DEPARTMENT OF LITERATURE, FILM, and THEATRE STUDIES
Originary phantasms, phantasms of origins, origin of the phantasm
(the passages in red are my revisions of the available English translation)
Jean Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis
From its earliest days, psychoanalysis has been concerned with the material of phantasms. In the initial case of Anna 0., Breuer was apparently content to plunge into the patient’s inner world of imagination, into her "private theatre," in order to achieve catharsis through verbalization and emotive expression. "I used to visit her in the evening," he writes, " when I knew I should find her in her hypnosis, and I then relieved her of the whole stock of imaginative products which she had accumulated since my last visit (Breuer and Freud, p. 30)."
It is remarkable to note, when studying this case, how Breuer, unlike Freud, is little concerned to recover the really lived elements of experience which might underlie these daydreams. In the event which is regarded as triggering the neurosis it is already an imaginary element, a hallucination, which provokes the trauma. There is a circular relationship between the phantasm and the dissociation of consciousness which leads to the formation of an unconscious nucleus: the phantasm becomes traumatic when it arises from a special hypnoid state but, equally, the panic states it induces help to create this fundamental state by a process of autohypnosis.
If Breuer worked from within the world of imagination and tried to reduce its pathogenic force without reference to extrinsic factors, the same can be said of the methods of certain contemporary analysts, notably the followers of Melanie Klein. Firstly, the imaginary dramas underlying the verbal or behavioural material produced by the patient during the session—for instance, introjection or projection of the breast or penis, intrusions, conflicts or compromises with good or bad objects and so on—are made explicit and verbalized (no doubt in this case by the analyst (Klein, 1960)). A successful outcome to the treatment, if it does lead eventually to a better adaptation to reality, is not expected from any corrective initiative, but from the dialectic "integration" of the phantasms as they emerge. Ultimately, the introjection of the good object (no less imaginary than the bad), permits a fusion of the instincts in an equilibrium based on the predominance of the libido over the death instinct.
Phantasm, in German "Phantasie," is the term used to denote the imagination, and not so much the faculty of imagining (the philosophers’ Einbildungskraft) as the imaginary world and its contents, the imaginings or phantasms into which the poet or the neurotic so willingly withdraws. In the scenes which the patient describes, or which are described to him by the analyst, the phantasmatic element is unmistakable. It is difficult therefore to avoid defining this world in terms of what it is not, the world of reality. This opposition antedates psychoanalysis by many centuries, but is liable to prove restrictive both to psychoanalytic theory and practice.
Psychoanalysts have fared rather badly with the theory itself, all too often basing it on a very primitive theory of knowledge.
Analysts such as Melanie Klein, with techniques devoid of any therapeutic intention, are, more than others, careful to distinguish between the contingent imagery of daydreams and the structural function and permanence of what they call "unconscious phantasies". (We shall discuss this distinction later.) Yet in the last resort they maintain that the latter are "false perceptions". The "good" and "bad" object should, for us, always be framed in quotation marks, even though the whole evolution of the patient will occur within this framework.
Turning to Freud, we shall find a marked ambiguity of his conceptions as new avenues open out to him with each new stage in his ideas. If we start with the most accepted formulation of his doctrine, the world of fantasy seems to be located exclusively within the domain of the opposition between subjective and objective, between an inner world, where satisfaction is obtained through illusion, and an external world, which gradually, through the medium of perception, asserts the supremacy of the reality principle. The unconscious thus appears to inherit the patient’s original world, which was solely subject to the pleasure principle. The fantasy world is not unlike those "nature reserves" which civilized people set up for themselves to preserve the state of nature:
With the introduction of the reality principle one species of thought-activity was split off; it was kept free from reality-testing and remained subject to the pleasure principle alone. This is what is called "the creation of phantasms." (Freud, 1911, p.222).
For unconscious processes
the test of reality is not available, the reality of thought is the same as external reality, desire the same as its accomplishment, to its fulfilment. (ibid. p. 225)
This absence of the "index of reality" in the unconscious may lead to its being depreciated as a lesser being, a less differentiated state.
In psychoanalytic practice any inadequacy of the conceptual background cannot fail to make itself felt. It is no purely formal necessity to recall how many techniques are founded on this opposition between the real and the imaginary, and which envisage the integration of the pleasure principle into the reality principle, a process which the neurotic is supposed to have only partially achieved. No doubt any analyst would find it incorrect to invoke "realities" external to the treatment, since the material must be developed in the context of the analyst-patient relationship, the transference. But unless we are careful, any interpretation of the transference: "You are treating me as if I …." will imply the underlying "... and you know very well that I am not really what you think I am."
Fortunately we are saved by the technique: we do not actually make this underlying comment. Speaking more fundamentally, the analytical rule should be understood as a Greek έποχή , an absolute suspension of all reality judgments. This places us on the same level as the unconscious, which knows no such judgments. A patient tells us that he is an adopted child, and relates fantasies in which, while searching for his true mother, he perceives that she is a society woman turned prostitute. Here we recognize the banal theme of the "family romance", which might equally well have been composed by a child who had not been adopted. In the course of our "phenomenological reduction" we should no longer make any distinction, except to interpret, as a "defence by reality", the documents which the patient brings to prove his adoption.
Preoccupied, understandably, by the urge to discover at what level he was working, Freud does not come out so well when he has to justify the suspension of reality judgments in the course of treatment. At first he feels it almost his duty to show the patient what is under the counter. But, caught like the patient himself between the alternatives real-imaginary, he runs the double risk of either seeing the patient lose all interest in the analysis, if he is told that the material produced is nothing but imagination (Einbildung), or of incurring his reproaches later for having encouraged him to take his phantasms for realities (Freud, 1916-17, p. 368). Freud has recourse here to the notion of "psychical reality," a new dimension not immediately accessible to the analysand. But what does Freud mean by this term?
Frequently it means nothing more than the reality of our thoughts, of our personal world, a reality at least as valid as that of the material world and, in the case of neurotic phenomena, decisive. If we mean by this that we contrast the reality of psychological phenomena with "material reality" (ibid. p. 369), the reality of thought with "external actuality" (Freud, 1911, p. 225), we are in fact just saying that we are dealing with what is imaginary, with the subjective, but that this subjective is our object: the object of psychology is as valid as that of the sciences of material nature. And even the term itself, "psychical reality," shows that Freud felt he could only confer the dignity of an objectivity on psychological phenomena by reference to material reality, for he asserts that "they too possess a reality of a sort" (Freud, 1916-17, p. 368). In the absence of any new category, the suspension of reality judgments leads us once more into the "reality" of the purely subjective.
