Typos p. 46: idiosyncracy [= idiosyncrasy]
Woman and her Unconscious Impulses
Likewise, if a rhinoceros be placed in a soft-floored stable, the chances are that it will very soon plough up the whole of its place of captivity with its nasal horn.
Other examples can be thought of: the wallowing of ducks, unprovided with water, in dirty puddles and ditches; the nail exercise of the cat on the legs of our dining-room tables; and the gnawing away of wood by white mice in a manner that can in no way effect their escape.
Let me explain some of these examples:
A healthy child a little boy is told to sit still. What happens? The muscles and tissues of his body are well-nourished. In his constitution there is a reserve of strength which, like the power of a galvanic battery is seeking an outlet, a method of discharging itself. All his muscles tell him most emphatically that they want to be moving, that they want to be actively employed.
Now let us turn to the child's consciousness and to his brain. Let us look to see what is happening there. These impatient messages that are constantly coming up from every nerve and tissue in his body are registered in the brain, but they do not enter consciousness in their original form. Consciousness receives only an interpretation of them. The child is not really aware of them at all. If you asked him when he first began to move or fidget: "What is the matter with you?" he would
(1) Playing is good fun.
He does not know that the reason why his body insists on moving is that all his tissues are alive with energy that wants to be used.
(2) Sitting here is a hopeless bore.
He does not realize that sitting still to a live body in a state of energetic exuberance is actually painful, and even if he cries from sheer pain, on this account alone, his consciousness will still say: "I want to play," "I don't want to sit here." He will never say, "I am in pain," or "It hurts not to play."
Let him get down from his chair and go to play, and in less than a minute you will probably find him exerting vain efforts to move a huge stone or a massive log from one place to another. The purpose of the transposition of this solid and inert mass will be clear neither to you nor to him; but that is immaterial. His body wants to spend its energy, and the little boy, therefore, likes moving a large stone or a large log about. And he will cry or protest violently if you tell him he is not to do it. He does not know in the least why he wants to do it; he only knows, for the moment, that moving big stones is good.
From all this it is clear, not only that the brain's interpretation of a bodily state is unreliable as a sign of what is actually proceeding in that body, but also that it does not always require to be reliable in order to lead its owner to do the right thing, or to adopt the proper course of action.
Now let us suppose the same child peevish and irritable. What actually happens?
Now let us turn to the child's consciousness! What is happening there? The child is not conscious of all the alarms and signals of distress coming up from his body; he is not conscious of the pressure of blood on his brain. All he knows is that he is feeling thoroughly and utterly discontented. And since his human intelligence tells him that discontent must have a cause, this cause must be found. An incident at breakfast soon provides the whole scheme of a convincing cause for his feeling of distress. His little sister picks up a crumb of his bread and eats it an innocent action which, if it had happened yesterday, or the day before, would only have provoked laughter.
It is, however, sufficient to provide the badly informed brain with material for a false interpretation. The sister's action is immediately posited as the cause of his feeling ill at ease, and in a moment all his body's angry discontent about its bad condition is vented against the unfortunate little sister, who is as staggered as she is hurt by his sudden unaccountable outburst of tears and bitter words.
In the two examples given, what has been the unconscious motive of the little boy's behaviour? In Example I it was a reserve of physical energy that was seeking an outlet interpreted by the little boy's consciousness as a desire to roll a stone or a log as an end in itself,
This part of my disquisition on the unconscious, together with what follows, will do excellent service, if understood, in helping the reader to see more clearly into the complicated train of consequences which, as I shall point out later on, in Chapter VIII, lead to most conjugal differences, and ultimately to Divorce. Irrelevant as the above examples may seem, therefore, I would ask the reader to endeavour to make quite sure that he understands the principle they involve; because much of the lucidity of Chapter VIII will depend upon a thorough grasp of this principle.
When I speak of people acting in a certain way, or doing otherwise unaccountable and apparently immoral deeds as the result of a bodily impulse that they misinterpret, I shall speak of an unconscious motive on their parts. Only in this sense shall I speak of unconscious motives.
The correlation of bodily equipment and motive or desire, therefore, must always be kept very carefully in mind if we are to comprehend the behaviour of our fellows, and of the lower animals.
An animal that has a horn on its nose, like the rhinoceros, will have a concomitant desire to use it. Its motive for using it may be quite unconscious; but that does not matter. The little kitten does not hate you, or desire to hurt you when it uses its claws on your hands. It has a bodily part, well supplied with intricate mechanism and nerves, and it is more than it can do not to use that part.
The impulse coming from a bodily part that cries to be used is generally misinterpreted. That can be taken
Take, for instance, the man who possesses the happy combination of a very good eye and an agile, dexterous hand. According to the sort of environment into which he falls, he may be one of several things either an excellent shot and warrior, .or an excellent draughtsman, sculptor, craftsman or painter. The correlation of his bodily parts determines his desires and consequently his career. His motives throughout may be unconscious that is to say, he may be unaware until the end, of the nature of the forces that actuated him.
Turning now, with these considerations in our mind, to the contemplation of Woman, what do we find?
We find a creature who stands up to her shoulders in the business of Life and its multiplication. Artfully contrived and richly equipped for this business, and with the whole of her trunk and its nervous system intricately organized for it so that even in her limbs and the skin upon them, so that even in her face and the hair on her head one can detect reverberations, as it were, of the mighty and momentous forces that irradiate her being Woman cannot evade the common fate of all creatures, and cannot help being guided in her .conduct rigidly by the correlation of her bodily parts, any more than all other creatures can. But her actions and the unconscious motives behind them will be all the more inevitable, for having such an elaborate, such a purposeful, and such a deep-seated mechanism as their generator.
Woman's positiveness to Life, therefore, only amounts to her saying "Yea" to her bodily impulses, and this she cannot help doing without entertaining thoughts of self-destruction. And her "Yea" to Life is more deter-
Woman may ultimately marry. But she is already wed when she is born. She is wed to Life. Life is her task-master, and Life is her Lord. I shall show very soon how she unconsciously acknowledges this sway, sacrifices herself to it, and immolates herself before it aye, even commits adultery for it, lies for it, murders and thieves for it, and sometimes kills herself for it.
What is man in the presence of this formidable engine of Life's purpose? Merely a means that Woman unconsciously exploits while she consciously imagines that she loves him. What are her children? Children are the object of her eternally unconscious gratitude, because they are the product of her healthy functioning, the instruments on which she has played off the whole gamut of her sensibilities and sensations.
The hierarchy then reads: (1) Life, (2) Woman, (3) Man. For the present this will do.
To understand Woman, then, we must first of all think of her as a creature who is constantly being actuated by the readiness and desire her bodily equipment feels, to be used, to be made to function, to exercise its powers. But we must always remember that she is not aware of
1 The statistics showing that more women than men commit suicide and go mad through disappointed love, prove that the importance attached by women to this rebuff is much greater than that attached to it by men. See Lombroso and Ferrero's La Femme Criminelle et la Prostituée, pp. 515 and 517.
All her will, all her conduct, all her crimes or great deeds if she perpetrate any must be ascribed to the actuating force of her bodily equipment; but she will always be aware only of other motives for her conduct, and her mind will invariably misinterpret the causes of it.
Let me go over the ground I have just covered, in a slightly different way, in order that I may be quite sure of being understood. All those who have already thoroughly grasped my point can skip this passage.
If we examine the relation of instinct to will, what do we find it to be. 1
An instinct may be understood as a predisposition implanted in a living creature to act in a certain way prior to experience, or, as a bias in favour of a certain line of conduct before any knowledge of that line of conduct or its consequences has been brought clearly to the conscious mind by individual experiment.
An infant, for instance, has no experience of food and its relation to the body; it has no experience of anything; but it has a predisposition to suck, which is the outcome of its bodily condition and ancestral history at a certain period of its life; and, as far as its early months are concerned, a child may be said to have an indomitable will to be suckled or to suck it will cry violently if this proclivity be not indulged; its tears and cries will immediately subside if it has its way.
