Personality, diagnosis, prognosis
The concepts of personality and diagnosis go hand in hand. “Personality” indicates what is stable, what is repeated; personality is the mask of the subject, the “pattern”, the script that the subject follows: a discourse without words. Personality indicates a category. Personality is defined first. It is not simply that a certain subject has a certain personality. It is rather the opposite: a certain personality, a certain has some subjects. The subject must fit into the category. The personality is the orthopaedics of the subject. Making a diagnosis means defining the grade of the subject: how much it fits a category, how predictable it is. Giving a diagnosis is first of all cancelling the originary difference. Then everything is already said. If we know behind what mask the subject is speaking, then we know already what he is going to say. The diagnosis should then magically reveal the prognosis, the direction of the cure, as everything is already clear, defined, and predictable. Everything is already written. We all reason in terms of personality; we do it so often that we don’t even realize it. For example, talking about relationships we might think: “s/he is different from me, we are complementary, so we will get along well”, or at the opposite: “we are so similar, so it must work”. We may think that some traits of personality may guarantee about a relationship, may confer stability. The very idea of personality is that the discourse is crystallized, and can never shift to a new saying. The idea of personality is that we can simply erase the Other.
The diagnosis may calm the anxiety of the clinician, who feel more confident thinking that he can really understand what is going on at any stage. Not mastering the language can cause some discomfort, so the idea of a tool, a technique that can help to control the relation is understandably a first concern. It is a wishful thinking, it is the idea of taking control over the speech, so as to manage the relationship, and leading the game (the cure) anywhere one wants. We are full of representations about us and the others, full of common sense, and supposed knowledge. We may say that we are depressed, that our neighbor is paranoid, that our best friend is a bit borderline, and that those others are repressed. Defining the other, representing the difference, is powerful, because it brings the unknown within the register of the comprehension, so that any effect of understanding is prevented. What lies behind a label, what questions, what issues? Everything already “makes sense”, so that any possible question is suppressed. But personality does not measure reality, which doesn’t exist; it rather measures our imaginary dimension. It measures the repetition, what always comes identical to itself. It measures how the subject is shaped by the discourse.
Then something happen. Love, for example. And love has this incredible power: that everything we were thinking about ourselves suddenly collapses. Suddenly we feel transported far from everything we believed before. We discover an incredible energy: we may sleep little, but we are never tired. Then we change our look, we change our style, we discover that we like something that before we didn’t like at all. We may find ourselves with lots of new ideas, new proposal. Suddenly we feel like changing everything, we feel that everything is possible and nothing fear us. We feel that we want to experience everything we couldn’t even imagine before. We feel open to the new. What was scary before, now is fascinating, interesting, seductive. Our relatives and close friends do not recognize us anymore. Suddenly: where is our personality?
Freud is the first who described this phenomenon. When he was trying to cure one of his patient, he realized that she was showing an intense affection to him, and that her symptoms where changing quickly, as she (unconsciously) wanted to demonstrate something to her doctor. At the beginning she was responding quite well to the cure, but later, when the treatment was going to finish, her symptoms suddenly got worse, as something inside her wanted to oppose to the cure. Freud first defined this phenomenon transference. And he said that the love of transference was the most authentic form of love. At the beginning Freud was describing the transference as the translation of some unconscious and repressed fantasies to the person of the analyst, like a sort of misplacement. Due to his first experience, Freud first regarded the transference exclusively as a resistance, something to avoid, an obstacle to the treatment which must be destroyed. Gradually, however, he modified this view, coming to see the transference as a positive factor which helps the treatment to progress, the engine of the cure. He then noticed that transference in the course of analysis is no stronger than outside of it. For Lacan the transference is the attribution of knowledge to the other: the other knows where is my desire, my desire lies in the field of the Other.
Transference is then a very common phenomenon, but the situation of analysis can show it more easily. What differentiates psychoanalysis from other relations (for example “hypnosis”) is that even though both are based on the transference, the analyst refuses to use the power given to him by the transference. The transference is what moves a person to address a question to another, for example a client to his doctor. The transference shows that there is no simply dialogue (because when we talk we always refer to something that goes beyond the present situation. Very often when we think that the matter is only between “me and you” we argue, we fight) and there is no relation, because first of all there is no similar (because the other is always caught through a phantasm). The transference is sign of sexuality and desire. The desire is not only the desire of the client. Or, also the desire of the client depends by the desire of the analyst. For example working in some institutions is easy to make such experience; even the more chronic patient can change completely, whether he relates to an educator rather than another, to the doctor, or to someone else from outside. It also plays a great role being in the same institution, or being outside in a bar, or in a totally different place, like it happens during the holidays. Desire of the analyst: the analyst does not operate according to an ideal, and doesn't pursue the idea of healing or "doing good". The analyst's desire should be to an absolute difference, without any temptation of a performance. The desire of the analyst should remain enigmatic for the analysand, and in this way constituting the engine of the cure. The desire of the analyst is desire of analysis, desire of theory, not desire of cure!
The desire is motor of life.
We must work on our desire, in order to make something happen, even when we face apparently most severe cases of neurosis or psychosis. No work is possible with any “personality”, if one is not sustained by the desire. A patient recognizes immediately the lack of desire, or a sense of coldness and distance. The unconscious is not sick, and any patient, even seriously “disturbed”, can feel instantly when a word is non authentic. “Non-authentic” in the way is not moved by the desire, but follows, for example, a calculation, or a strategy. Only misrecognizing the dimension of the transference we are lead to talk in terms of personality. The non-recognition of the transference leads many professionals to take everything on a personal level, and then the patient becomes “provocative”, “resistant to treatment”, “not cooperative”, or “not willing to change”. The result is the description of a person totally abstract, a very static description, that doesn’t tell us anything about the resources that also that person can have. Just a little bit of clinic experience shows that the transference can overturn any schema. In a relation of “cure” love comes just as in any other relation. But the difference here is that at least one of the members should be a little aware of this, and the transference should not be acted. Understanding the transference can help to turn a resistance into the motor of the cure.
The analyst occupies a particular symbolic position and he should preserve it, not intervening with his knowledge or beliefs, as a teacher or a friend can do. The desire arises when the object is missing. The analyst should preserve this desire proceeding by subtraction, escaping the representations of the patient, giving him the opportunity to articulate his question.