Saturday, February 28, 2015

Freud, Hamlet and Conscience

[This post is a continuation of the previous post on Adam Phillips’ psychoanalytic theories of self-criticism. See below.]

In the following passage Phillips launches a veiled attack on positive psychology, on the injunction to love oneself, to see the good in one’s character:

We are never as good as we should be; and neither, it seems, are other people. A life without a so-called critical faculty would seem an idiocy: what are we, after all, but our powers of discrimination, our taste, the violence of our preferences? Self-criticism, and the self as critical, are essential to our sense, our picture, of our so-called selves. Nothing makes us more critical – more suspicious or appalled or even mildly amused – than the suggestion that we should drop all this relentless criticism, that we should be less impressed by it and start really loving ourselves.

Of course, powers of discrimination and judgment need not always draw a negative conclusion. Unless you are armed with a flagellant’s whip and feel a need to punish yourself for your miserable sin, conflating judgment with criticism is unjust. Unless of course you are married to the Freudian theory of the superego.

Phillips may be speaking about himself, but there need not be any “violence” in preferences. He has fallen into this trap because, instead of dealing with moral sentiments and affections, he has limited himself to grand passions like love and hate.

When he says that calls to love ourselves make us suspicious or appalled or amused, he should say that he is speaking for himself, but that is all. Most people do not believe that an enhanced awareness of their positive character traits is a lure distracting from the dire Freudian truth.

If a life without a self-critical faculty seems to be an idiocy, what are we to say about a life that is commanded and directed by a self-critical faculty, thus by our feelings of guilt and our need to punish ourselves? Doesn’t the latter seem as mindless as the former?

Ultimately, Phillips will offer a way out of this box, box that is of Freud's creation. But, why is it necessary to get into the box in the first place. Phillips notwithstanding do not imagine that the Freudian truth is anything less than Oedipal and tragic?

At this point, perhaps not too strangely Phillips goes off on a long disquisition about the concept of “conscience” in Shakespeare. In itself this appears to be a worthwhile endeavor.

And yet, rummaging through Shakespeare to examine the different times he uses the word “conscience,” as Phillips does, is not necessarily the best approach. When he adds a series of learned definitions of words like conscience and catch, gleaned from an Elizabethan dictionary he merely beclouds the enterprise.

He would have done better to explore the dramatic context of the play. I agree that the dictionary definition has some relevance. I agree that other uses of the word in other contexts might be relevant. And yet, the dramatic context tells us more. Unfortunately, Phillips mostly ignores it.

Phillips begins with Shakespeare’s line: “… the play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

It is easy to overcomplicate this line. The play that Hamlet calls the “thing” is called “The Mousetrap.” It is the famous play-within-a-play that Hamlet asks some traveling players to present before the court.

With the performance Hamlet intends to show King Claudius a theatrical representation of his murder of King Hamlet. He hopes to provoke the king to expose his guilt in front of the court. After all, the King, we are led to believe, has a conscience, that is to say, a moral sense that knows he did wrong. (Obviously, if he was a psychopath Claudius would have a vastly diminished moral sense.)

It’s a ruse, a trap, but unfortunately, one that has little chance of success.

You know what happened. Claudius was moved by the play, but Hamlet was the only one who knew or thought he knew why. For all anyone in the court knew, Hamlet might have been revealing something about himself and might have been announcing his intention to kill a king.

But, if the court did not see the king’s actions as a sign of guilt, Hamlet’s revenge—had he taken it—might have been seen as madness, not as justice for his dead father.

After Claudius left the play, he went to pray, perhaps to do penance for his sins. Hamlet saws him at prayer. Armed with the certainty that Claudius is guilty, but disarmed by the knowledge that his action might well be misinterpreted, he did not take his vengeance.

Is this a sign of ambivalence? Not necessarily. It might well be a sign of a melancholic disposition, manifested in the fact that Hamlet can either over-react or under-react, but cannot get the action right. His is a melancholic disposition. He cannot find the mean between the two extremes, because, for him there is none. Funnily enough, for Freud and psychoanalysis there is none either.

A bit later Hamlet quickly murdered Polonius, who was hiding behind an arras in his mother’s bedchamber. Now he no longer needs to consider himself a coward, but if he is capable of murder and incapable of murdering Claudius, he still might consider himself as not quite up to the real job. He is capable of murder, but not when it counts. This might make him more of a coward.

Murdering Polonius does manage to shift the play’s focus from Hamlet’s revenge of his father’s murder to Laertes’ revenge for his father’s murder.

More on this is in my book, The Last Psychoanalyst

One is tempted to follow Phillips and Freud into Hamlet’s mind. And yet, Hamlet is a fictional character: he is what he says and what he does. By my interpretation, his failure to act exposes his anomie, not his desire.

By that I meant that if he has not succeeded his father on the throne of Denmark how does he know that he is his father’s son. And if he is not his father’s son, and if even his father does not know it, why would he be obliged to murder his uncle… who may, for all he knows, be his real father.

One might say that the action of the play tells all we need to know about the meaning of the word “conscience.” And yet, Phillips avoids such an analysis to look at the way the word is used in Elizabethan English and the way Shakespeare uses it in other contexts.

It is interesting to note, as Phillips does, that in Elizabethan usage, the word conscience is close to the word consciousness, perhaps because in French the word conscience bears both meanings. One imagines that this relates to the old Freudian idea that psychoanalysis was supposed to make the unconscious conscious.

According to Freud depression occurs when the ego turns its hatred for an object against itself.

Phillips summarizes Freud’s thought:

‘We see how one part of the ego,’ he writes in Mourning and Melancholia, ‘sets itself over against the other, judges it critically and, as it were, takes it as its object.’ The mind, so to speak, splits itself in two, and one part sets itself over the other to judge it. It ‘takes it as its object’: that is to say, the super-ego treats the ego as though it were an object not a person. In other words, the super-ego, the inner judge, radically misrecognises the ego, treating it as if it can’t answer back, as if it doesn’t have a mind of its own (it is noticeable how merciless and unsympathetic we can be to ourselves in our self-criticism). It is intimated that the ego – what we know ourselves to be – is the slave of the super-ego. How have we become enslaved to this part of ourselves, and how and why have we consented? What’s in it for us?

