網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

brings it about that the energies of the outside world pass with only a fraction of their intensity to the next layers which have retained their vitality. In highly developed organisms the receptive outer layer has become withdrawn into the depths of the body, forming the nervous system of the organism, but, beneath the shield, it has left behind, as outposts, certain portions which form the various sense organs.

Freud applies his speculations about this "primordial, protoplasmic, atomic globule" to the development of those psychical systems whose functions he first described in his work on the Interpretation of Dreams. And it is here that his tendency to mix up the one set of speculations with the other, and to imply that what is true of the physical organism is also necessarily true of the psychical organism, becomes most disconcerting.

The conscious system of the psychic apparatus is regarded as the homologue of the receptive outer layer of the primordial vesicle. Just as the 'rind' of the vesicle becomes incapable of any further modification as a result of the constant impact of external stimuli, so the elements of the conscious system are not susceptible of any further alteration, because they are already modified to the uttermost in that respect; but in some unexplained way this insusceptibility to modification is accompanied by, or the cause of, a capacity for giving rise to consciousness.

He assumes that excitation, in its transmission from one element to another, has to overcome a resistance and that this diminution of the resistance itself lays down the permanent trace of the excitation; but in the conscious system (Bw.) "there would no longer exist any such resistance to transmission from one element to another," and it is apparently in the absence of this resistance, with the consequent impossibility of forming a memory-trace, that he finds the conditions favourable to the appearance of consciousness.

It is interesting to compare this speculation with the hypothesis put forward by McDougall1 in regard to the correlation of consciousness and its cerebral substratum. The latter writer has suggested that consciousness arises just because of, and in proportion to, the amount of resistance encountered by the nervous impulse in bridging the synapses of the cortical neurones. In the one hypothesis we are given the absence of resistance to excitations in a psychical system, in the other the presence of resistance in a system of neurones, as the immediate cause of the phenomenon of consciousness.

In the distinction which he draws between excitations of the conscious system from without and excitations from within, and in the necessity for the formation of a shield or barrier against those coming from without, Freud finds a means of relating the traumatic neuroses to the neuroses that arise in the absence of any definite trauma. In the traumatic neuroses the excitations which lead to disaster are derived from the outside world and produce their effects only when they are of such mass or intensity that they break through the shield against stimuli provided by the integument of the organism and the special protective mechanisms of the sense organs. In the non-traumatic neuroses, on the other hand, the excitations which give rise to economic disturbances are derived from the primitive impulses or instincts against which no defensive barrier exists.

A breaking through of the shield against stimuli (trauma) leads to a pro

1 Physiological Psychology, p. 60. Body and Mind, p. 278.

found disturbance of the workings of the psychic energy. "The flooding of the psychic apparatus with large masses of stimuli can no longer be prevented: on the contrary, another task presents itself—to bring the stimulus under control, to 'bind' in the psyche the stimulus mass that has broken its way in, so as to bring about a discharge of it" (p. 34).

In various writings Freud has made considerable use of Breuer's distinction between quiescent (bound) and free-moving investment energy in the elements of the psychic systems. According to Breuer there are "two ways in which a system may be filled with energy, so that a distinction has to be made between a charging' of the psychic systems (or its elements) that is free-flowing and striving to be discharged and one that is quiescent" (p. 36). Freud conjectures that the binding of the energy streaming into the psychic apparatus when the shield against stimuli has been broken through, consists in": a translating of it from the free-flowing to the quiescent state."

The relation between 'binding' and 'discharge' is not quite clear. We are told that only free-flowing energy is capable of discharge and that the binding of the stimulus mass that has broken in is a translating of it from the free-flowing to the quiescent state; yet we are also told that the binding of the stimulus mass is effected "so as to bring about a discharge of it" (p. 34). Perhaps the explanation is to be found in the statement that "the pleasure-principle is to begin with put out of action here." The control of the stimulus must be effected "before the pleasure-principle can begin its sway."

When the excitations from without are strong enough to break through the barrier provided as a shield against stimuli the first task of the psyche is to bind the stimulus mass and so bring it under control. This is done by a drainage of 'charging energy' from all the other psychic systems, and the setting up of a 'counter-charge' around the breach in the defences. The fulfilment of this task is one of the main functions of anxiety or apprehension. A danger that is apprehended or anticipated gives rise to a psychic preparedness which consists in an over-charging of the threatened system, so that if the shield against stimulus is broken through, the binding of the incoming excitations is more readily effected. The traumatic neuroses result from situations in which danger, not being anticipated, is accompanied by fright rather than by apprehension.

