Fig. 1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Grand Opera House, San Francisco, 1901
Is Mood A Language?
Sadness is the fundamental mood of depression, and even if manic euphoria alternates with it in the bipolar forms of that ailment, sorrow is the major outward sign that gives away the desperate person. Sadness leads us into the enigmatic realm of affects - anguish, fear, or joy. Irreducible to its verbal or semiological expressions, sadness (like all affect) is the psychic representation of energy displacements caused by external traumas. The exact status of such psychic representations of energy displacements remains, in the present state of psychoanalytic and semiological theories, very vague. No conceptual framework in the relevant sciences (particularly linguistics) has proven adequate to account for this apparently very rudimentary representation, presign and prelanguage. The "sadness" mood triggered by a stimulation, tension, or energy conflict within a psychosomatic organism is not a specific answer to a release mechanism (I am not sad as a response to a sign or for X and only to X). Mood is a generalised "transference" (E. Jacobson) that stamps the entire behaviour and all the sign systems (from motor functions to speech production and idealisation) without either identifying with them or disorganising them. We are justified in believing that an anarchic energy signal is involved, a phylogenetic inheritance, which, within the psychic space of the human being, is immediately assumed by verbal representation and consciousness. Nevertheless, such an "assumption" is not related to what occurs when the energies that Freud calls "bonded" lend themselves to verbalisation, association, and judgement. Let us say that representations germane to affects, notably sadness, are fluctuating energy cathexes: insufficiently stabilised to coalesce as verbal or other signs, acted upon by primary processes of displacement and condensation, dependent just the same on the agency of the ego, they record through its intermediary the threats, orders, and injunctions of the superego. Thus moods are inscriptions, energy disruptions, and not simply raw energies. They lead us toward a modality of significance that, on the threshold of bioenergetic stability, insures the preconditions for (or manifests the disintegration of) the imaginary and the symbolic. On the frontier between animality and symbol formation, moods - and particularly sadness - are the ultimate reactions to our traumas, they are our basic homeostatic recourses. For if it is true that those who are slaves to their moods, being drowned in their sorrows, reveal a number of psychic or cognitive frailties, it is equally true that a diversification of moods, variety in sadness, refinement in sorrow or mourning are the imprint of a humankind that is surely not triumphant but subtle, ready to fight, and creative . . .
Literary creation is that adventure of the body and signs that bears witness to the affect - to sadness as an imprint of separation and beginning of the symbol's sway; to joy as imprint of the triumph that settles me in the universe of artifice and symbol, which I try to harmonise in the best possible way with my experience of reality. But that testimony is produced by literary creation in a material that is totally different from what constitutes mood. It transposes affect into rhythms, signs, forms. The "semiotic" and the "symbolic" become the communicable imprints of an affective reality, perceptible to the reader (I like this book because it conveys sadness, anguish, or joy) and yet dominated, set aside, vanquished.
Fig. 2. The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive (still), 2006 - Stephen Fry (click image to start watching this documentary on YouTube)