Gérard Pirlot : the guilty pleasure of remorse … or the one of teeth biting the eye of the unconscious

If in the case of the patient called “ Didier ” described by Bonnet, a whole psychotherapeutic work is necessary, once the narcissistic bases have been consolidated, to make remorse appear as the starting point of a genuine psychoanalytical work, things can be very different with a neurotic patient. Remorse, sometimes there from the start, actually attests to a too great attachment to the maternal imago, which then limits any possibility of subjectively assumed guilt. Thus the author, using a clinical vignette of a subject in analysis, after having brought remorse nearer to reproach and evoked the link between remorse and auto-sadism (narcissistic sadism), attempts to define what the term connotes meta-psychologically, following the different French and German etymologies of the term “ remorse ”… The drive economy of remorse reveals itself to be a putting into play of oral sadism mixed with scopic and controlling drives ; its dynamic is a conflict of psychical forces which may extend from hallucinatory perceptions (cf. the nightmare) to somatization (dizziness, “ second state ”, etc.) or passage to the act ; and finally, its topic is ego-splitting before the castrating omnipotence of a maternal and totemic superego ( “ an eye for an eye ”). In the sado-anal regression which characterizes it, remorse is a form of return of psychical function into the “ primitive cavity ” described by Spitz, which then serves as a “ container ” for the ego’s Self (its the narcissistic bases). The subject in the throes of remorse, like Cain, or Oedipus at Colonnus, “ crushed ” (subjectively) by a guilt that menaces the cohesion of the Self of his ego, can regress alone in remorse until he “ re-bites ” (re-mord) repeatedly this ego through an “ incisive ” and castrating superego. The therapeutic and analytic treatment of remorse will aim to “ transfer ” on to the psychoanalyst, through speech, the guilt underlying this remorse in order to free it from this self-sadistic auto-erotic muck which is remorse.