Prohibition

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The term prohibition has been borrowed by psychoanalysis from everyday language, where it is used either as an adjective to describe something we are not allowed to do, say, see, think, or be; or substantively to refer to the law, social constraint, moral education, and so on, on which this prohibition is based.


Psychoanalytic language gives a more precise meaning to the term, however.

Prohibition can present itself to the subject as external, and be internalized as a result of its associated dynamic of conflict; it can also result from structural requirements inherent in the mind.

In every case the formulation of the prohibition and its operation can be partially or totally unconcious, even when the resulting conduct and its justification are explicit.


The concept appears early in Freud's work and can be found in the Studies on Hysteria (1895d), where the subject, driven by desires prohibited by morality, consciously forms "representations that are irreconcilable" with that morality, and then refuses them satisfaction, doing away with them by making them unconcious through repression.

Those desires are always, in the final analysis, sexual in nature, especially in the case of the "neuro-psychoses of defense."

"The etiology of hysteria almost inevitably can be traced to a psychic conflict,
 an irreconcilable representation, which prompts into action the defense of the
 ego and provokes repression" (Freud, 1896b). 

From the very outset, then, the notion of prohibition is inseparable from the drive-defense conflict, which will constitute the core of psychoanalytic theory.


Initially, that is to say, within the framework of the first topography and the first theory of drives, Freud studied the libidinal origins of the conflict and its treatment through repression (these are the texts on metapsychology from 1915) as well as its educational ("Little Hans," 1915), sociological and ethnological (Totem and Taboo, 1912-1913a) origins.

The formulation of the Oedipus complex then focused attention on the prohibition of incest.


Subsequently, the formulation of the second topography led to a redefinition of prohibition.

Here, the ego appears as prey to conflicts where it is torn between "three masters": the id and its libidinal demands, reality and adaptive requirements, and a superego that is essentially defined as an agent of prohibition.

(However, to this must be added the more positive functions of the ego ideal, which condenses all the moral values the subject claims to hold.)


Although throughout his work Freud presents the incest prohibition as the heart of the conflictual dynamic, he also discusses prohibitions that affect other manifestations of sexuality, primarily masturbation and the satisfaction of the partial drive]]s or compound instincts (voyeurism, exhibitionism, anal pleasure).

Generalization of the limitations created by these prohibitions can lead to serious inhibitions of thought.

Moreover, it has been shown how the repression of the drives can lead to serious reaction formations, especially when aggression is poorly integrated.


Censorship; Conflict; Deprivation; Ethics; Incest; law of the father; Oedipus complex; Taboo; Transgression.


Bibliography

   * Freud, Sigmund. 

(1896b).

Further remarks on the neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 157-185.

   * Freud Sigmund, and Breuer, Josef. (1895d). Studies on hysteria. SE, 2: 48-106.
   * Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de. (1993). Le "bon droit" du criminel. Topique, 52, 141-161.
   * Milner, Marion. (1991). On est prié de fermer les yeux. Le regard interdit. Paris: Gallimard.


[[Category:psychoanalysis]] [[Category:Sigmund Freud]]