August 20th, 2009


on the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love

Sigmund Freud’s Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens, or Contributions To The Psychology Of Love comprise three articles:
  1. “Über einen besonderen Typus der Objektwahl beim Manne”, Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, Vol. 2, 1910, pp. 389-97; Gesammelte Werke, VIII, pp. 66-77; “A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men”, Standard Edition, Vol. 11, pp. 165-175
  2. “Über die allgemeinste Erniedrigung des Liebeslebens” (Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens II), Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, Vol. 4, 1912, pp. 40-50; Gesammelte Werke, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-91; “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love”, Standard Edition, Vol. 11, pp. 179-190;
  3. “Das Tabu der Virginität” (Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens III). Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Leipzig-Vienna, Vierte Folge, 1917, pp. 229-251; Gesammelte Werke, Vol. XII: 159-180; “The Taboo of Virginity”, Standard Edition, Vol.11, pp. 193-208.
In the second of these articles reproduced below, Freud discusses male impotence that arises from an incestuous fixation on mother or sister. In the broadest strokes that fall short of caricature, his approach derives from the hypothesis that human sexual desires are based on childhood developments that adults ordinarily no longer consciously access. In regard of these developments, Freud identifies two currents in erotic life. The older affectionate current, originally directed towards the infant’s earliest caretakers, typically the mother, eventually becomes complemented by the sensual current that attains its acme during puberty. The oedipal prohibition turns the sensual current elsewhere. But it often remains fixated to its original incestuous objects, whereby the whole of a young man’s sensuality becomes tied to incestuous phantasies in the unconscious. Impotence ensues. Short of this extreme development, pleasure departs from sexual relations. Men seldom combine the two erotic currents, taking complete satisfaction in the same woman instead of directing each current to different women. But perhaps the erotic instinct is bound to remain perpetually unsatisfied in the choice of object. In later work, Freud would develop the argument locating the gain in the processes of sublimation responsible for the development of civilization. Collapse )