True Crime and Freud: Trauma and Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Pictured: the viewing of the True Crime/False Echo in “Minority Report.”

In the movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise plays a detective in a “Pre-Crime” unit who is trying to solve why his system has suddenly decided that he was a murderer. Throughout the movie, he chases his own ghosts, and goes on a journey of self-discovery, and discovery of the symbolic order in which he was thrust into by forces outside himself. But the answer as it turned out, was not within the depths of who he is as a person, or impulses towards violence, but was in fact something entirely alien: a crime by the creator of the pre-crime unit itself, a primordial murder which was covered up through deep knowledge of the symbolic order which Tom Cruise’s character had only cursory knowledge of. Justice was not Tom Cruise being locked up for murder, but rather it was the discovery primordial trauma, the killing of the mother of the oracle by the father of the system. The only possible way as it turned out to negate the negation of the trauma of the movie was to find the primordial incident, not obfuscate it with other incidents.

In Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Hegel demonstrates that punishment is not something with a positive quality, but intrinsically a negation of a negation. The original negation is the crime, which a punishment doled out is the negation of the negation of the social contract; thus, those who try to not enforce laws are misguided if they think what they are trying to do is reduce violence, since what they are truly doing is not reducing positive violence, but ignoring violence. However as Zizek and others point out repeatedly, violence is more than just an act, but intrinsically present through systems. A domestic violence relationship for instance may involve trauma, but a system where one child is beaten and another is not, or one child is given preferential treatment and the violence is enacted on the mother for instance, creates a child who grows into an adult who can not articulate exactly the original trauma. As an example, the beaten child can not articulate that the point of traumatic reaction involved the father taking a sibling out for ice cream afterwards, even if they can in great detail name the ways in which the father beat them.

In cases of trauma, the traumatic Real is often re-enacted in various ways by the analysand in psychotherapy, but what is missed is the Real of the incident. This does not mean merely glancing over the incident, but could also be including things in the incident which are unrelated to the traumatic aspect of the incident, keeping the trauma in the realm of the imaginary, ready to re-emerge in various scenarios as metaphor, exaggeration, falsehood, or overreaction. The therapist’s job here is tricky, it is not to say the person with trauma is overreacting, but to find the exact point of trauma within the register of the Real for the client. That is to say, what was it about the trauma that causes the return of the traumatic stress?

The discovery of what exactly the Real, or in other words, what was the primordial trauma within what the client describes as trauma, is the only thing that allows for the negation of the negation. Trauma Narratives here fail, in that they provide a framework for the trauma, and may even reduce symptoms, but the trauma is never truly negated as it is obfuscated. The primordial trauma has the structure of a dialectic, and is not a single traumatic incident, but appears as a series, often times with a final piece which does not look traumatic at all except within the concept of the primordial trauma.

Someone who has dealt with violence for instance may not be traumatized by the violence, but by an act after the violence which may seem petty to the patient, and is thus repressed. Someone may be hit by a parent, but was traumatized not by the beating, but by the representation of the beating meaning a different sibling was favored, which may be viewed only when the patient is able to articulate something such as the sibling being given preferential treatment through a small gift by the parent.

The negation of the negation is not possible until this final temporal movement is articulated by the client, which is to say not the violence, but the forms of the Real obfuscated by the trauma itself. To articulate the traumatic moments, to understand this historical nature of trauma, is to negate the true crime as interpreted unconsciously by the psyche.

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