One must mention that cognitive psychology, to say nothing of cognitive therapy has definitively refuted this notion. One must add that a therapy based on externalizing anger and hatred has never been an effective treatment for depression.

Phillips offers this explanation of Freud’s use of Shakespeare:

In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud used Hamlet as, among other things, a way of understanding the obscene severities of conscience.

‘The loathing which should drive [Hamlet] on to revenge,’ Freud writes, ‘is replaced in him by self-reproaches, by scruples of conscience, which remind him that he himself is literally no better than the sinner whom he is to punish.’ Hamlet, in Freud’s view, turns the murderous aggression he feels towards Claudius against himself: conscience is the consequence of uncompleted revenge. Originally there were other people we wanted to murder but this was too dangerous, so we murder ourselves through self-reproach, and we murder ourselves to punish ourselves for having such murderous thoughts. Freud uses Hamlet to say that conscience is a form of character assassination, the character assassination of everyday life, whereby we continually, if unconsciously, mutilate and deform our own character. So unrelenting is this internal violence that we have no idea what we’d be like without it. We know almost nothing about ourselves because we judge ourselves before we have a chance to see ourselves.

Freud is showing us how conscience obscures self-knowledge, intimating indeed that this may be its primary function: when we judge the self it can’t be known; guilt hides it in the guise of exposing it. This allows us to think that it is complicitous not to stand up to the internal tyranny of what is only one part – a small but loud part – of the self. So frightened are we by the super-ego that we identify with it: we speak on its behalf to avoid antagonising it (complicity is delegated bullying). But in arguing with his conscience, in trying to catch it, with such eloquence and subtlety, Hamlet has become a genius of self-reproach; his conversations with himself and others about conscience allow him to speak in ways no one had ever quite spoken before.

One hesitates to say it, but “the obscene severities of conscience” is a clumsy phrase.

Here Phillips is obscuring the essential Freudian truth. According to Freud Hamlet cannot act because he sees his desire in his uncle’s actions. Hamlet suffers from an unanalyzed Oedipus complex, nothing more or less.

Phillips is not quite correct to say that at one level Freudian theory sees us murdering ourselves, destroying our character because it is too dangerous to try to murder the one person we really want to murder.

He does, however, expose a basic truth about Freud. Freudian psychoanalysis is an extended effort is self-flagellation and self-punishment. It does not necessarily turn the ego’s hatred against itself, but it punishes itself for having such impure thoughts.

As I have explained, Freud is the father of negative psychology. To be fair, Phillips, following Lacan, wants to save us from our sins, but, one does not quite understand why anyone needs to descend that deeply into negativity before being rescued from it.

Phillips continues to explain that the superego tells us who we really are. This makes very little sense, unless, of course, you believe that you are functionally and essentially depraved and perverted.

Phillips also suggests that we enjoy the kind of moral flagellation that constitutes self-criticism. A medieval monk might very well believe, though medieval monks also believed in redemption and salvation and heavenly bliss... through the church:

The super-ego casts us as certain kinds of character; it, as it were, tells us who we really are; it is an essentialist; it claims to know us in a way that no one else, including ourselves, can ever do. And, like a mad god, it is omniscient: it behaves as if it can predict the future by claiming to know the consequences of our actions – when we know, in a more imaginative part of ourselves, that most actions are morally equivocal, and change over time in our estimation. (No apparently self-destructive act is ever only self-destructive, no good is purely and simply that.) Self-criticism is an unforbidden pleasure: we seem to relish the way it makes us suffer. Unforbidden pleasures are the pleasures we don’t particularly want to think about: we just implicitly take it for granted that each day will bring its necessary quotient of self-disappointment, that every day we will fail to be as good as we should be; but without our being given the resources, the language, to wonder who or what is setting the pace, or where these rather punishing standards come from. How can we find out what we think of all this when conscience never lets go?

Later in his essay, Phillips expands on Freud’s muddled thought:

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are as nothing compared with the murderous mufflings and insinuations and distortions of the super-ego because it is the project of the super-ego, as conceived of by Freud, to render the individual utterly solipsistic, incapable of exchange. Or to make him so self-mortified, so loathsome, so inadequate, so isolated, so self-obsessed, so boring and bored, so guilty that no one could possibly love or desire him. The solitary modern individual and his Freudian super-ego, a master and a slave in a world of their own. ‘Who do I fear?’ Richard III asks at the end of his play, ‘Myself? There’s none else by.’

Like all unforbidden pleasures self-criticism, or self-reproach, is always available and accessible. But why is it unforbidden, and why is it a pleasure? And how has it come about that we are so bewitched by our self-hatred, so impressed and credulous in the face of our self-criticism, unimaginative as it usually is? Self-reproach is rarely an internal trial by jury. A jury, after all, represents some kind of consensus as an alternative to autocracy. Self-criticism, when it isn’t useful in the way any self-correcting approach can be, is self-hypnosis. It is judgment as spell, or curse, not as conversation; it is an order, not a negotiation; it is dogma not over-interpretation. Psychoanalysis sets itself the task of wanting to have a conversation with someone – call it the super-ego – who, because he knows what a conversation is, is definitely never going to have one. The super-ego is a supreme narcissist.

Here, Phillips (following Freud) has introduced a twist. He presents the superego as something of an ultimate horror, a function of your mind that has nothing else to do but to beat you up and make you loathsome to yourself.

This might or not be true. Phillips and Freud take it as an article of faith. But, after they have created this pronominal monstrosity—recall that the German for superego is Uber-Ich—they propose to rescue you from it.

Evidently, as I have argued extensively, Freudian moral theory is based on guilt and the threat of punishment. Specifically, it is based on the threat of castration. Freud went as far as to say that women are moral inferiors because they are impervious to castration threats.

Phillips wants to redeem this aspect of the theory so he confuses the issue:
The super-ego, by definition, despite Freud’s telling qualifications, under-interprets the individual’s experience. It is, in this sense, moralistic rather than moral. Like a malign parent it harms in the guise of protecting; it exploits in the guise of providing good guidance. In the name of health and safety it creates a life of terror and self-estrangement. There is a great difference between not doing something out of fear of punishment, and not doing something because one believes it is wrong. Guilt isn’t necessarily a good clue as to what one values; it is only a good clue about what (or whom) one fears. Not doing something because one will feel guilty if one does it is not necessarily a good reason not to do it. Morality born of intimidation is immoral. Psychoanalysis was Freud’s attempt to say something new about the police.

