Monthly Archives: January 2016

Manifesto Fest 2015

Division/Review has published a package of manifestos (first presented at the 2015 Division 39 Conference) by Will Braun, Jill Gentile, Lynne Layton, Tiffany McLain, Tracy Morgan, Jonathan Shedler, Esther Speber, and Robert D. Stolorow.

View the entire issue online or grab the Manifesto Fest PDF here!

[ Thanks to Esther Sperber and David Lichtenstein for the PDF. ]

>> Esther presents her manifesto on YouTube.

“Free Association”: A Technical Principle or Model for Psychoanalytic Education?

I would like to begin this post with a dogmatic statement that is intended solely for the sake of discussion and, hopefully, not to alienate my many friends who teach in either psychoanalytic or academic institutions. I know that many of them are even involved in training psychoanalysts in universities and that they probably owe a great deal to such institutions and are understandably grateful for the education that they obtained from that experience. Others who are not involved in academia as such may be associated with free-standing psychoanalytic institutes that are nevertheless modeled on academic education and, for that reason, you may feel identified (at least in principle) with the academic model of education.

Though my psychoanalytic training was not at a university, I was educated, like everyone else, at a university in my undergraduate education and, like many, obtained a PhD in psychology at a graduate institute. So my experience is not that alien to yours, though I confess I sometimes wonder if I have lost my memory of having traveled here from another galaxy, when I realize how out-of-step I feel when I have the occasion to teach at a graduate school, which I do now and then, in California. Be that as it may, I believe that psychoanalytic education of some sort belongs in academic institutions, even if I am about to share with you my reservations about conceiving psychoanalytic training along academic lines. …

[ Download the whole article as a PDF here. ]

Where silent infantile sexuality was, democracy shall be: A Psychoanalytic Manifesto

Psychoanalysis was founded to discover truths of human nature and to heal by means of truthful discourse. Sigmund Freud, after experimenting with hypnosis, began working instead in the familiar but also radical terrain of human speech. He landed upon the technique of free association after patients, almost all female, pushed back against his leading questions; free association followed from his surrender to the voices of women. It calls in turn upon the patient to surrender all the thoughts that occur to her, without editing, censoring, or concealment, and to yield to their truth in the context of address, of an intersubjective discourse.

Through such socially unconventional conversations, Freud wandered into uncanny territory. It wasn’t only the unconscious that compelled his attention, but also the peculiar signage of unconscious terrain. He named this signage “infantile sexuality” and he recognized it as both utterly normal and utterly perverse.

If psychoanalysis desired a path of least resistance to public acceptance, it couldn’t have chartered a more brilliant means of ensuring its self-defeat. But as Freud and every practicing psychoanalyst since has discovered, the path to resistance is the very path to cure; and every psychoanalysis follows this obstacle-ridden odyssey. This odyssey proceeds by means of encrypted signs that tell a universal story even as they also reveal an infinitely varying trail of singularity. Freud’s genius was to recognize psychoanalysis’s enduring validity as desire’s tale and travails.

How was the infant’s sexuality to be revealed? Infants, by definition, are without language (in-fantem). What Freud intuited early on was the need for a space of speech. A space between speaker and listener, a space between the raw sensual body and its experiential energies, and the psyche’s mind. Somewhere in there, we might say, was the soul—desire’s voice. But it would take the transformation of the patient from mute infant to speaking adult to enfranchise and claim her desire and to emancipate her mind and her body. All by means of winning her freedom to think and to speak, through a signature practice of free thought and free speech.

Freud dismissed and denigrated our draw to illusion and self-deception; but he was not deterred from his goal of translating the energies of what the body spoke. He glimpsed the power of an enlightened speaking subject. He glimpsed but never realized the power of psychoanalysis to democratize desire, to grant human beings their natural and inalienable rights to own their sexuality, libido, and free speech privilege. Revolutionary? At the very least, threatening to the world of encrusted power arrangements.

There will always be resistance. Through speaking (which also includes listening, translating, and interpreting), the patient names and shares unspoken desires and forbidden knowledge, knowledge many will resist hearing. Psychoanalytic cures, like democratic actions, require speaking truth to power, enlisting the voice of the marginalized in the franchise of speech, surviving destruction, liberating desire. The content of that conversation, however sentimental, naïve, and idealized it may sound to say, is one of freedom and truth—but also of hope, compassion, generosity, excitement, love, and a striving toward equality.

The once meek shall inherit the earth through the natural design of human speech and relationship, harnessed through a technique of free association, through a dedicated practice of speaking desire—democratizing desire— in the context as well as under the constraints of transference. Free speech, be it democratic or psychoanalytic, is the lever that redistributes voice and human agency. A truly egalitarian model that Marx and the communist manifesto might wish to claim! But one that has at its core a vision that Tocqueville anticipated for democracy, one that we might envision for psychoanalysis: When “plain citizens … get together in free associations, they have something of nobility in their souls.” Nobility borne of translating the infant’s mute sexual curiosity and natural “perverse” desire into a talking that cures.

The demise of the person in the psychoanalytic situation

The demise of the person in the psychoanalytic process may seem like a strange choice of subject matter as the words “person” and “personal” are not technical terms in standard psychoanalytic nomenclature. Typically, both terms are invoked, if at all, in a strictly offhand way when referring to non-transferential and non-technical behavior or experience in the context of the psychoanalytic treatment relationship.

For the majority of analysts, so-called personal aspects of the treatment situation have little, if any, role to play in the psychoanalytic process as it is typically conceived. For many, it is the absence of a personal engagement with patients that distinguishes psychoanalysis from its user-friendlier cousin, psychodynamic psychotherapy. It has become increasingly commonplace that contemporary psychoanalysts of virtually all persuasions reduce the psychoanalytic process to the analysis of transference, resistance, and more recently, enactments. This has resulted in the general assumption that virtually all of a patient’s reactions to the person of the analyst should be treated as transference manifestations.

Similarly, most if not all, significant interventions by the analyst in response to transference phenomena are informed by whichever technical principles a given analyst elects to follow. This is a view held typically, for example, by Kleinian, classical Freudian (i.e., American ego psychology), and most contemporary relational analysts, all of whom tend to deconstruct the very notion of a person-to-person engagement out of the psychoanalytic process. Such analysts often concede that interactions of a personal nature occur invariably during every analytic encounter, but such occurrences usually are deemed irrelevant, and even impediments, to the analytic process, and are avoided scrupulously or, when unavoidable, systematically analysed….

[ Download the full article as a PDF here. ]