Yet this is not Freud’s last word. When he introduces this concept of "psychical reality," in the last lines of the Interpretation of Dreams, which sums up his thesis that a dream is not a phantasmagoria, but a text to be deciphered, Freud does not define it as constituting the whole of the subjective, like the psychological field, but as a heterogeneous nucleus within this field, a resistant element, alone truly real, in contrast with the majority of psychological phenomena:
Whether we are to attribute reality to unconscious wishes, I cannot say. It must be denied, of course, to any transitional or intermediate thoughts, If we look at unconscious wishes reduced to their most fundamental and truest expression, we shall have to conclude, no doubt, that psychical reality is a particular form of existence which is not to be confused with material reality.
There are therefore three kinds of phenomena (or of realities, in the widest sense of the word): material reality, the reality of intermediate thoughts or of the psychological field, and the reality of unconscious wishes and their "truest expression": the phantasm.
It is not enough to designate at once this new psychic "reality" -- a new category which is forever being lost sight of (occulté) by Freud -- "symbolic" or "structural". If it is again and again lost and found by Freud it is not only as a result of the lack of a conceptual tool: its relation – itself structural – to the real and the imaginary is the source of all its difficulty and ambiguity as they emerge in the central domain of the phantasm.
The years 1895-1899 during which the discovery of psychoanalysis was achieved are significant not only because of the doubtful outcome of the struggle taking place but also because of the oversimplified way in which its history has been written.
If we read, for instance, Kris’s introduction to the Origins of Psychoanalysis (Freud, l950), the evolution of Freud’s views seems perfectly clear: the facts, and more especially Freud’s own self-analysis, apparently led him to abandon his theory of seduction by an adult. The scene of seduction by an adult which until then represented for him the typical form of psychological trauma is not a real event but a phantasm which is itself only the product of, and a mask for, the spontaneous manifestations of infantile sexual activity. Has not Freud himself in his "History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement" (Freud, 1914) credited this point of view?:
If hysterical subjects trace back their symptoms to traumas that are fictitious, then the new fact which emerges is precisely that they create such scenes in fantasy, and this psychical reality requires to be taken into account alongside practical reality. This reflection was soon followed by the discovery that these fantasies were intended to cover up the autoerotic activity of the first years of childhood, to embellish it and raise it to a higher plane. And now, from behind the fantasies, the whole range of a child’s sexual life came to light.
Freud recognized his "error:" he had formerly imputed to the "outside" something that was a matter of the "inside".
The very words, theory of sexual seduction, should arrest our attention: the elaboration of a schema to explain the aetiology of neuroses, and not the purely clinical observation of the frequency of the seduction of children by adults, nor even a simple hypothesis that such occurrences would preponderate among the different kinds of traumas. Freud was concerned theoretically to justify the connection he had discovered between sexuality, trauma, and defence: to show that it is in the very nature of sexuality to have a traumatic effect and, inversely, that one cannot finally speak of trauma as the origin of neurosis except to the extent that sexual seduction has occurred. As this thesis becomes established (1895-1897), the role of the defensive conflict in the genesis of hysteria, and of the "psychoneuroses of defence" in general, is fully recognized, although the aetiological function of trauma is not thereby reduced. The notions of defence and trauma are closely articulated one on the other: the theory of seduction, by showing how only a sexual trauma has the power to activate a "pathological defence" (repression) is an attempt to do justice to a clinically established fact (Studies on Hysteria), that repression specifically bears upon sexuality.
We should consider a moment the schema propounded by Freud. The action of the trauma can be broken down into various time sequences and always implies the existence of at least two events. In the first scene, called "seduction scene," the child is subjected to a sexual approach from the adult ("attempt" or simply advances), but without this arousing any sexual excitation in him. To try to describe such a scene as traumatic would be to abandon the somatic model of trauma, since there is neither an afflux of external excitation nor an overflow of the defences. If it can be described as sexual, it is only from the point of view of the external agent, the adult. But the child has neither the somatic requisites of excitation nor the representations to enable him to integrate the event: although sexual in terms of objectivity, it has no sexual connotation for the subject, it is "presexually sexual" (Freud, 1950, letter 30). As for the second scene, which occurs after puberty, it is, one might say, even less traumatic than the first: being non-violent, and apparently of no particular significance, its only power lies in being able to evoke the first event, retroactively, by means of some associative traits. It is then the recall of the first scene which sets off the upsurge of sexual excitation, catching the ego in reverse, and leaving it disarmed, incapable of using the normally outward-directed defences, and thus falling back on a pathological defence, or "posthumous primary process"; the recollection is repressed.
If we are dwelling here on concepts which might, at first sight, appear only of historic interest since they seem to presuppose an innocent child, without sexuality, thus contradicting undeniable later findings, it is not simply to trace the various stages of a discovery.
This explanatory schema, which Freud described as proton pseudos, is of remarkable value in considering the significance of human sexuality. In fact, it introduces two major propositions. On the one hand, in the first stage, sexuality literally breaks in from outside, intruding forcibly into the world of childhood, presumed to be innocent, where it is encysted as a simple happening without provoking any defence reaction -- not in itself a pathogenic event. On the other hand, in the second stage, the pressure of puberty having stimulated the physiological awakening of sexuality, there is a sense of unpleasure, and the origin of this unpleasure is traced to the recollection of the first event, an external event which has become an inner event, an inner "foreign body", which now breaks out from within the subject.
This is a surprising way to settle the question of trauma. The question often arises, whether it is an afflux of external excitation which creates the trauma or whether, on the contrary, it is the internal excitation, the drive, which, lacking an outlet, creates a "state of distress" in the subject.
However, with the theory of seduction, we may say that the whole of the trauma comes both from within and without: from without, since sexuality reaches the subject from the other; from within, since it springs from this internalised exteriority, this "reminiscence suffered by hysterics" (according to the Freudian formula), reminiscence in which we already discern what will be later named the phantasm. This is a seductive solution, but it is liable to collapse once the meaning of each term begins to slide: the external towards the event, the internal towards the endogenous and biological.
Instead, let us try to look at the seduction theory more positively and try to salvage its deeper meaning. It is Freud’s first and sole attempt to establish an intrinsic relationship between repression and sexuality. He finds the mainspring of this relationship, not in any "content", but in the temporal characteristics of human sexuality, which make it the privileged field of a dialectic between both too much and too little excitation, between both the too early and the too late occurrence of the event: "Here we have the unique possibility of a memory subsequently producing a more powerful effect than that produced by the corresponding experience itself" (Draft K). Hence the repartition of the trauma into two stages: the psychological trauma can only be conceived as arising from something already there, the reminiscence of the first scene.
But how can we conceive the formation of this "already there," and how can this first scene, which is "pre-sexually sexual", acquire a meaning for the subject? Given a perspective which tends to reduce temporal dimensions to chronology, one must either embark on an infinite regression in which each scene acquires sexual quality solely through the evocation of an earlier scene without which it would have no meaning for the subject or, on the other hand, one must stop short arbitrarily at a "first" scene, however inconceivable it may be.