True enough, guilt does not tell what one values. If so, then the Freudian attempt to produce a morality out of guilt fails. Phillips introduces his own concepts, like believing that something is wrong. In truth, this cannot function as a moral principle without there being a sanction for doing wrong.

And yet, Freud was not just trying to say something new about the police. The assertion is glib. Freud was attempting to recreate a form of human being that would have overcome shame and dispensed with the ethic that would make it into a social being. And he was leaving the way to salvation open-- for others to find.

He and Lacan wanted people to overcome guilt, but especially they wanted people to overcome shame. If desire is based on a taboo—the theory suggests that you only want what you are forbidden to have—then  Freudian creatures must descend into a constant conflict between their desires and the threat of punishment... as a prelude to redemption.

In the end, by my lights, they move beyond morality and beyond immorality… they attain to amorality. They defeat the superego and march bravely forth to fulfill themselves, to act on their desires … regardless of what anyone thinks.

For his part, Phillips believes in the redemptive power of love. One might say that, in so doing, he has merely confirmed by argument, to the effect that, at root, Freudian psychoanalysis was destined to become a pseudo-religion.

In his words:

What is this appetite for confinement, for diminishment, for unrelenting, unforgiving self-criticism? Freud’s answer is beguilingly simple: we fear loss of love. Fear of loss of love means forbidding certain forms of love (incestuous love, or interracial love, or same sex love, or so-called perverse sexuality, or loving what the parents don’t love, and so on).

Obviously, Freudian psychoanalysis must first convince us that we are criminals. Then it teaches us to punish ourselves with bouts of self-flagellation or self-criticism. Finally, in the hands of Lacan—though to a far lesser extent in Freud—it offers redemptive love… within a worldwide cult.

Other more timid souls will say that by overcoming and repressing these impulses we arrive at a later stage of object love and live happily ever after.

Phillips seems to belong to this camp. And Freud occasionally holds out such hope. The problem is that Freud’s great mythic creatures, Oedipus and Narcissus, did not live happily ever after.

To imagine that Freud’s late myth of the primal horde can possibly lead to true love and happy marriages is naïve to an extreme.

Phillips offers his own twist:

We are encouraged by all this censorship and judgment to believe that forbidden, transgressive pleasures are what we really crave; that really, essentially, deep down, we are criminals; that we need to be protected primarily from ourselves, from our wayward desires.

In essence, he is saying that psychoanalysis is a con. But what is the point of convincing us that our truest desires are to commit criminal actions, see the example of Oedipus, if they are not? If it opens the way to redemption, then perhaps it should be offering a way out of itself.

And yet, if Freud did not believe in the Oedipus complex he believed in nothing. Surely, Lacan believed that our desires are fundamentally criminal… and yet he held out a hope for allowing us to act on them—while redeeming us from the attendant guilt. Again, this would make human beings into supernormal creatures, akin to the Nietzschean Ubermensch.

How do you arrive at this point? If you are Phillips (and perhaps Zizek) you reduce the superego to a joke. You ridicule it. You make it like Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza.

And you think that the superego is going to take this lying down? You think that it will roll over and play dead, allowing you to do what you want… without fearing punishment?

After regaling us with the horrors of the superego Phillips is suggesting that psychoanalysis liberate us from a problem that is, after all, its own creation.

And yet, once you make it that strong and that dominating, why would anyone believe that you can flick your magic wand and reduce it to a clown.

Even Lacan, who often got beyond the restrictions posed by the superego, admitted publicly, late in his life, that he too had a superego. And, for that fact he was compelled to declare that psychoanalytic practice was a scam.

And yet, he too sought redemption. He knew that people would always need to belong to groups, but he did not quite know how to bring together a social group made up of Ubermenschen.

The question remains open.

Hate Your Neighbor As You Hate Yourself

Psychoanalysis may be finished, but Adam Phillips has apparently not gotten the memo. Soldiering on, Phillips has produced a long and intricate essay on the Freudian theory of conscience and self-criticism. 

To what purpose remains to be seen.

Since Phillips declares that we can over-interpret and under-interpret, it is worth noting that we can also overcomplicate and oversimplify matters. In his essay on self-criticism Phillips overcomplicates several matters.

Therein he joins those who made a career out of obfuscating Freudian thought. One suspects that they are doing so in order to hide the truth, but that would mean that true-believing Freudians are in the business of repression.

Who would’ve thunk it?

Anyway, Phillips begins by quoting the great obfuscator himself, my old friend Jacques Lacan. And he finds a place where Lacan’s thought is uncharacteristically clear. Here Lacan is taking issue with Christ, even though the rule first appeared in Leviticus 19; 18:

Lacan said that there was surely something ironic about Christ’s injunction to love thy neighbour as thyself – because actually, of course, people hate themselves. Or you could say that, given the way people treat one another, perhaps they had always loved their neighbours in the way they loved themselves: that is, with a good deal of cruelty and disregard. 
One appreciates the overly clever cynicism, but if human beings had really treated each other as badly as Lacan thinks they have, there would never have been any functioning human communities. And since human beings always live in communities, most of which function at one level or another, Lacan’s pessimism, as Freudian as it is, falls short.

Here, Lacan is being a good Freudian. Note the word “actually.” It suggests that your self-loathing is more authentic than whatever positive feelings you have about yourself.

Psychoanalysis is based on the notion that people all hate each other. Freud, we recall, believed that his fellow humans were trash. One is tempted to say that Lacan is just talking about himself and those who became part of his school, but that would appear to be churlish.

Still and all, if Lacan has offered the Freudian truth here he is implying that those who do not hate themselves and others have not been properly psychoanalyzed.

Phillips does not say so but he is really addressing the positive psychology of Martin Seligman et al. And he is attempting to undermine cognitive treatments that, by his misreading, attempt to ignore the fundamental badness of human beings in favor of a rosy scenario where people love themselves and even their neighbors.

