Binswanger and the dimension of the Terrifying

Philosophers, like everyone else, have the worst nightmares. Martin Legros wakes up terrified when his daughter falls over the parapet of the roof of a building. He seeks the explanation from Ludwig Binswanger, founder of Daseinanalyse. According to him we come into contact, at the bottom of the nightmare, with a fundamental dimension of existence which he calls “the Terrifying”.

Causal and therapeutic awakening of terror

Binswanger escapes into interpretations as dubious as Freud in his time. A hundred years later we know that dreams, pleasant or frightening, have no other role than to make us replay events and consolidate standardized reactions to them. Purely neurological and not moral motivation. They no more belong to the “terrifying” than the neutron excitations initiating a nuclear explosion. It is the result of these excitations that appears terrifying to the awakened observer, once again connected to her moral judgment. Discovering only at this moment the horrible nature of the event, the brain hurries to attach its label of unreality to it. Awakening is both causal and therapeutic of the influx of terror. Before this influx the dream contains hardly any emotion, infinitely little compared to what these fantastic situations should trigger.

In other words, either the dream generator is isolated, and is not connected to any concern, or it connects to the emotions and then it is the entire conscious network that awakens, to requalify it as an illusion. Here is what differentiates the nightmare from a real Hell. We do not really experience the terror of the nightmare, only its border with awakening. While the real situations worry, we live them fully. No possibility of escaping!

This unconscious that terrifies us

Martin Legros thinks like Binswanger that waking up facing the Terrifying allows you to “look it in the face, resist it, fight it, defeat it if possible”. But no ! It is not a struggle between two brains, the conscious and the unconscious. The conscious only needs to find meaning in the image, and the neural functional meaning is the most lucid. The unconscious has accessed no hidden future, no hidden psychosis.

We are sometimes wide awake, still in the middle of a nightmare, this time about our mental health, and an unconscious that stalks us…


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