No doubt the doctrine of an innocent world of childhood into which sexuality is introduced by perverse adults is pure illusion: illusion, or rather a myth, whose very contradictions betray its nature. We must conceive of the child both as outside time, a bon sauvage, and a sexuality already there, at least as an en soi, which is ready to be awakened; we have to reconcile (the notion of) the intrusion of an outside on an inside with the idea perhaps that, before the intrusion, there was no inside; we must reconcile the passivity which is implied by merely receiving meaning from outside with the minimum of activity necessary for the experience even to be acknowledged, and the indifference of innocence with the disgust which the seduction is assumed to provoke. To sum up, we have a subject who is before-the-subject, who receives his existence, his sexual existence, from without, before a distinction between within and without is achieved.
Forty years later Ferenezi (1933) was to take up the theory of seduction and give it analogous importance. His formulations are no doubt less rigorous than Freud’s, but they have the advantage of filling out the myth with two essential ingredients: behind the facts, and through their mediation, it is a new language, that of passion, which is introduced by the adult into the infantile "language" of tenderness. On the other hand, this language of passion is the language of desire, necessarily marked by prohibition, a language of guilt and hatred, including the sense of annihilation linked with orgiastic pleasure. The phantasm of the primal scene with its character of violence shows the child’s introjection of adult eroticism.
Like Freud in 1895, Ferenczi is led to assign a chronological location to this intrusion, and to hypostatize a real nature of the child before any seduction takes place. One might, on the other hand, be tempted to close the discussion once and for all by introducing the concept of myth: the seduction would become the myth of the origin of sexuality by the introjection of adult desire, fantasy and "language". The relationship of the myth to the time factor (the event) is present and, as it were, embedded in the myth itself. But we cannot rest there. This myth (or phantasm) of the intrusion of the phantasm (or myth) into the subject, cannot but occur to the organism, the little human being, at a point in time, by virtue of certain characteristics of his biological evolution, in which we can already distinguish what is too much or too little, the too early (birth) and the too late (puberty).
In 1897 Freud abandoned his theory of seduction. On September 21st he wrote to Fliess:
I will confide in you at once the great secret that has been slowly dawning on me in the last few months: I no longer believe in my neurotica…..
He adduces a number of arguments. Some were factual: the impossibility of conducting analyses to their conclusion, that is, back to the first pathogenic event; even in the deepest psychosis -- where the unconscious seems the most accessible -- the key to the enigma is not available. Others were of a logical nature: one would have to generalize the father’s perversity even beyond the cases of hysteria, since when hysteria supervenes it entails the intervention of other factors. On the other hand, and this is the point that interests us,
…. there is no index of reality in the unconscious, so that one cannot distinguish between the truth and fiction that is cathected with affect.
Two solutions are mentioned by Freud, either to consider fantasies of childhood as only the retroactive effect of a reconstruction performed by the adult (which would amount to the Jungian concept of retrospective fantasies [Zuruckphantasieren] which Freud rejected), or to revert to the idea of hereditary predisposition. If this second possibility -- which Freud admitted he had always " repressed" -- returns to favour, it is because the search for the first scene has led to an impasse. But it is also because Freud, momentarily at a loss, did not succeed in extrapolating what is positive, lying beyond the realism of a datable event, in the seduction theory. If the event evades us, then the alternative factor, constitution, is rehabilitated. Since reality, in one of its forms, is absent, and proves to be only fiction, then we must seek elsewhere for a reality on which this fiction is based.
When the historians of psychoanalysis tell us, picking up Freud’s own version of his evolution, that the abandonment of the seduction theory in the face of facts cleared the ground for the discovery of infantile sexuality, they oversimplify a much more involved process. To a contemporary psychoanalyst, to Kris as to us, infantile sexuality is inseparable from the Oedipus complex. And in effect, at the very moment of the "abandonment" of seduction, we find three themes predominant in the correspondence with Fliess: infantile sexuality, the phantasm, and the Oedipus complex. But the real problem lies in their articulation one on the other. And what do we find? Inasmuch as the notion of a real trauma and the seduction scene has been effectively swept away, it has not been replaced by the Oedipus complex but by the description of a spontaneous infantile sexuality, basically endogenous in development. Libidinal stages succeeding each other in a natural and regular evolution, fixation considered as an inhibition of development, genetic regression, form at least one of the perspectives suggested in the Three Essays on Sexuality (1905) the second chapter of which on "infant sexuality" makes mention of neither the Oedipus complex nor the phantasm. An article which appeared at the same time as the Three Essays is typical of this point of view: in it Freud is able to discuss his "Views on the Part Played by Sexuality in the Aetiology of the Neuroses"(1906) without a single word about the Oedipus complex. The sexual development of the child is here defined as endogenous, and determined by its sexual constitution:
Accidental influences derived from experience having thus receded into the background, the factors of constitution and heredity necessarily gained the upper hand once more; but there was this difference between my views and those prevailing in other quarters, that on my theory the "sexual constitution" took the place of a "general neuropathic disposition".
It may however be objected that it was also in 1897, at the very moment when he abandoned the seduction theory, that Freud in his self-analysis discovered the Oedipus complex. We should emphasize, though, that in spite of Freud’s immediate recognition of its importance, the Oedipus complex was, for twenty years, to lead a marginal existence alongside his theoretical syntheses. It was deliberately set apart in a section devoted to "the choice of objects at puberty" (in the Three Essays), or to studies of "typical dreams" (in The Interpretation of Dreams). In our opinion the discovery of the Oedipus complex in 1897 was neither the cause of the abandonment of the seduction theory, nor clearly indicated as its successor. It seems much more probable that, being encountered in a "crude" form in the seduction theory, the Oedipus complex nearly suffered the same fate of being replaced by biological realism.
Freud himself recognized, much later, all that was positive and anticipatory in the seduction theory: "here I had stumbled for the first time upon the Oedipus complex" (1925) or again,
I came to understand that hysterical symptoms are derived from phantasms and not from real occurrences. It was only later that I was able to recognize in this fantasy of being seduced by the father the expression of the typical Oedipus complex…. (1933).
For a certain period of time it seemed as if, having on the one hand abandoned the idea, present in the theory of seduction, of a "foreign body" which introduced into the subject the mark of human sexuality, and discovering on the other hand that the sexual drive did not wait until puberty to become active, Freud could not manage to articulate one on the other Oedipus and infantile sexuality. If the latter existed, as clinical observation undoubtedly proved, it could henceforward only be conceived as a biological reality, the phantasm being no more than the secondary expression of this reality. The scene in which the subject describes his seduction by an older companion is, in fact, a double disguise: a pure phantasm is converted into a real memory, and spontaneous sexual activity into passivity. One is no longer justified in attributing psychical reality -- in the stricter sense sometimes employed by Freud -- to the phantasm, since reality is now totally attributed to an endogenous sexuality, and since phantasms are only considered to be a purely imaginary efflorescence of this sexuality.