One suspects that Phillips has addressed the issues raised by the cognitivists in other works. And yet, he ought to have mentioned them here, if only to specify his target.

Phillips continues:

‘After all,’ Lacan writes, ‘the people who followed Christ were not so brilliant.’

 Obviously, this is a gratuitous slur. Beginning with the disciples and apostles, most notably Saul of Tarsus, the people who followed Christ did found a major world religion. I leave it to you to decide whether this shows a lack of intelligence.

You cannot say as much about psychoanalysis, which currently stands as a dying cult. Besides, Lacan once said that the Catholic Church would easily outlive Freudian psychoanalysis.

When it comes to great minds, I venture that a Christian would happily take up the challenge, pitting Augustine, Jerome, Aquinas, William of Ockham and Teresa of Avila against Ernest Jones, Sandor Ferenczi and Melanie Klein. Those who still follow Lacan are no longer the best and the brightest.

As it happens, both Lacan and Phillips are obscuring the meaning of the Biblical rule. As it appears in Leviticus and the New Testament it sought to help people to overcome the law of the talion—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Leviticus offers two versions of the law. First:

Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And this, from Leviticus 19; 34:

But treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

I explained these points in my book The Last Psychoanalyst. Apparently and inexplicably, Phillips has not read it.

And yet, for all I know he has read by book and is trying to respond to it in this essay. One does not like to imagine that he would not mention a book that has provoked his thoughts because he does not want to give it any attention.

Be that as it may, from whence cometh the self-loathing that is displayed by the Freudian superego.

Unfortunately, it makes some sense.

After all, your heart’s desire is to copulate with your mother and if you are willing to commit patricide to accomplish that end, then you might very well end up hating yourself.

If that is what you really, really want to do, then a goodly amount of crippling self-loathing might be necessary lest you act on your depraved desires.

In his essay Phillips is addressing the advent of the human moral sense. Since he, a good Freudian, can only understand it within the context of a culturally imposed narrative, he places it within the Oedipus complex.

He does not want to deny the Oedipus complex and wants to explain why more people don’t act on it, so Phillips like Freud and like Lacan must believe that the human mind is divided against itself, engaged in a permanent struggle against its depraved desires.

Phillips offers a clever twist here, one that Lacan might well accept.  Meditating on human ambivalence, he declares that love and hate are so closely entwined that we often love people we hate and hate people we love.

He writes:

If someone can satisfy us, they can frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us we always believe they can satisfy us. And who frustrates us more than ourselves?

Unfortunately, this is a bit too clever. If someone who can satisfy us refuses, do we really want to destroy him or her? We might want to try to be more charming. We might look to someone else for satisfaction.

As often happens in Freudian thought, the narrative obscures reality.

Surely, it does happen that we grow to hate certain people, but often the reason has more to do with a betrayal than with a failure to satisfying our wants and needs. We hate people who threaten us, and a refusal to satisfy our wants and needs rarely counts as a threat to our being. We are more likely to hate a spouse who has humiliated us by having an affair with our neighbor than we are to hate him or her for turning down a sexual request.

As for the notion that we frustrate ourselves, this assumes that we are using ourselves to satisfy ourselves. This harkens back to an old definition of narcissism, to the effect that the narcissist takes his own body to be the object of his sexual desire.

One might have difficulty imagining why this formula would ever be frustrating. With the notable exception of your sexual functioning, your body, after all, is not going to say No to whatever you want to do to it.

With one notable and visible exception: the male sexual organ. One hastens to mention the importance of phallic functioning for Lacan's theorizing, but one would be remiss if one did not underscore, as I did in my book, that Augustine of Hippo first opined on the fact that this single organ did not respond to the will's commands. And it did not function automatically like the heart.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Few Words from Camille Paglia

A few words from Camille Paglia to brighten up your day.

In an interview with the Catholic journal “America” Paglia responded to a question about contemporary feminism. Therein she addressed the current discussion about rape culture.

She wants colleges and universities to cease policing student behavior and she insists that the right place to deal with crime is the criminal justice system. She also believes that women, on college campuses and elsewhere, should take appropriate caution in their behavior. Every mother tells her daughter as much.

Without further ado, here’s Paglia:

After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology. As in the hoary old days of Gloria Steinem and her Stalinist cohorts, we are endlessly subjected to the hackneyed scenario of history as a toxic wasteland of vicious male oppression and gruesome female suffering. College campuses are hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior. I am an equal opportunity feminist: that is, I call for the removal of all barriers to women's advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women, which I reject as demeaning and infantilizing. My principal demand (as I have been repeating for nearly 25 years) is for colleges to confine themselves to education and to cease their tyrannical surveillance of students' social lives. If a real crime is committed, it must be reported to the police. College officials and committees have neither the expertise nor the legal right to be conducting investigations into he said/she said campus dating fiascos. Too many of today's young feminists seem to want hovering, paternalistic authority figures to protect and soothe them, an attitude I regard as servile, reactionary and glaringly bourgeois. The world can never be made totally safe for anyone, male or female: there will always be sociopaths and psychotics impervious to social controls. I call my system "street-smart feminism":  there is no substitute for wary vigilance and personal responsibility.

And then, Paglia was asked about post-structuralism, the ideology that came to infest Humanities departments in the late 1960s and that has pretty much destroyed the credibility of literary studies. Having expressed similar views myself on various occasions I am happy to applaud Paglia. She is right:

Post-structuralism is a system of literary and social analysis that flared up and vanished in France in the 1960s but that became anachronistically entrenched in British and American academe from the 1970s on. Based on the outmoded linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and promoted by the idolized Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known. By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought. It is a laborious, circuitously self-referential gimmick that always ends up with the same monotonous result. I spent six months writing a long attack on academic post-structuralism for the classics journal Arion in 1991, "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf" (reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture). Post-structuralism has destroyed two generations of graduate students, who were forced to mouth its ugly jargon and empty platitudes for their foolish faculty elders. And the end result is that humanities departments everywhere, having abandoned their proper mission of defending and celebrating art, have become humiliatingly marginalized in both reputation and impact.

Wright is Wrong

I assume that Robert Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) saw it as an intellectual challenge. If Marie Harf and other members of the Obama administration could not defend their boss’s refusal to utter the words Islamic terrorism, he could.

