Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Herippe, Wife of Xanthus

from Wikipedia
In Greek mythology, Herippe (Ἑρίππη) was a woman from Miletus, wife of Xanthus and mother of an unnamed two-year old child. During the celebration of Thesmophoria, she and many other women were carried off by the Gauls. Some of the captives were ransomed by their relatives, but Herippe was among those who were not, and thus was taken to Gaul. Xanthus, deeply missing his wife, turned most of his possessions into gold and headed on to the land of Celts, hoping to find and ransom Herippe. The Gaul who had abducted Herippe received Xanthus in a most hospitable manner; when Xanthus offered him one thousand pieces of gold for his wife, the host bade his guest to give only one quarter of the sum as ransom, and leave the other three quarters for himself and his family. When Xanthus had a chance to talk to Herippe, she scolded him for having promised to the barbarian a sum of money he did non possess, but Xanthus assured her that he had another two thousand to spare, hidden in his servant's shoes. Herippe then told the Gaul of the total sum of gold Xanthus had with him, and suggested that they kill him and take the money; she further confessed that she liked the Gaul and his land far more than Greece and Xanthus, and wished to stay with the Celts. The Gaul was disgusted at her words; in his eyes, such disloyalty deserved punishment by death. So the next morning he announced that a sacrifice must be made before he lets Xanthus and Herippe go; a sacrificial animal was brought, and the Gaul asked Herippe to hold it. She took the animal, as she was already accustomed to participate in Gaulish sacrificial rites. The Gaul then raised his sword and, instead of slaying the animal, beheaded Herippe. He then explained her treachery to Xanthus and let him go, telling him to leave all the gold for himself.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tomorrow... will be Different

She. I hate a bad man and veil my face as I pass him, keeping my heart light as a little bird's. He. And I hate both a gadabout woman and a lustful man that chooseth to plough another's land. Both. But what's done cannot be undone: 'tis the future that needs watch and ward.
- Theognis of Megara (579-584)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Avoiding Melancholia - The Inability to Move the Objet Petit 'a Due to a Dependency Upon the Other

Melancholia... taking out on myself, what I refuse to take out on you, because I can't afford to let go of you, out weakness and of fear of having to take care of myself. If I could let you go, I could move on, but I can't, and it's my own damn fault, so I torture myself, and hold on to you, and become ever more depressed and self-critical...

Freud, "On Mourning and Melancholia"
The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment. This picture becomes a little more intelligible when we consider that, with one exception, the same traits are met with in mourning. The disturbance of self-regard is absent in mourning; but otherwise the features are the same. Profound mourning, the reaction to the loss of someone who is loved, contains the same painful frame of mind, the same loss of interest in the outside world—in so far as it does not recall him—the same loss of capacity to adopt any new object of love (which would mean replacing him) and the same turning away from any activity that is not connected with thoughts of him. It is easy to see that this inhibition and circumscription of the ego is the expression of an exclusive devotion to mourning which leaves nothing over for other purposes or other interests. It is really only because we know so well how to explain it that this attitude does not seem to us pathological. We should regard it as an appropriate comparison, too, to call the mood of mourning a ‘painful’ one. We shall probably see the justification for this when we are in a position to give a characterization of the economics of pain.

In what, now, does the work which mourning performs consist? I do not think there is anything far-fetched in presenting it in the following way. Reality-testing has shown that the loved object no longer exists, and it proceeds to demand that all libido shall be withdrawn from its attachments to that object. This demand arouses understandable opposition—it is a matter of general observation that people never willingly abandon a libidinal position, not even, indeed, when a substitute is already beckoning to them. This opposition can be so intense that a turning away from reality takes place and a clinging to the object through the medium of a hallucinatory wishful psychosis. Normally, respect for reality gains the day. Nevertheless its orders cannot be obeyed at once. They are carried out bit by bit, at great expense of time and cathectic energy, and in the meantime the existence of the lost object is psychically prolonged. Each single one of the memories and expectations in which the libido is bound to the object is brought up and hyper-cathected, and detachment of the libido is accomplished in respect of it. Why this compromise by which the command of reality is carried out piecemeal should be so extraordinarily painful is not at all easy to explain in terms of economics. It is remarkable that this painful unpleasure is taken as a matter of course by us. The fact is, however, that when the work of mourning is completed the ego becomes free and uninhibited again.

Let us now apply to melancholia what we have learnt about mourning. In one set of cases it is evident that melancholia too may be the reaction to the loss of a loved object. Where the exciting causes are different one can recognize that there is a loss of a more ideal kind. The object has not perhaps actually died, but has been lost as an object of love (e.g. in the case of a betrothed girl who has been jilted). In yet other cases one feels justified in maintaining the belief that a loss of this kind has occurred, but one cannot see clearly what it is that has been lost, and it is all the more reasonable to suppose that the patient cannot consciously perceive what he has lost either. This, indeed, might be so even if the patient is aware of the loss which has given rise to his melancholia, but only in the sense that he knows whom he has lost but not what he has lost in him. This would suggest that melancholia is in some way related to an object-loss which is withdrawn from consciousness, in contradistinction to mourning, in which there is nothing about the loss that is unconscious.

In mourning we found that the inhibition and loss of interest are fully accounted for by the work of mourning in which the ego is absorbed. In melancholia, the unknown loss will result in a similar internal work and will therefore be responsible for the melancholic inhibition. The difference is that the inhibition of the melancholic seems puzzling to us because we cannot see what it is that is absorbing him so entirely. The melancholic displays something else besides which is lacking in mourning—an extraordinary diminution in his selfregard, an impoverishment of his ego on a grand scale. In mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself. The patient represents his ego to us as worthless, incapable of any achievement and morally despicable; he reproaches himself, vilifies himself and expects to be cast out and punished. He abases himself before everyone and commiserates with his own relatives for being connected with anyone so unworthy. He is not of the opinion that a change has taken place in him, but extends his self-criticism back over the past; he declares that he was never any better. This picture of a delusion of (mainly moral) inferiority is completed by sleeplessness and refusal to take nourishment, and—what is psychologically very remarkable—by an overcoming of the instinct which compels every living thing to cling to life.
And after the torture has done it's work, and I discover that I'm not quite as weak as I once thought... mania!