The Unpast: The Actual Unconscious

The Unpast: The Actual Unconscious

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The Unpast: The Actual Unconscious, the principal text of this collection, was
the focus of the 2014 Congress of French-Speaking Psychoanalysts. Three
earlier texts show the progression of his thought which culminated in “The
Unpast”. Scarfone's foreword to this volume begins in this way:

Time was a somewhat neglected theme in Freud’s nearly fifty-year long study
of the unconscious, and he himself deplored this fact in one of his late works:

Again and again I have had the impression that we have made too little
theoretical use of [the] fact, established beyond any doubt, of the
unalterability by time of the repressed. This seems to offer an approach to
the most profound discoveries. Nor, unfortunately, have I myself made
any progress here. (1932)

One can only speculate about where a renewed effort on Freud’s part would
have led him regarding the “unalterability by time of the repressed.” In the
present series of essays, that idea is embraced again, though from a different
angle. Instead of subscribing to the general notion of “timelessness”
regarding the unconscious, I take stock of Freud’s formulation in the citation
above. The “unalterability by time of the repressed” points at something
more dynamic or more dialectical than the blunt assertion that the
unconscious is timeless. Indeed, if the unconscious were timeless, one might
well wonder how any part of it could be brought into a time-bound form of
existence. Timelessness points to an unconscious that is out of this world,
whereas “the unalterability by time of the repressed,” suggests a different
story: time does exist for the unconscious, but somehow the repressed is
protected from its corrosive effects. The question then becomes what makes
the repressed so sturdy?

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