To do so, he takes on Timesman Roger Cohen and the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood. I have already opined on the views of both men. One should add that Thomas Friedman has also insisted that the Obama administration call the threat by its name.

As have the president of France, the king of Jordan, the president of Egypt, and so on. All have denounced Islamist terrorism for what it is.

The Obama administration stands alone in its refusal to say the words radical Islam.

Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) wants to refute the notion that the West is at war with Islam, but he especially wants to counter Samuel Huntington’s idea of the clash of civilizations.

To respond to Cohen’s assertion that the West is at war with the Muslim world, Wright responds:
You might ask: How could it be a war against “the Muslim world” if it’s confined to five countries that house only a minority of the world’s Muslims? Or: How could it be a war against “the Muslim world” if most of the Muslims even in these five countries are not the enemy?

The center of the Muslim world lies in the Middle East. Think Mecca and Medina. That culture has fostered and spawned Islamist terrorism. The actions are certainly not limited to that region. There have been Islamist terrorist attacks in China, India, Thailand and in other nations of Asia.

If you have a strong stomach click on the link to this story about Islamist terrorism in Bangladesh.

The point is not whether all or the majority of Muslims are at war with the West. The point is that a significant number are and that the significant number has caused a significant amount of damage, to say nothing of loss of life. It doesn’t take too many Muslim terrorists to make everyone to have to pass through new, improved airport screening measures.

Moreover, as I have often mentioned, the reputation of the Muslim religion and those who practice it has been significantly damaged by the fact that the terrorists are speaking louder and more dramatically than other Muslims. With their beheading videos and their destructive actions, all of which they perform in the name of their religion, they have re-branded the religion as a force, as a power, as a competitor with Western civilization.

You might engage in a close reading of certain religious texts in order to determine whether the terrorists really are following the precepts of their religion. And you would find evidence both pro and con. And yet, life is not an exercise in reading texts.

Ask yourself instead how much time and energy we devote to thinking about Islam. How much time and energy we devoted to it before 9/11.

Many Muslims will insist that their religion does not condone the actions of the terrorists who are acting in its name. Surely, they are right. Yet, a large number of Muslims in Western countries believe that the editors of Charlie Hebdo should have been murdered for their blasphemous cartoons.

If I may say so, actions speak louder than words.

As for Huntington, Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) suggests that those who believe in the clash of civilizations are responsible for producing said clash. Presumably, if there were no books about civilizations clashing there would be no clashing civilizations.

The thought boggles the mind:

In 1996, when I reviewed Samuel Huntington’s book “The Clash of Civilizations” for Slate, I fretted that Huntington’s world view could become “a self-fulfilling prophecy.” This was before 9/11, and I wasn’t thinking about Islam in particular. Huntington’s book was about “fault lines” dividing various “civilizations,” and I was just making the general point that if we think of, say, Japanese people as radically different from Americans—as Huntington’s book, I believed, encouraged us to do—we were more likely to treat Japan in ways that deepened any Japanese-Western fault line.

This suggest there is no difference between American and Japanese culture, but thinking makes it so. Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) should read Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.

Do you think that, absent bad ideas like Huntington’s the different civilizations would not even imagine competing against each other? How else do you test the validity of your values but by putting them into practice?

Of course, Huntington’s book is relatively recent. Surely, Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) knows about the clashes between Protestants and Catholics in Europe and the Americas. He knows about the pogroms launched against Jews and their culture in Europe and the Middle East. He knows of the pogroms against Confucian culture in China. He must know about the clashes between Muslim and Hindu cultures in India. And he knows well that the Muslim war against the state of Israel has been going on for decades now. I imagine that he knows how Islam established itself through military conquest, or how the Mongol hordes spread their culture throughout Asia. Among the causes of the two world wars was the cultural conflict between Germany and Great Britain. And let’s not forget the wars between Rome and Carthage or between Rome and barbarians.

Islam has been at war with Judeo-Christian civilization for as long as it has existed. Why Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) believes that the clash of civilizations will disappear if we stop talking about it, I have no idea.

After all, we have now seen our ostrich-like president keep his head in the sand about Islamist terrorism for six years. Has that caused peace to break out in the Middle East? If anything, it has emboldened the terrorists and has help them to recruit new converts to what seems like a movement that is causing the greatest power in the world to bow in mute submission.

Obviously, Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) does not see things this way. He prefers to blame the West, especially people who he opposes politically. He believes that Western actions are the best terrorist recruiting tool. It’s like saying that Gitmo is a great recruiting tool for terrorists… assertion that ignores the fact that terrorists who are released from Gitmo are welcomed as heroes in their world.

He also ignores the fact that the upsurge in Islamist recruiting has been a direct response to battlefield victories, shows of Islamist power and Western submissiveness.

We have been releasing more and more terrorists from Gitmo under the Obama administration. Yet, remarkably, Director of National Intelligence Clapper said yesterday, we have never seen more acts of terrorism.

In any event, Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) blames it on drone strikes and, naturally, on Israel:

When recruiters for ISIS and Al Qaeda say that the West is fighting a war against Islam, they cite U.S. policies: drone strikes in Muslim countries, the imprisonment of Muslims in Guantánamo, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, perceived U.S. support for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and so on. Obviously, we shouldn’t abandon any policy just because our enemies criticize it. But, when the policies help our enemies with recruitment, that should at least be added to the cost-benefit calculus.

For those who don’t recognize it, this is recycled Platonism, the kind that assumes that objects in the real world express metaphysical ideas. If you can succeed in changing the way people think they will change their behavior.

Naturally, Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) believes that the rise of ISIS is the fault of the Bush administration’s Iraq War. John Kerry would happily agree.

And yet, as Victor Davis Hanson pointed out, the only rational way to judge the effectiveness of the Iraq War and the Bush administration management of same is to evaluate the state of Iraq in 2009-2010, a time when Vice President Biden declared Iraq to be one of the Obama administration’s great foreign policy successes.

This does not mean that the Bush administration did a great job, but it does mean that rational debate should examine the facts.

No rational evaluation of the rise of ISIS can ignore the fact that it arose under the aegis of an administration that prides itself on having walked away from the fight and that refuses to call Islamist terrorism by its name.

