Freud 1907b 强迫行为与宗教实践
作者: Freud / 3701次阅读 时间: 2015年11月05日
www.psychspace.com心理学空间网OBSESSIVE ACTIONS AND RELIGIOUS PRACTICES - (1907)

I am certainly not the first person to have been struck by the resemblance betweenwhat are called obsessive actions in sufferers from nervous affections and theobservances by means of which believers give expression to their piety. The term‘ceremonial’, which has been applied to some of these obsessive actions, isevidence of this. The resemblance, however, seems to me to be more than asuperficial one, so that an insight into the origin of neurotic ceremonials mayembolden us to draw inferences by analogy about the psychological processes ofreligious life.

 People who carry out obsessive actions or ceremonials belong to the same classas those who suffer from obsessive thinking, obsessive ideas, obsessive impulsesand the like. Taken together, these form a particular clinical entity, to which thename of ‘obsessional neurosis’ [‘Zwangsneurose’] is customarily applied.[1] But oneshould not attempt to deduce the character of the illness from its name; for, strictlyspeaking, other kinds of morbid mental phenomena have an equal claim topossessing what are spoken of as ‘obsessional’ characteristics. In place of adefinition we must for the time being be content with obtaining a detailedknowledge of these states, since we have not yet been able to arrive at a criterionof obsessional neuroses; it probably lies very deep, although we seem to sense itspresence everywhere in the manifestations of the illness.

 Neurotic ceremonials consist in making small adjustments to particular everydayactions, small additions or restrictions or arrangements, which have always to becarried out in the same, or in a methodically varied, manner. These activities givethe impression of being mere formalities, and they seem quite meaningless to us.Nor do they appear otherwise to the patient himself; yet he is incapable of givingthem up, for any deviation from the ceremonial is visited by intolerable anxiety,which obliges him at once to make his omission good. Just as trivial as theceremonial actions themselves are the occasions and activities which areembellished, encumbered and in any case prolonged by the ceremonial - forinstance, dressing and undressing, going to bed or satisfying bodily needs. Theperformance of a ceremonial can be described by replacing it, as it were, by aseries of unwritten laws. For instance, to take the case of the bed ceremonial: thechair must stand in a particular place beside the bed; the clothes must lie upon itfolded in a particular order; the blanket must be tucked in at the bottom and thesheet smoothed out; the pillows must be arranged in such and such a manner, andthe subject’s own body must lie in a precisely defined position. Only after all thismay he go to sleep. Thus in slight cases the ceremonial seems to be no more thanan exaggeration of an orderly procedure that is customary and justifiable; but thespecial conscientiousness with which it is carried out and the anxiety which followsupon its neglect stamp the ceremonial as a ‘sacred act’. Any interruption of it is forthe most part badly tolerated, and the presence of other people during itsperformance is almost always ruled out.

  Any activities whatever may become obsessive actions in the wider sense of theterm if they are elaborated by small additions or given a rhythmic character bymeans of pauses and repetitions. We shall not expect to find a sharp distinctionbetween ‘ceremonials’ and ‘obsessive actions’. As a rule obsessive actions havegrown out of ceremonials. Besides these two, prohibitions and hindrances (abulias)make up the content of the disorder; these, in fact, only continue the work of theobsessive actions, inasmuch as some things are completely forbidden to thepatient and others only allowed subject to his following a prescribed ceremonial. 

  It is remarkable that both compulsions and prohibitions (having to do somethingand having not to do something) apply in the first instance only to the subject’ssolitary activities and for a long time leave his social behaviour unaffected.Sufferers from this illness are consequently able to treat their affliction as a privatematter and keep it concealed for many years. And, indeed, many more peoplesuffer from these forms of obsessional neurosis than doctors hear of. For manysufferers, too, concealment is made easier from the fact that they are quite wellable to fulfil their social duties during a part of the day, once they have devoted anumber of hours to their secret doings, hidden from view like Mélusine.