Something was lost with the discarding of the seduction theory: in the conjunction and the temporal interplay of the two "scenes" there lay inscribed a pre-subjective structure, at the same time beyond both the punctual event and the internal imagery. The prisoner of a series of theoretical alternatives, subject-object, constitution-event, internal-external, imaginary-real, Freud was for a time led to stress the first terms of these "pairs of opposites".
This would suggest the following paradox: at the very moment when the phantasm, the psychoanalytical object par excellence, is discovered, it is in danger of seeing its true nature obscured by the emphasis on an endogenous reality, sexuality, which is itself supposed to be in conflict with a normative, prohibitory external reality, which imposes on it various disguises. We have indeed the phantasm, in the sense of a product of the imagination, but we have lost the structure. Inversely, with the seduction theory we had, if not the theory, at least an intuition of the structure (seduction appearing as an almost universal datum, which in any case transcended both the event and, so to speak, its protagonists) but the elaborative powers of the phantasm, however, were, if not unknown, at least underestimated.
It would be taking a very limited view to describe as follows the evolution of Freud’s ideas during the period around 1897: from historical foundation of the symptoms to the establishment of an ultimately biological theory, summed up in the causal sequence, sexual constitution → fantasy → symptom. Freud only makes this theory entirely his own when he is forced to present his aetiological views in a systematic fashion. If we intended, which we do not, to present a step-by-step account of the development of his thought, we should have to distinguish at least two other currents in this central period.
The one derives from the fresh understanding of the phantasm which is effective from 1896 onwards: the phantasm is not merely the material to be analysed, whether it offers itself at once as fiction (as in daydreaming) or whether it remains to be shown that it is a construct established in contradiction to appearances (as in a screen-memory); it is also the result of analysis, an end-product, a latent content to be revealed behind the symptom. From mnesic symbol of trauma, the symptom has become the mise en scène of the phantasm (thus a phantasm of prostitution, of street-walking, might be discovered beneath the symptom of agoraphobia).
Freud now starts to explore the field of these phantasms, to make an inventory, and to describe their most typical forms. Phantasms are now approached from two aspects at once, both as manifest data and latent content; and, located thus at the crossroads, they acquire in due course the consistency of an object, the specific object of psychoanalysis. Henceforward analysis will continue to treat fantasy as psychical reality whilst exploring its variants and above all analysing its processes and structure. Between 1897 and 1906 appear all the great works which explore the mechanisms of the unconscious, that is to say, the transformations (in the geometric sense of the word) of fantasy, namely, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905).
But, and here is the third current, from the beginning the development of Freudian research and psychoanalytic treatment display a regressive tendency towards the origin, the foundation of the symptom and the neurotic organization of the personality. If the phantasm is shown to be an autonomous, consistent and explorable field, it leaves untouched the question of its own origin, not only with regard to structure, but also to content and to its most concrete details. In this sense nothing has changed, and the chronological search, the going backwards in time towards the first real, verifiable elements, is still the guiding principle of Freud’s practice.
Speaking of one of his patients, he writes in 1899:
Buried deep beneath all his fantasies we found a scene from his primal period (before twenty-two months) which meets all requirements and into which all the still unresolved puzzles flow (Letter 126).
A little later we come across these lines, eloquent of his passion for investigation, pursued ever deeper and with certainty of success, and the resort to a third person, if necessary, to verify the accuracy of his enquiry:
In the evenings I read prehistory, etc., without any serious purpose [our italics], and otherwise my only concern is to lead my cases calmly towards solution. ... In E’s case the second real scene is again rising to the surface, and it is one that it may perhaps be possible to confirm objectively by asking his elder sister. Behind it there is a third, long-suspected scene. . . . (Letter 127).
Freud defines these scenes from earliest infancy, these true scenes, as Urszenen (original or primal scenes). Later, as we know, the term will be reserved for the child’s observation of parental coitus. The reference is to the discussion in From the History of a Childhood Neurosis (1918) of the relationship between the pathogenic dream and the primal scene on which it is based. When reading the first draft of the clinical account composed during "the winter of 1914/15, shortly after the end of treatment", one is struck by the passionate conviction which urges Freud, like a detective on the watch, to establish the reality of the scene down to its smallest details. If such concern is apparent so long after the abandonment of the seduction theory, it is surely a proof that Freud had never entirely resigned himself to accepting such scenes as purely imaginary creations. Although discarded as concerns the seduction scene, the question re-emerges in identical terms twenty years later, in the case of the observation of parental coitus by the Wolf Man. The discovery of infantile sexuality has not invalidated in Freud’s mind the fundamental schema underlying the seduction theory: the same deferred action (Nachträglichkeit) is constantly invoked; we meet once more the two events (here the scene and the dream), separated in the temporal series, the first remaining un-understood and, as it were, excluded within the subject, to be taken up later in the elaboration of the second occasion. The fact that the whole process develops in the first years of infancy affects nothing essential in the theoretical model.
It is well known that before publishing his manuscript Freud added, in 1917, two long discussions which showed that he was disturbed by the Jungian theory of retrospective fantasy (Zuruckphantasieren). He admits that since the scene is, in analysis, the culmination of a reconstruction, it might indeed have been constructed by the subject himself, but he nevertheless insists that perception has at least furnished some indications, even if it were only the copulation of dogs.
But, more particularly, just at the moment when Freud appears to lose hope of support from the ground of reality -- ground so shifting on further enquiry -- he introduces a new concept, that of the Urphantasien, originary phantasms. The need for a theoretical foundation has now undergone a veritable transmutation. Since it has proved impossible to determine whether the primal scene is something truly experienced by the subject, or a fiction, we must in the last resort seek a foundation in something which transcends both individual experience and what is imagined.
For us too it is only at a deferred date (nachträglich) that the full meaning of this new direction of Freud’s thought becomes apparent. Nothing appears to be changed: there is the same pursuit of an ultimate truth, the same schema is used once more, the dialectic of the two successive historical events, the same disappointment -- as if Freud had learned nothing -- as the ultimate event, the "scene", disappears over the horizon. But simultaneously, thanks to what we have described as the second current, there is the discovery of the unconscious as a structural field [agencement], which can be reconstructed, since it handles, decomposes and recomposes its elements according to certain laws. This will hence-forward permit the quest for origins to be deployed in a new dimension.
In the concept of the originary phantasm, there is a continuation of what we might call Freud’s desire to reach the bedrock of the event (and if this disappears from the history of the individual by refraction or reduction, then one must look further back still), and the need to establish the structure of the fantasy itself by something other than the event.
