By Karen Barna
In the study of psychoanalysis, the interpretation of mythical furies are considered to represent man’s departure from psychic reality, that is his psychic split from conscious reality and his decent into a delusional state of psychic paranoia. In some of these literary writings there is the projection of a set of domestic images that demands separate attention – images that suggest man’s desire to appropriate for themselves the decision making authority in giving life and taking life away, exercising his power over the life of other human beings. This will to life and power over death, and for the case of this essay is represented in terms of paranoid delusional psychic states, can be represented by two different plays which possess to very different defensive themes. One play is represented as a literary tool that helps to explain fixed personality states in which unachieved mutual recognition for the mother (other) is acquired, a personality constellation that represents unconscious defensive themes on matricide, and the other play represents as a literary tool that helps to explain regressive personality states that aren’t necessarily fixed, but can remains so, in which unachieved mutual recognition for the father, a personality constellation that could represent conscious as well as unconscious defensive themes on patricide. Both fixed psychic states possess the risk of regression even after recovery, typically in high-stress situations where communication can break-down and a person’s regressive content will find avenues for aggressive discharge. Both states are psychic creations formed out of self deluded fears and the behaviors manifested are usually acts committed out of a conscious or unconscious attempt at self-preservation. These are delusional narcissistic state that represents man’s fall or man’s free-fall into a state of paranoia and both plays can represent the psychic split from reality into an either unconscious fixed repetition drive or a regressive fall into a previous fixed state of paranoia and delusional fear. This previous fixed state is known as our child ego state. We all from time to time fall into childish modes of thought and behavior.
Defensive Themes On Matricide (the Dead Mother)
Regarding the first play, Aeschylus‘ Orestreia, which is a literary comparison of the psychic delusional fantasy state representative of the dead mother and matricidal themes in human behavior. “Chasseguet-Smirgel, in the classical psychoanalytic vein, foregrounding the intrinsic dangers associated with the omnipotent devouring preoedipal mother, she inadvertently brings to view the somewhat defensive function the phallus represents in the classical model. Her famous phrase, “beating back the mother” brings into view quite explicitly a paranoid and defensive violence underpinning the phallic model, which is quite an accurate observation.” (Jacobs, 2007, pg. 27-28) This phallogocentrism becomes apparent in individuals suffering narcissistic personality disorder. The term phallocentrism is the term which equates the masculine (phallus), as the all-powerful organ and Freud quipped quote, “The penis is everything.“ This phallocentricity can be observed in human behavior as phallic narcissistic states of the human ego. It is not viewed as primarily a masculine symbolic of the ego, but also a feminine symbolic as both little boys and little girls desire and both come to envy the power of father’s penis.
The two literary works I’m reviewing are Aeschyleus’ Orestria and Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound. In Aeschylus’ Oresteia, the play registers psychoanalytic themes on matricide and has been used as a literary tool in comparison to fixed conscious states of mental illness. These fixed conscious states are tied to repetition behaviors, and these repetition behaviors are tied closely to unconscious fantasies formed in early childhood development; as in the fantasy of the omnipotent mother. In this play, Orestes kill his mother Clytemnestra for murdering his father Agamemnon. Immediately he is hounded by the Furies, which are the mother’s curses and Orestes flees Argos in a state of insanity and guilt. These Furies represent a descent into a depressive state where mourning becomes possible for the patient. In psychoanalytic work, this can be viewed as an act of mourning in which the patient can introject some previously held unintrojectable truth. Once this truth is digested and worked through, which Melanie Klein relates to the suffering into truth which represents a departure from the paranoid schizoid mode (hubris) where the child makes greedy destructive attacks on the mother’s body, and move toward the depressive position to stop (dike) the repetition behavior, accepting the truth and relinquishing the fantasy of omnipotence, leading to remorse, reparation, and integration. A state in which the patient can now achieve and feel mutual recognition in mutual associations in terms of object relations.
Defensive Themes On Patricide (the Dead Father)
In the second play, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, the god Prometheus is bound to a mountain top precipices by evil and unjust god, Jupiter. Prometheus represents everything that is good and wholesome in authoritative leadership; wisdom, love, and justice. Whereas Jupiter represents everything that is evil; tyranny, injustice, abusive punishment. This play holds the possibility in representing the regressive paranoid schizoid mode (child ego state), where the child makes greedy destructive attacks on the father’s body, and where Jupiter represents the reigning omnipotent father in patriarchy, this play houses paranoid, delusional, and defensive themes on patricide.
