Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grotstein on the Death Instinct and Nothingness

"To this notion I seek to introduce its dialectic the experience of the awesome force of powerlessness, of defect, of nothingness, of "zero-ness"expressed, not just as a static emptiness but as an implosive, centripetal pull into the void. I should like to link and to contrast meaninglessness with nothingness, its inexorable "Siamese-twin", where the former comprises content without meaning or deprived of meaning, i.e., those "ghosts of abandoned meaning" which Bion (1962) termed the "beta prime elements" of "nameless dread"and the latter constitutes the empty matrix and "container" of meaninglessness.

In introducing the dialectic of nothingness/meaninglessness, I also wish to refer to the paradoxical dialectic of the instinctual drives. They have always been considered to be a powerful, peremptory biological force which impose themselves upon the mental apparatus for satisfaction. It has rarely been considered, except by Lacan and those whom he has influenced, that the drives are semiotic signifiers, i.e., messengers of a state of distressful emptiness, hunger, a nothingness waiting to become filled with something. Stated another way, what is the worst fear a human being can experience, the total irruption of the drives into the ego or disintegration of the self and objects, disappearance, dissolution the advent of meaninglessness and nothingness? Further, I shall link meaninglessness with the experience of randomness and correlate them with the phenomenon of chaos.

Although I affirm Klein's (1935) belief in the inherent origins of primal destructiveness and her conception of the death instinct, as originally formulated by Freud (1920), I shall argue that the death instinct is also a passive vehicle of expression (signifier) of the anticipation and realization of the apocalyptic experience of the "black hole" phenomenon (the signified). The death instinct is our preparedness to anticipate and therefore to adapt to (regulate) this ultimate horror. The death instinct, in other words, constitutes our reminder that we all inwardly cringe on the "event horizon" of "annihilation's waste"with entropy (meaninglessness) and nothingness as our companions. Thus, the operation of the death instinct can be thought of as a dialectic, one aspect conveying the inherent preconception and apocalyptic pre-perception of the "black hole" as an experience-"released" anticipation and the other aspect including the pre-adaptive aggression, assertiveness, and self-and-species protectiveness to cope with prey-predator danger.
(pp. 258-259)

James Grotstein (1990). Nothingness, Meaninglessness, Chaos, and the "Black Hole" I: The Importance of Nothingness, Meaninglessness, and Chaos in Psychoanalysis, Contemporary. Psychoanalysis, Vol. 26, pp. 257-290.

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