LIVING THE QUESTIONS...
PSYCHOANALYSIS IN THE STYLE OF LACAN (HIS RETURN TO FREUD)
The following is excerpted from the excellent 1974 interview of Dr. Jacques Lacan given to E. Granzotto of the Italian magazine Panorama
Psychoanalysis has not come close to finding its own limits, yet. There is still so much to discover in practice and in consciousness. In psychoanalysis, there are no immediate answers, but only the long and patient search for reasons.
… truth itself [is] in question, and this concerns everyone, each individual personally.
To offer to help people means guaranteeing success, and the customers are banging down the door. Psychoanalysis is something quite different to this.
I define it as a symptom – something that reveals the malaise of the society in which we live. Of course, it is not a philosophy. … Nor is psychoanalysis a faith, and I am not keen on calling it a science. Let’s say that it’s a practice, and it is concerned with whatever is not going right. Which is a terrible difficulty because it claims to introduce the impossible, the imaginary, into everyday life. Thus far it has obtained certain results, but it still has no rules and is prone to all sorts of ambiguities.
We must not forget that it is something entirely new, with regard to both medicine and psychology and its outliers.
What isn’t going right with people today?
This great listlessness in life, a consequence of the rush for progress. Through psychoanalysis people expect to discover how far it is possible to draw out this listlessness.
What is it that drives people to have themselves analysed?
Fear. When something happens to someone and they do not understand it, even if they wanted it to happen, they are afraid. They suffer from not understanding, and little by little they fall into a panic. This is neurosis.
The neurotic is an ill person who is treated by speech, above all his own. He must speak, recount, explain himself. Freud defined psychoanalysis as the subject’s assumption of his own history, insofar as this history is constituted by the words addressed to another person. Psychoanalysis is the realm of speech, there is no other remedy. Freud explained that the unconscious is not deep as much as it is inaccessible to conscious examination. And that in this unconscious, the speaker is a subject within the subject, transcending the subject. The great strength of psychoanalysis is speech.
Whose speech? The ill person’s or the psychoanalyst’s?
In psychoanalysis the terms ‘ill person’, ‘doctor’ and ‘remedy’ are no more appropriate than the passive formulas that are so commonly used. We say: ‘have yourself psychoanalysed’. This is wrong. The person doing the real work in the analysis is the speaker, the subject analysing himself. That is the case even if he does so in the manner suggested by the analyst who indicates how he ought to proceed and who makes helpful interventions.
The routes by which this act of speech proceeds demand a great deal of practice and infinite patience. Psychoanalysis’s tools are patience and moderation. The technique consists of moderating the degree of help that you give to the subject analysing himself. Psychoanalysis is thus no simple matter.
You give yourself over to telling him simply whatever comes into your head. Words, that is. Psychoanalysis’s discovery is man-as-speaking-animal. It is up to the analyst to order the words he hears, giving them sense and meaning. For a good analysis to be possible there needs to be an agreement, an understanding between the analyst and the subject analysing himself.
Through the latter’s discourse, the analyst seeks to get an idea of what is at issue, and going beyond the apparent symptom locate the tangled knot of truth at the heart of the matter. The analyst’s other function is to explain the meaning of the words used in order to allow the patient to understand what he can expect from the analysis.
A relationship that demands a great deal of trust…
Or rather, an exchange, in which the important thing is that one person speaks and the other listens. As well as silence. The analyst poses no questions and adds no ideas of his own. He only gives the answers that he wants to, to the questions that he wants to. But ultimately the subject analysing himself always goes where the analyst leads him.
You just mentioned therapy. Is there a possibility of being cured? Can one emerge out of neurosis?
Psychoanalysis is successful when it clears the ground, goes beyond symptoms, goes beyond the real. That is to say, when it touches the truth.
I call a ‘symptom’ everything that comes from the real. And the real is everything that isn’t right, does not work, and is opposed to man’s life and his engagement with his personality. The real always returns to the same place. And it is there that you will always find it, in the same trappings.
“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength”