On Falsehood: The compulsion to idealize and the vital need for maintenance of self-esteem in Freudian structural theory

“I am God, your Physician” (Ex. 15:26). The prophets also acknowledge God as a Healer and Jeremiah stated: “Heal us, and we will be healed” (from the blessing for healing, Jeremiah 17:14). Throughout the Torah, God is imbued with great healing powers. It is no wonder that it is written, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away” when it comes to health, wealth, and life itself.” ~When Doctors Kill: Who, Why, and How by Joshua A. Perper and Stephen J. Cina

In studying the psychoanalytic construction of perversion, approaching the question of the pervert’s relation to Art and his compulsion to idealize, subsequent to his vital need – vital for the maintenance of his self-esteem – to disguise his pregenital Ego and to conceal its anal character. Beginning an investigation into the difficulties of the creative process with the study of the pervert, let’s begin by wondering about what Falsehood is. We are living in a time where false values – aesthetic and intellectual as well as ethical – seem to be gratified with admiration and success at the expense of “true” values. Mabe you are already wondering what allows for the decision that this is “true” and this is “false”. It is, indeed, a difficult question. 

Maybe one might ask the question, “Why is false so popular?” The conclusion is that the pervert was the ‘prototype’ of those who go in for falsity. For this reason, we can define perverts as those beings who have the quite enviable faculty of creating an artful universe.  

To illustrate this perspective, I shall give you the Hans Christian Andersen’s work “The Nightingale”. The story goes like this: 

Beyond the limits of the Emperor of China’s garden, there was a lovely forest with lofty tress and deep lakes. The forest sloped down to the sea, so the great ships sailed under the shadow of its branches. In these branches lived a nightingale whose exquisite singing enchanted the poor fisherman. The nightingale was soon famous throughout the country. Travelers from every country in the world came to the city in order to admire the palace and the Emperor’s garden. But when they returned home, they were convinced the nightingale was the best of all the Emperor’s wonders. The Emperor got wind ot the nightingale’s existence from the books that the wonder-struck travelers had devoted to it. 

He called his lord-in waiting, a man so distinguished that, if anyone of rank inferior to his spoke to him or asked him a question, he would answer: ‘Pooh’, which means nothing. The Emperor would be trampled upon after supper. A poor girl in the kitchen was the only person at the court who knew of the nightingale. She led the lord-in-waiting to the nightingale, but he was disappointed to see a little grey bird in the branches and thought it looked ordinary. Nevertheless, he invited it to the palace to sing before the Emperor. The nightingale sang so sweetly that tears came to the Emperor’s eyes. He gave the bird his golden slipper to wear around its neck but the nightingale declined the offer, having been sufficiently rewarded already by the tears it had seen in the Emperor’s eyes. It was not to remain at the court, to have its own cage and was free to go out night and day. The whole city spoke of it. Eleven children were named after it, even though not one of them could sing a note.  

One day the Emperor received a large parcel of which was written “The Nightingale“. It was a work of art contained in a casket, a mechanical nightingale supposed to look like a living one, but it was covered all over with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. As soon as the artificial bird had been wound up, it could sing like the real one, and could move its tail, which sparkled with silver and gold, up and down. It was a present from the Emperor of Japan to the Emperor of China. Very soon after its arrival, the whole court enthused over the mechanical nightingale, which was so beautiful to behold and which could sing thirty times over the same tune at a tempt the real nightingale could not sustain. No one noticed when the real nightingale flew out of the window, back to its woodland home. The music-master asserted that the mechanical bird was better than the real one, not only in its glittering dress but also in itself. Everybody agreed in this opinion except the poor fisherman, who said that there seemed something wanting, though he could not say what.  

The real nightingale was banished from the Empire and the artificial bird occupied the seat of honour, close to the Emperor. The music-master wrote a work in 25 volumes about the artificial bird, and a very learned work it was, full of the most difficult Chinese words; yet all the people had said they read it and understood it, for fear of being thought stupid and being beaten on their stomachs. But one day the mechanism of the bird got jammed. The delicate wheels were worn. It was allowed to sing only once a year. 