In Wright’s words:

The more scared we get, the more likely our government is to react with the kind of undiscerning ferocity that created ISIS as we know it—and the more likely Western extremists are to deface mosques, or worse. All of which will help ISIS recruit more Muslims, thus leading to more atrocities in the West, as well as in the Middle East, and making the whole thing seem even more like a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. And so on.

One suspects that this represents the Obama policy toward Islamist terrorist. Do some therapy, overcome your irrational anxiety about scary Muslims and, presto, they will all go away.

One can only wonder what Wright (no relation to Rev. Jeremiah) would say about George Packer’s remarks, also from The New Yorker:

One thing we’ve learned from the history of such regimes is that they can be stronger and more enduring than rational analysis would predict. The other thing is that they rarely end in self-destruction. They usually have to be destroyed by others.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Shrinks Can't Compete..."

As I and many others have said, psychoanalysis in America is over.

Those who have read my book and who keep up with this blog have already heard the news. Obviously, I am not the only one who holds this belief.

This morning in the New York Post, Susannah Cahalan writes about the demise of psychoanalysis in New York:

The couches have gone cold on the Upper West Side.

Lying down and talking to a psychoanalyst, a practice once as synonymous with New York City as the street-vendor hot dog, has fallen out of favor thanks to shifting fads, pharmaceuticals and the Internet, experts say.

Of the 3,109 members of the American Psychoanalytic Association, the largest group of its kind in the country, the average shrink age is 66 — up four years since 2003.

And shrinks’ average number of active patients on the couch has fallen to 2.75, according to a study of US analysts. Many of those surveyed said they meet with no patients.

It’s a far cry from the height of Freud mania — with its egos and ids, subconscious, Oedipal conflicts, Freudian slips and death wishes — in the 1950s and 1960s, when everyone and their mothers were in therapy.

In those decades, therapists would see between eight and 10 patients a day, according to analysts interviewed.

As Cahalan explains, Freudian psychoanalysis used to attract the best and the brightest. It treated those who had influence on the culture. These members of the intellectual elite, I have argued in The Last Psychoanalyst, helped create a cultural environment where psychoanalysis was considered to be an effective treatment. It was enormously helpful in producing placebo cures.

In Cahalan’s words:

This helped attract the best and brightest to the field — and also wooed a new type of patient dubbed “the worried well.” These patients were a “far more attractive group of patients than the socially marginal, often impoverished and ill-educated people who overwhelmed mental hospitals,” writes Andrew Scull, professor of sociology and science studies at the University of California, San Diego and author of the forthcoming book, “Madness in Civilization.”

These patients were members of the intellectual elite, many with significant clout. It would not take long for this interest to bleed into the upper-middle classes, where having a shrink was akin to owning a Rolls-Royce; it was a sign that you had made it.

This ushered in psychoanalysis’ “golden age,” and its epicenter was New York. At one point in the 1960s, according to Jonathan ­Engel’s “American Therapy,” there were more analysts on 96th Street and Fifth Avenue than there were in Tennessee, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Delaware, Minnesota and Vermont combined.

Directors and screenwriters in Hollywood embraced the movement wholeheartedly, using Freudian themes in all kinds of films, from “Rebel Without a Cause” ­(juvenile delinquency caused by weak father, overbearing mother) to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” which even had an analyst on retainer.

Obviously, it was all built on air. In time, it succumbed to the competitive market. Cahalan grasps the concept in the first words of her title: “Shrinks Can’t Compete….”

Psychoanalysis was an expensive, time-consuming invitation to self-absorption that could not prove that it worked. It was inevitable that it would lose out to more effective forms of therapy.

Cahalan explains:

But the backlash began even before the golden years ended.

Psychotropic drugs — anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety meds and “mother’s little helpers” — quickly outmuscled talk therapy as a quick and effective treatment. People ­began to question: If it’s all a case of faulty neurotransmitters, what help will talking do?

Psychoanalysis did little to help its own case. Primal-scream therapy; “the orgone box” therapy, a metal box that claimed to increase “orgiastic potency”; and rebirthing therapy only further detracted from the legitimacy of the field.

Then there was the research — or lack thereof. One study in the 1970s showed that people benefited less from seeing a shrink than from seeing a clergyman. They even got more psychological benefit from seeing a lawyer than a shrink.

Another study around the same time showed that patients who ­believed they were seeing a shrink but were actually seeing an ­untrained but benevolent professor showed the same levels of ­improvement as they did when seeing an analyst.

Meanwhile, in an effort to make psychiatry a more rigorously scientific specialty, an effort was made to more clearly define psychiatric disorders. The result was the third volume of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which expunged any Freudian references, officially severing psychiatry’s tight link to psychoanalysis.

Analysis was “withering on the vine,” says Professor Scull. “All of this made them look more like a sect than a science.”

Another blow to the profession came in the form of managed care. Now insurance companies refused to pay for seemingly unending therapy sessions that were not backed by evidence-based research.

I would add that some patients who consulted with benevolent professors or even who remained on a waiting list did better than did those who consulted with psychoanalysts.

Naturally, psychoanalysts are adapting. They have changed their ways, offered more advice, coached more of their clients. Some of them even converse with their patients.

Some are happy to continue to call it psychoanalysis. If that makes them happy, so be it. And yet, it does not fulfill the requirements of classical psychoanalysis.

In truth, psychoanalysis as we knew it is over. Still, as I have argued it continues to exercise an outsized influence on the culture.

Jacques Van Rillaer Reviews "The Last Psychoanalyst"

Jacques Van Rillaer is a distinguished professor (emeritus) at the University of Louvain in Belgium. Van Rillaer teaches cognitive and behavioral psychology. Recently, he wrote a review of my work and of my new book.

It is long and detailed, and written in French. I reproduce it as written. Those who have some command of the language will surely enjoy it. [Those who would like an English translation can follow the link posted by commenter Ares Olympus in the comments section.]

Among Van Rillaer’s other works, I recommend his review of Elisabeth Roudinesco’s recent biography of Freud. Link here.

Herewith Van Rillaer’s review:

En 1973, l’Américain Stuart Schneiderman a abandonné sa carrière de professeur d’anglais pour devenir psychanalyste. Il s’est rendu à Paris pour une analyse didactique chez Lacan.

