Thursday, March 16, 2017

Psychoanalysis: A New Religion

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.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: 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.

That makes sense. I've actually wondered about all the obscure branches of knowledge that exist, and any given branch would seem so difficult (even if technically correct), that no one will bother follow you once you're gone. And if a person gains "celebrity" status within a field, and other people write about him and his work, then, inspired newbies will feel some obligation to go back to his work, even if they're actually more reading what someone else wrote about him.

There's an interesting celebrity rise of Canadian Pyschology professor Jordan Peterson, since he stood up to the transgender activists last fall, and now everyone wants to hear from him. Will his rise be a "cult of personality" and be heard with religious conviction?

He wrote a book nearly 20 years ago called "Maps of meaning" which is LARGE and HARD, so very few will ever read it, but if he can speak about it, people listen, and he admitted it has taken him these 20 years to unpack his "maps" so they can be communicated in his speeches.

Here's his latest one, seeing how individuals can stand up to the tyranny of political correctness around them. Strengthen the Individual: A counterpoint to Post Modern Political Correctness
This is a lecture (Q & A forthcoming) that I gave in Ottawa, Canada's capital city, on Saturday. I discuss the development of post-modernism, its relationship to Marxism, the dangers it poses to the civilization of the West, and what might be done, in consequence.

It is also interesting to see that status is often raised by your willingness to stand up to authority figures within a culture, and of course anyone without a coherent argument won't be able to stand up for long. But Peterson has done his homework, and he's picked a side, and he's now got a following, whether or not they hear exactly what he wants to say, or if many are just awed by his force of will and passion to try to say hard things.

After an hour speech above, he had an hour talk sessions too. I see he offered an opinion about psychotherapy. Strengthen the Individual: Q & A Parts I & II
--- @4:42
"...The two most fundamental parts of psychotherapy are, let's find out what you're afraid of and avoiding and help you confront it, so you can gather the information that's there, and let's allow them to laid their story out in all its catastrophe in detail so you can straighten yourself out through speech. That's exactly what happens in psychotherapy."

That definition is of course very different than what the author of this blog would say, at least it doesn't mention the word unconscious at all, and doesn't presume that the analyst has any special knowledge that the patient is unaware. It's just trying to get all the facts on the table, and possibly no different than what a coach would do. But it still seems weaker than a coach since no advice has been offered in that process. Supposedly the client will come up with his own advice if he can get clarity on all the facts of a situation?

Finally I can see how any dynamic personality risks false promises of "solving" someone else's problems, and whether an analyst or coach, probably the incentive is there to try to do things for the client that they can do for themselves, and perhaps this is where wisdom is needed, to know when to hold back what you know, or when you do speak, refuse definite answers that reject potential solutions that haven't been tried yet just because they're hard.