What happens when psychoanalysis becomes a new religion? Melitta Schmideberg—known as the daughter of Melanie Klein—explained it in a 1938 paper, “After the Analysis….” I have already quoted it, but here is another quotation. One notes that Schmideberg, as opposed to many other psychoanalysts has a way with words: she is a fine writer. Though, her text could use better punctuation.
In her words:
But there is another type of patient for whom psychoanalysis has become the new religion whether or not he comes for analysis because of some distressing symptom, he will never be satisfied with a mere alleviation of symptoms or any other simple tangible result. He expects that after being ‘fully analyzed’ he will never have any more difficulties or disappointments in life, and never under any circumstances experience guilt or anxiety; that he will develop remarkable intellectual or aesthetic powers, perhaps even prove to be a genius, be blissfully happy, perfectly balanced, superhumanly unbiased and absolutely free from the slightest neurotic symptom, caprice of mood or bad habit. I have actually heard the view expressed that a ‘fully analyzed person’ will be free from aggression and pregenital interests, have no polygamous tendencies and never make a slip of the tongue or any other kind of mistake. Analysis is sometimes regarded as a panacea for all evil and the best or only solution for every individual or social problem. In a community where every member had been analyzed there would be no crime, war, unemployment, hatred, misery, sexual entanglement or divorce.
In her paper she argues that such beliefs represent a regression to an infantile mental state. Be that as it may, I see it slightly differently. She could not have known that the Freudian thrust toward secular salvation led to the production of a human being who embodied, in the minds of his followers, most of the qualities that Schmideberg presented in the above text.
As I explained in my book The Last Psychoanalyst that Jacques Lacan became a cult leader, not because of his arcane theories that no one understood, but because he embodied—in the flesh—the ideal of what one would become if one completed a successful psychoanalysis. It was not about mental health. It was not about normality. It was closer to what I called supernormality.