Publisher description for The puppet of desire : the psychology of hysteria, possession, and hypnosis / Jean-Michel Oughourlian ; translated, with an introduction, by Eugene Webb.


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Counter This study of the psychology of desire derives from a theory of imitative or 'mimetic' desire developed by the cultural critic and theorist Rene; Girard. The theory is essentially that all human beings have an instinctive tendency, a kind of social and psychological gravitation, to imitate unwittingly not only the actions but also the attitudes and desires of others. The author, a practicing psychiatrist, extends and amplifies this theory from the viewpoint of psychopathology and applies it to the study of hysteria, possession, and hypothesis. He argues that these phenomena are best understood as expressions of mimetic behaviour, and he traces the history of the ideas concerning hysteria, possession, and hypnosis and relates them to the development of Freud's theory of neurosis. The author points out that mimetic desire is not an inherently pathological force. It may be normal and healthy, but in certain circumstances it can lead to relations of dependency and rivalry that can cause serious psychological problems. It can also take on extreme or bizarre forms without necessarily becoming unhealthy; an example of healthy but extreme unconscious identification with an other (who may be either a person or a cultural figure) is shamanistic possession. The author discusses this kind of phenomenon among African tribes and coins the term 'adorcism' (the opposite of exorcism) to refer to the process of invoking it. The theory of desire as presented in this book is other-oriented, as opposed to Freud's theory of desire, which istrictly object-oriented. The author sees Freud's theory as more in a long history of strategic misinterpretations of the psychology of desire, such as the classical theory of hysteria and the medieval theory of demonic possession. his critique of Freudian theory is radical, and in fact it would not be too much to say that he has moved toward the first new and well-developed theory of psychopathology since Freud.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Imitation, Spirit possession, Mental suggestion, Hysteria