Issue - January 2007

January 2007

Once again, a New Year is starting with plenty of hopes and ideas for 2007 making it even better than the last one.

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January 2007

Lacan's Humanistic Contribution to Psychoanalysis

by Daniel VanVanello

Thirty four years ago, in 1968, one of the most prominent psychoanalysts in the history of psychology would publish his first book: The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis. Of course, we are talking about the French neo-Freudian thinker Jacques Lacan. Through his theory, he would emphasize the importance of language on the personal growth of a person. What is also very remarkable in his psychology is the centralization of the ego.

All of this has been said because on my first visit to a Bolivian psychoanalyst, Dc. Rosalba Gúzman Soriano, I learned the fact that the author I have mentioned in the previous paragraph was the most influential in the psychoanalytic Bolivian stage.

Many times, when anyone who has not studied psychology on an academic level, hears the word "psychoanalysis", his lips form a kind of smirk, due to the fact that the latter word is many times associated (and ironically we may say, in psychoanalytical terms) with a frigid woman, the omnipotent Phallus and a dogmatic perspective.

How can such concepts still apply to today's reality? As a matter of fact, they do not. Mrs Gúzman Soriano, in the forty-five minute long talk we had, explained a series of reasons why the Lacanian view on a person should not be taken as a deterministic and static view on people.

The strength of Lacan's theory is its main feature which suggests the student to always criticize and maintain a sceptical attitude, just like he had on Freud's classical psychoanalysis. The analyst must constantly question the book for the simple fact that practice never reflects the theoretical side. In this way, the relationship which is created between the subject and the analyst can become more personal and less authoritative on the therapist's part. (This will also be the reason why the Belgian psycholinguist Luce Irigaray will be thrown out of the Ecole Freudienne de Paris (EFP) after her vehement criticism, paradoxically having understood Lacan's spirit).

In fact, the analyst's only job is to listen and never suggest the cause for a certain event. It is always the client who has to grasp, by himself, his own idiosyncrasy. The analyst merely helps by leading the way for the subject to discern the unconscious symbols. This technique reminisces of the self-centred therapy of the American humanist psychologist Carl Rogers.

Lacan's psychology is, in Mrs. Gúzman Soriano's terms, a proposition, never a dogma; in my terms, a "philosophy of life". For this very reason, the analyst's "subject" side is influenced by the "analyst's" side, but never vice versa. This is because the therapist must get rid of its subjectivity by, ironically, analyzing her/himself.

Furthermore, the therapist must always see the person as a subject with particular experiences who must be put into a context to be understood. In fact, Lacan teaches to adopt an idiographic approach towards the resolution of the person's complexes. This is also the reason why any person, being a theist, atheist or pertaining to any other religion, credo or culture can be helped by a person whose main ethos is psychoanalytic. The classification of individuals, hence the nomothetic approach of many other psychological perspectives (e.g. biological), is not apt to lead the way for a person's uncovering of one's own intimate feelings.

If we have to find a historical reason for this last characteristic acknowledged of the Lacanian practice, we must take in consideration its geographical side as well. In France, for the previous twenty years, the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre was the main philosophical thread. Its main tenet was the consciousness' emanation of subjectivity. Only the situation of a person can disclose the latter's intimate information, although existentialism described the person through his future and psychoanalysis by his past.

Postmodernism was starting its huge influence on all intellectual dominions, too. In fact, we find Lacanianpostmodernist thinkers such as Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray, all of which were educated in France. Having said the mentioned, I may now give a concise description of how the woman is seen in this perspective.

First of all, we must grasp the dichotomy between sex and gender. The former means that a male is born with an XY chromosome while a female with an XX chromosome, having their respective phenotype. While the latter is a concept which has been constructed by the society, femininity and masculinity being: passive and immanent, and active and transcendental, respectively. The curious fact is that femininity cannot be always applied to the woman and masculinity cannot be always applied to the man. Each person must be taken particularly, meaning that a man can be feminine and a woman masculine.

In my opinion, although this is one of the first serious efforts to annihilate the social feminine stereotype, it is still too much of a static concept. Why are there only two genders? Why does not Lacan take in consideration other forms of genders, like homosexuality? Are we forced to think of a male homosexual as feminine in gender and a lesbian as masculine in gender? All of these questions will be answered by the following philosophers, such as the American queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedwig, who themselves have been influenced by French psychoanalyst, proving his will to overcome social prejudices.

Mrs. Gúzman Soriano seems very enthusiastic about her involvement in listening and guiding her subjects towards the recognition of their own past. This enthusiasm stems also from the fact that the humanistic, meaning both the Third Force in psychology and existentially, side of the perspective she opted for is very evident. With this same humanism, the psychologist takes me to the door with my promise of letting her read the article if it would be eventually published: an ethical code I have learned in my psychology classes.

My life in Taricaya
Despite having been in Cochabamba for over two weeks now I still find myself completely unaccustomed to the wonderfully peaceful nights sleep (without rude interruption by rat, opossum or cockroach), delicious food and presence of street lights and cars as opposed to fire flies and peccaries!?
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