Wagner.

These experiences combined with physical and neurotic sufferings, which led to new ideas each time, and led to his most famous book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It is hard to tell if his last book was a further evolution of his thinking or a distortion of it through mental illness.

Nietzsche’s works were later exploited by different ideologies, including Nazism. The only book where his outline is clear is The Birth of Tragedy. His other works consisted of brilliant aphorisms.

Thus Spake Zarathustra, the story of a prophet and of his utterances, a book filled with allegories and myths, exerted an extraordinary fascination upon European youth between 1890 and 1910.

His ideas are difficult to assess given their lack of systematization and many contradictions, which explains why there have been so many conflicting interpretations. His contemporaries admired the polemic character of his works, and by Nieztsche’s ruthless attacks on established religion, the social order, and conventional morality. He denied the existence of natural laws, causality, and man’s ability to find truth.

“Nothing is true, everything is allowed!” was his perspective, and in that sense, many saw his philosophy as a form of radical nihilism. But most interpret the negative aspects of his work as a preliminary to a philosophical reconstruction of man, society and ethics.

But the positive aspects of his work are greatly important for their psychological as well as philosophical concepts. Klages called him the founder of modern psychology, and Thomas Mann thought he was “the greatest critic and psychologist of morals known to the history of the
human mind.”

Mittasch saw a connection between Nietzsche’s psychological ideas and discoveries in physics at the time. In the same way that physical energy can remain potential or become actualized, mental energy could be voluntarily accumulated with a view toward later use on a higher level, and it could be transferred from one instinct to another. This led Nietzsche to think of the human mind as a system of drives, and emotion as “complex of unconscious representation and states of the will.”

The Unmasking Trend

Klages noted that Nietzsche’s thought belonged to a trend that was prevalent in the 1880’s, the “unmasking” psychology, which Dostoevsky and Ibsen developed in other ways. Nietzsche’s concern was to unveil how man is a self-deceiving being, who constantly deceives his fellow men. And since man lies to himself more than to others, psychologists should base their conclusions on what they mean, and not from what they say or do.

For example, the Gospel’s saying, “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted” should be “He that humbleth himself wishes to be exalted.”

And what man thinks are his own convictions and feelings are often the remnants of assertions of his parents and ancestors. We live from the folly and the wisdom of our ancestors. Nietzsche has relentlessly shown how every possible feeling, opinion, conduct, and virtue is rooted in self-deception or an unconscious lie. The unconscious is the essential part of the individual, and consciousness is only an encoded expression of the unconscious, “a more or less fantastic commentary on an unconscious, perhaps unknowable, but felt text.”

Nietzsche first wrote of man’s need for pleasure and struggle, and the sexual and herd instincts, and even the instinct for truth and knowledge. But slowly, he gave prevalence to one basic instinct, the will for power. And he described the fluctuations of the instincts, and their illusory compensations, inhibitions, and sublimations, and turning against oneself.

The concept of sublimation, which was not new, was applied by Nietzsche both to the sexual and the aggressive instincts. He considered sublimation a result of inhibition or of an intellectual process, and a very widespread manifestation. “Good actions are sublimated evil ones.” Even in their most sublimated forms, instincts retain their importance: “The degree and quality of a person’s sexuality finds its way into the topmost reaches of his spirit. ”

Turning Against Oneself

Nietzsche gave a new meaning to resentment, which included all feelings of spite, envy, jealousy, grudge and hatred. When these feelings were inhibited, and become unconscious to the subject, they manifest themselves in disguised forms, as false morality.

Christian morality was a refined form of resentment, a morality of slaves who could not rebel against their oppressors, and thus took to this devious way of rebelling, feeling superior while humiliating their enemies in the process. “Love thine enemy” to Nietzsche was a subtle way of driving one’s enemies to frustration – a cruel vengeance.

The Origin of Moral Conscience

His theory of the origin of moral conscience was inspired by his friend Paul Ree, who thought that conscience formed because of the impossibility of expressing man’s aggressive instincts. In Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche portrayed man as a “wild beast” but because of modern society, he could no longer be a wild and free man, and thus, these feelings had to be turned inwardly. This was the origin of feelings of guilt, which were the first roots of moral conscience in man.

“The content of our conscience consists of all that which, in our childhood, was demanded from us, without explanation and regularly, from persons we respected or feared … Faith in authority is the source of conscience; it is not the voice of God in man’s breast, but the voice of several men in man.” – Nietzsche

The individual holds opinions and feelings that came from his parents and ancestors, but which he thinks are his own. The son has convictions about ideas that in his father was still a lie. And mothers too determine how an individual chooses to act. Each person has an imagine of woman which he acquired from is mother, and from this image, he will either respect or despise women, or to be indifferent to them.

Nietzsche explains the origin of civilization in a way identical with that of the origin of conscience: from a renunciation of the gratification of our instincts. We recognize here the old theory of Diderot and his followers. Civilization is equated with the illness and suffering of mankind, because it is “The consequence of a forcible separation from the animal past, … a declaration of war against the old instincts, which, up to then, constituted his strength, his pleasure, and his awesomeness.”

A notable feature of Nietzsche’s psychology he the importance he givens to aggressive and self-destructive instincts. Among the latter is the third for knowledge. Nietzsche said that science is a “principal inimical to life and destructive. The will for truth could be a disguised wish for death.” Science affirms a world that is not ours, and is therefore the negation of our world (the world of life).

The Superman  

Nietzsche’s idea of the superman has nothing to do with the strong individual with amazing powers. What he meant by it was controversial, but one possible interpretation is that “man is something that must be overcome.” This was Zarathustra’s first message. But why should man conquer himself? It could be that his suffering is caught between false morality and deep animalistic aggressive instincts.

To resolve this, man should destroy all his values, and experience in himself all the violent and repressed instincts, his thirst for vengeance should revel in these feelings ad nauseam, until he feels ready to forgive and honor his enemy. After reappraising his values, man now establishes his own scale of values and his own morality, and he lives according to them. This superman is strong, hard, but kind to the weak, and follows the highest rule (the eternal return).

Nietzsche once said that every philosophical system is· nothing but a disguised confession. “Man can stretch himself as he may with his knowledge and appear to himself as objective as he may; in the last analysis he gives nothing but his own biography.” This is true for Nietzsche more perhaps than anyone else.

Nietzsche’s influence on dynamic psychiatry should not be understated, he was the common source of Freud, Adler, and Jung.

Freud speaks of Nietzsche as a philosopher “whose guesses and intuitions often agree in the most astonishing way with the laborious findings of psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis belongs to the “unmasking trend.” The parallels between Freud and Nietzsche are many, including man’s brutish nature and his inability to find an outlet for his aggression. Even Freud’s concept of the id came from Nietzsche (das Es). Nietzsche’s “man is something which must be overcome” has its equivalent in Adler’s inferiority complex. “to be human means to be stimulated by a feeling of inferiority which aims at being overcome.”

Unlike Freud, Jung openly admitted how much stimulation he received from Nietzsche. His theories contain many ideas that can be traced to Nietzsche – including his reflections on the problem of evil, the superior instincts in man, the unconscious, dreams, archetypes, the shadow, the persona, the old wise man, and others.

lung’s courses on Zarathustra are contained in ten unpublished typewritten volumes, which constitute the most thorough exegesis that has ever been attempted on Nietzsche’s celebrated work.

The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic PsychiatryChapter 5: On the Threshold of a New Dynamic Psychiatry (The Discovery of the Unconscious) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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