Psychoanalysis has become a bad word in the US as a result of a massive negative PR campaign by pharmaceutical companies that want people to be hooked on medication and, consequently, abhor any method that can help people get better (actually, get amazingly, ecstatically well) drug-free. I’m not talking only about psychotropic medication, of course. I’m talking about all forms of physical and psychological ailments that most people address with drugs.
This is why I’m very happy to see that psychoanalysis is finally getting out of the dungeon where it had been driven by the pharmaceutical companies and becoming more mainstream.
Feministe, for example, has just started a series of guest posts by a psychoanalist who has the following to say:
We can, like the psychoanalysts, understand madness as an experience of personal history, with symptoms being the expressions of things otherwise incommunicable. Each of these understandings come with values and dictate very different forms of treatment.
Personally, I stand with psychoanalysis. My own view of symptoms is that they are a complicated interaction between the things someone had to do to survive trauma, the ways they have found to communicate these experiences which are not readily spoken, and the taboos which rob patients of their voice. Because of this, I don’t really treat symptoms. I avoid telling patients to stop doing this or start doing that and engage with the symptoms as if they were a part of the conversation in the same way that body language or metaphor might be worth observing.
Great job, Feministe!
I can only discuss psychoanalysis as an analysand, so my perspective is obviously much less useful than that of Feministe’s guest speaker. I just want to mention the following things in order to help clarify some misconceptions about psychoanalysis:
1. A psychoanalyst does not diagnose or tell people what to do. The very concept of a diagnosis is alien to psychoanalysis. Many people say that they are afraid to go to a psychoanalyst because they don’t want to be assigned a bunch of diagnoses. This is ridiculous because a psychoanalyst is pretty much the only kind of a specialist who will not do anything of the kind.
And if you fear that the analyst will tell you something like “you suffer from a heightened degree of immaturity due to the fact that your parents were overprotective and you are in love with your father”, then get over that silly myth already. In analysis, you will claw the walls and hang from the chandelier, begging the analyst to tell you what to think, but the son of a gun never will. Because answers only work if you arrive at them on your own.
2. Bluntly put, a psychotherapist charges you to tell you what you want to hear, while a psychoanalyst charges you for getting you to say what you don’t want to hear. People go to therapists for years and decades because all a therapist does is make you feel good by temporarily relieving your anxieties. Until you need the next fix.
3. If you want regular psychological support that involves no major transformation of your personality, go to a therapist. If you want to work like a dog, sweat and cry but achieve dramatic breakthroughs, go to an analyst.
4. As the analyst I quoted says, a symptom (of any illness, not just mental disease) is a way that your body has to communicate that something wrong is happening. You can dismiss this signal by getting rid of the symptom by taking medication, which, of course, does nothing to remove the original problem. Or you can work with an analyst to remove the underlying cause.
5. Yes, it really works.