In the value of apprehension as a means of setting up a counter-charge capable of binding the excitations, Freud sees the primary function of those dreams, met with in the traumatic neuroses, which take the dreamer back, night after night, to the scene of the disaster. "These dreams are attempts at restoring control of the stimuli by developing apprehension, the pretermission of which caused the traumatic neurosis" (p. 37). They are not wish-fulfilments, but, "in the interests of the psychical binding of traumatic impressions follow the repetition-compulsion" (p. 39).

Thus the control of the stimuli, "the psychical binding of traumatic impressions," takes precedence of the pleasure-principle in the functioning of the psychic apparatus; and it may be supposed that the source and meaning of the repetition-compulsion are to be found "in the interests of the psychical binding of traumatic impressions." That is to say, we may suppose that the repetition-compulsion comes into action only when there is a need for the psychical binding of impressions. This seems to follow from the considerations brought forward by Freud in regard to those inner excitations, derived from the instincts, to which no shield against stimuli is opposed. These are assumed

to be of the nature of 'free-flowing' as opposed to the 'bound' forms of psychic energy. Moreover, their mode of activity conforms to the 'primary process,' and Freud is inclined to identify the 'secondary process' with changes in the bound or tonic charge. Thus the task of the secondary process would be to bind the mobile excitations, derived from the instincts, which conform to the primary process. If this binding of instinct excitations fails to be effected the consequences will be similar to those produced by external excitations which have broken through the shield against stimuli when, owing to the absence of apprehension, no counter-charge of the psychic elements assailed has been set up.

There seems to be some inconsistency in Freud's statements concerning the traumatic neuroses. He appears to relate the incidence of these neuroses to the breaking through of external excitations and the over-charging of the psychical systems with 'unbound' energy. Yet he admits that a physical trauma lessens the liability to neurosis because of the narcissistic countercharging of the injured part which occurs. But apart from the impressions from without which cause the physical trauma, what other excitations play a part in the causing of the neurosis? Are they not those impressions from without that arouse the instincts of self-preservation or induce the sexual excitation which, according to Freud, is set free by the mechanical force of the trauma? If this be so, apart from the overflow of traumatic impressions which the narcissistic counter-charge had failed to bind, the pathogenic excitations in the traumatic neuroses would always be derived from within and the actual traumatic impressions themselves would tend towards protection from neurosis. The occurrence of traumatic or 'shock' neuroses in the absence of any bodily injury shows that the physical trauma plays no essential part in their causation; and if this be so, it is not necessary "to regard the ordinary traumatic neurosis as the result of an extensive rupture of the barrier against stimuli"; for it would then be due to an excess of stimulation from those instinctive excitations to resist which no shield against stimuli has been provided.

If the repetition-compulsion has arisen in the interest of the psychical binding of impressions, the need for it exists in respect of all the workings of the psychic apparatus that conform to the primary process-that is, to all the workings of the unconscious system; whenever unconscious processes are in question the need for psychic binding is present, and whenever psychic binding is necessary the repetition-compulsion may be invoked.

Although such a conception would provide a wide field for the activity of the compulsion to repetition, Freud, in following up his speculations, ascribes to it a still more far-reaching rôle and finds it to possess, in a high degree, an instinctive character; not only so, but he finds in it something peculiar to all instincts perhaps to all organic life-something in terms of which instinct may be defined or, at least, described. In bringing instinct into connection with the compulsion to repetition, Freud describes instinct as "a tendency innate in living organic matter impelling it towards the reinstatement of an earlier condition" (p. 44).

This description, however, would apply to all mental processes the course of which "is automatically regulated by the pleasure-principle." The transformation of an unpleasant state of tension into one of relaxation may be described as being due to a tendency towards the reinstatement of an earlier

condition. Such a tendency may be, as Freud says, "the manifestation of inertia in organic life." It is thus too general a conception to have any special value in the definition of an instinct: instinct would be but a particular case of the general tendency.

If all organic instincts are strivings towards an earlier condition they must ever tend towards regression, and, as Freud here says, "we are obliged to place all the results of organic development to the credit of external, disturbing and distracting influences" (p. 46). This is just the opposite of what he said in his paper on Instincts and their Destinies. He there said that we may certainly conclude that the instincts and not the external stimuli are the true motive forces in the progress that has raised the infinitely efficient nervous system to its present high level of development. He added, however, that there is nothing to prevent our assuming that the instincts themselves are, at least in part, the precipitates of different forms of external stimulation which in the course of phylogenesis have effected modifications in the living substance. So, also, in these later speculations, Freud declares that "in the last resort it must have been the evolution of our earth, and its relation to the sun, that has left its imprint on the development of organisms" (pp. 46-7). But now he adds: "The conservative organic instincts have absorbed every one of these enforced alterations in the course of life and have stored them for repetition; they thus present the delusive appearance of forces striving after change and progress, while they are merely endeavouring to reach an old goal by ways both old and new" (p. 47).

At this point the trend of Freud's thought becomes apparent. The old goal, towards which all organic striving tends, is death-"that ancient startingpoint which the living being left long ago, and to which it harks back again by all the circuitous paths of development" (p. 47). Adopting a mechanistic view of the origin and nature of life Freud sees in the animation of inanimate matter nothing but the arousing of a tension which immediately strives to attain an equilibrium. The first instinct of life is a striving to return to lifelessness: equilibrium can be attained only by a return to the inanimate

condition.

Freud supposes that at first the return to the inanimate was easily accomplished and that the course of life was determined by the chemical structure of the young organism. He thinks that deviation from the original path of life to death was enforced upon the organism by external influences, although he does not specify what the influences are which compel the living substance to more complicated and circuitous ways to death. Whatever changes in the life-course are thus brought about, they are conserved in succeeding generations and these more circuitous routes to death become the phenomena of life as we know it.

According to this view the instincts which we regard as directed towards the preservation of the life of the individual are merely instincts which try to secure that death shall come only in the way laid down in the previous lifehistory of the race-"to secure the path to death peculiar to the organism and to ward off possibilities of return to the inorganic other than the immanent ones" (p. 48).

It is hard not to feel that there is something wrong in thus ascribing death to an instinctive force. We are so used to regarding instincts as manifestations of forces making for life, that much evidence would be required to convince us that anything corresponding to what we understand by instinct plays a

part in the onbringing of death. Merely because all life as we know it seems to end in death, we need not suppose that death is a goal towards which life strives, or that its consummation is, in any sense, a direct consequence of the activity of forces peculiar to life, as the instincts are. Death may be at all times a frustration of these forces rather than the attainment of their goal. Life is, as Bergson says, "riveted to an organism that subjects it to the general laws of inert matter. But everything happens as if it were doing its utmost to set itself free from these laws" (Creative Evolution, p. 259).

Freud's sombre analysis thus far of the course of life, ending as it does on the note of "dust to dust, ashes to ashes," is here, no more than in the burial service, the whole of the story. In the phenomena of reproduction we meet with immediate refutation of the view that death is the only goal of life. When sperm cell and germ cell meet we see a new beginning of an old cycle of which not death but everlasting life would seem to be the goal. By this expedient for securing the continuity of the germ-plasm, by the freeing of the reproductive cells from the encumbrance of the soma which threatens to drag them to destruction, the life-process, for a time at least, declares its victory over death. There must, therefore, be something in the nature of living organisms that makes for life and not for death, and through the reproductive cells the continuance of life is assured from generation to generation.

But the continuance of life is dependent upon the safeguarding and the ultimate bringing together of the male and female reproductive cells; and in order that this may be brought to pass the individual is endowed with a group of instincts-the sexual instincts-which Freud says may rightly be called "life-instincts." The final aim of the life-instincts is the union of two cells, and Freud, if he is to adhere to his conception of instinct as a tendency to reinstatement of an earlier condition, is confronted with the question, Of what previous happening is conjugation a repetition; What former condition is reinstated in this union?

The difficulty of answering this question is so great that Freud is tempted to give up the whole enquiry on which he has been engaged and to be doubtful about the conclusions at which he has arrived regarding the repetition-compulsion and the opposition between ego-instincts and sexual instincts. These conclusions were based on the assumption that all life must die from internal causes; that is to say, from some inherent quality of living substance. He, therefore, turns back to examine this assumption in the light of biological

science.

All the most important work that has been done during the past forty years on the biological problems of life and death has been relative to the views first put forward by August Weismann in 1881. At the first glance it would seem that in Weismann's distinction between the mortality of the soma and the potential immortality of the germ-plasm there is a striking corroboration, from the biological side, of Freud's hypothesis of death-instincts and life-instincts. But according to Weismann death is a late acquisition in the development of living beings: death happens only to multi-cellular organisms, the protozoa are potentially immortal; in Freud's hypothesis death-instincts are from the beginning inherent in the very nature of life, and the germ-plasm no less than the soma, the protista no less than the metazoa, contain within them the seeds of death.

The validity of Weismann's theory has been put to experimental test by various observers, and although the results arrived at are inconclusive, the

« 上一頁繼續 »