ART AS A "PALLIATIVE MEASURE": FREUD AND NIETZSCHE
By Paccelli Zahler
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian neurologist, was the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. He developed therapeutic techniques, such as the use of free association .
Freud wrote a book named “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1900), in which he defended the idea that dreams are the “royal road to unconscious” because they express parts of ourselves, parts of our sexuality, and desires, through disguise. For him, desires were an heterogeneous mix of conflicting impulses.
On the other hand, in the book “Civilization and Its Discontents” , he discussed the theory that we belong to the world or the “oceanic feeling” and the “pleasure principle”, according to which “the purpose of life for individuals is reducing suffering and seeking pleasure”.
He stated that:
“What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of need which have been dammed up to a high degree and it is possible as an episodic phenomenon…Thus our possibilities of happiness are already restricted by our constitution”. .
Freud identified three causes of suffering: our own body; the external world; and our relations to other men. As all suffering is nothing else than sensation, we can averting it by chemicals, using foreign substances which, when present in the blood or tissues, directly cause us pleasurable sensations; the presence of substances in the chemistry of the human body that have similar effects similar to intoxication, like the pathological state, mania; or killing off the instincts by the practice of Yoga.
“The feeling of happiness derived from the satisfaction of a wild instinctual impulse untamed by the ego is incomparably more intense than that derived from sating an instinct that has been tamed” .
This means that “civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct”. But when you renounce instinct and repress things, they come out in other ways . So, satisfaction began to be obtained from illusions, from imagination, and the enjoyment of works of art. So, art becomes a “palliative measure” that helped people cope with suffering.
In this case, Freud agreed with Friedrich Nietzsche who, in the Second Essay of his book “On The Genealogy of Morals” , wrote:
“…every art, every philosophy may be viewed as an aid and remedy in the service of growing and striving life. They always presuppose suffering and suffers”.
But this is not enough.
For Carl Jung, in his book “O Homem e seus Símbolos” (Man and His Symbols) (2008):
“Nowadays, a great number of persons, mainly that live in great cities, suffer of a terrible sensation of emptiness and boredom, like they wait something that never happens. Cinema, shows, sporting spetacles and politics can distract them for a while but exhausted and disenchanted they return to the desert of their lives”.
We can see that these thinkers pointed out some problems not solved yet in our society. But we have reflect about them to have a better life.