Monday, April 16, 2007

Repression as Restraint

Whether this turns out to be a warrantable procedure or not, I want to strip away all ambiguity from the concept of repression and treat repression as if it was synonymous with restraint. I believe that the idea of restraint has far less uncertainty as to its meaning and role as a concept. I will be using it in this sense, which I have taken from the online Wiktionary: control, or caution, or reserve; or in this sense, which I have taken from loss or abridgment of freedom. I am not saying that these are the best or only ways to use the word restraint; I am only saying that these are the ways I will be using the word, in order to serve a specific (and perhaps idiosyncratic) purpose of meaning I have in mind.

I will be using the word restraint in a very limited (restrained?) way here, but what is even more important for me to explain is that I will be using the word as if its meaning were always negative. In other words, I will be using the word restraint as if it was always something which would be hurtful and undesirable, and unwanted. One would never wish for or agree to a loss or abridgement of one’s own freedom, for example. To say that “one desired one’s own restraint” would under all circumstances be saying something contradictory or paradoxical, on the order of saying something such as, “ I desire only what I do not desire.” Whatever a statement like that expresses, it has to be treated as meaningless from the standpoint of any action a human might really be able to accomplish.

Before I go any further, however, I want to make it very clear that I understand it is not at all obvious that the concept of restraint is entirely or unambiguously negative in the manner I am attempting to cast. In fact, it is very frequently used in a manner suggesting that it is the basis for most, or even all, ethical conduct… In other words, the concept of restraint is often used as if it were the basis for the very highest and most positive kinds of human activity. For example, I might tell a friend, “I admired your self restraint in dealing with that asshole-- I would have smacked him.” Or, “I admired your restraint with the booze that night… I drank so much I had a hangover for two weeks.” There are any number of examples of this nature where restraint is something very positive and helpful and leads, or seems to lead, to very positive outcomes. As we desire to have positive outcomes, we would desire that we have restraint. Please pardon me as I continue forward as if these numerous examples are not there – as I will be arguing that these examples require reexamination and reinterpretation, this move will not be as far-fetched as it now seems.

Orla posted his “Goodbye to Repression, Hello to Creation” commentary while I was thinking about writing this further elaboration on the meaning of repression. I agree with everything Orla has said, and I applaud his saying of it. In contradistinction to Orla, or perhaps complementary to him, I want to keep open the question of to just what extent repression is not a technique of creation. In this post, I am trying to delineate (or actually create ) a second concept within the first concept ( of repression ) so that for a time we could speak of negative repression ( as restraint) and positive repression ( creativity, or a psycho-technic of creativity which we could call positive repression.) In other words, I want to see to what extent, if any, I can affirm repression as a power to create…. Myself, my subjectivation, or better: how we can create our subjectivation.


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