Psychology of Utopias Agnes Balint The concept of Utopia



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Utopias and dreams

Utopias are often compared with dreams in the sense that they create ideal and dream-like worlds. Utopias are really the close relatives of dreams in their Freudian sense as well. We know that dream is ego-regression, through which the ego suspends the contact with reality. There is an analogy to be presented right here: utopias also suspend the contact with reality. The regressive feature of dreams will be detailed later. Utopias often apply the dream metaphor – the traveler gets to the new world by falling asleep, or he thinks that he is dreaming.

In the course of dreaming the unconscious desires and the repressed drives, after significant distortion (that we call dream-work), get close to the conscious. In the course of dream interpretation all these contents can be unfolded. Freud himself dealt so intimately with dreams because he thought that they lead us to the exploration of the unconscious. Dream is wish-fulfillment, suggests Freud. Utopias are analogues of dreams also from this respect: utopias seem to be completed dreams. Utopias depict the completed happiness, the Eden itself – at least the authors think so. The reason why utopias cannot vindicate a great number of followers and executers may be that the desires fulfilled in them are the authors’ own. Everybody dreams his own dream.

The world of utopias often seems chaotic, illogical and distorted for the traveler (and the reader), just like dreams. The traveler is as puzzled and helpless as a dreamer is. In utopias, however, a leader usually occurs, who interprets the issues. This leader is the author himself, or, more exactly, his mouthpiece. (He is often the leader of the society of the utopia, or even the founder, or in other cases, he is just a well-informed person.) He does the same than the psychotherapist in therapy who interprets the patient's dreams. The traveler, on the other hand, finds himself in the regressed, infantile position of a patient.

What I suggest here, is that both the travelers and the leaders represent the authors' personality. The authors of utopias are projected into their dreamed worlds as two distinct persons: one can ask good questions, the other knows the right answers. There is a “division of labor” between them, just as in the case of the brother heroes of the fairy tale, but the function of their “split” is different. They are not the divided representatives of pleasure principle and the principle of reality, but the two poles of a conflict.

The traveler, though he has left reality, remembers it. He calls the world of utopia to account for the rules and operation of reality. He keeps comparing. His reminiscences tie him not only to reality but also to the principle of reality. The leader also seems to know reality but he is somehow “above” it. He regards his own utopian world superior, more reasonable and more ideal. He represents the fulfilled wish, opposite to reality. As we have already seen above, this fulfillment comes true by ignoring the principle of reality, and by the unlimited predomination of pleasure principle. It happens in the same way in dreams.

The traveler represents doubts. These doubts are, whether there could be balance without the operation of the principle of reality, or not. The leader put an end to the traveler's doubts. “Yes”, he suggests, “in special circumstances this can work. Moreover, this is the most appropriate way of all.” The two figures can be considered as the ones who personalize the author's inner conflict. This unconscious conflict resembles to the conflicts of dreams – and the attempt to solve it, the wish-fulfillment, resembles to dream-work. Dreams, with the help of the unconscious, argues Freud, always demand something from the ego: whether a satisfaction of a drive or a notion, or to put an end to the doubts. The sleeping ego tries to go on sleeping, so it works on the elimination of the factors (like wishes, conflicts and doubts) that disturb dreaming. This happens in a way that the ego “pretending to be unresistant” prevents these demands by wish-fulfillment and in this way it abolishes them. In utopias the answer to the traveler's doubts is wish-fulfillment; the same what happens in dreams. The function of wish-fulfillment is the same in both cases: to prevent the dreamer of awakening.



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