By Fabiana Ratti – Lacanian Psychoanalyst
What is Psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis was developed by the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. Freud realized that the symptoms didn’t correspond with the respective neurons, so he began to understand that it was not something physiological, but psychic. He experimented with hypnosis and suggestion, but it was with a colleague that he developed the technique of psychoanalysis: talking cure. The idea that speaking freely, trying not to let go of blame, guilt, shame; resistances took over, the person could associate, connect ideas, reflect, in a way that suspended repressions, allowing unconscious thoughts to surface, influencing the patient’s improvement, reaching resolutions of symptoms.
This method was discovered in 1900 and to this day it is less publicized and accessible than it should have been. Lately, people take medicine for many symptoms, from headaches and heartaches to syndromes and disorders. Medicines are important and help, but they only ease the symptoms. They don’t touch the root, the cause, what causes the symptom. Psychoanalysis is important because Freud discovered the technique of getting to the root of the symptom and being able to transform it. For Freud, the symptom, whatever it may be, has a meaning, a specific reason for each subject. The symptom is a sign of something bigger, it’s just the top of the iceberg. If we take a medicine or undergo a treatment that aims only to cover the symptom, we stop looking at all the rest of the iceberg: ourselves, our feelings, thoughts, emotional wounds; and then other symptoms and consequences appear. It is necessary to go to the root.
Psychoanalysis works with the meaning and function of the symptom for each person, and not in a mass manner, as if cancer or anguish were the same for each one. No. Each person lives the experience in their own way, they have their own reasons for developing the symptom and this needs to be seen and analyzed in the treatment so that the symptoms are resolved, and the person has a life closer to their desires and dreams.
What do Psychoanalysts do?
Psychoanalysis listens to and interrogates the ‘subject of the unconscious’. For psychoanalysis the “I am not master in my own home.”, this is a phrase of Freud. We have the impression that the rational is in charge, but dreams, symptoms, wrongdoings, and lapses show us that the unconscious is in charge. That is, we are divided into rational and emotional. Therefore, we do not understand the encrypted messages of dreams and symptoms. Thus, situations are repeated in our lives, we tend to stay in the same relationship pattern, even aware that it is not the best for us, for example.
It is necessary to speak freely to a trusted psychoanalyst so that we can decipher, read, and understand the writing of our unconscious and thus change our attitudes, our position towards life, so that life changes. It’s not enough to just think and repeat positive words like parrots, it’s necessary to treat the wounds and hurts before reinvesting in life.
Freud is the father of psychoanalysis. If the person is a psychoanalyst, he or she is based on Freud’s work. Then came the post Freudians who continued Freud’s work. Modernized, they added to the field. I am a Lacanian psychoanalyst (Freud as a base). From my point of view, Lacan was brilliant, he revolutionized psychoanalysis. He took Freudian concepts and improved them and left us excellent resources to deal with the symptoms of the 21st century.
For example, Freud placed great importance on childhood in the development of the psychic apparatus. However, Freud emphasized biological parents and their behavior. Lacan understood that it was not the parents themselves, but the role of father and mother that were important, in this way, it could be someone else, or even an institution. He also realized that what mattered was not so much the attitudes of these parents, but the way each one understands and comprehends these parents. That is, an even greater advancement of the idea of ”psychic reality.” There is reality, but what counts is the way someone understands and explains reality to themselves. This totally changes the way he acts and positions himself in life. Lacan delved deeply into language, the person’s viewpoint when faced with situations and the way they understand, explain, and act in new situations. This is just an example.
There are other authors like Melanie Klein, Ferenczi, Winnicott. Each in their own way brought constructions and innovations to Freudian psychoanalysis.
How Does Psychoanalysis Differ from Psychotherapy?