Originary phantasms constitute this "store of unconscious fantasies which analysis can find in the case of all neurotics, and probably of all the children of men." (Freud, 1915, p. 269). These words alone suggest that it is not solely the empirical fact of frequency, nor even generality, which characterises them. If "the same fantasies with the same content are created on every occasion" (1916, p. 370), if, beneath the diversity of individual fables we can recover some "typical" fantasies, it is because the historical life of the subject is not the prime mover, but rather some anterior scheme, which is capable of operating as an organizer.
Freud saw only one possible explanation of this antecedence, and that was phylogenesis:
It seems to me quite possible that all the things that are told to us in analysis as fantasy…... were once real occurrences in the primaeval times of the human family [what was factual reality would, in this case, have become psychological reality] and that children in their fantasies are simply filling in the gaps in their individual truth with prehistoric truths.
Thus once again a reality is postulated beneath the elaborations of fantasy, but a reality which, as Freud insists, has an autonomous and structural status with regard to the subject who is totally dependent on it. He pursues this some considerable way, since he admits the possibility of discordance between the schema and individual experiences, which would lead to psychological conflict.
It is tempting to accept the "reality" which inspires the work of imagination according to its own laws, as a prefiguration of the "symbolic order" defined by Levi-Strauss and Lacan in the ethnological and psychoanalytic fields respectively. These scenes, which Freud traces back in Totem and Taboo to the prehistory of man, are attributed by him to primaeval man (Urmensch), to the primal father (Urvater). He invokes them, less in order to provide a reality which escapes him in individual history, than to assign limits to the "imaginary" which cannot contain its own principle of organization.
Beneath the pseudo-scientific mask of phylogenesis, or the recourse to "inherited memory-traces", we must recognise the necessity that Freud found himself in of postulating a signifying organization anteceding the effect of the event and the signified as a whole. In this mythical prehistory of the species we see the need to create a pre-structure inaccessible to the subject, evading his grasp, his initiatives, his inner "cooking pot", in spite of all the rich ingredients our modern sorceresses seem to find there. But Freud is in fact caught in the trap of his own concepts; in this false synthesis by which the past of the human species is preserved in hereditarily transmitted patterns, he is vainly trying to overcome the opposition between event and constitution.
However we should not be in a hurry to replace the phylogenic explanation by a structural type of explanation. The originary phantasm is first and foremost a phantasm: it lies beyond the history of the subject but nevertheless in history: a kind of language and a symbolic sequence, but loaded with elements of the imaginary; a structure, but activated by contingent elements. As such it is characterized by certain traits which make it difficult to assimilate it to a purely transcendental schema, even if it furnishes experience with its conditions of possibility.
The text in which Freud first mentions originary phantasms ("A Case of Paranoia", 1915), leaves no doubt in this respect. In it he describes the case of a woman patient who declared that she had been watched and photographed while lying with her lover. She claimed to have heard a "noise", the click of the camera. Behind this delirium Freud saw the primal scene: the sound is the noise of the parents who awaken the child; it is also the sound the child is afraid to make lest it betray her listening. What do we understand its role in the phantasm to be? In one sense, says Freud, it is only a provocation, an accidental cause, whose role is solely to activate the "typical fantasy of overhearing, which is a component of the parental complex," but he immediately corrects himself by saying: "It is doubtful whether we can rightly call the noise ‘accidental’……. It constitutes on the contrary an indispensible part of the phantasm of being on the watch." In fact, the sound alleged by the patient, reproduces in actuality the indication of the primal scene, the element which is the starting point for all ulterior elaboration of the phantasm. In other words, the origin of the phantasm is integrated into the very structure of the original phantasm.
In his first theoretical sketches on the subject of the phantasm, Freud stresses, in a way which may intrigue his readers, the role of aural perception. Without placing too much importance on these fragmentary texts, in which Freud seems to be thinking more particularly of paranoid fantasies, one must consider why such a privileged position was accorded to hearing. We suggest there are two reasons. One relates to the sensorium in question: hearing, when it occurs, breaks the continuity of an undifferentiated perceptual field and at the same time is a sign (the noise waited for and heard in the night), which puts the subject in the position of having to answer to something. To this extent the prototype of signification lies in the aural sphere, even if there are equivalences in the other perceptual registers. But hearing is also -- and this is the second reason to which Freud alludes explicitly in the passage -- the history or the legends of parents, grandparents and the ancestors: the family sounds or sayings, that spoken or secret discourse, which exists prior to the subject’s arrival, and within which he must find his way. It is only insofar as it serves retroactively to summon up this discourse that the "noise" -- or any other discrete sensorial element that might function as a trigger -- can acquire this significance.
In their content, in their theme (primal scene, castration, seduction….), the originary phantasms also indicate this postulate of retroactivity: they relate to origins. Like myths, they claim to provide a representation of, and a solution to, the major enigmas which confront the child. Whatever appears to the subject as something needing an explanation or theory, is dramatized as a moment of emergence, the beginning of a history.
Phantasms of origins: the primal scene pictures the origin of the individual: phantasms of seduction, the origin and upsurge of sexuality; phantasms of castration, the origin of the difference between the sexes. Their themes therefore underline, with redoubled significance, the status of originary phantasms of being already there.
There is convergence of theme, of structure, and no doubt also of function: through the traits furnished by the perceptual field, through the scenarios constructed, through the varied quest for origins, what we are offered in the field of fantasy is the "origin" of the subject himself.
Since we encounter the phantasm as given, interpreted, reconstructed or postulated, at the most diverse levels of psychoanalytic experience, we have obviously to face the difficult problem of its metapsychological status, and first of all, of its topography within the framework of the distinction between the unconscious, preconscious and conscious systems.
In certain schools of contemporary psychoanalysis there have been attempts to settle the question by making a theoretical transposition, which seems inevitable in practice, between the phantasm as it presents itself for interpretation and the fantasy which is the conclusion of the work of analytic interpretation (S. Isaacs, 1948). Freud would thus have been in error in describing by the same term, Phantasie, two totally distinct realities. On the one hand there is the unconscious Phantasie, "the primary content of unconscious mental processes" (Isaacs), and on the other, the conscious or subliminal imaginings, of which the daydream is the typical example. The latter would be only a manifest content, like the others, and would have no more privileged relationship to unconscious Phantasie than dreams, behaviour, or whatever is generally described as "material". Like all manifest data, it would require interpretations in terms of unconscious fantasy.
Freud’s inspiration is shown by his persistent employment of the term Phantasie up to the end, in spite of the very early discovery that these Phantasien might be either conscious or unconscious. He wishes thereby to assert a profound kinship:
The contents of the clearly conscious fantasies of perverts (which in favourable circumstances can be transformed into manifest behaviour), of the delusional fears of paranoiacs (which are projected in a hostile sense on to other people), and of the unconscious fantasies of hysterics (which psychoanalysis reveals behind their symptoms) -- all these coincide with one another even down to their details (Freud 1905, pp. 165—166).