Après quatre années d’analyse, il est retourné à New York et y a pratiqué l’analyse. Dans son article « Mon analyse avec Lacan » (Psychologie, 1978, 102 : 31-36), il a raconté comment Lacan menait ses analyses : « Pendant une séance d'analyse, Lacan n'est jamais un observateur passif, impersonnel, jouant le rôle proverbial de l'écran sur lequel se projettent les fantasmes du patient. Il ne reste pas tranquillement assis sur sa chaise ; il marche de long en large dans la pièce, il gesticule, tantôt il fixe le patient, tantôt il ferme les yeux. Il peut vous accueillir un jour comme si vous étiez l'un de ses amis intimes et remarquer tout juste votre présence le lendemain » 1.

A cette époque, Schneiderman justifiait la pratique des séances à durée variable, invariablement beaucoup plus courtes que la durée réglementaire prescrite par Freud et l’Association Internationale de Psychanalyse : « Les séances courtes servent à intensifier la relation entre l'analyste et l'analysé, en la rendant plus imprévisible. Avec Lacan, la durée d'une séance peut varier d'une fois à l'autre. C'est encore un moyen qu'utilise Lacan pour détourner l'esprit du patient vers l'inconscient » (p. 33).

Schneiderman a publié plusieurs ouvrages psychanalytiques, notamment la traduction d’articles de Lacan et de lacaniens célèbres : Returning to Freud : Clinical Psychoanalysis in the School of Lacan (Yale University Press, 1980, 263 p.).

A l’occasion de cette publication, il a été interviewé par la revue lacanienne Ornicar ? Bulletin périodique du champ freudien (1981, 21 : 175-177).

Il déclarait alors être un des seuls lacaniens aux États-Unis, mais il espérait faire école : « Les Etats-Unis ont accepté tellement de choses et ils ont si peu tendance à exclure qu’il semble tout à fait raisonnable de penser qu’un jour il y a aura des lacaniens partout ici, et il se pourrait bien qu’une fois que ça arrive, ça se répande assez vite » (p. 176). 1

Rappelons le décalage avec la technique freudienne, que Lacan lui-même avait prescrit : « Quel souci conditionne l’attitude de l’analyste ? Celui d’offrir au dialogue un personnage aussi dénué que possible de caractéristiques individuelles ; nous nous effaçons, nous sortons du champ où pourraient être perçus cet intérêt, cette sympathie, cette réaction que cherche celui qui parle sur le visage de l'interlocuteur, nous évitons toute manifestation de nos goûts personnels, nous cachons ce qui peut les trahir, nous nous dépersonnalisons, et tendons à ce but de représenter pour l'autre un idéal d'impassibilité » (“L’agressivité en psychanalyse”. Rééd. in Écrits, 1966, p. 106).

Il notait de sérieuses difficultés à cette diffusion :

• « La psychanalyse américaine est en crise, en faillite. Les analystes ne font presque plus de psychanalyse. La crise est là depuis cinq ans environ. […] Pour gagner leur vie, ils font de la psychothérapie, de la psychiatrie, ils travaillent dans les hôpitaux » (p. 175).

• Le cloisonnement des Écoles : « Ce n’est pas la même orthodoxie à New York, à Chicago ou à Los Angeles. Un qui est orthodoxe dans le Middle West, ce n’est pas la peine qu’il mette les pieds à l’Institut de New York. A New York, c’est Arlow, Brenner, Edith Jacobson qui donnent le ton, et ils sont toujours assez attachés à Hartmann, Löwenstein et Kris. C’est ce qui fait finalement l’unité à New York. A Los Angeles par contre il y a plein de kleiniens. Et ça n’existe pas, Mélanie Klein, à New York » (id.).

• La rigidité des responsables de la formation psychanalytique : « Ce sont tous des grands obsessionnels, tout le monde le sait, ils aiment ça, ils aiment se réunir entre eux » (p. 176).

• Les traductions d’une sélection des Écrits et des Quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse « sont assez mal faites, plutôt illisibles, et le peu d’intérêt que l’éditeur y a mis n’a rien aidé » (p. 175).

• Un « préjugé » à l’égard de Lacan : « Il est manifeste que les gens d’ici pensent que Lacan est une sorte d’aristocrate de la psychanalyse, et que eux sont des démocrates, des egos égaux, et donc qu’ils ne pourront pas apprendre Lacan » (p. 176).

A lire Schneiderman, ses clients ont joué un rôle important dans sa réorientation.

Il relate qu’ils voulaient s’engager de façon plus productive dans la vie. Ils disaient : « Voilà mon problème, que devrai-je faire pour cela ? » De moins en moins disaient : « Voilà mon problème, qu’est-ce que cela signifie ? » Manifestement les gens voulaient de la guidance, non des interprétations. Ils avaient rejeté la conception traditionnelle de la thérapie. Ils voulaient des avis pratiques 2.

En 2014, Schneiderman a publié The last psychoanalyst 3. Le titre fait référence à une des thèses de l’ouvrage, à savoir que Lacan est le dernier psychanalyste qui a cru en l’efficacité de la cure freudienne, mais qui a fini par constater que c’était un leurre. Lacan en est venu à déclarer en 1977, quelques années avant sa mort, que la psychanalyse est « une escroquerie » : « Notre pratique est une escroquerie, bluffer, faire ciller les gens, les éblouir avec des mots qui sont du chiqué, c'est quand même ce qu'on appelle d'habitude du chiqué. […] Du point de vue éthique, c'est intenable, notre profession ; c'est bien d'ailleurs pour ça que j'en suis malade, parce que j'ai un surmoi comme tout le monde. […]Il s'agit de savoir si Freud est oui ou non un événement historique. Je crois qu'il a raté son coup. C'est comme moi. Dans très peu de temps, tout le monde s'en foutra de la psychanalyse. Il est clair que l'homme passe son temps à rêver qu'il ne se réveille jamais. Il suffit de savoir ce qu'à nous, les psychanalystes, nous fournissent les patients. Ils ne nous fournissent que leurs rêves »4.

