“What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate” • 4

Excerpt from Sigmund Freud, “Project for a Scientific Psychology” (1895)

The Experience of Satisfaction

The filling of the nuclear neurones in Ψ has as its consequence an effort to discharge, an impetus which is released along motor pathways. Experience shows that the first path to be followed is that leading to internal change (e.g., emotional expression, screaming, or vascular innervation). But, as we showed at the beginning of the discussion, no discharge of this kind can bring about any relief of tension, because endogenous stimuli continue to be received in spite of it and the Ψ-tension is re-established. Here a removal of the stimulus can only be effected by an intervention which will temporarily stop the release of quantity (Qἠ) in the interior of the body, and an intervention of this kind requires an alteration in the external world (e.g., the supply of nourishment or the proximity of the sexual object), and this, as a “specific action”, can only be brought about in particular ways. At early stages the human organism is incapable of achieving this specific action. It is brought about by extraneous help, when the attention of an experienced person has been drawn to the child’s condition by a discharge taking place along the path of internal change [e.g., by the child’s screaming]. This path of discharge thus acquires an extremely important secondary function — viz., of bringing about an understanding with other people; and the original helplessness of human beings is thus the primal source of all moral motives.

When the extraneous helper has carried out the specific action in the external world on behalf of the helpless subject, the latter is in a position, by means of reflex contrivances, immediately to perform what is necessary in the interior of his body in order to remove the endogenous stimulus. This total event then constitutes an “experience of satisfaction”, which has the most momentous consequences in the functional development of the individual.

Thus the experience of satisfaction leads to a facilitation between the two memory-images [of the object wished-for and of the reflex movement] and the nuclear neurones which had been cathected during the state of urgency. (No doubt, during [the actual course of] the discharge brought about by the satisfaction, the quantity (Qἠ) flows out of the memory-images as well.) Now, when the state of urgency or wishing re-appears, the cathexis will pass also to the two memories and will activate them. And in all probability the memory-image of the object will be the first to experience this wishful activation.

I have no doubt that the wishful activation will in the first instance produce something similar to a perception — namely, a hallucination. And if this leads to the performance of the reflex action, disappointment will inevitably follow. (Freud, 379–381).

Sigmund Freud, “Project for a Scientific Psychology” (1895), pp. 347–445 in The Origins of Psycho-Analysis : Letters to Wilhelm Fliess, Drafts and Notes, 1887–1902, Marie Bonaparte, Anna Freud, Ernst Kris (eds.), Eric Mosbacher and James Strachey (trans.), Basic Books, New York, NY, 1954.

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3 Responses to “What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate” • 4

  1. Poor Richard says:

    “disappointment will inevitably follow.”
    No doubt the primary flaw, the horsefly in the ointment, of the nervous system.

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