What is psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis is a form of knowledge and a therapeutic approach to mental and emotional suffering and difficulties. It was discovered by Sigmund Freud over a century ago. Freud invented his ‘talking cure’ based on the hypothesis that there coexist in our mind both conscious and unconscious thoughts, wishes, fantasies and desires which are often incompatible and in conflict with one another. This conflict can lead to difficulties in understanding our own motivations and actions. Psychoanalysis holds that feelings and actions are affected by unconscious factors as much as those we are consciously aware of. We often find ourselves suffering in ways which we do not fully understand and acting in ways contrary to our express belief and knowledge, ideas and ideals.
Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy is a work of exploration and discovery which seeks to link our experience of suffering in the present with speaking in depth about the particular life history that has shaped our understanding of ourselves and our relationships with others from early in our lives. Although unable to promise ‘positive outcomes’ psychoanalysis can often lead to a re-orientation with respect to our desire and understanding, and a transformation in our relation with others and the world. Although not directly concerned with the removal of ‘symptoms’ psychoanalysis often has the effect of reducing the suffering associated with them, the relief of emotional distress and rediscovery of meaning in our lives.
The psychoanalytic therapist does not provide readymade answers but instead encourages the consideration of unconscious dynamics repeated in actions and behaviour, and assists in exploring the deeper significance of symptoms and difficulties. Although psychoanalytic therapy demands a commitment and investment of time, effort and money, the benefits can be profound and can put a person on a more solid path for the rest of their life.
Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy understand human beings to be complex and contradictory because of the centrality of the unconscious in our lives, and the task of the treatment is to find a way through these complex and contradictory aspects and forge something potentially creative through our exploration of them.
…with a Lacanian orientation?
Lacanian psychoanalysis, which remains close to the Freud’s discovery, has developed over the last fifty years or so from the work, thought and inspiration of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. It is a unique, flexible and non-judgemental approach to analysis based on attentive listening to the particularity of the speech of the individual patient and to their relation to suffering and meaning.
A Lacanian psychoanalytic orientation has no pre-established conception of ‘normality’ or of what should be achieved in the therapy within a specific amount of time. It is an experience and practice which respects the individual’s uniqueness, what is singular for that person, whilst supporting a self questioning with respect to ideas and ideals. There are no contracts, goals, general aims or fixed ideas about desirable outcomes supplied by the psychoanalyst.
Lacanian psychoanalytic therapy is not a ‘standardised treatment’ but rather focuses on the discovery of a personal solution to presenting problems which an individual discovers in and through the process of psychoanalytic therapeutic engagement. It offers an invitation to speak openly and freely and to be listened to at a fundamental level, and through this to develop new ways of responding to and live in the world.
A Lacanian approach to psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy does not depend on ‘formal aspects’ such as the necessity of attending a certain number of times per week, or sessions having to be of a prescribed duration. The approach to psychoanalytic work is flexible and involves a joint effort of the analyst and the analysand (the patient), in attempting to find ways to access unconscious thoughts and forgotten experiences, to escape from damaging repetitions and as yet unknown psychical forces, and to address the factors which may be impeding and constraining in our lives.