This transformation is the aim of the analysis of the unconscious. If there is no transformation, it means that the determining influence of the unconscious is unabated, and that it will in some cases persist in maintaining neurotic symptoms in spite of all our analysis and all our understanding. Alternatively, a compulsive transference will take hold, which is just as bad as a neurosis. Obviously in such cases no amount of suggestion, good will, and purely reductive understanding has helped to break the power of the unconscious. This is not to say--once again I would like to emphasize this point very clearly--that all psychotherapeutic methods are, by and large, useless. I merely want to stress the fact that there are not a few cases where the doctor has to make up his mind to deal fundamentally with the unconscious, to come to a real settlement with it. This is of course something very different from interpretation. In the latter case it is taken for granted that the doctor knows beforehand, so as to be able to interpret. But in the case of a real settlement it is not a question of interpretation it is a question of releasing unconscious processes and letting them come into the conscious mind in the form of fantasies. We can try our hand at interpreting these fantasies if we like. In many cases it may be quite important for the patient to have some idea of the meaning of the fantasies produced. But it is of vital importance that he should experience them to the full and, in so far as intellectual understanding belongs to the totality of experience, also understand them. Yet I would not give priority to understanding. Naturally the doctor must be able to assist the patient in his understanding, but, since he will not and indeed cannot understand everything, but, since he will not and indeed cannot understand everything, the doctor should assiduously guard against clever feats of interpretation. For the important thing is not to interpret and understand the fantasies, but primarily to experience them. Alfred Kubin has given a very good description of the unconscious in his book Die andere Seite; that is, he has described what he, as an artist, experienced of the unconscious. It is an artistic experience which, in the deeper meaning of human experience, is incomplete. I would like to recommend an attentive reading of this book to everybody who is interested in these questions. He will then discover the incompleteness I speak of: the vision is experienced artistically, but not humanly. By "human" experience I mean that the person of the author should not just be included passively in the vision, but that he should face the figures of the vision actively and reactively, with full consciousness. I would level the same criticism at the authoress of the fantasies dealt with in the book mentioned above; she, too, merely stands opposite the fantasies forming themselves out of the unconscious, perceiving them, or at best passively enduring them. But a real settlement with the unconscious demands a firmly opposed conscious standpoint.
I will try to explain what I mean by an example. One of my patients had the following fantasy: He sees his fiancee running down the road towards the river. It is winter, and the river is frozen. She runs out on the ice, and he follows her. She goes right out, and then the ice breaks, a dark fissure appears, and he is afraid she is going to jump in. And that is what happens: she jumps into the crack, and he watches her sadly.
This fragment, although torn out of its context, clearly shows the attitude of the conscious mind: it perceives and passively endures, the fantasy-image is merely seen and felt, it is two dimensional, as it were, because the patient is not sufficiently involved. Therefore the fantasy remains a flat image, concrete and agitating perhaps, but unreal, like a dream. This unreality comes from the fact that he himself is not playing an active part. If the fantasy happened in reality he would not be at a lost for some means to prevent his fiancee from committing suicide. He could, for instance, easily overtake her and restrain her bodily from jumping into the crack. Were he to act in reality as he acted in the fantasy, he would obviously be paralysed, either with horror, or because of the unconscious thought that he really has no objection to her committing suicide. The fact that he remains passive in the fantasy merely expresses his attitude to the activity of the unconscious in general: he is fascinated and stupefied by it. In reality he suffers from all sorts of depressive ideas and convictions; he thinks he is no good, that he has some hopeless hereditary taint, that his brain is degenerating, etc. These negative feelings are so many auto-suggestions which he accepts without argument. Intellectually, he can understand them perfectly and recognize them as untrue, but nevertheless the feelings persist. They cannot be attacked by the intellect because they have no intellectual or rational basis; they are rooted in an unconscious, irrational fantasy-life which is not amenable to conscious criticism. In these cases the unconscious must be given an opportunity to produce its fantasies, and the above fragment is just such a product of unconscious fantasy activity. Since the case was one of psychogenic depression, the depression itself was due to fantasies of whose existence the patient was totally unconscious. In genuine melancholia, extreme exhaustion, poisoning, etc., the situation would be reversed: the patient has such fantasies because he is a depressed condition. But in a case of psychogenic depression he is depressed because he has such fantasies. My patient was a very clever young man who had been intellectually enlightened as to the cause of his neurosis by a lengthy analysis. However, intellectual understanding made no difference in his depression. In cases of this sort the doctor should spare himself the useless trouble of delving still further into the causality; for, when a more or less exhaustive understanding is of no avail, the discovery of yet another little bit of causality will be of no avail either. The unconscious has simply gained an unassailable ascendency; it wields an attractive force that can invalidate all conscious contents--in other words, it can withdraw libido from the conscious world and thereby produce a "depression," an abaissement du niveau mental (Janet). But as a result of this we must, according to the law of energy, expect an accumulation of value--i.e., libido--in the unconscious.