Issue 38 (Autumn 2006)


In a footnote to the opening page of his three volume biography Ernest Jones tells us of the error in the registration of the date of Sigmund Freud’s birth – March where May should be. The biographer lets us share his enjoyment of this auspicious start to the marking of Freud’s life given the attention his subject would pay to the slips and other transient and all too easily dismissed formations of our mental lives – our dreams, jokes and forgettings. This attention, of course, yielded to Freud the insight into our thought processes (the greater part of which he thereby discovered to be unconscious) which radically and effectively re-orientated clinical work in the field of the mental.

Freud 150 was a day of papers and discussion held on 12th May 2006 in the Education and Research Centre, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, to mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud. It was an occasion to attend to Freud. The high level of interest shown as well as the considerable turn out on the day from non- analytic quarters strongly suggests that there are those in the field of mental health work, and elsewhere, who are, in fact, very open to hearing something from psychoanalysis in order for it to inform their work and its interrogation. … Continue reading

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THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 1-9


Given that this day is meant to be a celebration of Freud’s one hundred and fiftieth birthday and that many non-specialists as well as specialists have been invited to it, I was advised to keep my remarks simple and not to presume the sort of knowledge or interest that we usually have in our regular meetings on different aspects of Freud’s and Lacan’s work.

I should explain that my arcane and esoteric title comes out of what we have been working on in the MSc Programme for the past twenty-five weeks, but I assure you that my paper will not be largely directed to an exploration of what Lacan came to only towards the end of his life and describes as ‘formulae of sexuation’. So, I propose to give only a brief explanation of why I chose this title and then, if time permits, to fill out more fully the movement from Freud’s mythology to Lacan’s formulae.

But I have also been asked to set the scene for the day and to outline in particular some of the more important general issues in contemporary psychoanalysis. It is in fact hard to avoid Sigmund Freud in this anniversary year. Just this week in The Irish Times we have had excellent articles by Peter Crawley and Kate Holmquist and an hour-long discussion on BBC Four’s Women’s Hour between a number of prominent British psychoanalysts. Earlier in the year, we had Newsweek devoting its front cover and many pages to a discussion of Freud’s work headlining it …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 10-21

On September 2nd 1901 when Sigmund Freud was forty-five years old he at last found himself in Rome, something which had the highest emotional significance for him and one which he called ‘the high point of my life’?

In a letter of October 1898 he had written to his friend Fliess, I am studying the topography of Rome, the yearning for which becomes ever more tormenting’, and four months later he spoke of a wish, which would mature, ‘if only I could get to Rome’.

When he finally conquered his resistance of going to the Eternal City and realised his dream he tells us, ‘Not only did I bribe the Trevi Fountain as everyone does. I also – and invented this myself- dipped my hand in the Bocca delta Verita at Santa Maria Cosmedin and vowed to return’.

On the fourth day of that visit in 1901 he caught sight of the statue of Moses carved by Michelangelo for the tomb of Pope Julius II. He wrote to his wife that same day, ‘Plötzlich durch Mich verstanden’, which Ernest Jones translates as: I have come to understand the meaning of the statue by contemplating Michelanglo’s intention’. …

THE LETTER 38 Autumn 2006, pages 22-38

Newton, Marx and Freud are the three emblematic figures commonly credited with shaping the psycho-cultural world of advanced industrial modernity, our sense of where we are in relation to the cosmos, as it were; Newton in relation to the outer (physical) world, Marx in relation to the social (and economic) world, and Freud in relation to the inner (psychic) world.

Nevertheless, not only Einstein, but quantum mechanical GUTS, and superstring and M-brane multidimensionality have given us a very different picture of the physical universe for the twenty-first century. In the post Soviet (and post Mao) era there is a widespread view (which I only partially share) that Marx’s historical and dialectical vision is redundant. With respect to Freud, it is held that the psychopharmacological developments of the twentieth century, and the emergence of neuroscience, have bypassed his approaches. Furthermore, the social effects of feminism and of gender blurring social lifestyles have combined to judge the foundations of his theories as both patriarchal and significantly limited in the scope of subjective gender positions which it can allow.

