Toxicomania and psychoanalytic treatment: double trouble

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Loose, Rik
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In Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious Freud analyses the technique of a joke about a dipsomaniac tutor. The joke goes as follows: ‘A man who had taken to the drink supported himself by tutoring in a small town. His vice became gradually known, however, and as a result he lost most of his pupils. A friend was commissioned to urge him to mend his ways. ‘Look, you could get the best tutoring in town if you would give up drinking. So do give it up!’ ‘Who do you think you are?’ was the indignant reply. ‘I do tutoring so I can drink. Am I to give up drinking so that I can get tutoring?’’ Freud writes that the technique of this joke is extremely scanty and therefore can not explain its effectiveness. It is not a displacement joke in which the psychical emphasis is shifted from one train of thought to another. The cynicism here is open and direct: ‘Drinking is the most important thing for me’. The joke depends on its form of expression in which, as Freud indicates, the same material is rearranged by reversing the relation of means and ends between drinking and work. This dipsomaniac tutor wants to work only to be able to pay for his drinking. This joke and Freud’s analysis of it touches upon a particular aspect of a certain kind of alcoholism: Work is usually one of the first aspects affected in the lives of alcoholics, but at the same time the aspect they most need to hold on to in order to be able to continue drinking.