The history of psychoanalysis seen from the perspective of two of its most important protagonists, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, reveals the possibilities of transforming our existence. a
Psychoanalysis: a history of human rebellion at the heart of the human psyche /
Psychoanalysis has always been a controversial discipline: from its very origins, its reception has been divided between those who consider it to be an invention which is impossible to prove following the rigorous parameters of so-called exact sciences. On the other hand, the fact that its practice is essential and inseparable from its development, is for some, an aspect that further complicates its validation, which seems effective solely within a subjective sphere, in that which the analysed goes to the analyst’s practice and grants the psychoanalytic praxis a personal value.
The dilemma can be false, but, is interesting from a certain perspective since it questions the roots of that which we categorise as an absolute truth and effective. If some epistemic contribution can be granted to psychoanalysis, from its formulation and presence in the world, is that it makes us question the place from which value a specific discourse. The acceptance or rejection which we grant it, can be questioned: is this our own conclusion or merely one we have adopted, perhaps without even realising it, from other places and people —a consequence from the place where we stand in reference to its approach?
Regardless, psychoanalysis cannot be enclosed within this kind of postmodern relativism that characterises other social and psychological contemporary theories. One of Freud’s strengths was his incredible intuition combined with his no less impressive synthesising talent, two intellectual paths that feed off each other, and bestowed him a wider perspective about some of the human’s psyche constantly present structures.
How was Freud able to do this? Essentially, by understanding that, our psyche is also a consequence of our culture. As he noted in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, the dichotomy between individual psychology and collective psychology is merely conceptual, since our mind, with all its open paths and labyrinths , despite being inevitably our own, is shaped and in some way belongs to those it formed itself with, with those it shares and coexists. From there, for example, many of the aspects Freud borrowed from literature and other arts: by being subjective works, in them he was able to find evidence of the psyche’s double condition.
In The Bow and the Lyre Octavio Paz wrote “Because of the word, man is a metaphor of himself”. If there is one contribution made by psychoanalysis which we have to recognise, this would be making the metaphor an essential category for the analysis of the human psyche. We are essentially a metaphor because we “metaphorise” the reality in which we exist —and consequently, the metaphor also is the path that enables us to gain access to the reality every subject builds for himself, in collaboration with others.
Starting with this premise, several years after Freud’s death, when some of his pupils and interpreters had suggested other paths or had followed those of their master, French Jacques Lacan injected new life into Freudian theory, bestowing its subjectivity and its words a prominent place once again, which it had lost because of previous theoreticians. For Lacan the right place for word is subjective narrative, a tale formed by meanings and signifiers that despite being borrowed, take the form of the container that holds them, they adapt and configure subjectively, introducing subtle variations in a type of melody known beforehand.
Lacan’s irruption in the development of psychoanalytic theory had a special kind of repercussion since, like Freud, he knew how to incorporate other types of theoretic developments of his time into psychoanalysis, a wide span that ranged from linguistics to maths, philosophy and other disciplines that, perhaps may be considered foreign to a school of thought whose main objective is to understand the psyche. Lacan’s equally admirable synthetic ability led to revalorising the concepts suggested by Freud, a risky endeavour that at the time resulted in him being expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Association (at the time the canonical psychoanalytic institution), as well as being considered as an extravagant charlatan, unquestionably cultured but with redundant, obvious and pointlessly enigmatic ideas.
It is hard however to refute Lacan’s repositioning of word as the ultimate territory of human existence. It is precisely the word —its use and appropriation, in the equivocal and its misinterpretations, its transparency and its darkness —where the truly human takes place— and also where we find our most honest possibility of transformation.Tagged: psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Warriors & Rebels, mind, human mind