Totem and Taboo

Chapter 2

Taboo and the Ambivalence Feeling (Part 3)

In the final part of the essay that is the fourth one Freud went on to discuss taboo in general terms. In order to do so he opened the essay with the topic of projection that he used to describe the taboo of death. Projection is the defense mechanism which helps an individual to shield the unconscious thoughts and desire in an appropriate socially accepted manner. He said that projection doesn’t just cover up the emotional conflicts but helps one balance the inner and outer world perception.

Coming to the primitive man’s psychic working Freud made an argument with Weltanschauung point that before coming of the abstract language thought through which one could convey it, the inner and outer world perception had a major role. Further he said that this whole projection of one’s impulses on demons of primitive man and his psychic would be discussed further in the book under the concept of animism. And added that, every system has its origin form two points; either conscious systematic origin or the unconscious origin.

Next he mentioned Wundt’s stand that how one goes from being a demon to an ancestor after death. The period of mourning is that process through which one works on the ambivalent feeling and let go the spirit of the death and all the expectation one had from it and as the mourning ends the demon turns into an ancestor to the survivors. The ancestors are called upon in the hour of needs.

While speaking of Wundt, Freud turned to his given notion upon the meaning of taboo. He says Wundt has described taboo as double meaning term that is holy and unclean at the same time, it is because of the ambivalence feeling. And with this he further makes his point that there are similar terms in vocabulary that represents the ambivalence feeling in different context. So, we can say that linguist anthropology here has a role to play in order to understand the working of human psyche with the formation of words as they very well reflects the working of human psyche. As well it highlights the connection of the term taboo with conscience which also is having the similar basis as the term taboo with the ambivalence feelings.

Freud discusses the basis of conscience in regards with taboo and its psychological basis and says that taboo works as the commanding force for the conscience. As the conscience in a person is driven by his judgement over the things that happen around him and it builds and exposes the unconsciousness desires and guilt and one’s inner perception of the outer world. He compares this with the neurotic patients and the cases of compulsive neuroses as well the obsessive reproach.

In other way we can see that taboo is here the command officer of the conscience and violation of the taboo gives a person hard time. It creates guilt and then the person goes through certain stages of traumatic events which even causes death. Seeing this in primitive people Freud said one of the other reason for its origin could be the ambivalent feelings too. As the condition of force from taboo and compulsion neurosis ambivalence occur and it shakes ones conscience. Here we get two major effects one is the reaction to the temptation which lurks around in ones unconscious mind and other is the formation of guilt which when represses the wish impulse gives it the form of anxiety also could be called as conscience phobia.

With this theory formed above Freud moves ahead and talks of taboo and moral prohibition which if seen psychoanalytically then they both try to keep the impulses and desire in control seeing the ambivalent nature of one’s towards them. And the mechanism of displacement plays a part here as in keeping it in control one displaces the desire here and there from its actual place of origin which makes it noticiable in the conscious mind. So with that the conclusion which is made here is that the taboo prohibition working back then is still somewhere applicable today and is accepted also just in a different form. Today we can call it law and order which actually tries to prevent the wrong do in one or the other way just like taboo used to do back then in primitive times. And taboo is just one of the social creations of men to make the society work.

Before Freud moves towards the conclusion he make a well balanced comparison between taboo and compulsion neurosis where he pinpoints a simple yet major characteristic, that is primitive men used to fear punishment as it would cause disease and death rather painful one and on the other hand a neurotic person does not fear it for himself but does feel for his close ones. Meaning neurotic men are altruistic in nature and primitive men are egotistical. And using this comparison he testify the above given examples of chiefs and kings and incest and death he poses that neurosis is an asocial phenomena which arose in society through collective labour inflicting upon an individual.

It says that taboo is a man made social culture and it tries to prevent one to get tempted to his desire and operate in different ways to displace the desires and feel better. On the other hand neurosis is an asocial phenomenon where a person seeks solace getting into his phantasy world where he rather feels satisfied instead of being in world of reality where he isn’t satisfied which is made by humans and there institutions and this way person get rid of human companionship. One other thing that neurosis makes clear is that the sexual need is not capable of uniting men in the same way as the demands of self preservation; sexual satisfaction is in the first place the private concern of the individual.

Thus, it’s the acceptance and compassion that an individual demands from the society. While going through the essay it might had made one feel that it has some unconnected dots but the whole lot here is just heading towards one direction and makes connection between the ambivalence feeling and taboo. As how two are connected and in what way can we see it psychoanalytically which is showcasing a neurotic man and primitive man having there psyche work in order to achieve the needed acceptance and satisfaction at the same time living along with the human companions.

Article by:- Jagjeet Kaur

©Copyright Reserved Alysane Society

©Copyright Reserved Jagjeet Kaur

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