How does instinct become implanted in a living creature? Instinct may have two origins: (1) A racial origin, by which I mean that it is the outcome of an ancestral habit, and constitutes a predisposition to perform certain actions in a certain way, because of the
1 I have already done this in my Defence of Aristocracy; but as the standpoint is comparatively new, it will bear being related here in fresh terms.
(2) A bodily origin, by which I mean that an instinct is the natural outcome of a certain correlation of organs, bodily parts or weapons, and the possession of which in itself is sufficient to suggest and to enforce a certain mode of conduct in their possessor. As an example of this take the butting or tossing proclivities of the goat and bull respectively, the clawing of the cat, the burrowing of the mole, etc. etc. All these activities are the outcome of the possession of certain organs or bodily parts, that insist upon being used, that cause the animal to feel ill-adapted and miserable if they cannot function.
What, then, is will?
All will is obviously the power of the instinct that determines conduct for the moment, for a given period, or, as in some cases, for a lifetime.
The will of an animal, therefore, is inseparable from the instincts to which either his racial memory or his bodily parts give rise. For he will do whatever his most powerful instinct, for the time being, bids him do.
Let us now turn to man. With Reibmayr let me posit the three fundamental instincts of man as (1) the Self-preservative Instinct, (2) the Reproductive Instinct, (3) the Social Instinct.
According to his nature, man has one of these instincts stronger or weaker than the other two, and this strength or weakness determines his character, his choice of paths in life and of conduct in life.
His will that is to say the guiding power directing his conduct is thus only the popular term for "leading instinct."
In men of the Herbert Spencer, Nietzsche, St. Francis of Assisi, John the Baptist type, the social instinct was so strong that it completely mastered and sacrificed the other two instincts. Their reproductive instinct was suppressed and snubbed, and women were scouted by them, while they considered their self-preservative instinct only in so far as it assisted them in continuing and prolonging the exercise of their social instinct. The will in these men resided in their leading social instinct. It was that which determined their conduct.
In the coward, the anarchist, the deserter, the ambitious upstart bent only on self-aggrandisement and security, in the unscrupulous plutocrat, the self-preservative instinct is so strong that woman and society are sacrificed or ignored, whenever any emergency or dilemma occurs in which it becomes necessary to sacrifice them for the sake of self-preservation. Such men's wills reside entirely in the thought of their own survival and security, and are determined exclusively by the self-preservative instinct.
If, now, we ask what is Woman's will, by what instinct is it determined? we are in a position to say at once: Woman's will, owing to the very correlation of her bodily parts and the important place the organs and business
You may suggest that the same holds good of man. As a matter of fact, it does not. Because in man there is some doubt, some uncertainty as to the bias, as to the prejudice, suggested by his bodily parts. If in man the organs concerned with Life's multiplication held the same predominant place as they do in woman, the same would certainly hold good of him. But it is obvious that this is not the case. The case is rather the reverse.
It is because of woman's elaborate and extensive equipment precisely for the business of Life's multiplication, that we are justified in suspecting that her will is likely to reside in this equipment, or rather in the instinct that springs and takes its strength from it. We are justified in suspecting this, on the same principle as that which justifies us in suspecting that the will of the mole is determined by its fore-legs and general correlation of bodily parts.
Provided she be healthy and well-formed, then Woman's will cannot help being determined by the paramount equipment of sex in her body, from which arises the reproductive instinct. Her social instinct will be subservient, docile, ready to retreat before its master the
And all this will be so much Woman herself, so much part of her essential being, that she will not be aware of it, and while her reproductive instinct will guide her, she herself will misinterpret its promptings while doing its bidding. So much so, indeed, will she misinterpret its promptings, and her unconsciousness will be so profound, so genuine, so unpretended, and so impenetrable, that it will deceive even the spectator himself, even the contemplator and observer of Woman.
If she has virtues, they will be offshoots from the reproductive instinct; her vices will be the same. Her immorality, if she be capable of it, will be Life's immorality, vital immorality, positive immorality.
But what is most important in understanding Woman is, I repeat, her inevitable mental misinterpretation of these phenomena. Weininger's book is wrong, weak, unjust, because he never lays sufficient stress on this question of the unconscious and its bearing upon the nature and conduct of Woman. Later on in this book many apparent problems in the life-conduct of Woman, many of Woman's apparent crimes, all Woman's so-called immorality, will be explained precisely on the basis of her unconsciousness of the true forces actuating her. There is no other explanation. There is no other way of understanding these things.
Let me repeat the sort of dialogue I constantly have with the average man who is in the habit of taking things at their face value.
I. How's Miss A.?
A.M. Oh, flourishing, thank you!
I. What is she doing now? Is she engaged yet?
A.M. No not yet.
I. Any prospects?
A.M. None that I am aware of.
I. Where is she?
I. Political Economy! whatever for?
A.M. Oh, she's a very clever girl, and she's interested in these subjects.
I. Let me think! how old is she?
A.M. Just twenty-three.
I. Well, well! I suppose she will meet plenty of fresh men at the School of Political Economy, and may find what she wants there.
A.M. Oh, but you misunderstand Miss A. She has no such thought. She says herself that she is deeply interested in Political Economy.
I. She does not know why she goes to the School of Political Economy; she imagines it is because she is interested in the subject. But I know why she goes there. Life sends her there. And even if the only thing she could learn there were the turning and painting of skittles, she would be interested in that. Life has found that one environment has failed to give the girl her primary adaptations, so now it bids her seek a new environment.
A.M. Oh nonsense! you always imagine women think of nothing but men.
I. I didn't say so!
A.M. But you imply it.
I. I. I don't even imply it.
A.M. You do!
I. On the contrary, I feel quite certain that Miss A. is quite unconscious of the true nature of the command that sent her to the School of Political Economy.
At this stage in the dialogue the average man usually shrugs his shoulders, because he knows nothing of unconscious motives; he knows nothing of the brain's misinterpretation of the body's messages to it, and the consequence is that he believes honestly in the avowed motive in people's conduct always being the real and true one.
But if this were so, women, with their moral upbringing as it is at present, would be ashamed of doing half
Never accept a Woman's explanation of the motives actuating her not because she is deliberately lying, but because she does not know them. The motive to her is always the one that is apparent, the one that is the outcome of her mind's misinterpretation of the body's messages to it.
People who say that women deliberately lie in these circumstances simply do not know the subject, and had better start studying it afresh.
Let us analyse Miss A.'s case. I assume that she is a healthy normal girl. Her hips are broad, her chest is full, she has been regular in her periods from her fourteenth year. What is going on inside her? All this equipment, in perfect working order and vigorously constituted, has not ceased from signalling to the brain ever more and more insistently for years: "We are not content; we are idle; we are sitting still; we are not functioning; we are aching from sitting still." The brain misinterprets all this straight away, and transmits it to consciousness as follows: "What a bore life is! When is anything interesting or exciting going to happen? What are all the men in my circle doing? Why don't they notice me, or fall in love with me?" The messages continue persistent, and they are the same as in the first case, but more emphatic, more urgent. Again the brain transmits them to consciousness as follows: "What a bore home life is! What a self-complacent, heedless creature mother is! What a tedious round this week at home has been! I must go out; I must get away from it! I must leave home! Couldn't I study something? Anything that gets me out of this tiresome futility! Isn't there a course of something at the School of Political Economy?" And so on!
Fidelity to Life in Woman must prevail over every other form of fidelity. In order to be faithful to Life and Life's purpose, therefore, Miss A. must be unfaithful to her old environment.
But to accuse such a girl of falsehood or dissimulation when she declares that she is interested in Political Economy, and is pursuing the study for its own sake, would be the cruellest injustice. Life is quite unscrupulous in achieving her ends, and if Political Economy can prove a road to them, why not Political Economy? But the woman is no more conscious of the fact that Life is secretly directing her, than the mole is of the reasons why it selects a subterranean life.
