Are there the premises for Psychoanalysis, in Hong Kong, now? And what exactly we call Psychoanalysis? Difficult to say, while it is probably easier saying what Psychoanalysis is not. For sure not a method to comfort people; not a supportive therapy; and not a remedy for some moment of unease. In a sentence, I would say that Psychoanalysis is a different disposition at listening, a disposition which comes along an intellectual itinerary. Listening critically, listening with intelligence; not just “hearing”. Indeed, it is not easy to reach a condition of evenly suspended attention, it requires a continuous practice. So, Psychoanalysis is a priority, not a part time occupation. Psychoanalysis is an attitude toward life: it is the way we write, create, and invent life. It is creativity, critical attitude, it is giving nothing for granted. Psychoanalysis is not a method for solving the crisis; on the opposite, it is how we question the crisis, and go through it. The psychoanalytic listening shows that the misunderstanding is structural, unavoidable. Understanding goes in the opposite direction of listening. Listening is not just "listening to someone". Indeed, we should rather ask: who is speaking? The very experience of listening leads to experience the loss of any representation: the solitude.
But then, what spirit we find in Hong Kong? What can Hong Kong say about critical thinking, crisis, culture, life, listening, solitude?
Psychoanalysis is not only what is practiced in the consultation room, even though there is no psychoanalysis without clinical experience. So, where is the chance for operating as Psychoanalyst in Hong Kong? How to deal with a hierarchical culture, traditionally more familiar with the “wise”, and the “master” (Lanselle, 2007)? Masters and mentors are those supposed to give advices and practical suggestions, those who possess the knowledge, those who have learnt how to deal with their symptoms and their desire; those who apparently eliminated or controlled their unconscious and are now ready to teach. Teaching to good scholars, who never question what masters say. But the psychoanalyst deals with the unconscious: something that will remain always partially unknown, something structural, which cannot be removed. The analyst has no control over the unconscious and as Lanselle (2007) says “the truth lays on the side of the patient”: can this be acceptable for Chinese clients?
The client in analysis is not passive to the process, that’s why he is called analysand. He’s not there for learning from someone supposed to be more experienced than him; and neither he is not there to confirm or to conform to the discourse of the master. Psychoanalysis is an experience new for both the actors involved, every time. Goal of the analysis is not the transference of knowledge from the expert to the novice. The core of the process is the unconscious discourse of the analysand, as to say that goal of psychoanalysis is to let the analysant say what “he doesn’t know to know”. Paradox.
This to say the psychoanalysis is not in the form of the dia-logue. It is a conversation indeed, where the analysand addresses the analyst, receiving the answer from the Other. So in analysis the first thing is for the analysand to give attention to what s/he says. Actually in most cases analyst and the client don’t sit face to face: the client lays on a couch and the analysts sits behind. This position could be uncomfortable, especially to clients who expects precise answer from the analyst (even just a sign of approval or disapproval), while answering is exactly what the analyst tends to avoid. Then after a while one realizes that the analyst occupies a position of semblant; he has to be there, so that a question can be formulated and addressed, but then he’s not the one who could or who should answer. And the very act of questioning becomes more important than receiving the answer, as the answer (any answer) shows its inconsistency, its lie. But what are the grounds of the relation in Chinese culture? And can we find something similar to the unconscious in the Chinese thought? What does it mean to be a semblant in the Chinese thought, and what position one should have?
And again, what is the attitude toward talking in Hong Kong? In western societies people could feel more comfortable talking to a complete stranger, but maybe this is not the case here. Actually the main rule of psychoanalysis is “say everything that comes to your mind, without making any selection”. Would this be possible in the Chinese context? How the Chinese consider talking? Is it something they use just for communicating, just to transfer information, or is it something they do for the pleasure of talking? In Italy, in Europe, in America talking is of great importance. We like talking and we consider talking a pleasure itself. People talk for hours, even if apparently they have nothing particular to say. In western culture keeping everything inside is not always a virtue. And probably people have the perception that just talking sometime is enough for things to start changing. But is it the same in Chinese culture?
To not conclude
I want to be rather Hongkonghese, meaning pragmatic: I think that the technique is not marginal, it surely plays a role. And we should not be slave of the theory, as this would be ideological. But on the other side we cannot abandon completely the theory, or better the moment of theorization. Psychoanalysis cannot be reduced to a technique, and as such it cannot be easily transmitted as other psychotherapies, for example. So I don’t think that Psychoanalysis should be adapted to the context (which is probably something that will happen anyway, as happened already when Psychoanalysis was brought to America). Both on Chinese and western tables there is always a criteria for matching flavors and tastes. Cuisines develop as combinatorial arts. And whatever we choose the most important is the quality we offer, the desire we put in, as the cure and the attention to the process.
This means that further than the techniques we adopt, it is the disposition at listening that makes the difference. A different listening, a psychoanalytic listening: listening the Other, through the words of the other. This also means that we should not “adapt” the theory to an imaginary client, to some general standard (this or that “culture”), we do not need to figure out what to say in advance. Every time, even with a client who return for the tenth or the hundredth times we will meet a different, unique, new person. And only if we will be able to face every session as a new, different session, we will be in the position of listening and probably our word will have some efficacy, it will turn out to be the right thing at the right moment.
In Hong Kong we find a different attitude toward talking. This cannot go without implication for the listening as well. So, which disposition toward the listening can we find in Hong Kong? How the Chinese culture shapes this disposition?