The first lesson in psychoanalysis

Sunday News (January 15, 2005)

(C)  By Louis C. de Figueiredo

 Some years ago Time magazine carríed a cover story entitled “Is Freud Dead?”. It was a rhetorical question, to which ali sorts of reactions could be expected. One anti-Freud author went só far as to state that “the death of psychoanalysis is itself the only cathartic event psychoanalysis was ever designed to deliver.” Were he alive Freud would scarcely have been disturbed by such a rash statement. On the contrary, it would have more likely left him delighted. The reaction against psychoanalysis could only confirm one of his observations. He would therefore dismiss it as resistance.

It carne from a country that he and CG. Jung had guessed would be hostile to what Freud had to say. Not that Jung agreed with everything his ‘father’said, the break taking place as a result of what was judged to be Freud’s one-sidedness, a point that was once again raised more recently by the Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, although for political reasons. But to stick to the point, even Jung, who eventually became Freud’s bitter enemy, would, as late as 1959, acknowledge that the father of psychoanalysis, “like an Old Testament prophet …undertook to overthrow false gods, to rip the veils away from a mass of dishonesties and hypocrisies, mercilessly exposing the rottenness of the contemporary psyche.”

Today, whatever the debates raging between Richard Webster and Frederick Crews will lead to, no one questions the fact :hat it was Freud who discovered the road to the unconscious, which had existed only as a philosophical postulate, particularly in the work of Eduard von Hartmann, called the philosopher of the unconscious.

Freud had the right ingredients to enable him to do what he did. As his English translator James Strachey put it, “his power of observation had to be seen to be believed.”

Só if Freud is not really dead, to what use can psychoanalysis be put by the average layperson in the search for meaningful experiences— not esoteric rubbish — to explain the disruptions in his condition humaine in today’s highly complex post-modern society? That is something that becomes as clear as crystal in A Psicanálise Cura? Uma introdução a Teoria Psicanalíticà written by Roberto Girola and published by Idéias & Letras. Intended for the educated general reader and presented in an easily readable format, the book is a step-by-step explanation of the workings of that steam engine called the human mind, from the psychoanalytic point of view, where terms such as Unconscious, Complex, Repression, Transference and Resistance — evident in everyday life — become easily understandable. The result is a considerable gain in insight, meaning that it is clearly demonstrated how the cure is obtained by bringing to consciouness what had been unconscious, and the way in which the ego can replace the id in some instances, as Freud claimed.

Of course, one of the main objections to psychoanalysis is that medications can relieve symptoms. Even as well-known a psychoanalyst as Elizabeth Roudinesco did not hesitate to admit that people prefer to take drugs rather than express intimate feelings. But then it is equally true that drugs do not heal emotions, nor do they comfort the soul. While that does not convert psychoanalysis into “soul talk”, it is nonetheless clear that its approach is humane, as Freud’s colleague Sandor Ferenczi would have it. For the simple reason that it is much more human to thrash things out openly, with the intention of seeking a solution, and thus “comfort the soul”, than to sweep them under the rug by pretending nothing is wrong. If sweeping things under the rug is possible at ali, a psychoanalyst would say.

The author, a psychoanalyst who hás a background in philosophy and theology as well, keeps ari open mind on these and other questions, which is also what leads him to dwell on a bit of the history of the development of psychoanalysis and the important contributions of Winnicott and Bion, making his work also useful to psychoanalysts. Above ali, it is the honesty that stands out in the book, added to the praise it hás won from Brazilian heavyweights in the field like Renato Mezan and Tales A.M. Ab’ Saber, that makes it a superb introduction for anyone seeking a better understanding of psychoanalysis.

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