Even within psychoanalysis, Kleinian, object relations, ego psychology, neo-Freudian, and later approaches, such as those associated with Kohut and Kernberg, all see Freud as a founder, rather than a resource for, and a contributor to current dynamics and dilemmas. …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 39-44

The public mental health service in Ireland consists of mental health teams which are increasingly becoming multi-disciplinary. Child and adult services are separate. In many areas there are old age teams that provide a service to people over the age of sixty-five who develop mental illness.

The vast majority of teams are general adult mental health teams but there are some specialist services in the area of learning disability, rehabilitation, liaison, forensic psychiatry and substance misuse. Each mental health team serves a geographic sector. Teams are community based in the sense that people are seen in their own communities in health centres or their homes.

Those requiring admission usually go to the psychiatric unit of a general hospital though there still exist stand-alone psychiatric hospitals. Those that require ongoing support attend day hospitals, day centres or live in supported community residences. Teams consist of a consultant psychiatrist and junior doctors, community mental health nurses and to varying degrees social workers, psychologists and occupational therapists. (Several teams may share these professionals). Junior doctors rotate to other teams or services after six to twelve months. Members of teams may have qualifications in psychotherapy, usually cognitive behavioural therapy. Most psychotherapy is practiced by psychologists or nurses with varying degrees of training. Consultant psychiatrists often have qualifications in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis but their practice is limited by a lack of protected time. …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 45-48

In the year 1917 Freud gave a lecture on the topic of psycho­analysis and psychiatry. On that occasion he asked his listeners to ‘endeavour to allow the psycho-analytic view to grow up quietly in you alongside of the popular or psychiatric one, till opportunities arise for the two to influence each other, to compete with each other and to unite in leading to a conclusion.’

During the first half of the twentieth century, psychoanalysis revolutionized our understanding of mental life. It provided a remarkable set of new insights about unconscious mental processes. However at the beginning of the twenty-first century the influence of psychoanalysis is somewhat in decline. In the same paper in 1917 Freud anticipated that ‘in the not too distant future it will be realized that a scientifically based psychiatry is not possible without a sound knowledge of the deeper-lying unconscious processes in mental life.’ Yet there is a difficulty in accommodating the evidence- based, scientific, biological discipline of psychiatry with the insights of psychoanalysis.

Biology has made remarkable progress in the last fifty years. Just as the gene was central to biology of the twentieth century, it is anticipated by many that the mind is to be the central focus of the twenty-first. To paraphrase the opinion of François Jacob ‘The century that has ended has been preoccupied with nucleic acids and proteins. The next one will concentrate on memory and desire. Will it be able to answer the questions they pose?’

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 49-52

The psychoanalytic approach to psychopathology assumes that all symptoms are meaningful and are related to the life history as subjectively experienced.

Freud’s study on Schreber represents his attempt to form a theory on psychosis psychoanalytically on the basis of the patient’s own report of a delusional system. For Freud, psychosis represents the withdrawal of libidinal cathexes to the outside world and their redirection inwards to the ego. Schreber’s delusional system worked for him to the extent that it made sense of his world. As Freud commented in his work on Schreber, ‘What we take to be the pathological production, the delusional formation, is in reality the attempt at recovery, the reconstruction‘.

In writing about the generic difference between neuroses and psychoses Freud says, ‘neurosis is the result of a conflict between the ego and its id, whereas psychosis is the analogous outcome of a similar disturbance in the relations between the ego and the external world’. He discussed this further and writes: ‘Thus for a neurosis the decisive factor would be the predominance of the influence of reality, whereas for a psychosis it would be the predominance of the id. In a psychosis, a loss of reality would necessarily be present, whereas in a neurosis, it would seem, this loss would be avoided’? …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 53-56.

The child was described by his parents as a cheerful, straightforward child who was an amiable and active-minded young fellow. He was able to carry out his childhood researches in a state of happy naïveté, keeping nothing back.

However all this was to change when conflicts arose out of those researches.

