Beyond the Clinic of the Obscene: The Analysis To Come
Despite the spontaneous judgments on the decline of psychoanalysis, Freud’s invention lives on today in a proliferation of Freudian inspired psychotherapies and many alternative psychologies. Surveying the situation, it is often said that “We live in a post-Freudian Era” by the pros and cons alike in the contemporary doxa.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth! It is not so much that psychoanalysis is in decline, but thinking has itself become impossible at its place and has become so confused with brands of psychodynamic therapy that it is difficult to find an orientation.
That our epoch would be dominated by psychotherapies, is a fact, but that this would also be psychoanalysis, that psychoanalysis would actually exist, is unfounded. For a simple reason: psychoanalysis has only existed at moments and never without the appeal to the factitious. Most would not doubt the existence of a psychoanalytic act with the birth of a luminary such as Freud or Lacan. Yet, what is not often brought to the fore is that both Freud and Lacan considered themselves analysands, not simply – or primarily – analysts. And that the more those working in the field concentrated on becoming analysts, the more psychoanalysis became a service-maid to forms of power ranging from psychiatry, psychology, and social work to normed disciplines of the humanities (hermeneutics, anthropology, literary critique, etc.). Today in the United States, many of the older generation of psychodynamic therapists bemoan the day when the presidency of the American Psychiatric Association was repeatedly held by those inspired by Freud. But within such frameworks psychoanalysis did not exist then anymore than it does today, not because there were not many well-intentioned doctors and institutions out to help people under the banner of post-war Freudian analysis, but because the conditions of psychoanalysis as such were never established. Instead, in each case such psychoanalysis has been held as producing a successful treatment, it has not been because of anything intrinsically psychoanalytic, but because of an underlying system of power or authority to which it owes its efficacy. If Will Menninger, of the celebrated Menninger clinic, could declare that psychoanalysis was the only basis for “valid mental hygiene”, then seek to promote it into regions beyond the theory of Freud, it was because psychoanalysis had been assimilated to a multidimensional bio-psycho-social approach that aligned it with psychiatry and a type of patient: those traumatized by war, the working worried, the anxious family member, the addicted, and those savaged by society. In this now standardized model, someone seeking to address an analyst, an analysand properly speaking, has never quite been able to break free of the mask of psychotherapy and psychiatry; even as far back as Freud’s own early case histories the analytic patient has always taken on an obscene identity. Far from being an individual seeking ”to know thyself” or alleviate his or her suffering and symptoms, we find ourselves in an epoch of the individual who is itself a symptom: a gregarious ego whose pulsions form a personage in mass, a clientele, a fragile egoism requiring a safe and secure environment in order to be sympathized with and engineered – re-educated, re-civilized, and re-transitioned back into society and the family.
To think that the analytic ‘cure’ could occur in such contexts is a major counter-sense.
Not that this counter-sense is easy to dispel, for even someone who is as articulate and detailed as a Michel Foucault gets it wrong when in his History of Sexuality he compares Freud’s psychoanalysis to the Christian tradition of the confession which purports to liberate, but once more entraps the individual in the old systems of power governing society and the family. To be fair to Foucault, what he does analyze correctly is psychoanalytic therapy. And despite his critiques, what Foucault supposes of Freud is that his psychoanalysis did to some extent succeed, for better or the worse, in the treatment of his patients. What Foucault does not account for is how Freud never does achieve a psychoanalysis: how at the very moment Freud is attempting to declare success, the analysis breaks down or is forced into an interminable analysis. Moreover, Foucault never addresses the contemporary critiques of Freud’s clinical case studies that many claim were fabricated stories built on an untestable and unscientific theory. In short, what Foucault does not account for in Freud, is what does not work absolutely: not simply where psychoanalysis is relativized and systematically assimilated into what it is not, Christian confessions or psychotherapy, but where psychoanalysis is missing and out of place.
