Hell is the place of remorse hiding behind the mask of guilt. It stigmatizes the “ anxiety of eternity ”, the lament of the patient Judas sunk in the unrepresentable and the fixity of time. His psychical position is that of a homosexual feminine identification in relation to an archaic mother, a return of death. The eternal hell is immobilized in the control of religious figurations tied to parental imagos in religious culture.
Resituating remorse in relation to the scopic drive and maternal castration, in line with the work of Bonnet (Remorse. Psychoanalysis of a Murderer), this paper attempts to determine the evolution of this affect, and especially its involvement in the process of adolescence. The hypothesis that remorse, as anxiety of fright, can under certain conditions push one to act, will be developed, using the case of a patient who committed a motiveless murder in late adolescence. By reconstructing the childhood and adolescence of this patient, we will emphasize how hatred and infantile remorse coming from the earliest mother-child relations will be contained in adolescence only by self-destructive responses, pathological wanderings, drug abuse … These solutions rendered invalid by the impasse of puberty will lead the subject, “ haunted ” by maternal imagos, to the murderous act.
Using the conceptualization of Bonnet and the story of a sixteen year-old girl pushed to commit rape upon the person of another girl, several ideas can be brought forward regarding the specificity of remorse in adolescence and its impact in triggering violent acts.
If remorse is inscribed very early in the history of the subject, transmitted through filiation and taken up according to the subject’s place in the generational order and his own life experiences, adolescence gives it even more weight, insofar as the subject is pressed by his pubescent body into bringing out fantasmatic family pacts which imprison him in order to accede to a genital identity. Remorse in adolescence signals, for the adolescent, the impossibility of using his sex as an excuse, and attests to his enclosure in an impasse between primary identification with the active and almighty mother and the secondary, Oedipal, identification. Running up against the newness of genitality, remorse may lead the subject to the passage to the act, that crazy moment of the remorse overflowing which paradoxically signals both the subject’s incapacity to get on the way to the accomplishment of puberty and his ultimate attempt, a vain and desperate one, to once again become the subject of his history. And if this act fails in its liberating aims, perhaps it can permit the subject, supported by the transferential bond, to begin to speak again.
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.
A civilization marked by Christianity, which asserted that every man is a sinner and developed in each of its members a consciousness of sin risks being followed by one in which remorse could, on the one hand, thanks to its rejected, secretly gnaw at the psyche of individuals who think themselves free of all guilt ; and, on the other hand, could be projected endlessly onto others in the irrational pursuit of vengeance rather than justice.
The author takes off from a prior work relating the place of remorse in the analysis of an adolescent who became a murderer in order to reread and re-interpret the place of this affect in the texts where Freud speaks of his self-analysis. He points out an implicit theory, which ties in with the explicit theory, barely sketched out, and emphasizes in particular the active and positive side of this affect most often presented as a handicap. He then shows the different faces that remorse can assume in the treatment of the adolescent, working with the principle characteristics pointed out in the preceding discussion, so as to facilitate its detection, its being taken into consideration, and its evolution. This study also seeks to help better differentiate the major affects and to show how to position ourselves when one of them appears central and dominant, whether it be shame, guilt, sadness, or remorse.