Five years went by and the Emperor became severely ill. He could scarcely breathe because Death was sitting very close to him. He implored the artificial bird to sing for him. But the bird remained silent, for there was no one to wind it up, so it could not sing. Death continued to stare at the Emperor with its hollow eyes, when suddenly a sweet song came through the window. It was the living nightingale who, answering its Emperor’s call, had flown back to sing him the song of Hope. Death, then, slowly withdrew. When the servants came in expecting to see the dead Emperor, he was standing dressed in full uniform and pressing his golden sword to his heart. He said: “Good morning!” 

Surrealist artist’s depiction of “Religious Hope”; hope can be depicted in music, art, or in literary form.

This fable is said to have been written in honour of Jenny Lind, called ‘the Swedish nightingale’, whose success had been overshadowed for a while by the more precise technique of some Italian singers; their technique, in fact hid a lack of real talent. We may think, however, that Andersen wanted to approach a wider problem, that of artistic creation and the public’s reactions. More broadly speaking, this tale seems to pose the problem of ‘falsehood’ in general. 

Indeed, we are able to observe the existence of a proclivity in man to prefer what is false to what is true. This propensity is more or less strong, according to each person. Such a propensity may be that of the creator himself for that of one who appreciates false creations over-enthusiastically. This alacrity seems to originate from a specific factor whose nature remains to be brought to light. In other words, the question is to know who is prompted to create an artificial bird, and why, and who will be fascinated by this bird at the expense of the real one and why. But, first of all, how is it possible to define what is “true” and what is “false”? 

It is at this point I am reminded of Jerzy Kosinski and “The Painted Bird” and his status as an imposter. Similar to Jenny Lind, whose sunshine was stolen by a technique that seemed to hid the lack of real talent, Jerzy Kosinski had his sunshine and Truth stolen with the German occupation of the Nazi army during World War II. For fear of being discovered as a Jew, Kosinski lead a life of falsehood lying about his true identity, where he came from and who his family really was. I recommend watching the movie “The Painted Bird” (2019) directed by Vaclav Marhoul with cinematography by Vladimir Smutny to gain a better understand to the side-effects of early abusive childhood relationships. Below is a link to an article from this blog discussing “The Painted Bird”


In the case of the Andersen’s fable, the distinction seems easy to draw. The “false” is identified with the inanimate and the “true” with the living. We know that in most cases this distinction is not a sufficient one and, above all, is not so easy to assert. The inanimate or living characteristics of an aesthetic or intellectual creation do not force themselves upon the mind in such an obvious way.  

However, we may follow the Danish story-teller’s intuition and thus anticipate further conclusions, but his reflections on the fable seems to paint an accurate definition that indeed “true” is likened to the living, for it is always engendered by its natural causes, in conformity with its essence, and in turn it engenders according to the same law, whereas the “false” is situated beyond any natural continuity, though it tries to make us believe that it is an organic link in a chain. This inorganic link, trying to put on the semblance of organic reality very accurately describes “imposter status”. In other words, it pretends to obey the principle of filiation. It can only be temporary. This is rather enlightening information. 

Once more, we must emphasize the anal factor in these creations as well as the fact that it is always a question for the produce of the “false”, and for his incense-bearer, of making a presentation of the phallus for worship. Here again, Andersen’s intuition serves us as a guide since he invites us to decide between the merits of two birds.  

Here I’d like to step away from the argument and point out from a different angle that the anal sadistic attacks on a female image that may possess and symbolize the desired personifications for sex in sexual relations because that image itself generates a sense of Envy and Fear because the symbol represents “Phallus worship”. That is to say, in a heterosexual sense, the sexual desire sought after by men in general and to which I term “The Marilyn Monroe Effect”.  To be clear, Fear and Envy aren’t solely bound to symbols of sex. It could be the intellectual property or achievement of academic excellence that would be rewarded with “phallus worship” or in more plain terms, credit or merit for what one has rightfully achieved. It can represent whatever symbol that may instill Fear and Envy in the psyche of an individual generating feelings of castration stemming from another’s success. 

