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As if matters were not complicated enough, as animal symbolicum you have not confined yourself to one such notion of the desirable. You appear to delight in generating, or actually to be compelled to generate many such notions. Some of these symbolisations compete in the personality system with others for allocation of energy or effort. Some of these symbolisations conflict with or rule out others; that is, the end-state of affairs represented by one is or seems incompatible with that represented by another, points out Prof. Ashoka, a renowned Psychiatrist, in the penultimate, the sixth-part of his erudite research, in the weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.
Suppose you have a notion that such and such a state of affairs would be delightful. Never mind for the moment how you came to have such a notion, the nature of its origins, or to what peculiar symbolisation process it owes its formation. To bring the desired state of affairs into being, you require the participation of something, usually someone, in your situation. However, while you may feel that a particular person is just right for what you have in mind, you cannot be too finicky here, since people, in reality, are usually not as cooperative as we would like them to be. They get lost, go away, die, and are ruled out by others as inappropriate or out of bounds, or are otherwise unreliable or unavailable. Given the disagreeable, somewhat intractable nature of objective external reality, you must possess capacities enabling you to mould and alter it to suit your conception, to override, or evade, its opposition to your efforts. If one object of your desire, whatever it may be, fails you, in whatever way, you must be prepared eventually at least to find and be content with another. This is perhaps something of what Freud meant by substitution. Failing all this, finally, the environment has been completely intolerant of your notion, you must be capable of shifting a bit in your insistence that the desired end-state of affairs should be just so and of modifying your conception—not too much but just enough—so that it becomes acceptable and realisable. This manoeuvre is perhaps something of what Freud meant by sublimation. To some extent, whether an object is “there,” is available, depends on your particular conception and symbolic representation of it. Through your own symbolic activity, you create (or are unable to create) the object you desire. To some extent, it is your commitment to a particular symbolic representation of the desired object that may make a substitution of another for it difficult or impossible; it is your commitment to a particular symbolic representation of a desirable end-state that may make a modification of it difficult or impossible. So, even where the obstacle seems to exist in the situation, it may be constituted to a large extent in fact by symbolic processes. Now, as if matters were not complicated enough, as animal symbolicum you have not confined yourself to one such notion of the desirable. You appear to delight in generating, or actually to be compelled to generate many such notions. Some of these symbolisations compete in the personality system with others for allocation of energy or effort. Some of these symbolisations conflict with or rule out others; that is, the end-state of affairs represented by one is or seems incompatible with that represented by another. The success of your efforts, as we have seen, depends upon the cooperation of external reality; that failing, you may manage to the limits of your talents in this direction with the expedients of substitution and sublimation. However, now we see that the success of your efforts also depends upon the cooperation and organisation of a variety of kinds of symbolisation systems constituting your personality. Failure of the requisite degree of organisation of various tendencies, of subordination of one tendency to another, may also constitute an obstacle to your efforts. The refusal to give consent, the prohibition we associate with such a system of symbolisations as we conceive the superego to be may also constitute an obstacle to your efforts. Associated with your notion of delight and in opposition to it you may anticipate or experience a state of affairs in which the value attached not to some external object-representation but to your own self-representation is diminished. We call this a threat to self-esteem or narcissism, that is, a threat to some desired relation to your own self as object: as animal symbolicum, you are capable of conceiving relations to yourself or to your self-representation. Here, clearly, the obstacle is an internalised symbolic process or symbolic representation.
Let us sum up the kinds of obstacles that may frustrate you in seeking the attainment of your ends. One, the external world is not compliant, or your symbolisations of it create it not so. Two, you are, to whatever extent, incapable of substitution and sublimation. Three, as a behavioural organism, through enfeeblement or by innate endowment, you lack energic, cognitive, or other resources or equipment that you require to overcome obstacles, to master your situation and so to adapt to it. (Freud, in this connection, referred to enfeeblement of the ego due to organic illness or to constitutional factors.) Four, your personality system is inadequately organised to mediate among tendencies competing for allocation of effort to their fulfillment, or it includes symbolisations incompatible with and opposing the allocation of effort to the fulfillment of, a particular tendency.
I wish for your sake that we were finished with this dismal catalogue. After all, if the world is so disagreeable that even your considerable talent for substitution and sublimation is inordinately taxed, or if your talent in these directions is somewhat less than you would like so that you find it difficult to manage the complications created by even a moderately difficult world, then you are in trouble. You can tolerate the frustration of your strivings, but only up to a certain limit. You will struggle, manoeuvre, fiddle, and fuss, but beyond a certain point, you want what you want. As an animal symbolicum, you are immensely impressed by your conceptions of the way things ought to be and exhibit an astonishing fidelity and devotion in remaining attached to these conceptions. Nevertheless, on top of difficulties from without, you must also suffer opposition from within. And, as if that weren’t enough, your situation is immeasurably complicated by the vicissitudes of development.
(To be continued)
Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
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