 It is easy to see where the resemblances lie between neurotic ceremonials andthe sacred acts of religious ritual: in the qualms of conscience brought on by theirneglect, in their complete isolation from all other actions (shown in the prohibitionagainst interruption) and in the conscientiousness with which they are carried out inevery detail. But the differences are equally obvious, and a few of them are soglaring that they make the comparison a sacrilege: the greater individual variabilityof ceremonial actions in contrast to the stereotyped character of rituals (prayer,turning to the East, etc.), their private nature as opposed to the public andcommunal character of religious observances, above all, however, the fact that,while the minutiae of religious ceremonial are full of significance and have asymbolic meaning, those of neurotics seem foolish and senseless. In this respectan obsessional neurosis presents a travesty, half comic and half tragic, of a  private religion. But it is precisely this sharpest difference between  neurotic and religious ceremonial which disappears when, with the help of  the psycho-analytic technique of investigation, one penetrates to the true  meaning of obsessive actions.[2]In thecourse of such an investigation the appearance which obsessive actions afford ofbeing foolish and senseless is completely effaced, and the reason for their havingthat appearance is explained. It is found that the obsessive actions are perfectlysignificant in every detail, that they serve important interests of the personality andthat they give expression to experiences that are still operative and to thoughts thatare cathected with affect. They do this in two ways, either by direct or by symbolicrepresentation; and they are consequently to be interpreted either historically orsymbolically.

I must give a few examples to illustrate my point. Those who are familiar with thefindings of psycho-analytic investigation into the psychoneuroses will not besurprised to learn that what is being represented in obsessive actions or inceremonials is derived from the most intimate, and for the most part from thesexual, experiences of the patient.

 (a) A girl whom I was able to observe was under a compulsion to rinse round herwash-basin several times after washing. The significance of this ceremonial actionlay in the proverbial saying: ‘Don’t throw away dirty water till you have clean.’ Heraction was intended to give a warning to her sister, of whom she was very fond,and to restrain her from getting divorced from her unsatisfactory husband until shehad established a relationship with a better man.

 (b) A woman who was living apart from her husband was subject to a compulsion,whenever she ate anything, to leave what was the best of it behind: for example,she would only take the outside of a piece of roast meat. This renunciation wasexplained by the date of its origin. It appeared on the day after she had refusedmarital relations with her husband - that is to say, after she had given up what wasthe best.

 (c) The same patient could only sit on one particular chair and could only get upfrom it with difficulty. In regard to certain details of her married life, the chairsymbolized her husband, to whom she remained faithful. She found an explanationof her compulsion in this sentence: ‘It is so hard to part from anything (a husband,a chair) upon which one has once settled.’

 (d) Over a period of time she used to repeat an especially noticeable andsenseless obsessive action. She would run out of her room into another room inthe middle of which there was a table. She would straighten the table-cloth on it ina particular manner and ring for the housemaid. The latter had to come up to thetable, and the patient would then dismiss her on some indifferent errand. In theattempts to explain this compulsion, it occurred to her that at one place on thetable-cloth there was a stain, and that she always arranged the cloth in such a waythat the housemaid was bound to see the stain. The whole scene proved to be areproduction of an experience in her married life which had later on given herthoughts a problem to solve. On the wedding-night her husband had met with a notunusual mishap. He found himself impotent, and ‘many times in the course of thenight he came hurrying from his room into hers’ to try once more whether he couldsucceed. In the morning he said he would feel ashamed in front of the hotelhousemaid who made the beds, and he took a bottle of red ink and poured itscontents over the sheet; but he did it so clumsily that the red stain came in a placethat was very unsuitable for his purpose. With her obsessive action, therefore, shewas representing the wedding-night. ‘Bed and board’ between them make upmarriage.

 (e) Another compulsion which she started - of writing down the number of everybank-note before parting with it - had also to be interpreted historically. At a timewhen she was still intending to leave her husband if she could find another moretrustworthy man, she allowed herself to receive advances from a man whom shemet at a watering-place, but she was in doubt as to whether his intentions wereserious. One day, being short of small change, she asked him to change a fivekronen piece for her. He did so, pocketed the large coin and declared with a gallantair that he would never part with it, since it had passed through her hands. At theirlater meetings she was frequently tempted to challenge him to show her the fivekronenpiece, as though she wanted to convince herself that she could believe inhis intentions. But she refrained, for the good reason that it is impossible todistinguish between coins of the same value. Thus her doubt remained unresolved;and it left her with the compulsion to write down the number of each bank-note, bywhich it can be distinguished from all others of the same value.