The definition of “The Marilyn Monroe Effect” is the falsehood of an image where the image becomes a symbol or prop, void of any associations with Truth. For Marilyn Monroe it was the veil or partition that movies and the media provided her in obscuring her as a “real” person. Her personification as a “sex symbol” was so iconic and well-crafted it totally eclipsed her as an ordinary woman. Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean Baker’s Truth. Like the artificial nightingale, adorned and bedazzled with an abundance of jewels, the real nightingale is just a plain, grey, ordinary creature. The vital psychological need for the maintenance of self-esteem is so important, the creations of well-crafted disguise become a major defence mechanism to psychic survival. We see this in group phenomena. It has been explained by Chasseguet-Smirgel in Narcissism and Group Psychology and it can explain the group phenomena of Targeted Individuals known as TIs. 

When Freud wrote, he wrote from the perspective of the little boy identifying with his father’s phallus. But this perspective is not unique to little boys. Little girls who completely reject maternal identifications and side with the father’s phallus grow-up to fabricate one for themselves. Though many may describe the females’ fabrication of her father’s phallus as ‘a wad of shit wrapped in a tobacco leaf’ or more precisely put, the “fake cigar”, it is nonetheless no different than belonging to the realm of queer or peculiar.  The fabrication is an acting-out aimed at filling the gap between water and wine. Or more accurately put, filling the gap between genital Truth (I have no penis. I have a vagina.) and the creation of falsehood (If I can’t have a penis like father, I’ll fabricate one for myself). The imposter copy, the imitation of her lost phallus in lesbian coitus is interestingly the same falsehood crafted by psychopaths in order to dupe unsuspecting victims through the art of a seduction. The art of imitation or crafting a false reality for a viewing audience.  

Matchbox Twenty – Back 2 Good (Official Video) – YouTube

It is the pervert’s creations that represent the prototype of an anal phallus, a factitious penis whose kinship with the fetish is undeniable in deviant sexual perversions. Certainly, the pervert does not have the monopoly of these factitious creations, as stated above. But the process involved is similar to his. On the other hand, many perverts are able to accomplish genuine creations. Indeed, it seems to me that we don’t emphasize enough the great quantities of libido used for sublimation in every human being, even those who are not creators. The pervert may have at his disposal a certain quantity of libido to be sublimated, even if a large part of it is directly discharged.  

Idealization may be found in Andersen’s tale where the artificial nightingale is covered with an abundance of dazzling jewels, whereas the real nightingale is a plain grey bird. The true nightingale has nothing to hide, whereas the artificial one must make people forget that it is nothing but a collection of cogs and wheels. Similar to the rise of a father-leader who is a Cagliostro, a mystic and magician. It is here I’d like to place the connection between the group phenomenon of electronic targeting, harassment and torture and the Targeted Individual. The Operator carrying out the electronic harassment and torture is a Cagliostro. A mystic and magician creating his illusion for a viewing audience, bedazzling them with excitement. Not unlike the transvestite who carefully conceals his penis and replaces it with feminine characteristics. It is a dupe, a slight of hand operation. He may be regarded as “hero”, a “savior”, a “God”, but he is nothing more than a charlatan and impostor, a “Quack of Quacks”. Regarding electronic targeting and the Targeted Individual (TIs), it’s the equivalent of putting a newspaper delivery boy in the occupation of a brain surgeon. Quack of Quacks! A real Josef Mengele.

