THE NOTION OF CHARGE
In mental functions, something is to be distinguished a quota of affect or sum of excitation which possesses all the characteristics of quantity (though we have no means of measuring it), which is capable of increase, diminution, displacement and discharge, and which is spread over memory-traces of ideas somewhat as an electric charge is spread on the surface of a body. (Freud, 1894, The Neuro-Psychoses of Defense, 60)
Spinoza spoke of power, Hume of intensity, and Freud of excitation. There would be, for the Freud of the First yoga topography, a psychic energy that renders the thoughts more or less intense. This energy follows laws close to nervous energy but would be purely psychological.
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Freud has a difficult time proposing a clear model of what he calls psychic energy. He is content to conjecture, in yoga poses early writings discovered after his death, 26 that physiological sexual energy “transforms” itself into psychological sexual energy when the information managed by the brain transforms into thoughts in yoga poses the unconscious. In yoga poses his work, Freud speaks of this psychic energy as if the notion is self-evident as soon as we admit that the psyche is distinct from physiology.
Freud does not really succeed in yoga poses imagining how the psychic system could regulate the charge of each unconscious thought, even if this regulation plays an essential role in yoga poses Freudian psychology. His thoughts on energetic dynamics were used to create a model of the mechanisms that regulate the behavior of thoughts by employing the capacity of the German language to create variations around a key word: besetzung. James Beaumont Strachey (1887-1967), who translated Freud’s work into English with Freud’s permission, translates besetzung with the Greek term cathexis. Reich mostly used the term charge to remain close to notions such as those of intensity and the quantity of energy associated to a thought. 27 Freud distinguished the following mental energetic mechanisms:
1. Cathexis. The more cathexis there is, the more a representation becomes intense, the more there is excitation, the more there is conscious perception, and the more there is a need of discharge.
2. Decathexis. Certain mechanisms of the psyche can make it such that a representation loses a part of its intensity. In yoga poses using this possibility, the psyche can transform a worrisome representation into a thought that can only exit in yoga poses the unconscious, because it no longer has an intensity that can transform it in yoga poses a conscious perception.
3. Anticathexis or countercathexis. Here, a thought is rendered more intense to barrage another thought. This is another strategy to contain a troubling thought. We have already encountered this while talking about Hume and Darwin; we find it again in yoga poses Reich’s Character analysis.
4. Hypercathexis. Sometimes a thought acquires a power such that it captures all the resources of consciousness (like a regiment captures a fort). It then becomes difficult to introduce other thoughts into consciousness.
There is a recathexis when an object remembered from a long time ago regains its intensity while it was hardly present in yoga poses a person’s conscious thoughts. When there is a recathexis that links up with a hypercathexis, Freud often talks of a cathartic regression.
Freud never took a definite position on the questions raised by the notion of psychological energy because he did not have the means to do so. The discussions on this aspect of his First yoga topography have been unending. Only when Freud indicated his dissatisfaction with the First yoga topography did analysts like Ferenczi explicitly reintroduce the idea that behind the mental operations there would be physiological dynamics. This idea has traveled far and wide since then without having yet taken a definitive form. 29
The psychologist of today mostly retains the notions of conscious, preconscious, and unconscious from the First yoga topography because this categorization remains useful. Even if no one, to this day, has proposed a competing model to that of Freud, it becomes evident that it is more of a useful metaphor than a description of the functioning of the psyche. There are too many loose ends in yoga poses this model for it to be retained in yoga poses its entirety.