Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wilhelm Reich in A Postcognitive Negation

Chapter 2
Reichian Character Analysis: The Characterological Approach

This is an excerpt from Giobbi's first book, A Postcognitive Negation, available at, published by Atropos Press (2010).

The aim is to provide a framework for understanding the theoretical perspective and proposal of this dissertation: that rigid personality underlies the authoritarian character. The second, and central point of the dissertation is that character precedes all aspects of position including, philosophical, ideological, moral, and vocational choices of the individual. The relationship between the scientific “experimental” paradigm in American psychology can be understood as taking on the characteristic of the authoritarian personality (sadistic character) and has established a moral sado-masochistic relationship with non-experimental, scientific, schools of thought in psychology. In order to fully realize the proposed relationship one must understand the underpinning dynamic structures of the “sado-masochistic” or “authoritarian” character on which it is based. Foucault tells us “In its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing or educating.”

            We take a position that is not exclusively one of drives and defenses but of the mind as a whole. We are not as interested in mechanisms of defense as in the character of defensiveness. We have had little use for ideas about psychopathology or statistical abnormality. We largely view these as social constructs that have little relevance outside of a context as something called a “disease”. A characterological approach is one that views not “symptoms” or “pathologies” but ways of being that are structured within a context. There is necessarily an ethics involved when a social structure is considered. Lacan is clear on this “Symptoms, those you believe you recognize, seem to you irrational because you take them in an isolated manner, and you want to interpret them directly.” Character is not in isolation. Therefore we do not proclaim a morality-absent take on character. Morality is viewed as an intimate structure within the context of a privileging of components. In other words, without considering the moral structure of a weltanschauung one has little more than a disparate collection of meaningless (context absent) “symptoms”.

            In introducing the theoretical orientation which we are taking it is not an effort to engage in theoretical debate or even ask the reader to take on this theoretical orientation. It is presented as an effort to better help the reader in understanding the theoretical orientation from which we are writing. It is an effort to dis/orient the reader. For example, the obsessive-compulsive character style is much more conducive to the scientific weltanschauung, whereas the hysterical character style is much more complementary to an artistic weltanschauung –whatever that might mean. In the characterological approach, as laid down by Reich, one is not interested in pathologies or in viewing culture as a symptom. One is interested in characteristic ways of being that seem to be present in individuals. In this study of the relationships between schools of thought in American psychology we will be looking at the individual character of those schools of thought and how the dynamic between these groups fits into a larger structure. We propose this larger relational structure to be one of moral sadomasochistic exchange. Individually we will describe the moral sadistic and moral masochistic way of being. In order to clearly realize the style or way of being that is found in the scientific Weltanschauung or the artistic/theoretical weltanschauung we must not only examine what is said by each tribe, but how it is said. This level of analysis allows us to not only consider the manifest character of the message but the implicit character of the medium itself.

            The first encounter with ways of being is often found to be through the Rorschach test. Ways of thinking and perceiving are the primary material of such projective tests. Typically, the Rorschach will make apparent the underlying impetus on which the character structure is build regarding defense mechanisms and traits that come be what we call character. What is being proposed here is that far from science or theory as something that is done, it is something that is lived through a way of being that can be reflected in the character structures of the individuals that are drawn to them. In this way, science is not a method but a manifestation of a group’s way of being. The group attracts a specific character style –a particular psychological makeup. For example, a certain attention to detail, interest in the specific, and crush on the “real” is not simply an ideology but a character structure and approach to life that has been described by psychodynamic psychology –namely the obsessive-compulsive character style.