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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

As If . . . It's not Just a Valley Girl Expression.


Chapelle (1993) says that the compulsion to repeat imaginatively, as in the Fort-Da game, is a compulsion to repeat by means of a likeness, or a metaphor and that this metaphorical as if existence is at the basis of human existence. Robert Romanyshyn (2001), has written extensively on the metaphorical nature of psychological life in his book Mirror and Metaphor Reflections on Psychological Life. Chapelle referring to Romanyshyn's work notes:


Freud’s grandson, and by extension all individuals under the spell of the compulsion to repeat, are engaged in an activity of metaphoric pretense in which identities are established where none exist. Thus the compulsion to repeat is at the same time a compulsion into metaphor. It is a compulsion into what Robert Romanyshyn . . . considers the life of metaphor and the metaphoric nature of psychological-cultural life. What Freud calls “instinctual renunciation” . . . is a renunciation of concreteness and literal-mindedness for the sake of entry into metaphorical existence. The means to accomplish this renunciation and this entry is compulsive psychological iteratio . . . .

It [The Fort-Da game] suggests that, as Romanyshyn puts it even though he does not discuss the Fort-Da game, that reality is a manner of reflection and indirection . . . . Psychological reality, then is a matter not of physical spatiality but metaphorical reflection. For an object to gain psychological reality it needs other objects that can reflect it and that it can reflect. (p. 115)


This metaphoric compulsion to repeat leads Chapelle to suggest “that human existence takes place under the rule of metaphor. Man is compelled to be the metaphorical animal—Homo metaphoricus.” Chapelle suggests that both Nietzsche and Freud would agree that man cannot escape the compulsion to live in an as if mode. “Nietzsche suggests that it is simply impossible for man to live otherwise. Freud suggests that man is propelled into metaphoric as if pretense as soon as he abandons animal life through renunciation of instinctual satisfaction by instinctual means” (p. 117). Huizinga (1944/1955), D. L. Miller (1970), and Hillman (1983b), also all stress the importance of as if, as we have previously seen and shall see.

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