Hitherto I have spoken only of the healthy or positive woman. I must, however, refer to the unhealthy woman; because, unless she is rejected immediately, as a standard, we shall be utterly misled in our examination of the true Female attitude.
For the present work, all I shall mean by unhealthy or negative, will be that condition in which the body may be said to be either atonic that is to say, lacking in tone, in sanguine vigour or unfit, owing to inadequate, arrested or faulty development, for the performance of its functions.
The fact that Weininger makes no classification of healthy and unhealthy, but confines himself entirely to the two orders of women that are either inclined to be male or inclined to be truly female, vitiates the whole of his argument.
Unless I take into consideration whether a woman is properly equipped not only with the mechanism but also with the tonality of the mechanism for her functions, how can I proceed to postulate that she is either male or female in her physical bias?
An unhealthy woman, in my sense, therefore, will approach maleness in any case, whether she have male elements in her or not (to recall Weininger); because with the decline in vigour of her reproductive instincts consequent upon the atonic condition of her reproductive organs, the voice of other instincts will make themselves heard, and she will be less of a woman the more her other instincts dare to measure themselves against her reproductive instinct.
To me, therefore, Weininger's classification "Male" and "Female" woman seems superfluous; it serves no useful purpose because almost all the secondary sexual characteristics of the male are rudimentary in woman and come into prominence when her sex is in abeyance, either through negativeness, immaturity (childhood), or at the climacteric (late middle age); besides, even Weininger himself admits that he has "never yet seen a single woman who was not fundamentally feminine," 1 and scores of cases could, moreover, be adduced which show that certain races have reared women approaching as closely as possible to the male the squaw, for instance without having produced feminine males to couple with them.
How Weininger, by the by, reconciles the opinion just quoted with his other view, it is not incumbent upon me to say. His book is so full of shallow conclusions, contradictions and superficial judgments, that it is difficult to understand how it was ever taken seriously.
The relation of the unhealthy woman to Life, then, is
1 Op. cit., p. 188.
(We are now inside the unhealthy woman's brain.) Messages are being received from all corners of her body. Her trunk with all its intricate mechanism for reproduction sends constant signals of no urgency at all mere small talk! "We are quite content to be left alone; we are quite happy sitting still; we are not anxious to have our lot altered in the least." The brain misinterprets all this straight away and transmits these signals to consciousness as follows: "Man and my supposed fatal relationship to him do not interest me in the least. I am above sex. I do not even feel a thrill in the presence of the most virile, most positive male. All this talk about my lot on earth being the business of Life and its multiplication, is simply nonsense multiplied ad infinitum! I am born for higher things; I have the instinct of higher things."
As if there could be anything higher than the purpose of human life! Unless, of course, one is of the opinion of Schopenhauer, Weininger and the rest of that ilk, and disbelieves in the desirability of prolonging human life on earth.
To us, then, who are positive to Life, and to whom sterility is therefore a thing to be regretted, deplored, and not admired, as Weininger admired it; to us, who loathe the infertility of prostitution and particularly of homosexuality, and who regard such a statement as that of Weininger's in regard to the last-named vice 1 as
1 Op. cit., p. 66: "In the second part of my book, however, I shall show reasons in favour of the possibility that homo-sexuality is a higher form than hetero-sexuality." See also p. 226, where Weininger says: "Her position outside the mere preservation of the race, the fact that she is not merely the channel and the indifferent protector of the chain of beings that pass through her, place the prostitute, in a sense, above the mother."
Unfortunately, what with the influence of Puritanism and its hostility to sex and to sex-expression, what with the depressing foods and drinks it has introduced, 1 or whose use it has fostered in the nation, vitality even among creatures so positive and so vigorously positive as women, has been greatly reduced and frequently hopelessly impaired; and particularly in England, negative women, asexual women abound.
If, however, we keep strictly to our positive tenet: "that all that is good which is favourable to the best kind of life and, its multiplication," we shall have no difficulty in deciding whether this increase of asexual women is a good or a bad thing; and our judgment may be accordingly both definite and severe.
1 See my Defence of Aristocracy, chapter V.