Three Tales of Vertigo
That was a nice coma. My back kinda hurts though. Not to mention other . . .
So anyway, I was having this lovely conversation with my friend where I was forced to revisit my old “triad of desire.” I was at a loss so I figured I’d break it down again here and try and wrestle with what was always a nebulous and prawn to infinite obfuscation. The premise is related to the Lacanian triad, imaginary, symbolic and the real. I created this for examinations of neurotic obsession and self sabotage.
The terms by which this structure breaks down can be thought of as “identity motivators,” not unlike id, ego and super-ego. They are in no particular order: Hedonist, Masochist and Sadist. Defining them becomes tricky because as the triad unfolds in dimension, each exhibits a set of three “directions” let’s call them: “What we are, what we think we are and what we wish to be.” The human psyche, it’s subconscious, it’s collection of primordial baseline drives and artificial constructed desires exhibits these three identity motivators or channels to produce personality and quest. If we begin with Hedonist, the first thing we discover is the raw impossibility, pursuing happiness through the satisfaction of carnal, sensual and pragmatic desires, essentially combating happiness with happiness itself. (Keep in mind, these three categories encompass sexuality but are not defined by it.) The hedonists see themselves as deserving of happiness and that their desires fulfilled will produce such happiness. The happiness of others is irrelevant if the hedonist does not gain any pleasure from it. The masochist, the obvious complimentary pair to the hedonist has invested happiness in suffering, 'the more pain I endure the happier it makes me,' the more content with the way things are, suffering becomes and remains comfortable. The libidinal economy can handle the paradox in a simple reversal of the hedonist paradox, the dilemma of never being satisfied no matter how much one feeds themselves, the masochist realizes the futility of giving in to desire and the worthiness of will power in the face of temptation. The hedonist is the ultimate control freak, this would be necessary since suffering can become real, so when choosing to suffer, one must careful write the script of your domination. The third category, the perpetual outsider and antagonist to the first two is the sadist, the super-ego, the solution to both paradoxes, not unlike infinite judgement in the Kantian formal, sadists are the negation of negation. Hedonist desire is a failure, the masochist’s solution is a failure so eternal judgement against these two reigns and happiness is found in the demand for a sacrifice. The sadist is the mirror image of the hedonist, s/he enjoys not pleasure for themselves, but enjoys taking pleasure from others.
In Lacan, the imaginary real of this virtual triad is the way in which we interact with others by erasing the unpalatable or quarrelsome aspects of them, when we engage as normalized people we look at others, we know they are sexual beings, possibly physically disgusting or in another sense having a wealth of personality we can’t afford, when we try to engage or connect with a neighbor or work side by side with someone, we know they share biological functions but we immediately see it as part of the horizon of their being. A simple example, when one thinks of their parents of course we know they are sexual beings whose sexuality produced you, but we do not allow ourselves to engage that part of the image, it remains outside the imaginary.
This triad is perfectly presented in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, see Zizek for a perfect analysis of that film. Three films which openly instruct us on this triad would be John Robbe Grillet’s La Belle Captive, kind of a Vertigo but by way of Magritte. The second is La Citie de Sylvie. Kind of a masochist’s solution which confronts sadism masquerading as hedonism, essentially Vertigo by way of Structuralist theory and the 2011 remake of Maniac with Elijah Wood, of course, the virtual real, Vertigo by way of the POV first person shooter, sadism as a solution to failed hedonism. In here we have:
Rescuer vs Kidnapper
Stalker vs Prisoner
Murder vs Victim.
The character of Walter for example in La Belle Captive, he presents as a secret agent carrying out important duties for the state, what we know is that this is a delusion, a mimicry of the character of Scotty in Vertigo who is no longer a policeman but carries on the investigation using the symbolic guise. What each of the triad relies on is the myth of sociopathology. The idea that one can interact with otters with no ability or care to perceive their emotion insides, to treat others as if they have no soul or at least, no inner life worthy of consideration or value. Sociopathology is a failed meme within psychology and psychiatry, however the experience of the “outsider,” to be considered irrelevant by a society, cast out, desires ignored, ambitions thwarted is a primal fear of all humans stemming from what I call a Christopher Ryan type hunter gatherer pre-history where sharing provided stability and survival and selfish behavior would have produced the status of outcast.
Let’s consider some formulations:
The classic hedonist. How did they become that way and are they really that way? A person who is a hedonist but doesn’t think of themselves that way erases the pleasure of making themselves the center of attention or desire by seeing themselves as the suffering one, they play this part to gain permission to indulge in hedonism but, the formula breaks down, you end hop with ‘taking from others without enjoyment as a profit margin,’ hence: sadism.
The classic masochist. They see their tormentors as sadists (not hedonists which would be a complement to their life) they wish they could just enjoy so they envy the hedonists. Often a masochist will see themselves as a sadist to avoid confronting the inability to feel pleasure in pleasure itself.
The classic sadist. Sees themselves as a hedonist, hence De Sade, constant symbolic formulation of pleasure seeking which robs it of any pleasure, what could be a more joyless book than de Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom,” and endless list making of mechanical procedure. They fail and the formula creates a space of suffering, the need for pity and the righteous indignation, they fall into masochism.
I’ve considered these formulas as useful to seeing power exchanges in relationships but more importantly, it reveals the endless stair case building that comes with the taxonomy of compartments in consciousness.