That is to say, that the same content, the same structural effect [agencement] can be found in imaginary formations and psychopathological structures as diverse as those described by Freud, whether conscious or unconscious, acted out or represented, and whether or not there is a change of sign or permutation of persons.
Such an affirmation (1905) does not come from any so-called proto-Freud. It is of central importance, particularly in the period 1906-1909, when much research was devoted to the phantasm. (In "Gradiva", "Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming", "Hysterical Fantasies and their Relation to Bisexuality", "On the Sexual Theories of Children", "Some General Remarks on Hysterical Attacks", "Family Romances"). At this time the unconscious efficacy of phantasm was fully recognised as, for instance, underlying the hysterical attack which symbolizes it. Freud however takes the conscious phantasm, the daydream, not only as paradigm, but as source. The hysterical phantasms which "have important connections with the causation of the neurotic symptoms" (we must be dealing with unconscious fantasies) have as "common source and normal prototype what are called the daydreams of youth" (Freud, 1908). A common source? In fact it is the conscious phantasm itself which may be repressed and thus become pathogenic. Freud even considers the phantasm as the privileged point where one may catch in the act the process of transition from one system to another, repression, or the return of repressed material. It is indeed the same mixed entity, the same "mixed blood" which, being so close to the limits of the unconscious, can pass from one side to the other, particularly as the result of a variation of cathexis. It may be objected that Freud is not here taking the phantasm at its deepest level, and that we are not dealing with a true phantasm, but simply with a subliminal reverie. But Freud does describe the process of thrusting back as repression, and the frontier of which he speaks is indeed that of the unconscious in the strict, topographical, sense of the term.
We do not of course deny that there are different levels of unconscious fantasy, but it is remarkable to note how Freud, when studying the metapsychology of dreams, discovers the same relationship between the deepest unconscious phantasm and the daydream: the phantasm is present at both extremities of the process of dreaming. On the one hand it is linked with the ultimate unconscious desire, the "capitalist" of the dream, and as such it is at the basis of that "zigzag" path which the excitation is supposed to follow through a succession of psychological systems: "The first portion [of this path] was an ascendant one, leading from the unconscious scenes or phantasms to the preconscious" (Freud, 1900, p. 574), where it collects "the day residues" or transference thoughts.. But the phantasm is also present at the other extremity of the dream, in the secondary elaboration which, Freud insists, is not part of the unconscious work of the dream, but must be identified "with the work of our waking thought." The secondary elaboration is an a posteriori reworking which takes place in the successive transformations which we impose on the story of the dream once we are awake. This consists essentially in restoring a minimum of order and coherence to the raw material handed over by the unconscious mechanisms of displacement, condensation and symbolism, and in imposing on this heterogeneous assortment a façade, a scenario, which gives it relative coherence and continuity. In a word, it is a question of making the final version relatively similar to a daydream. Thus the secondary elaboration will utilize those ready-made scenarios, the fantasies or daydreams with which the subject has provided himself in the course of the day before the dream.
This is not necessarily to say that there is no privileged relationship between the phantasm which lies at the heart of the dream, and the phantasm which serves to make it acceptable to consciousness. Preoccupied by his discovery of the dream as the fulfillment of unconscious desire, it was no doubt natural for Freud to devalue anything close to consciousness which might appear to be defence and camouflage, in fact, the secondary elaboration. But he quickly returns to a different appreciation:
It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that these dream-façades are nothing other than mistaken and somewhat arbitrary revisions of the dream-content by the conscious agency of our mental life….. The wishful fantasies revealed by analysis in night-dreams often turn out to be repetitions or modified versions of scenes from infancy; thus in some cases the façade of the dream directly reveals the dream’s actual nucleus, distorted by an admixture of other material (Freud, 1901, p. 667).
Thus the extremities of the dream, and the two forms of fantasy which are found there, seem, if not to link up, at least to communicate from within and, as it were, to be symbolic of each other.
We have spoken of a progression in Freud’s thought with regard to the metapsychological status of the phantasm. It does, of course, move towards differentiation, but we believe we have already shown that this goes without suppression of the homology between different levels of the phantasm, and above all there is no attempt to make the line of major differentiation coincide with the topographical barrier (censorship), which separates the conscious and preconscious systems from the unconscious. The difference occurs within the unconscious:
Unconscious phantasms have either been unconscious all along or -- as is more often the case -- they were once conscious phantasms, daydreams, and have since been purposely forgotten and have become unconscious through "repression" (Freud, 1903, p. 161).
This distinction is later, in Freudian terminology, to coincide with that between original phantasms and others, those that one might call secondary, whether conscious or unconscious.
Apart from this fundamental difference, the unity of the phantasm as a whole resides however in its mixed nature, in which both the structural and the imaginary can be found, although to different degrees. It is with this in mind that Freud always held the model phantasm to be the reverie, that form of novelette, both stereotyped and infinitely variable, which the subject composes and relates to himself in a waking state.
The daydream is a play of images, using the kaleidoscopic material drawn from the life of the individual; but also the originary phantasm, whose dramatis personae, the court cards, receive their distinctive markings from a family legend which is mutilated, disordered and misunderstood. As a structure, there is the originary phantasm in which the Oedipus configuration can be easily distinguished; but also the daydream -- if we accept that analysis discovers typical and repetitive scenarios beneath the varying clusters of fable.
However, we cannot classify or differentiate different forms of fantasy as they shift between the poles of reverie or primal fantasy, simply, or even essentially, by the variability or inversion of the ratios between imaginary ingredient and structural link. The structure itself seems to vary. At the pole of the daydream, the scenario is basically in the first person, and the subject’s place marked and invariable. The organization is stabilized by the secondary process, weighted by the ego: the subject, one might say, lives his reverie. But the originary phantasm, on the other hand, is characterized by the absence of subjectivization, and the subject is present in the scene: the child, for instance, is one character amongst many in the phantasm "a child is beaten." Freud insisted on this visualization of the subject on the same level as the other protagonists, and in this sense the screen memory would have a profound structural relationship with originary phantasms.
"A father seduces a daughter" might perhaps be the summarized version of the phantasm of seduction. The indication here of the primary process is not the absence of organization, as is sometimes suggested, but the peculiar character of the structure, in that it is a scenario with multiple entries, in which nothing shows whether the subject will be immediately located as daughter; it can as well be fixed as father, or even in the term seduces.
