Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Psychoanalysis is a form of therapy which is based on the understanding of the human mind from birth. It considers the unconscious mind and how it effects our sexual identity and everyday lives. We humans are seen as subjects, and the aim of psychoanalysis is to figure out our identity, our personality, the way we think, what motivates us and our subjective ideas. We can also look to our dreams to understand our desires and motivations.

To understad the ideas behind psychoanalysis, it is important to consider that we are not entirely in control of what we do. We are not always responsible for what surfaces from our unconscious mind.

Sigmund Freud:

Freud was one of the key theorists we looked at during the lecture. He had the idea of psychoanalysis and used it to treat hysteria patients. He analysed dreams to understand hidden desires and wish fulfilment. He observed infants in their habits and their associations with parental figures.

The 'dynamic unconscious' is created through infancy in order to protect our conscious selves. This is where taboo ideas which are unacceptable to the concious mind are visited. Although we cannot look and asses the chaotic thoughts which have no order or language, they can sometimes be manifested through ticks, symptoms and 'freudian slips'.
Freud identified stages of an infant's development. Most notably was his theory known as the 'Oedipus complex'. This is the idea that the mother is the child's first form of sexual contact, and that the infant feels strong compelling emotions of love towards her. This then develops into jealousy and resentment towards the father. This is a very confusing phase during development, as the infant experience a sensation of love rivalry and jealousy all mixed.

Freud also looked at the development of masculine and feminine identities all in relation to the penis. The 'castration complex' is based on the idea that after seeing girls do not own penises, the boy fears his will also be taken. It links with the fear of loosing something. The girl on the other hand sees the boy's penis and feels she is missing something. These mixed feelings must be overcome for the child to gain a sexual identity.

Freud also considered the 'uncanny'. This is where something feels unnatural yet familiar, creating a sense that the barrier between fantasy and reality has broken down. We elaborated on this idea during our seminar after the lecture. Perhaps this highlights where psychoanalysis can be contextualised into film and game. By understanding certain complexes within the human psyche, we can consider the emotions we want our audience to feel when experiencing our work.

Freud also created 'Freudian models':

The 'ID' contains our animalistic unconscious instincts and desires.

The 'Ego' contains our conscious, our individuality and personality.

The 'Super-Ego' is where our understanding of social order comes from. This is the model which helps us conform to the conventions of society.

Jaques Lacan:

Jaques Lacan in a strong sense revised the work of Freud established in 1890. However, in contradiction to the idea that the unconscious mind is unstructured, Lacan aimed to develop a language resembling the chaos in psycho analogy. His approach gave the opportunity for multiple interpretations, often resulting in paradox and contradiction.

Lacan argued that without language we are not human, thus justifying his attempts to consider the mind as a structured language.

Lacan discussed the mirror stage. This is the compelling moment where the child first sees their own reflection in mirrors and also in other people. Up to this point they believe that they are centre of existence. When they realise that they are merely a small piece in a larger picture, the ego explodes resulting in rivalry and alienation. When the child see's their reflection for the first time, they a described as being both absorbed and repelled.

Interesting Lacan was also interested in the 'Phallus'. However, he saw it not as the literal penis but as a symbol of power and order. Quite controversially, he believed that the males onwership of a phallus  provided them a 'peaking position in culture'.

Lacan also underpinned what he believed to be the 'Orders of Reality': 

The 'Real' cannot be symbolised, it is where our most primitive animalistic selves exist.

The 'Imaginary' is where the ego operates. It is where an understanding of ourselves and other people is established.

The 'Symbolic' is where social order and culture is acknowledged.

Art Criticism / Theory:

This is where the study of the psychoanalysis really starts to become relevant to our creative courses. Artists consider subjectivity, and what it is to be human. By understanding motivations, desires and the unconscious mind, we can begin to identify why we create the work we do, and it's sentiment to us and our potential audience.

On a more cynical note, we can look at Edward Bernays (Nephew of Freud), who was nicknamed the godfather or PR. He applied the knowledge of psychoanalysis and unconscious desires in order to manipulate his audience. He promoted the lifestyle rather than the product, using aspirational marketing techniques.

We can see these manipulation techniques used in the above 'Torches of Freedom' marketing campaign. Berneys knew at the time, women felt suppressed by the thought supremacy of men. Cigarettes were one of the delicacies exclusive in society to the male, and Berneys saw the opportunity to open up the market by aiming his campaign at a female audience. He used this pursuit of grace and beauty as a tool to manipulate his audience, claiming that smoking will help keep a slender figure. In reality we know this is the unhealthy result of a loss of appetite. This links with the knowledge of desires and motives that drive certain people. Here, it is the desire to be slender and beautiful. Even today we see similar marketing campaigns all focused at women and their potential insecurities.

Although I am sure most of us have no desire to manipulate the audience using cynical means, perhaps through the study of psychoanalysis, we can consider how to reach people on an emotional and personal level through our work. Particularly in game, we are always considering emmersion and captivating our audience. By understanding how certain ideas engage the unconsious mind, we can think about creating engaging worlds and narratives, which reach our audience on a sentimental level.

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