 These few examples, selected from the great number I have met with, are merelyintended to illustrate my assertion that in obsessive actions everything has itsmeaning and can be interpreted. The same is true of ceremonials in the strictsense, only that the evidence for this would require a more circumstantialpresentation. I am quite aware of how far our explanations of obsessive actions areapparently taking us from the sphere of religious thought.

 It is one of the conditions of the illness that the person who is obeying acompulsion carries it out without understanding its meaning - or at any rate its chiefmeaning. It is only thanks to the efforts of psycho-analytic treatment that hebecomes conscious of the meaning of his obsessive action and, with it, of themotives that are impelling him to it. We express this important fact by saying thatthe obsessive action serves to express unconscious motives and ideas. In this, weseem to find a further departure from religious practices; but we must rememberthat as a rule the ordinary pious individual, too, performs a ceremonial withoutconcerning himself with its significance, although priests and scientific investigatorsmay be familiar with the - mostly symbolic - meaning of the ritual. In all believers,however, the motives which impel them to religious practices are unknown to themor are represented in consciousness by others which are advanced in their place. 

 Analysis of obsessive actions has already given us some sort of an insight intotheir causes and into the chain of motives which bring them into effect. We maysay that the sufferer from compulsions and prohibitions behaves as if he weredominated by a sense of guilt, of which, however, he knows nothing, so that wemust call it an unconscious sense of guilt, in spite of the apparent contradiction interms. This sense of guilt has its source in certain early mental events, but it isconstantly being revived by renewed temptations which arise whenever there is acontemporary provocation. Moreover, it occasions a lurking sense of expectantanxiety, an expectation of misfortune, which is linked, through the idea ofpunishment, with the internal perception of the temptation. When the ceremonial isfirst being constructed, the patient is still conscious that he must do this or that lestsome ill should befall, and as a rule the nature of the ill that is to be expected is stillknown to his consciousness. But what is already hidden from him is the connection- which is always demonstrable - between the occasion on which this expectantanxiety arises and the danger which it conjures up. Thus a ceremonial starts as anaction for defence or insurance, a protective measure.

 The sense of guilt of obsessional neurotics finds its counterpart in theprotestations of pious people that they know that at heart they are miserablesinners; and the pious observances (such as prayers, invocations, etc.) with whichsuch people preface every daily act, and in especial every unusual undertaking,seem to have the value of defensive or protective measures.7

 A deeper insight into the mechanism of obsessional neurosis is gained if we takeinto account the primary fact which lies at the bottom of it. This is always therepression of an instinctual impulse (a component of the sexual instinct) which waspresent in the subject’s constitution and which was allowed to find expression for awhile during his childhood but later succumbed to suppression. In the course of therepression of this instinct a special conscientiousness is created which is directedagainst the instinct’s aims; but this psychical reaction-formation feels insecure andconstantly threatened by the instinct which is lurking in the unconscious. Theinfluence of the repressed instinct is felt as a temptation, and during the process ofrepression itself anxiety is generated, which gains control over the future in theform of expectant anxiety. The process of repression which leads to obsessionalneurosis must be considered as one which is only partly successful and whichincreasingly threatens to fail. It may thus be compared to an unending conflict;fresh psychical efforts are continually required to counterbalance the forwardpressure of the instinct. Thus the ceremonial and obsessive actions arise partly asa defence against the temptation and partly as a protection against the ill which isexpected. Against the temptation the protective measures seem soon to becomeinadequate; then the prohibitions come into play, with the purpose of keeping at adistance situations that give rise to temptation. Prohibitions take the place ofobsessive actions, it will be seen, just as a phobia is designed to avert a hystericalattack. Again, a ceremonial represents the sum of the conditions subject to whichsomething that is not yet absolutely forbidden is permitted, just as the Church’smarriage ceremony signifies for the believer a sanctioning of sexual enjoymentwhich would otherwise be sinful. A further characteristic of obsessional neurosis,as of all similar affections, is that its manifestations (its symptoms, including theobsessive actions) fulfil the condition of being a compromise between the warringforces of the mind. They thus always reproduce something of the pleasure whichthey are designed to prevent; they serve the repressed instinct no less than theagencies which are repressing it. As the illness progresses, indeed, actions whichwere originally mostly concerned with maintaining the defence come toapproximate more and more to the proscribed actions through which the instinctwas able to find expression in childhood.