When Freud asked himself whether there was anything in man comparable to "instinct in animals" (Freud. 1915, p. 195), he found the equivalent, not in the drives (Triebe) but in the originary phantasms (Freud, 1918, p. 120, note). It is a valuable clue, since it demonstrates indirectly his unwillingness to explain the phantasm on biological grounds: far from deriving the phantasm from the drives, he preferred to make them dependent on earlier phantasmatic structures. It is also valuable in clarifying the position of certain contemporary concepts. Finally, it leads us to investigate the close relationship between desire and the phantasm involved in the term Wunschphantasie (wishfantasy).
Isaacs, for instance, considered unconscious fantasies to be "an activity parallel to the drives from which they emerge." She sees them as the "psychological expression" of a vital order, which is itself defined by the field of force set up by libidinal and aggressive drives and the defences they arouse. Finally she is concerned to establish a close link between the specific forms of phantasmatic life and the bodily zones which are the seat of the drives, though this leads her to underestimate a major part of the Freudian contribution to the theory both of the phantasm and the drives. In her view, the phantasm is only the imagined transcription of the original aim of any drive, an aim which bears on a specific object: the "instinctual urge" is necessarily experienced as a phantasm which, whatever its content (desire to suck, in a baby), will be expressed, as soon as verbalization is possible, by a phrase consisting of three parts: subject (I), verb (swallow, bite, reject), object (breast, mother). Of course, in so far as the drive is, for the Kleinians, in the first place in the nature of relation, Isaacs shows how such a phantasm of incorporation is also experienced in the other way round, the active becoming passive; furthermore, this fear of a return to sender is a constituent element of the phantasm itself. But is it enough to recognize in the phantasm of incorporation the equivalence of eating and being eaten? So long as there is some idea of a subject, even if playing a passive role, are we at the deepest level of the structure of the phantasm?
For Isaacs, the phantasm is the direct expression of a drive, and almost consubstantial with it, and can, in the last resort, be reduced to the relationship which links subject to object by a verb of action (in the sense of the omnipotent wish). This is because, for her, the structure of the drive is that of a subjective intentionality and inseparable from its object: the drive "intuits" or "knows" the object which will satisfy it. As the phantasm, which at first expresses libidinal and destructive drives, quickly transforms itself into a form of defence, so finally it is the whole of the subject’s internal dynamic which is deployed in accordance with this unique type of organization. Such a concept postulates, in agreement with certain Freudian formulations, that "all that is conscious has passed through a preliminary unconscious stage," and that the ego is ‘‘a differentiated part of the id." One is therefore obliged to provide every mental operation with an underlying phantasm which can itself be reduced on principle to an instinctual aim. The biological subject is in a direct line of continuity with the subject of the phantasm, the sexual, human subject, in accordance with the series: soma → id → fantasy (of desire, of defence) → ego mechanism: the action of repression is difficult to grasp, since "phantasmatic life" is more implicit than repressed, and contains its own conflicts by virtue of the co-existence within the psyche of phantasms with contradictory aims. There is, in fact, a profusion of phantasms, in which it is impossible to recognize the special type of structure [agencemenrt] which Freud tried to distinguish and where the elusive but elective relationship which he established between the phantasm and sexuality also dissolves.
It is a little surprising that Freud, at a time when he fully recognized the existence and extent of sexuality and phantasms in the life of the child, should have continued, as for instance in a footnote to the Three Essays in 1920 (1905. p. 226), to consider the period of maximum phantasmatic activity to occur in the period of pubertal and pre-pubertal masturbation. It is perhaps because to him there was a close correlation between the phantasm and auto-eroticism, which was not sufficiently accounted for by the belief that the second is camouflaged by the first. In fact he seems to be sharing the common belief that in the absence of real objects the subjects seeks and creates for himself an imaginary satisfaction.
Freud himself did much to authorize this viewpoint when he tried to establish a theoretical model of desire in terms of object and aim. The origin of the phantasm would lie in the hallucinatory satisfaction of desire; in the absence of a real object, the infant reproduces the experience of the original satisfaction in a hallucinated form. In this view the most fundamental phantasms would be those which tend to recover the hallucinated objects linked with the very earliest experiences of the rise and the resolution of desire.
But before we try to discover what the Freudian fiction (Fiktion) is really intended to cover, we must be clear about its meaning, more particularly since it is rarely formulated in detail, but always presupposed in Freud’s concept of the primary process. One might consider it a myth of origin: by this figurative expression Freud claims to have seized upon the very first upsurgings of desire. It is an analytic "construction", or a phantasm, which tries to pinpoint the moment of division between the before and the after, whilst still containing both: a mythical moment of disjunction between the pacification of need (Befriedigung) and the fulfillment of desire (Wunscherfüllung), between the two stages represented by real experience and its hallucinatory revival, between the object that satisfies and the sign which inscribes both the object and its absence: a mythical moment at which the doubling of hunger and sexuality meet in a common origin.
If, caught in our own turn by the phantasm of origins, we were to claim to have located the emergence of the phantasm, we should start from the standpoint of the real course of infantile history, and the development of infantile sexuality (seen from the viewpoint of Chap. 2 of Three Essays), and we should relate it to the appearance of auto-eroticism: this is the moment when, from the world of needs, those functions of vital importance whose aims and mechanisms are assured and whose objects are preformed, there separates off – not as a pleasure found from the accomplishment of a function or the appeasement of a tension brought on by need, but as a marginal product -- what Freud calls the "pleasure premium". [This is probably the most critical revision of the original translation which totally travesties this crucial separation off of desire from need].
But in speaking of the appearance of auto-eroticism, even when taking care not to transform it into a stage of libidinal development, and even stressing its permanence and presence in all adult sexual behaviour, one is liable to lose sight of all that gives the notion its true meaning, and all that can illuminate the function as well as the structure of the phantasm.
If the notion of auto-eroticism is frequently criticized in psychoanalysis, this is because it is incorrectly understood, in the object-directed sense, as a first stage, enclosed within itself, from which the subject has to rejoin the world of objects. It is then easy to demonstrate, with much clinical detail, the variety and complexity of the links which, from the beginning, relate the infant to the outer world and, particularly, to its mother. But when Freud, principally in the Three Essays, speaks of auto-eroticism, he has no intention of denying the existence of a primary object relationship. On the contrary, he shows that the drive becomes auto-erotic, only after the loss of the object. If it can be said of auto-eroticism that it is objectless, it is in no sense because it may appear before any object relationship, nor because on its arrival no object will remain in the search for satisfaction, but simply because the natural method of apprehending an object is split in two: the sexual drive separated from the non-sexual functions, such as feeding, which are its support (Anlehnung) and which indicate its aim and object.
