Bernard Kennedy – The Freudian Understanding of the Symptom

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 57-63.

For my doctoral thesis with the School of Psychotherapy I am examining the writings and clinical backdrop and validity to Freud’s understanding of the symptom, and will be, in that context, showing how his theory of the Symptom is a text from the unconscious, a text whose expression is the Symptom but behind which, if unravelled, like a knot of coagulated affect, arising from trauma, and, confected from the social cultural deposits, is an agreement between the Ego and the Id in a context, brought about through Repression.

In today’s presentation I will discuss how Freud, and Psychoanalysis, understood in a Freudian context, understands the symptom as it may present to the clinician in the mental health services and that to ignore the Freudian understanding is to be palliative, comparative or temporary in treatment. It may therefore avoid the relationship between Subject and symptom and symptom and the Other with whose engagement the symptom presents. In talking of symptoms we can locate our naming within the neuroses, psychoses, and their clinical manifestations including phobias, depression, anxiety and many symptoms, which can be somatically referenced where upon the body the text is written.

We might begin with a Freudian definition of a symptom:

A symptom ‘is a sign of and substitute for, an instinctual satisfaction, which has remained in abeyance: it is a consequence of the process of repression. Involved is the instinctual demand and a cathexes around repression’. …

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