Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.
I am trying to remember something more about that summer when I read Freud. I lived on College St. in the Allentown neighborhood of Buffalo. My apartment was a tiny one-bedroom flat on the second floor in the back of a four apartment house. I had a small kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom/office and a living room. The entire apartment was heated by a gas powered wall unit in the living room. It cost a ton of money to heat the place in the winter.
I had quit smoking in February and was struggling to stay away from cigarettes. My first three months of quitting had been fueled by spite. My girlfriend of the previous year had been hounding me to quit. To get her to stop bothering me about it, I proposed a date, February 20, which was also the ten year anniversary of my giving up drugs and booze. As the date approached, I began prepare myself mentally. In the meantime, our relationship soured at an incredible pace and we broke up about two weeks before the quit date.
Normally, I would have just taken that as a reprieve, but I think I really wanted to quit. Then she showed up at a poetry reading about a week later with her new boyfriend. Even though I had ended things myself, something sort of snapped inside. I think this was caused by the fact that she had insisted for most of our relationship that we keep it a secret and always seemed to get upset when I let the cat out of the bag, so to see her out and about with her new beau within a week was both a slap in the face (from which it is easy to recover) and a punch in the gut (which takes a little longer). By that I mean it felt like a truly nasty way to tell me that I hadn't been important enough to present to the public as her boyfriend.
So I devised a simple plan. Knowing that we'd be seeing each other regularly at readings and so forth, I decided to go through with quitting smoking. Then she would have to see the man she REALLY wanted to be with, knowing all the while that this new, improved, smoke-free version of myself was unattainable. That showed her.
Anyhow, spite got me through the first few months, but by the time the summer of Freud rolled around, I needed something else to help me stay off cigarettes. I joined a gym and started going five or six days a week. I was in grad school and lived on loans in the summer, so I had all the time in the world to work out.
Jonathan Skinner lived in the flat below me and recalls hearing my constant foot-tapping on the ceiling above his bedroom and my spontaneous knocks at the door of his apartment at 2 AM, wide-eyed and awake, gobsmacking huge wads of gum, looking for something to do. I think he moved out early in the summer.
from Beyond the Pleasure Principle
IN the theory ofpsycho-analysis we have no hesitation in assuming that the course taken by mental events is automatically regulated by the pleasure principle. We believe, that is to say, that the course of those events is invariably set in motion by an unpleasurable tension, and that it takes a direction such that its final outcome coincides with a lowering ofthat tension that is, with an avoidance of unpleasure or a production of pleasure. In taking that course into account in our consideration of the mental processes which are the subject of our study, we are introducing an 'economic' point of view into our work; and if, in describing those processes, we try to estimate this economic factor in addition to the 'topographical' and 'dynamic* ones, we shall, I think, be giving the most complete description of them of which we can at present conceive, and one which deserves to be distinguished by the term 'metapsychological.'