This non-existence is general: it is often stated that classical psychoanalysis beginning with Freud was only useful in treating cases of neurosis, and only later, with the second and third generation analysis proceeded to treat psychosis. Though today it is not generally accepted that modern psychoanalysis can, indeed, successfully treat psychosis, the question is not there. Rather what is at stake is that most psychodynamic therapists would agree that Freud’s treatment of neurosis was achieved without question or with only a few minor corrections. Indeed, the dominant doxa purports that all that was needed to make psychoanalysis modern was to extend psychoanalysis – usually through the assistance of psychiatry – to the treatment of psychosis and other fields of mental health. Again, what this all too convenient history of psychoanalytic progress presupposes is that the problem of neurosis – Freud’s broken sessions, negative transference and interminable analysis – has been adequately addressed and resolved beforehand. Indeed, Lacan signaled more than once that it is not psychosis that poses a problem to the analytic cure today, but the belle-âme of Hegel that Freud left at the level of a neurosis (see A Preliminary Question to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis, Writings, J. Lacan). Needless to say, for those in a hurry all of this has been read sideways and left at the level of possible treatments without regard for any inherent necessity (see Why Topology?). In this short format, we only have the space to situate a reform of understanding. Let us call:
a) those who claim that the neurotic problem has been adequately responded to, past-analysts or psychodynamic therapists. Then call the cure in this context possible in the sense that it may – or may not – be effectively produced by the analyst.
b) those others who show how the neurotic problem has not been adequately responded to, we call future-analysts and the cure produced here may be called necessary to the degree that the effectiveness is assumed in the practice of the analysand.
The past-analysts are those who are not only fine with the existence of psychoanalysis reduced to a pragmatic effect of a psychodynamic therapy, but who are not bothered by the mere possibility that a treatment could do as much harm as good, i.e., are not worried by the un-testable nature of their therapies or the fact that the moment Freud started to analyze his neurotic patients it broke down or became interminable.
In the history of psychoanalysis, we have become familiar with myriad cases histories of Freud on Dora, the Wolfman, Little Hans, etc.. Yet, it can be shown that the only necessary cure was that produced in Freud’s own analysis. The rest were only possible and at best a manner of managing a symptom through psychodynamic therapy. If this is so, and it will be task of this website to establish its reason in a public format, nothing could be truer than the ancient passage: ‘medice cura te ipsum‘ (physician heal thyself).
These all too brief indications will be brought out in more detail with time on this site, but it suffices to state here that we are among those unsatisfied with the fossils of the therapeutic past of analysis, the Freudian crowd, and its possible treatments. Consequently, I am writing for the future analyst and the place for a necessary analysis.
Psychoanalysis today remains to be discovered not only in a return to the texts of Freud but in making room for what has become impossible to think in its name in contemporary culture. The Analysis to Come requires a more neutral clinic, one that would no longer be beholden to a gregarious ego requiring the safe environments of psychodynamic therapy or the asylums of psychiatry. What is required is a phenomenologically less obscene and paranoiac clinic, one where people do not go to be insane, feel safe, or to have a mental problem treated, but a place where someone can not not be sane. In a world where someone like a George Bush can become a president, a Wall-street CEO with a push of a button can wipe out a retirement fund with no sanction from the society, or professional schools in psychotherapy can churn out ‘shrinks’ like an industrial mill, the bar of insanity is at an all time low: it is no longer a question of the madman snarling and drooling in a straight-jacket; on the contrary, modern madness has entered our mores and confronts us daily in those fragile forms of the hyper-normality of a Mr. John Doe with a nice smile in a tie and coat. Or in a parallel manner, what is psychotic, is not the romantic image of a person who is ‘out of their mind’, but someone who has absolutely nothing wrong with him/her, but who is treated anyway by someone calling him/herself a doctor. The real question remains: what is the analytic cure today, when it is systematically assimilated to a normed environment approaching that of a social psychosis and its possible treatments? Within this optic, the old question of whether psychoanalysis can treat psychosis is no longer important. Or rather, the response is too easy: psychosis is not only what is encountered on a daily basis, but its treatment is always only possible (see A Preliminary Question to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis, Writings, J. Lacan).
The problem of the ‘mental’ in our modern democracies is on a collision course with the future. Consequently, the Analysis to Come requires an other orientation with regard to Freud: it is a question of recognizing the ordinariness of psychosis from the beginning, then returning to discover where Freud’s psychoanalysis never achieved its promise in the treatment of neurosis. For the manner in which psychoanalysis failed is critical, for such a return develops a knowledge not towards the past but the future. We do not see any other solution, therefore, than to focus our attention to where the problem lies: beyond the past-analyst and the fabrication of possible treatments in the clinic of the obscene.
(to be continued, Section II – Lacanian Analysis – Is This Left-Wing Analysis?)Tweet