Wednesday, September 10, 2008


"There is no real return to the past in the psychoanalytic cure. The [origin] is only a reconstruction, a fantasy made of bits and pieces "arranged" by the unconscious, in the way a saxophonist "arranges" a musical theme..."
The Feminine and the Sacred, by Catherine Clement and Julia Kristeva

Regression, according to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, is a defense mechanism leading to the temporary reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses in a more adult way. The defense mechanism of regression, in psychoanalytic theory, occurs when thoughts are temporarily pushed back out of our consciousness and into our unconscious.

The background to this idea comes from the conversations you and I (Paul and I, depending on the audience here..) have had about my landscape "tableaus" as a bit of a photographic palate cleanser, following a particularly emotionally trying extended portrait series. Separately, I have been drowning myself in research on the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Going back and forth between various loads of classwork, these two ideas briefly merged and I my thoughts went to Freud's psycho-analytical concept of regression in light of trauma or tragedy. I'm drawn to the idea of this mental escapism, a sort of emotional cushion, this natural, involuntary, unconscious defense mechanism. I find myself romanticizing the idea of the duality of our nature, both suffering and nurturing, in and of ourselves.
I can't say this has been the driving force of my landscape work (at least not consciously...), but it is definitely something I will keep in mind while I focus on transforming the back alleys of Richmond into secret gardens in my own form of photographic escapism.

I'm including here another picture of Hans Christian Andersen in light of the quote I included in my last topic blog about his child-like or underdeveloped defense mechanisms. That aspect of his personality, which was likely directly responsible for his unrivaled success as an author of grim fairy tales, seems to have been perfectly captured in this portrait.

Loewald, H.W. (1981). Regression: Some General Considerations. Psychoanal Q., 50:22-43.
Regression is a concept involving developmental as well as structural considerations. Clinically speaking, it refers both to psychopathology and to potentially therapeutic phases of the psychoanalytic process. Regression, a movement backward, reverts to more or less primitive stages of psychic organization which deviate from a norm, while at the same time these stages are enduringly active in the continual integration of psychic life. Regression and progression are necessary and complementary phases of this organizing activity. Certain theoretical and clinical aspects are discussed in some detail. The normative implications of regression, in the context of modern Western rationality as the standard of normal mental life, are briefly considered.

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