The "origin" of auto-eroticism would therefore be the moment when sexuality, disengaged from any natural object, moves into the field of the phantasm and by that very fact becomes sexuality. The moment is more abstract than definable in time, since it is always renewed, and must have been preceded by erotic excitation, otherwise it would be impossible for such excitation to be sought out. But one could equally state the inverse proposition, that it is the breaking in of the phantasm which occasions the disjunction of sexuality and need. The answer to the question of whether this is a case of circular causality or simultaneous appearance is that however far back one may go they originate from the same point.
Auto-erotic satisfaction, in so far as it can be found in an autonomous state, is defined by one very precise characteristic: it is the product of the anarchic activity of partial drives, closely linked with the excitation of specific erogenous zones, an excitation which arises and is stilled on the spot. It is not a global, functional pleasure, but a fragmented pleasure, an organ pleasure (Organlust) and strictly localized.
It is known that erogeneity can be attached to predestined zones of the body (thus, in the activity of sucking, the oral zone is destined by its very physiology to acquire an erogenous value), but it is also available to any organ (even internal organs), and to any region or function of the body. In every case the function serves only as support, the taking of food serving, for instance, as a model for fantasies of incorporation. Though modeled on the function, sexuality lies in its difference from the function: in this sense its prototype is not the act of sucking, but the enjoyment of going through the motions of sucking (Ludeln), the moment when the external object is abandoned, when the aim and the source assume an autonomous existence with regard to feeding and the digestive system. The ideal, one might say, of auto-eroticism is "lips that kiss themselves." Here, in this apparently self-centred enjoyment, as in the deepest fantasy, in this discourse no longer addressed to anyone, all distinction between subject and object has been lost.
If we add that Freud constantly insisted on the seductive role of the mother (or of others), when she washes, dresses or caresses her child, and if we note also that the naturally erogenous zones (oral, anal, uro-genital, skin), are not only those which most attract the mother’s attention, but also those which have an obvious exchange value (orifices or skin covering) we can understand how certain chosen parts of the body itself may not only serve to sustain a local pleasure, but also be a meeting place with maternal desire and fantasy, and thus with one form of original fantasy.
By locating the origin of the phantasm in the moment of auto-erotism, we have shown the connection between the phantasm and desire. The phantasm, however, is not the object of desire, but its setting. In the phantasm the subject does not pursue the object or its sign: he appears caught up himself in the sequence of images. He forms no representation of the desired object, but is himself represented as participating in the scene although, in the earliest forms of the phantasm, he cannot be assigned any fixed place in it (hence the danger, in treatment, of interpretations which claim to do so). As a result, the subject, although always present in the phantasm, may be so in a desubjectivized form, that is to say, in the very syntax of the sequence in question. On the other hand, to the extent that desire is not purely an upsurge of the drives, but is articulated into the discourse of the phantasm, the latter is a privileged spot for the most primitive defensive reactions, such as turning against oneself, or into an opposite, projection, negation: these defences are even indissolubly linked with the primary function of the phantasm, to be a setting for desire, insofar as desire itself originates as prohibition, and the conflict may be an originary conflict.
But as for knowing who is responsible for the setting, it is not enough for the psychoanalyst to rely on the resources of his science, nor on the support of myth. He must also become a philosopher.
1. The status of the phantasm cannot be found within the frame~vork of the opposition reality-illusion (imaginary). The notion of psychical reality introduces a third category, that of structure.
2. Freud’s theory of seduction (1895-97) is re-examined from the point of view of its pioneering and demonstrative value: it permits the analysis of the dialectic relationship between phantasmatic productions, the underlying structures, and the reality of the scene. This "reality" is to be sought in an ever more remote or hypothetical past (of the individual or of the species), which is postulated on the horizon of the imaginary, and implied in the very structure of the phantasm.
3. Freud’s so-called abandonment of the reality of infantile traumatic memories, in favour of phantasms which would be based only on a biological, quasi-endogenous evolution of sexuality, is only a transitional stage in the search for the foundation of neurosis. On the one hand seduction will continue to appear as one of the data of the relationship between child and adult (Freud. Ferenczi); on the other hand, the notion of originary phantasms (Urphantasien), of "inherited memory traces" of prehistoric events, will in turn provide support for individual fantasies.
The authors propose an interpretation of this notion: such a pre-history, located by Freud in phylogenesis, can be understood as a pre-structure which is actualized and transmitted by the parental fantasies.
4. Originary phantasms are limited in their thematic scope. They relate to problems of origin which present themselves to all human beings (Menschenkinder): the origin of the individual (primal scene), the origin of sexuality (seduction), and the origin of the difference between the sexes (castration).
5. The origin of the phantasm cannot be isolated from the origin of the drive (Trieb) itself. The authors, reinterpreting the Freudian concept of the experience of satisfaction, locate this origin in auto-eroticism, which they define not as a stage of evolution but as the moment of a repeated disjunction of sexual desire and non-sexual functions: sexuality is detached from any natural object, and is handed over to the phantasm, and, by this very fact, starts existing as sexuality.
6. The metapsychological status of this mixed entity, the phantasm, is finally established. The authors refuse to accept the main line of separation between conscious and unconscious phantasms (Isaacs). They place this division between the original and the secondary phantasms (whether repressed or conscious) and demonstrate the relationship and the profound continuity between the various phantasmatic scenarios -- the stage-setting of desire -- ranging from the daydream to the phantasms recovered or reconstructed by analytic investigation.
Breuer, J. and Freud, 5. (1895). Studies on Hysteria, S.E., I.
Ferenczi, S. (1933). "Confusion of tongues between the adult and the child." In: Final Contributions to the Problems and Methods of PsychoAnalysis (London: Hogarth, 1955).
Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretations of Dreams, S.E., 4—S.
(1901). "On dreams." S.E., 5.
(1905). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, S.E., 7.
(1906). "My views on the part played by sexuality in the neuroses." S.E., 7.
(1908). "Hysterical phantasies and their relation to bisexuality." S.E.. 9.
(1911). "Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning." S.E., 12.
(1914). "On the history of the psychoanalytic movement." S.E., 14.
(1915). "The unconscious." S.E., 14.
(1915). "A case of paranoia running counter to the psycho-analytic theory of the disease." S.E., 14.
(1915). "Instincts and their vicissitudes." S.E., 14.
(1916-17). Introductory Lectures, S.E., 15-16.
(1916). "The paths to the formation of symptoms." S.E., 16.
(1918). "From the history of an infantile neurosis." S.E., 17.
(1925). "An autobiographical study." S.E., 20.
(1933). "Femininity." S.E., 22.
(1940). An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, S.E., 23.
(1950). The Origins of Psycho-Analysis (London: Imago, 1954).
Isaacs, S. (1948). "The nature and function of phantasy." Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 29.
Klein, M. (1934). "A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic-depressive states." Contributions to Psycho-A nalvsis (London: Hogarth, 1949).
(1960). Narrative of a Child Psycho-Analysis (London: Hogarth).