Out of complete phallocentric envy, at both Prometheus obstinance of not bowing in submission to Jupiter’s Supreme will, and of Prometheus‘ possessed leadership skills and power, Jupiter commands Mercury to unleashes the Furies to hound Prometheus, but before Mercury acts he tries to talk some sense into Prometheus. Unsuccessful at convincing Prometheus to bow down in submission to the destructive tyrannical god and spare the Prometheus further anguish, Mercury unleashes the Furies. Unable to run, or defend himself because he is chained to a mountain top, Prometheus endures the pain and suffering associated with this psychic state, a punitive punishment that does not serve Jupiter well, as Prometheus refuses to introject the delusional truth of Jupiter’s perceived fantasy of omnipotence. This play represents the very real theme of tyrannical leadership of abusive authority and a person regressive fall into a paranoid state (child ego state) when Prometheus refuses to creatively solve the problem as can be seen in the side-effect of trauma and abuse victims. The psychopathology of the bully and the psychopathology of psychopathic leadership which Jupiter represents. It is also a play that is symbolic of the United States departure from the abusive and absolute rule of the British monarch and a country’s creation of democracy, fairness, and statehood. A play that declares, perhaps, sometimes we may be required to fall back into our child ego states in order to preserve fairness and justice. Here is some background on the myth:
Prometheus is the one who gave wisdom to Jupiter and with one law alone – “Let man be free” Asia says omnipotent tyranny knows no faith, no love, no law and is friendless. Jupiter reigned and he bought forth famine, toil, disease, strife, wounds, and ghastly death. Jupiter sent alternating shafts of frost and fire. Then he sent fierce wants to the hearts of man and made them go mad so that they levied mutual wars on one another so that their homes were destroyed. Prometheus is the one who sent mankind love to calm the chaos and quiet their disquietude. He sent love to the hearts of men. He calmed the fires. He gave man iron and gold – the slaves and signs of power and gems and poisons. Prometheus gave men speech which created human thought. Then because he gave man this intelligence man was able to investigate and created science. Then he gave them art. Prometheus told mankind of the hidden powers of herbs and of springs and disease slept as if it did not exist. Prometheus gave man astronomy and he told them about the planets and stars and phases of the moon. He taught him how to navigate boats on the sea which gave rise to trade routes and opened financial markets. Prometheus is responsible for the advancements of man which has elevated man to god-like status. Jupiter quivered in fear at Prometheus’ curse, “So tell me,” asks Asia, “Since Jupiter almost shit his pants at Prometheus’ curse, who is Jupiter’s master?” And, what’s further she asks, “Is he too just a slave like Prometheus?” Demogorgon asks, “Do you know whether Jupiter is evil?” Asia demands from Demogorgon to tell her who he calls “God” and what his name is? Demogorgon tells Asia, “Jupiter is the supreme being of all living things. He is the almighty god.” Asia refusing to believe Jupiter is the almighty asks “Who is his master?” Demogorgon says he cannot see the answer to this question. The deep truth is imageless. He simply doesn’t know the answer to her question. The answer to the question is Prometheus. Prometheus has control over Jupiter. It is Prometheus split from Jupiter’s delusional belief in his omnipotence that drives the god insane. It is a literary portrayal of how phallocentric states can consume and overtake the human psyche causing a splitting off from reality to one’s existence. In this vein Hegel’s On Lordship and Bondage comes in to play. It’s interesting that Percy Byshee Shelley should title the Jupiter’s evil presence in this play,. “the phantasm of Jupiter.” As a reference to Jupiter’s self-deluded fantasy of omnipotence.
A parallel here which can be made to perhaps compliment Kleinian theory comes to echo the philosophy of the Great tragedians: “To have recognized and understood one’s destructive tendencies directed at the loved parents makes for a greater tolerance towards oneself and towards deficiencies in others, for a better capacity of judgment and altogether greater wisdom.” This is the truth that Jupiter is suppose to arrive at following his fall. To recognize that “I have edges and you have edges, and sometimes those edges meet causing conflict.“ The psychoanalytic notion that mutual recognition can be achieved with the relinquishing of omnipotent control, which Mercury is, unfairly I might add, asking of Prometheus. The tragedy structures greed and destruction, hopefully followed by remorse and knowledge, not so much for Prometheus, but on the part of Jupiter as he is the one who is suffering from a delusional fantasy of omnipotence and too, he is deposed at the end of the play. An ending in which mutual recognition is restored and represented in the symbolic of calm and peaceful weather. Sunny, clear blue skies and gentle winds descending upon humanity void of hurricane winds, typhoon rain, or cataclysmic earthquakes when Prometheus‘ re-reinstatement as god. One could relate Jupiter’s psychic state to the paranoid schizoid mode (hubris) where the child makes greedy destructive attacks on the father’s body (Prometheus), and the depressive position to stop (dike) the repetition behavior by suffering into truth after his defeat, and relinquishing the fantasy of omnipotence, which is suppose to lead to remorse, reparation, and integration and which moves the patient into a depressive psychic state in which mourning becomes possible and mutual recognition combined with mutual association in object relations is restored.