EN(d)JOY! The Super-Ego & Its Relation to Enjoyment

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Cluxton, David
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MA in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Slavoj ZiZek speaks of a letter, written by Freud, to the Trieste psychoanalyst Edoardo Weiss on 28 May 1922.(ZiZek, 1991, pp.7-11). Weiss had written to Freud to ask his advice on the treatment of two clients who both suffered from impotence. The fIrst patient was a highly cultured Italian man of about forty years of age. This man's wife had committed suicide a number of years earlier after a period of depression, prior to this he had been capable of proper sexual activity. The second patient, a Slovene, of about twenty years of age also suffered impotence and was described by Weiss as a thoroughly immoral and deceptive person. Freud's advice to Weiss was simple, the fIrst patient warranted psychoanalytic treatment as he was a man of high mores and culture who simply needed to overcome the trauma of his wife's suicide. Of the second patient he had the following to say: "The second case, the Slovene, is obviously a good-for-nothing who does not warrant your efforts. Our analytical art fails when faced with such people, our perspicacity alone cannot break through to the dynamic relation which controls them."(Freud inZiZek, 1991,p.8). 1 Zizek is quick to note Freud's contradictory response concerning this Slovene, Freud frrstly dismisses him as unworthy of treatment due to his immorality and simple superfIciality, but he then dismisses him as unworthy of treatment because his problem lies beyond the remit of psychoanalysis, it has nothing to do with immorality or ethics his impotence is simply un-analysable. The meaning of the Slovene's impotence is beyond Freud, unlike the frrst case where Freud spies the cause as excessive obedience, remorse, guilt or indeed any number of abundant explanations that all point to the prohibition of the super-ego. The paradox of the Slovene is that he appears to have no good reason to 1 be impotent for he is completely immoral and without conscience, thus free from the ethics that prohibit enjoyment, yet this Slovene is completely incapable of sexual enjoyment, the first patient was at least capable of sexual relations with prostitutes. Freud was clearly unable to fathom the cause or truth of this Slovene's impotence, and the aggressivity of his response suggests his active resistance to this instance of a prohibition beyond his conception of morality and the super-ego. This short discussion of this letter by Zizek, is what led me to take up this thesis. This scenario communicated a number of questions to me that I was eager to answer. If the Slovene is without morals, and thus without a super-ego, why is it that he is even more prohibited from enjoyment than the cultured Italian? How can there be a prohibition against enjoyment beyond the super-ego, or in other words how can there be a prohibition in the absence of the law of the super-ego? Why was it that Freud was resistant to the questions posed by this un-analysable Slovene? What was it that stopped this Slovene from enjoying? These questions led me to explore not only the status of the super-ego but also the concept of enjoyment and the relation between them. I found the answers to these questions in an Ethics beyond morality2 and in a new concept I have defmed as the Real Super-ego. 1 This quotation from Freud's letter to Edoardo Weiss, as reproduced from S. Zizek'sFor they know not what they do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor, which in turn gives reference to the letter as, Sigmund Freud/Edoardo Weiss, Lettres sur la pratique psychanalytique, Toulouse Privat 1975, p.55. Unless otherwise stated I draw no distinction between the Ethical and the Moral. For example I mean exactly the same thing by Moral Action as I do by Ethical Action. Where I use a capital M or E, I am directly referring to the Ethical or Moral as defined by Kant and to which Lacan attends. On the rare occasion that I am referring to other moral theories or to something moral or ethical that is not so by Kantian theory I shall state my intention and also use a small m or e, i.e. moral or ethical. The only exception to this rule of style will be quotations where I shall retain the style chosen by the particular author.