Saturday, August 15, 2009

Getting Up from the Couch

Why did Freud want his patients to assume a supine posture on his kilim-covered couch? Why did he refuse to face them or to allow them to face him?

Saying that this arrangement fit within his comfort zone does not feel like an adequate explanation of his psychology.

Anyway, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists who want their patients to introspect have continued to use the couch. Presumably, the less you see of your listener, the more you will not even try to read his reactions. And the less you are trying to connect with your listener, the more you will allow your words to flow freely from your mind to the air.

Today, I was reading about some new research from Texas A & M University that suggests a different interpretation. Link here.

I should emphasize that the researchers did not apply the results of their study to the psychoanalytic couch. For that I take full responsibility.

The study I was reading showed that when people were insulted they were more likely to want to retaliate when they were standing up, and less likely to retaliate when they were lying down.

Thus, when people say that you should not take it lying down, they are expressing a basic psychological truth.

One researcher suggested that since people who are reclining are more likely to brood, thus, to introspect, they will be more likely to feel the emotion and not think to act on it.

Thus, it is easier to get away with insulting someone who is lying down than someone who is standing up and facing you. You will be less inhibited when the person is lying down; more cautious when the person is looking you in the eye.

To apply this to psychoanalysis, we need merely understand that telling someone that he has an Oedipus complex is an insult.

When a psychoanalyst tells you that your good behavior, your good character, your basic decency are merely a way to keep your heart's desire-- to murder your father and to copulate with your mother--out of consciousness, he is insulting you.

He is diminishing you, demeaning you, and attempting to lower you in your own regard.
A person who harbors such outrageous criminal impulses must have very low self-esteem.

If Freud had started out saying these kinds of things to people's faces, he would have faced significant anger, and perhaps would have better understood that what he took to be a wise and profound interpretation was really a nasty and gratuitous piece of slander.

No comments: