A Dark Trace

Sigmund Freud on the Sense of Guilt

Herman Westerink

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Sigmund Freud, in his search for the origins of the sense of guilt in individual life and culture, regularly speaks of “reading a dark trace”, thus referring to the Oedipus myth as a myth on the problem of human guilt. The sense of guilt is indeed a trace that leads deep into the individual’s mental life, into his childhood life, and into the prehistory of culture and religion. In this book this trace is followed and thus Freud’s thought on the sense of guilt as a central issue in his work is analyzed, from the earliest studies on the moral and “guilty” characters of the hysterics, via the later complex differentiations in the concept of the sense of guilt, unto the analyses of civilization’s discontents and Jewish sense of guilt. The sense of guilt is a key issue in Freudian psychoanalysis, not only in relation to other key concepts in psychoanalytic theory, but also in relation to debates with others, such as Carl Gustav Jung or Melanie Klein, Freud was engaged in.

Contents
Introduction
IX

Chapter 1. Carmen and other representations 1
1.1 Introduction 1
1.2 “Our bugles sounding the Retreat” 2
1.3 Moral treatment 7
1.4 A morally disturbing case 9
1.5 Moral character 11
1.6 A defensive ego 14
1.7 Self-reproach 19
1.8 Moral judgements 22
1.9 Seduction and self-reproach 25
1.10 Stories 30
1.11 Assessment 34

Chapter 2. Dark traces 37
2.1 Introduction 37
2.2 Your guilt isn't the same as mine 38
2.3 The dead kill 43
2.4 “Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all” 46
2.5 The dark trace of an old guilt 47
2.6 “My 'ought' set before me” 52
2.7 Primary and secondary processes 55

Chapter 3. Repressed desires 57
3.1 Introduction 57
3.2 Formation and utilization of sexuality 58
3.3 Weaknesses in the system 64
3.4 Attack and defence 67
3.5 Dominated by guilt 70
3.6 Cultural morality 74
3.7 Hostility toward the father 77

Chapter 4. Applied psychoanalysis 87
4.1 Introduction 87
4.2 The choices of Freud's followers 90
4.3 A single principle 98
4.4 The prohibition behind the imperative 102
4.5 Ambivalent feelings 105
4.6 Projection 112
4.7 Conscience 115
4.8 Systems of thought 117
4.9 An ancient guilt 122

Chapter 5. In the depths 139
5.1 Introduction 139
5.2 The depth surfaces 142
5.3 The downfall of self-reproach 147
5.4 “The youth sees himself as an idol” 150
5.5 Self-regard 153
5.6 Feelings of hate 156
5.7 When erotism and sense of guilt go hand in hand 157
5.8 The sense of guilt must be set at rest 162
5.9 “Becoming is impossible without destruction” 167

Chapter 6. Analyses of the ego 175
6.1 Introduction 175
6.2 “The Sphinx of ancient legend” 176
6.3 “A psychological crowd” 177
6.4 Emotional bonds 180
6.5 Identification: from Oedipus complex to sense of guilt
6.6 “The only pre-psychoanalytic thinker” 187
6.7 Towards an unconscious sense of guilt 195
6.8 The Oedipus complex and the superego 197
6.9 Unconscious sense of guilt 201
6.10 The problem of masochism 203
6.11 Conclusion 206

Chapter 7. Anxiety and helplessness 207
7.1 Introduction 207
7.2 Birth and the feeling of guilt 208
7.3 Castration anxiety and the sense of guilt 212
7.4 Helpless and dissatisfied 217
7.5 Illusion and science 219
7.6 Dogma and compulsion 221
7.7 Critique 222
7.8 The apologetics of a godless Jew 224
7.9 Considerations 227

Chapter 8. Synthesis and a new debate 229
8.1 Introduction 229
8.2 “The man of fate” 230
8.3 An instinctual character 231
8.4 La sensation religieuse 233
8.5 Impossible happiness 236
8.6 Hostility to civilization 242
8.7 Loving thy neighbour 245
8.8 Schiller and Goethe: The Philosophers 246
8.9 Struggle 251
8.10 Anxiety and the sense of guilt once again 254
8.11 Drive renunciation 256
8.12 Discontents 258
8.13 A new debate 261
8.14 Considerations 274

Chapter 9. Great men 275
9.1 Introduction 275
9.2 Moses the Egyptian 276
9.3 Akhenaton and monotheism 279
9.4 The Kadesh compromise 282
9.5 What is a great man? 284
9.6 St Paul 289
9.7 The sense of guilt and the return of the repressed
9.8 Assessments 295

Concluding considerations 297

Literature 303

Index 315

Format: Monograph - hardback

Size: 240 × 160 × 20 mm

320 pages

ISBN: 9789058677549

Publication: July 22, 2009

Series: Figures of the Unconscious 8

Languages: English

Stock item number: 56394

Herman Westerink is senior researcher and lecturer at the Radboud University Nijmegen and extraordinary professor at the University of Leuven.