Schneiderman fait remarquer que Lacan ne se contente pas de dire qu’il s’est trompé. Le mot « escroquerie » est lourd de sens. Il indique que Lacan a continué à pratiquer des cures alors qu’il avait constaté qu’elles n’avaient guère d’effet thérapeutique. Lacan semble en avoir éprouvé de la culpabilité.

Une des principales thèses de Schneiderman est que Freud a voulu faire de la science, mais a produit une pseudoscience, qui s’est finalement transformée en pseudo-religion, avec un culte, des « novices » qui s’initient par le rite de la didactique, des textes sacrés, des dogmes, des « schismes » et la mise à l’index de livres. Avec Lacan, la situation a empiré. Le gourou parisien a réussi à se faire suivre, comme leader d’un culte, alors que les disciples comprenaient très peu de chose de ce qu’il énonçait : « Dans l’Église freudienne, les paroles de Lacan sont devenues l’objet d’un rituel sacré — une sorte de communion — où des autorités sacerdotales récitent ses paroles comme si elles étaient son corps et son sang. […] Si vous assistez à une réunion dirigée par les grands prêtres du mouvement lacanien, vous entendrez des discours servant à s’épancher avec des paroles de Lacan. Toutes les sentences commencent par “Lacan a dit” ou par “Mais Lacan a dit” » (p. 228). « Dans la Sainte Église lacanienne quasi personne ne comprend réellement l’enseignement de Lacan. Ainsi l’ignorance est une glu qui unifie les membres. La plupart des membres sont capables de marmotter quelques formules et citations vides, mais dans l’ensemble ils ignorent et ont toujours ignoré ce que Lacan essayait d’enseigner. Ils sont unis par la passion, non par la raison. […] Cela ne choquait pas Lacan. Il savait que la plupart de ses disciples ne comprenaient pas ses idées. S’il l’avait voulu, il aurait pu recalibrer son enseignement pour qu’on puisse le comprendre. Il ne l’a pas fait. Cela n’a pas semblé le préoccuper » (p. 234).

La situation de la psychanalyse aux Etats-Unis est loin de s’être améliorée depuis les années 1970 : « Aux Etats-Unis, de moins en moins de psychanalystes pratiquent encore la psychanalyse. Certains continuent à s’appeler psychanalystes, mais ils passent de plus en plus de temps à rédiger des prescriptions et à coacher plutôt qu’à pratiquer la “dangereuse méthode” de Freud » (p. 257).

Schneiderman passe en revue une série de traits de la personnalité de Freud et de Lacan, ainsi que les principaux aspects du freudisme et du lacanisme. Voici quelques exemples.

• Freud est le père que la psychologie negative.

« Freud a inventé la psychologie négative en se focalisant sur le côté sombre des l’esprit humain. Il a privilégié les mauvais rêves, les traumatismes horribles et des motivations dépravées » (p. 253). Son nom évoque la sexualité refoulée ou frustrée, non la sexualité joyeuse. Pour lui, la sexualité c’est avant tout le désir de commettre l’inceste.

• La cure freudienne n’est guère efficace dès qu’il s’agit de problèmes sérieux Le seul cas d’hystérie, traité par sa propre méthode, que Freud a présenté en détail est un échec : Dora 5. Il a essayé de convaincre ses confrères et ses lecteurs qu’il avait raison contre elle.

« Freud appelait la psychanalyse “la cure par la parole”, mais elle a toujours été plus des paroles qu’une cure » (p. 3).

• La psychanalyse est aliénante « La psychanalyse est un processus d’extraction. Elle cherche à vous extraire de votre vie et de vous introduire dans la psychanalyse. Un bon freudien veut que vous travailliez avec lui afin qu’il devienne l’expérience la plus significative de votre vie » (p. 61).

• Le psychanalyste ne se laisse jamais remettre en question « Selon la règle du transfert, vous exprimez votre colère à la mauvaise personne au mauvais moment au mauvais endroit dans de mauvaises circonstances » (p. 63).

• Schneiderman évoque l’absence de règles pour l’admission à l’École freudienne de Paris, au début de sa création, par Lacan en 1964 : « Il n’y avait pas de procédures d’admission, pas de curriculum, pas de remise de diplôme. Les gens venaient et partaient, suivaient les cours comme ils voulaient, sans s’encombrer d’exigences académiques. Les aspirants analystes poursuivaient la connaissance, non des références » (p. 160).

• Schneiderman rappelle son expérience de la didactique avec Lacan « Contrairement à la plupart des psychanalystes, Lacan ne faisait pas semblant d’être l’écran vide [blankscreen] proverbial (ou préverbal). Actif, animé, en mouvement, il semblait plus intéressé à faire un show qu’à rester tranquillement dans un fauteuil. Parfois Lacan recevait des patients en pyjama ou en peignoir. Parfois il lisait le journal ou mangeait un repas. Parfois il comptait des billets de banque et les assemblait avec des agrafes. Parfois il faisait ou défaisait des nœuds. Parfois il semblait écouter intensément ; parfois il semblait perdu dans ses propres pensées. Parfois il était affable ; plus souvent il était grossier et dédaigneux » (p. 141) 6.

• L’interprétation que donne Schneiderman des séances raccourcies a sensiblement changé : « En modifiant de façon unilatérale sa pratique et en omettant d’en donner l’explication, Lacan faisait comprendre qu’il pouvait faire ce qu’il voulait parce qu’il était celui qu’il était. Des collègues croyaient qu’il représentait la vérité freudienne. D’autres y voyaient une pure provocation. Assurément, son intention était de montrer sa surnormalié »

• Schneiderman analyse l’évolution de l’École lacanienne, notamment les conflits et sa dissolution « Tandis que les véritables religions enseignent la camaraderie et l’amitié, la pseudoreligion freudienne était destinée à produire le conflit et le psychodrame » (p. 165).

Schneiderman évoque beaucoup d’autres thèmes, notamment les conditions socioculturelles du développement de la psychanalyse en Europe et aux Etats-Unis, l’interprétation des rêves et des désirs, la vie conjugale de Freud, les manipulations de patients par Freud, les mœurs de Lacan, ses relations avec Heidegger, la dissolution de son École (« du grand Guignol »), la thérapie cognitive de Beck, le film « Le Mur. La psychanalyse à l’épreuve de l’autisme », etc.