Libido

Libido can never be apprehended except in a definite form; that is to say, it is identical with fantasy-images.  And we can only release it from the grip of the unconscious by bringing up the corresponding fantasy-images.  That is why, …, we give the unconscious a chance to bring its fantasies to the surface.  This is how the foregoing fragment was produced.  It is a single episode from a long and very intricate series of fantasy-images, corresponding to the quota of energy that was lost to the conscious mind and its contents.  The patient’s conscious world has become cold, empty, and grey; but his unconscious is activated, powerful and rich.  It is characteristic of the nature of the unconscious psyche that it is sufficient unto itself and knows no human considerations.  Once a thing has fallen into the unconscious it is retained there, regardless of whether the conscious mind suffers or not.  The latter can hunger and freeze, while everything in the unconscious becomes verdant and blossoms. 

   Freud introduced his concept of libido in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and there, as we have said, he defined it sexuallyThe libido appears subject to displacement, and in the form of "libidinal affluxes" can communicate itself to various other functions and regions of the body which in themselves have nothing to do with sex.  This fact led Freud to compare the libido with a stream, which is divisible, can be dammed up, overflows into collaterals, and so on.  Thus, despite this definition of libido as sexuality, Freud does not explain "everything" in terms of sex, as is commonly supposed, but recognizes the existence of special instinctual forces whose nature is not clearly known, but to which he was bound to ascribe the faculty of taking up these "libidinal affluxes."  At the back of all this lies the hypothetical idea of a "bundle of instincts," in which the sexual instinct figures as a partial instinct.  Its encroachement into the sphere of other instincts is a fact of experience.  The resultant Freudian theory, which held that the instinctual forces of a neurotic system correspond to the libidinal affluxes taken up by other, non-sexual, instinctual functions, has become the keystone of the psychoanalytical theory of neurosis and the dogma of the Viennese school.  Later, however, Freud was forced to ponder whether libido might not in the end coincide with interest in general.  (Here I would remark that it was a case of paranoid schizophrenia that gave rise to these considerations.) 

Earlier, in The Psychology of Dementia Praecox, I made use of the term "psychic energy," because what is lacking in this disease is evidently more than erotic interest as such.  If one tried to explain the loss of relationship, the schizophrenic dissociation between man and world, purely by the recession of eroticism, the inevitable result would be to inflate the idea of sexuality in a typically Freudian manner.  One would then be forced to say that every relationship to the world was in essence a sexual relationship, and the idea of sexuality would become so nebulous that the very word "sexuality" would be deprived of all meaning.  The fashionable term "psychosexuality" is a clear symptom of this conceptual inflation.  But in schizophrenia far more is lacking to reality than could ever be laid at the door of sexuality in the strict sense of the word.  The "fonction du réel" is absent to such a degree as to include the loss of certain instinctual forces which cannot possibly be supposed to have a sexual character, for no one in his senses would maintain that reality is nothing but a function of sex!  And even if it were, the introversion of libido in the neuroses would necessarily be followed by a loss of reality comparable with that which occurs in schizophrenia.  But that is far from being the case.  As Freud himself has pointed out, introversion and regression of sexual libido leads, at the worse, to neurosis, but not to schizophrenia

   The attitude of reserve which I adopted towards the sexual theory in the preface to The Psychology of Dementia Praecox, despite the fact that I recognized the psychological mechanisms pointed out by Freud, was dictated by the general position of the libido theory at that time.  The theory as it then stood did not permit me to explain functional disturbances which affect the sphere of other instincts just as much as that of sex, solely in the light of a one-sided sexual theory.  An interpretation in terms of energy seemed to me better suited to the facts than the doctrine set forth in Freud s Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.  It allowed me to identify ``psychic energy`` with `libido.` The latter term denotes a desire or impulse which is unchecked by any kind of authority, moral or otherwise.  Libido is appetite in its natural state.  From the genetic point of view it is bodily needs like hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex, and emotional states or affects, which constitute the essence of libido.  All these factors have their differentiations and subtle ramifications in the highly complicated human psyche.  There can be no doubt that even the highest differentiations were developed from simpler forms.  Thus, many complex functions, which today must be denied all trace of sexuality, were originally derived from the reproductive instinct.  As we know, an important change occurred in the principles of propagation during the ascent through the animal kingdom: the vast numbers of gametes which chance fertilization made necessary were progressively reduced in favour of assured fertilization and effective protection of the young.  The decreased production of ova and spermatozoa set free considerable quantities of energy which soon sought and found new outlets.  Thus we find the first stirrings of the artistic impulse in animals, but subservient to the reproductive instinct and limited to the breeding season.  The original sexual character of these biological phenomenon gradually disappears as they become organically fixed and achieve functional independence.  Althouh there can be no doubt that music originally belonged to the reproductive sphere, it would be an unjustified and fantastic generalization to put music in the same category as sex.  Such a view would be tantamount to treating of Cologne Cathedral as a text-book of mineralogy, on the ground that it consisted very largely of stones.  SoT 136

Consequently to speak of libido as the urge to propagation is to remain within the confines of a view which distinguishes libido from hunger in the same way that the instinct for the preservation of the species is distinguished from the instinct for self-preservation.  In nature, of soucrse, this artificial distinction does not exist.  There we see only a continuous life-urge, a will to live which seeks to ensure the continuance of the whole species through the preservation of the individual.  SoT 136

Having once made the bold conjecture that the libido which was originally employed in the production of ova and spermatozoa is now firmly organized in the function of nest-building, for instance, and can no longer be ebployed otherwise, we are compelled to regard every striving and every desire, including hunger and instinct however understood, as equally a phenomenon of energy.  SoT 137

Libido can never be apprehended except in a definite form; that is to say, it is identical with fantasy-images. And we can only release it from the grip of the unconscious by bringing up the corresponding fantasy-images. That is why, …, we give the unconscious a chance to bring its fantasies to the surface. This is how the foregoing fragment was produced. It is a single episode from a long and very intricate series of fantasy-images, corresponding to the quota of energy that was lost to the conscious mind and its contents. The patient’s conscious world has become cold, empty, and grey; but his unconscious is activated, powerful and rich. It is characteristic of the nature of the unconscious psyche that it is sufficient unto itself and knows no human considerations. Once a thing has fallen into the unconscious it is retained there, regardless of whether the conscious mind suffers or not. The latter can hunger and freeze, while everything in the unconscious becomes verdant and blossoms.  (JoAI)