giovedì 30 maggio 2013

Psychoanalysis is not psychology, psychotherapy, or medicine. Part 2/3

this is the following of a previous part, which you can find here:

Part 2:

Today it seems that everybody is affected by some symptoms (symptoms are very fashionable. They are like a dress, they normally last for a season, then are replaced by different symptoms, and we almost don’t hear about the previous anymore). We see pathology everywhere. So, for example, now the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is very fashionable today, and the kids are suddenly very troublesome. Or they are very bully. But no one asks where such phenomenon come from. Nobody concerns to listen. All are worried to find solutions. Solutions are answers that we give to problems. But problems are easily given for granted; the premises are rarely investigated. Every practice (medicine, psychology, psychotherapy) has its own answers, its own techniques, and its own ready-to-use solutions. This is obviously quite impressive for the audience, and for clients. It is obviously more impressive to provide answers, no matter how superficial they are. Giving answers sets a limit to anxiety, and I would say regardless to the content of the answer. Understandably, many clients want to feel that the therapist masters some knowledge and has the answers. This is what people expect from specialists. Because knowledge is like a rock on which we can hang on. Without the rock of knowledge, we may feel lost. The anxiety would be overflowing. But in this case, it has to be said frankly that the only specialist can be the client, who indeed in psychoanalysis is expected to become the analysand.

But it normally works for a limited time. Freud too has begun with hypnosis, but soon he abandoned this method. Instead, a more fruitful and farsighted way is to focus on the question, rather than the answer. Elaborating the question is the most difficult task, but at the same time it is the more pragmatic, and the more concrete.


What is a question? A question is not a request, nor is a demand. A question is an investigation. A question opens. A question introduces a bifurcation: from the 1 to the 2. It shows that something else is possible. So, a question doesn’t aim at suggesting simply another solution (this or that). A question is not just an alternative. It is something more, because while we pose a question, we operate a shift of position in the speech. A question opens to the un-thought. A question introduces some new element; it is not simply a translation from one language into another. A question is effective when it makes think differently, meaning when it subverts our beliefs, finally when it opens to the Other.


So, psychoanalysis doesn’t go in the direction of a universal knowledge (like medicine, or psychology, or philosophy). Instead, it shows that even similar symptoms can have for everyone different grounds, and different place in one’s history. So, psychoanalysis is for each one a different journey. It may happen that people go through the same questions (who am I? where is my desire? Why I cannot get what I want? Etc…) but everyone will articulate different stories and go in different directions. What psychoanalysis shows is the singularity of the case. Every case is different from another, and it is not possible to refer to something like a manual of psychoanalysis, or a dictionary of dreams, or a dictionary of symptoms. There are no definitive answers. This is also the reason why psychoanalysis is virtually un-ended, a lifelong journey.


So, of course posing questions is not easy. We all want to find answers, and we all want others to give us the answers. Normally when a patient comes to us, he or she speaks non-stop for 45 minutes, and then tell us: “Ok, now I think I have told you everything. So, what is my problem? What is the solution”? Everybody expects to find the solution in few sessions. But actually, since there is no pathology and no disease, then there is no solution too. The point is that everybody can give an answer. But what is really difficult is to pose the right question. This is what we can do: posing and further articulating questions. This is the only starting point. Of course some clients are disappointed when we make questions and don’t give answers, but this is the only chance for them to try articulating their answer. This also leads us to think the position of the psychoanalyst.


Who is the psychoanalyst? Is s/he someone who really has the answer? Maybe yes, maybe no; this is not the point. Even if the analyst possessed the answer, this would be quite useless. Psychoanalysis is not just a matter of transferring information, from an expert to a novice: knowing something doesn’t produce any change. So, it is the client (in psychoanalysis is named analysand) who has to go through this process, with his/her speech. It is not the content of the talk that is important. Important is that the analysand goes through the process, through this imaginary knowledge. Important is that s/he goes through, meaning that there is not an ultimate, definitive knowledge. Psychoanalysis is a process of losing something (identifications, beliefs, etc…) rather than accumulation of knowledge.

And it is even difficult to say what happens within the consultation room, because the conversation doesn’t follow the standard of a dialogue. There is not a teaching to transfer, or no irrational belief to correct. Even though psychoanalysis has been named “talking cure”, it is actually and first of all a listening cure. The listening is in foreground; but a different listening, which is not just hearing. It is a listening that aims at the misunderstanding, because the misunderstanding indicates that another meaning is possible; it shows that another direction is possible. Indeed, words carry much more than it seems. So, the psychoanalyst will try to listen that other meaning that possibly arise from the words of the analysand, rather than trying to get his/her intended meaning.

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