6 Slices
Medium 9781855759947

1 - Introduction

Lear, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

 

 

 

 

How might a conversation fundamentally change the structure of the human psyche? I am not concerned merely with a conversation that leads someone to change his or her beliefs—even a conversation that leads to massive change of beliefs. I can imagine myself living through a scientific revolution: I am in college in Galileo’s time; I’m taking Astronomy 101; indeed, Galileo is my professor! I come to understand the mathematics and the astronomy—and, whoosh!, I come to realize that the earth is not at the center of the universe. I can even imagine that my former beliefs were so strongly felt that, as I undergo this change, it is almost as if I can feel the earth under my feet move out to its orbit around the sun.1 Still, this is not the kind of change I am talking about, though we are getting closer. For the psyche is in the business of adjusting and changing beliefs. Changing beliefs, being surprised about the change, reacting emotionally and feelingly toward it—this is just what the psyche does. Nothing about the psyche itself has to change in this process.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855759947

2 - Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Irony

Lear, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

 

 

 

 

There is a crucial ambiguity in the term therapeutic action. On the one hand, it refers to the process, whatever it is, by which the patient gets better. In this sense, it is like an x in algebra: in trying to figure out how psychoanalysis works, we are in effect trying to solve for the equation, therapeutic action = x. On the other hand, it also describes all of our actions insofar as we are facilitating a therapeutic process. As analysts, our acts—listening, being there, questions, associations, interpretations—ought to be therapeutic acts. But what grounds our confidence that our acts are therapeutic acts? Insofar as the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis remains an enigmatic x, how do we know that our acts are facilitating it?

This is not simply a question about psychoanalysis, it is a question about our own identity. For psychoanalyst is not simply a term like newspaper reader or airline passenger, which describe things we do, even things we do often or are committed to. Psychoanalyst describes who we are. There are three related features of being a psychoanalyst that command our attention. First, as psychoanalysts, we are constantly in the process of shaping ourselves as psychoanalysts. As we listen to our analysands, we are also listening to ourselves. We wonder about what conflicts are being stirred up in our analysands, and we also wonder about what conflicts are being stirred up in ourselves. We strive to shape ourselves into people who can listen well and who can intervene in ways that are genuinely helpful to our analysands. This is a process of becoming a certain kind of a person.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855759947

6 - Revocation

Lear, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

 

 

 

 

How is one to end a book on therapeutic action? Or, rather, what would a therapeutic ending be? With a recovered memory? Here it again seems useful to take a step back to a moment in Western intellectual and emotional life just before the introduction of psychoanalysis. The great therapeutic book, written in the generation before Freud, is Concluding Unscientific Postscript by Johannes Climacus. This book is written in the midst of Christian life, and its official topic, the manifest content, is the difficulty involved in becoming a Christian. This may seem an alien topic for secular readers today. All the more so for psychoanalysts who have been persuaded by Freud’s critique of religious belief. Still, no matter what your religious orientation or lack of orientation, we cut ourselves off from our own past if we simply disregard the great works of nineteenth century Europe. For this is the soil from which psychoanalysis grew. Whatever one’s current religious belief or lack of belief or hostility to belief, it is antipsychoanalytic to refuse to look back to one’s heritage. Here I am not interested in any particular influence on Freud the individual, but rather in a diagnosis of the spiritual climate of his time.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855759947

4 - Love as a Drive

Lear, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

 

 

 

 

As you opened a new book, have you ever imagined it was like getting on a train? You don’t really know where you are going, there is the allure of adventure, the promise that you are going to be taken someplace new. As the train pulls out of the station, new vistas start to open up, but somewhere along the route things start to get ugly, you want to stop the train. “Do I really have to go there?!” It’s like a dream turned bad.

That is how I feel when I read Lacan. He begins with an insight he gets from Heidegger—that the human psyche is essentially open to the world. This insight governs his reading of Freud; rather than see the psyche as a closed system upon which a hostile world impinges, Lacan sees it as essentially formed by (and existing in) its engagements in the world. There are astonishing insights along the way; in particular, Lacan has made brilliant use of the idea that precisely because we are so world-directed, it is in our nature to latch onto utterances, sights, and objects, and take them as having significance, though we do not (yet) know what their significance is. We have an oracular sense that it is meant for us, yet we do not understand its meaning.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855759947

5 - Transference as Worldiness

Lear, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

 

 

 

 

I am well adjusted.

You are going through an emotional crisis.

She is in the grip of transference.

Let I = Freud, You = Breuer, and She = Anna O., and this conjugation gives us an uncanny glimpse into the origins of psychoanalysis. By now it is well known that Breuer’s treatment of Anna O. differed significantly from his report in the Studies on Hysteria. At the end of the case history, Breuer concludes:

I have already described the astonishing fact that from the beginning to end of the illness all the stimuli arising from the secondary [unconscious] state, together with their consequences, were permanently removed by being given verbal utterance in hypnosis, and I have only to add the assurance that this was not an invention of mine which I imposed on the patient by suggestion. It took me completely by surprise, and not until symptoms had been got rid of in this way in a whole series of instances did I develop a therapeutic technique out of it.1

In fact, Breuer got nowhere near the “end of her illness”: indeed, he got so entangled in it he fled. In 1932, approximately fifty years after the treatment, Freud wrote a letter to Stephen Zweig in which he gave an account of “what really happened to Breuer’s patient.”2 “On the evening of the day that all her symptoms had been brought under control, he was called to her once more, found her confused and writhing with abdominal cramps. Asked what was the matter, she replied, ‘Now comes Dr. B.’s child.’” Breuer reacted to this dramatic event by abandoning his patient and going on a vacation with his wife. He never returned to psychoanalysis.

See All Chapters

See All Slices