In Freud’s idea with ideas about “normal” development, he states that “a little boy will exhibit a special interest in his father; he would like to grow like him and be like him, and take his place everywhere. We may say simply that he takes his father as his ideal’ (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1921, p. 105). And also: “We can only see that identification endeavours to mould a person’s ego after the fashion of the one that has been taken as a model (p. 127)”.  

When in The Ego and the Id (1923) Freud studies the Superego – from now on it has become one with the Ego Ideal – he lays stress on the identification with a loved and admired father, a fact which contributes to this new agency: 

“As a substitute for a longing for the father, it contains the germ from which all religions have evolved. The self-judgement which declares that the Ego falls short of its ideal produces the religious sense of humility to which the believer appeals in his longing. As a child grows up, the role of the father is carried on by teachers and others in authority; their injunctions and prohibitions remain powerful in the Ego Ideal and continue in the form of conscience, to exercise the moral censorship” (The Ego and the Id, 1923, p. 37) 

As he wants to give an answer to those who assert that there exists “a higher nature in man”, Freud says: “… here we have higher nature, in this Ego Ideal or Superego, the representative of our relations to our parents. When we were little children, we knew these higher natures, we admired them and feared them; and later we took them into ourselves” (p. 36). 

Those who have not been able to project their Ego Ideal onto their father and his penis and, who subsequently have gaps in their identifications, will feel the necessity, for obvious narcissistic motives, to grant to themselves their missing identity by different means, creations being one among others. The work thus created will symbolize the phallus, the gap in the identity being likened to castration. Despite being unable to identify with his father, the subject will be led to create; yet, instead of begetting his work, he will fabricate it

But here I’d like to discuss the failure at introjecting maternal capacities for women of child bearing age. Many women repudiate and reject the maternal body and its imago which is linked to narcissistic loss and old age. Not all women successfully introject and embrace the mysteries and power possessed with maternal capacity because the female child was never properly nurtured into understanding how deeply valuable, they are. Instead, the maternal imago is despised and hated. Some may often attempt to project this maternal imago on to those Object bodies they find threatening by manipulating their environments. When, and if, this is successfully achieved the female child will relish in delight of the expansion similar to the excitement generated by those possessing Body Expansion fetishes.  

Subnote: Portions of this article was taken from “A Psychoanalytic Study of “Falsehood” by Chassguet-Smirgel. The author inserted commentary concluded from other readings during her own research in to psychoanalysis and the creation of perversions. 

Source Reading: 

Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel (1984) Creativity and Perversion. London, England. Free Association Books. (pp. 66-70). 

Danielle Knafo and Kenneth Feiner (2006) Unconscious Fantasies and the Relational World. Hillside, NJ. The Analytic Press, Inc.

Joshua A. Perper and Stephen J. Cina (2010). When Doctors Kill: Who, Why, and How.
New York. Copernicus Books.

Michael Foucault (1978). The History of Sexuality. New York. Pantheon Books.

Amber Jacobs (2007). On Matricide: Myth, Psychoanalysis, and the Law of the Mother. New York. Columbia University Press

Bruno Bettelheim (1954). Symbolic Wounds: Puberty Rites and the Envious Male. Glencoe, Ill. Free Press.

Nancy J. Chodorow (2012). Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice. New York. Routledge

Jessica Benjamin. (1995). Like Objects; Love Objects: Essays on Recognition and Sexual Difference. New Haven. Yale University Press.

Carol Cohn. Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defence Intellectuals. Signs. Vol. 12, No. 4. Summer, 1987. Within and Without: Women, Gender, and Theory.

Juliet Mitchell (2000) Mad Men and Medusas: Reclaiming hysteria. New York. Basic Books.

Michelle Boulous-Walker (1998) Philosophy and the Maternal Body: Reading silence. London, England. Routledge.

Judith Butler (1997). The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Stanford, California. Stanford University Press.

Other sources to consider:

Christina Wieland. Matricide and Destructiveness: Infantile Anxieties and Technological Culture. British Journal of Psychotherapy Vol. 12. No.3. (1996): 300-313.

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