 Some features of this state of affairs may be seen in the sphere of religious life aswell. The formation of a religion, too, seems to be based on the suppression, therenunciation, of certain instinctual impulses. These impulses, however, are not, asin the neuroses, exclusively components of the sexual instinct; they are selfseeking,socially harmful instincts, though, even so, they are usually not without asexual component. A sense of guilt following upon continual temptation and anexpectant anxiety in the form of fear of divine punishment have, after all, beenfamiliar to us in the field of religion longer than in that of neurosis. Perhapsbecause of the admixture of sexual components, perhaps because of somegeneral characteristics of the instincts, the suppression of instinct proves to be aninadequate and interminable process in religious life also. Indeed, completebackslidings into sin are more common among pious people than among neuroticsand these give rise to a new form of religious activity, namely acts of penance,which have their counterpart in obsessional neurosis.

 We have noted as a curious and derogatory characteristic of obsessional  neurosis that its ceremonials are concerned with the small actions of daily  life and are expressed in foolish regulations and restrictions in connection  with them. We cannot understand this remarkable feature of the clinical  picture until we have realized that the mechanism of psychical displacement,  which was first discovered by me in the construction of dreams,[3]dominates the mental processes ofobsessional neurosis. It is already clear from the few examples of obsessiveactions given above that their symbolism and the detail of their execution arebrought about by a displacement from the actual, important thing on to a small onewhich takes its place - for instance, from a husband on to a chair. It is this tendencyto displacement which progressively changes the clinical picture and eventuallysucceeds in turning what is apparently the most trivial matter into something of theutmost importance and urgency. It cannot be denied that in the religious field aswell there is a similar tendency to a displacement of psychical values, and in thesame direction, so that the petty ceremonials of religious practice graduallybecome the essential thing and push aside the underlying thoughts. That is whyreligions are subject to reforms which work retroactively and aim at a reestablishmentof the original balance of values.

The character of compromise which obsessive actions possess in their capacity asneurotic symptoms is the character least easily detected in corresponding religiousobservances. Yet here, too, one is reminded of this feature of neuroses when oneremembers how commonly all the acts which religion forbids - the expressions ofthe instincts it has suppressed - are committed precisely in the name of, andostensibly for the sake of, religion.

 In view of these similarities and analogies one might venture to regard obsessionalneurosis as a pathological counterpart of the formation of a religion, and todescribe that neurosis as an individual religiosity and religion as a universalobsessional neurosis. The most essential similarity would reside in the underlyingrenunciation of the activation of instincts that are constitutionally present; and thechief difference would lie in the nature of those instincts, which in the neurosis areexclusively sexual in their origin, while in religion they spring from egoistic sources.

 A progressive renunciation of constitutional instincts, whose activation might affordthe ego primary pleasure, appears to be one of the foundations of the developmentof human civilization. Some part of this instinctual repression is effected by itsreligions, in that they require the individual to sacrifice his instinctual pleasure tothe Deity: ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.’ In the development of the ancientreligions one seems to discern that many things which man kind had renounced as‘iniquities’ had been surrendered to the Deity and were still permitted in his name,so that the handing over to him of bad and socially harmful instincts was the meansby which man freed himself from their domination. For this reason, it is surely noaccident that all the attributes of man, along with the misdeeds that follow fromthem, were to an unlimited amount ascribed to the ancient gods. Nor is it acontradiction of this that nevertheless man was not permitted to justify his owniniquities by appealing to divine example.

 VIENNA, February 1907


[1]See Löwenfeld (1904).2

[2]See the collection of my shorter papers on the theory of the neuroses published in 1906. 

[3]See The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), Chapter VI, Section B.9 

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