I have taken here a quite individualized example. But I would like to emphasize what is a clinical reality that might serve as a guide in analytic experience: there is within the neurotic a quartet situation which is endlessly renewed, but which does not exist all on one level.
To schematize, let us say that when a male subject is involved, his moral and psychic equilibrium requires him to assume his own function—he must gain recognition as such in his virile function and in his work, he must gather their fruits without conflict, without having the feeling that it is someone else who deserves it and that he has it only by fluke, without there being any internal division that makes the subject the alienated witness of the acts of his own self. That is the first requirement. The other is this: an enjoyment one might characterize as tranquil and univocal of the sexual object, once it is chosen, granted to the subject’s life.
Now, each time the subject succeeds, or approaches success in assuming his own role, each time he becomes, as it were, identical with himself and confident that his functioning in his specific social context is well-founded, the object, the sexual partner, is split—here in the form rich woman or poor woman. What is truly striking in the psychology of the neurotic—all we need do is enter, no longer into the fantasy, but into the subject’s real life to put our finger on it—is the aura of abrogation which most commonly surrounds the sexual partner who is the most real to him, the nearest to him, with whom he generally has the most legitimate ties, whether in a love affair or in a marriage. On the other hand, a figure appears who is a double of the first and who is the object of a more or less idealized passion which is pursued in a more or less phantasmatic way, in a style analogous to that of romantic love, and which grows, moreover, into an identification of a fatal kind.
Conversely, if the subject makes an effort in another aspect of his life to find the unity of his feelings again, then it is at the other end of the chain, in the assumption of his own social function and his own virility—since I have chosen the case of a man—that he sees appearing beside him a figure with whom he also has a narcissistic relation insofar as it is a fatal relation. To the latter he delegates the responsibility of representing him in the world and of living in his place. It is not really himself: he feels excluded, outside of his own experience, he cannot assume its particularities and its contingencies, he feels discordant with his existence, and the impasse recurs.
In this very special form of narcissistic splitting lies the drama of the neurotic; and in connection with it, value accrues to the different mythic formations which I have just given you an example of in the form of fantasies, but which can also be found in other forms, in dreams for example. I have numerous examples in the narrations of my patients. It is through these that the subject can really be shown the primordial circumstances of his case in a manner that is much more rigorous and vivid to him than the traditional patterns issuing from the triangular thematization of the Oedipus complex.
I would like to quote another example and show you its congruity with the first. To do this, I will take a case very close to the Rat Man case history, but which has to do with a subject of another order—poetry or literary fiction. It concerns an episode from Goethe’s youth that he narrates in Poetry and Truth. I am not bringing this in arbitrarily—it is in fact one of the most highly valued literary themes in the Rat Man’s confessions.