Psychoanalysis is a line that deals with the psychic apparatus as an organ, we just can’t get an X-ray of the person, because it’s psychic. But the unconscious is an organ that has its laws and functioning. Freud unraveled these laws. Psychoanalysis works with ‘free association’. We direct the treatment so that the subject of the unconscious appears. We hear the person associate and connect ideas and see people as freely as possible and thus, the unconscious appears in the speech. The focus is not on the symptom, but on the person, on desire and their dreams. The answers come from the person we are working with. The person themselves find the answers to their doubts and concerns. When speaking, the person hears their contradictions, their paradoxes and, when realizing, changes their attitudes by an internal decision and not by ‘advice’, ‘support’, from a professional who would be ‘stronger’, or ‘ wiser’. This would be the position of the doctor, the one who has studied the disease and knows what should be done, what medicine should be taken, what needs to be done. The psychoanalyst takes the place of interrogating the subject and his desire. Someone’s choices and decisions are unique. The person goes to psychoanalysis to look for their own answers that are obscured by the symptoms and the current taboos. Psychoanalysis is open to all persons. It focuses on developing the subject of the unconscious: who are they? What does they want? What do they want to do with their life?
Talking about psychotherapy is a very wide range, there are different possibilities. Nowadays, we have many different treatments. But basically, we can say that some psychotherapies focus on the ‘withdrawal of the symptom’ and psychoanalysis focuses on the development of the subject with the consequence of solving the symptom.
Psychoanalysis or Psychotherapy?
From my point of view, everyone could go to the psychoanalyst. We all have an unconscious. We can go to the psychoanalyst for two reasons: either to treat any symptom; or to grow, develop. Talking about oneself, reflecting, remembering memories, and associating, according to Freud, helps to clean up. We throw away hurts, pains, feelings that were stored for years and so we are more ‘lubricated’ to experience new challenges and emotions. As life brings frustrations and sorrows, not just achievements and joys, it is important, even before these hurts crystallize into symptoms, that they can be worked out so someone can direct psychic energy towards their desires, goals and achievements. Psychoanalysis works in partnership with other therapies like psychiatry and speech therapy.
Are There Reasons to Not Seek Psychoanalysis?
Freud said that only neurotics were capable of doing psychoanalysis, only people who were able to link and associate ideas and thoughts. Lacan advanced in his studies and worked with psychotics and even more serious cases, which took psychoanalysis to an even higher level. Thus, being competent professional, studious and dedicated, psychoanalysis treats the unconscious of the person, regardless of symptom or age. There is no contraindication to doing Lacanian psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis: An Important Resource for Therapists & Other Professionals to Know About
As a psychoanalyst I really work to make psychoanalysis more accessible. An example that I think is very serious and that perhaps everyone knows is the case of Amy Winehouse. When we watch the Netflix documentary, it is evident that quality customer service was lacking. She underwent treatments, was hospitalized, took medicine, but we do not see the development of the ‘subject of the unconscious’. Nobody saw at her. In the documentary, she has precious lines showing how much she ‘didn’t know herself’. She wasn’t a lady in her “own house’. She had fears, anxieties, and difficulties in her relationship with dating, questions about her fame and how she wanted to manage her life, her career and her relationship with her father. None of this was seen or dealt with. There was only focus places on her symptoms: bulimia and anorexia, on alcoholism, as if she were a doll that needed to play a role, to sing, like that was all she was interested in. Amy Winehouse was rich and famous. She had access to resources. She could pay for the best there was and at no point in the documentary, or in her life, that she had been offered this resource of psychoanalysis. It seemed sad to me that there was only a focus on her symptoms and not on her as a person.
I graduated in 1997 and since then I have been working to help other institutions. I love my job! Nowadays, I teach psychoanalysis through the Hotmart.com platform. I read texts by Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and I discuss the texts with examples and clinical points with 21st century issues. It’s a way of making psychoanalysis more accessible. I have a psychoanalysis clinic, UNBEWUSSTE.com, and I organize teams of psychoanalysts working online all over Brazil. I believe it is especially important to provide care to all people who want it, without borders, barriers, or languages. Thus, we will be a society more focused on the individual, the natural person, and not a mass society, robotized, with the same concerns and interests.