Psychoanalysis is an art of listening, and as such it can be at the same time either the easiest or the most difficult occupation. I studied clinical psychology at the University. Together with medicine, it was the only accepted degree for becoming a therapist later (not a psychoanalyst). However, psychology and philosophy sounded more interesting than medicine. At least, their declared interest for humankind seemed more straightforward than medicine. On the other hand, the weak scientism, the rationalism and materialism of medicine seemed to me a rough and presumptuous oversimplification. Such aridity, then, is what often times opens the door to spirituality, as a sort of compensation. Materialism on one hand, and spirituality on the other hand. It is the effect of the split between body and mind.
What I realized only later, as a psychology student and at the same time as analysand, is that also psychology and philosophy are very different from psychoanalysis. The first, psychology, suffers of a dangerous complex of inferiority to medicine, and just tries to emulate it. Not surprisingly, this way is leading nowhere. The second, philosophy, is a sophisticated practice of thinking. But Freud showed effectively that thinking is just the top of the iceberg, the small part that we see up the level of the water. But the important part is down there. But philosophy is all about thinking, reasoning, or (but it is just the other side of the coin) repressing or suspending the thinking (meditation). Even the most developed phenomenologies remain simply at the level of the thinking. As such, they aim to produce a universal and sharable knowledge.
Both psychology and philosophy do not recognize the unconscious. Both elude the listening. Even though both psychology and philosophy apparently emphasize the question, and the questioning, finally they just aim at producing answers and delivering teachings. The questioning in psychology and philosophy is the at best a maieutics, a method for guiding the other to a truth that is already written. Indeed, this is not a listening that opens to anything new; this is simply finding confirmation for what has already been said.
Despite many medical doctors claim that psychoanalysis should be accessible only to them (meaning with this that psychology, psychotherapy, or even psychoanalysis are branches of medicine), psychoanalysis lies at the antipodes of medicine too, for several reasons. Medicine (just as psychology and psychotherapy) is more likely in search of a universal knowledge, what is true for all.
The symptom, in medicine, is intended as a malfunctioning. Thus, medicine and aims at curing the symptom (more likely erasing it). Instead, in psychoanalysis there is a different conception of the symptom, which is not at all intended as a malfunctioning. For Freud the symptom was like a text that the person cannot read anymore. It was like having a text in an unknown language. At the beginning, Freud was thinking that the work of analysis was to give interpretations, so to finally discover the meaning of this unknown text. However, later became clear to Freud that the working through of the analysis was not that simple, and that a first version of the text was probably not even available. The symptom is likely impossible to understand once for all. But what is important is that Freud, for the first time, didn’t treat the symptom as something external to the client. Instead, he investigated the relations of a person with his symptoms, showing that the symptom has a particular place in our psychic economy. The symptom serves for something. At the same time, it is an attempt of self-healing, and something that provide a secondary satisfaction. Freud defined the symptom (and all the forgetfulness, the lapse, the dreams, the slips of tongue, etc…) as a compromise formation between different instances.
So, we see that the work of psychoanalysis is much more complex than in medicine. In medicine we think that we know what a body is. In western medicine there is a clear distinction between the body and the mind. For instance, the body of the western medicine is normally seen as a passive body. It is the body that lies on the bed (from which the etymology of the word clinic). Actually, this ideology is shared by psychology and psychotherapy, which consider the symptom as a cognitive or physical impairment that has nothing to do with the person who owns it. To such practices the symptom simply makes no sense. Thus, their goal is to get rid of it, and free the person by such scrap.
Instead, psychoanalysis starts from here. In psychoanalysis there is no waste, so the symptom has a completely different relevance. The symptoms speaks about the subject. It is the particular modality of enjoyment of a subject.
Freud has shown is that there is an unconscious. And the unconscious is not stupid, or damaged. Then, rather than being worried to fix the symptom, what we first need to do is to read the symptom differently, and try to question that symptom. To be precise, symptoms are not accidental: the symptom is inscribed in a particular unconscious logic. What psychoanalysis always shows is that we are always somehow implicated in what happen to us. So, the symptom always talks about us, and what we should do is to listen to this symptom. The symptom has some specific ways for emerge; however, we can find it structured in a discourse (where for discourse we intend a fixation of the speech). Indeed, the symptom can become the most powerful resource for us.