It was with the outbreak of his illness and during the analysis that discrepancies began to make their appearance between what he said and what he thought; and this was partly because unconscious material, which he urns unable to master all at once, was forcing itself upon him, and partly because the content of his thoughts provoked reservations on account of his relation to his parents.

The little boy was four years old. He woke up in tears one morning following an anxiety dream. Asked why he was crying, he said to his mother: ‘When I was asleep I thought you were gone and I had no mummy to coax with.’ A few days later in the street the boy once again began to cry and asked to be taken home to his mother. At home, he was asked why he had cried but the anxious child wouldn’t say. In the evening he grew visibly frightened and only grew cheerful again when he caressed his ‘beautiful’ mother. …

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’. …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006), pages 64-70

Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here to present this short paper and especially so in St. Vincent’s Hospital, which has its own significant resonance for me being a hospital where my father worked at one stage in his life (the old one in St. Stephen’s Green) and later where he died. I cannot claim responsibility for the title of my paper; it comes from the graffiti on the wall of the building where I work and I will return to it anon. I trained here in the School of Psychotherapy, starting the course sixteen years ago, and I am currently back in training in the same school doing the group analytic course feeling the need for some learning about groups and organizations. I originally trained as a social worker in the days when social-work training had a psychodynamic component. My job in the then Eastern Health Board was in the Fostering Resource Group where our work entailed the support of foster parents and young people in care. I learnt quickly that taking children into care from what was perceived to be a neglectful or abusive situation and placing them in what was considered to be a successful family did not always provide the happy intended outcome.

The buzz word then as now was ‘attachment’ and it certainly provided a very useful framework within which to conceptualise the ‘how’ of supporting a young person to gain from a new home environment. …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 71-80


I am not in a position to address my original topic The state of the transference today at The Freud 150 event because of a change of circumstance. However Barry O’Donnell has prevailed upon me to talk about the question of research as it applies to Psychoanalysis, the Health Service and the University. This is in the context of my recent appointment as Director of the School of Psychotherapy at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and UCD. For the moment, I cannot afford to dwell too much on the fact that technically I am succeeding Cormac Gallagher as Director of the School, simply because I feel like I have been thrown in at the deep end and have to thrash about a bit in order to take my bearings in relation to changes that are unfolding about us. Cognisant as I am of these changes purely as they impinge on the practice of psychoanalysis, they are taking place not only in the University but in the Health Service with both of these domains also having an influence on each other. And so I cannot afford to mourn a so-called gentler time, ‘old school’ versus ‘new school’ etc as the various restructurings underway in the university in particular, are currently being described by some academics. Anyway is there ever such a thing? Because of the compulsion to repeat, we are ever unchanged in relation to our reality as we find it at any given time. Surely the Chinese blessing or, indeed curse that we may live in interesting times is always relevant. And so it is for me these days. …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 81-90

When I was twelve or thirteen I became interested in Freud when a friend came across the Penguin paperback edition of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. The discovery that the omissions, lapses and slips that are part of everyday life are actually evidence of an everyday psychopathology was astonishing to me. The fact that my friend and I were quite ignorant of life did not get in the way of our enjoyment of the story of the various slips of the tongue and bungled actions which betrayed the obscure motives of their subjects. Indeed, I suspect that it was the discovery that there was a whole other side to life, right under my nose as it were, that made the book so fascinating.

However, as I had never studied German and no-one in my family spoke it, I had no point of reference and am most embarrassed to tell you that I used to mispronounce his name as “Frood”! I suspect that my mispronunciation was unconsciously motivated – no doubt I could easily have discovered the correct pronunciation. But each of us has to discover Freud in his/her own way, to discover the theory in his own way and to reinvent it (although not perhaps to the extent of such mispronunciation). Furthermore, we each have to come upon the discovery of the unconscious for ourselves; it has to strike us with surprise, rather than being taught. The discovery of it can be a way out of hysteria, and hysteria is the hallmark of adolescence; …

THE LETTER 38 (Autumn 2006) pages 91-104

Today we are marking the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud. Why? Because he founded a new clinical practice, named psychoanalysis. His radical step, which he himself described, retrospectively, as arising from “an insight such as… falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime”, involved taking up a new clinical position in the treatment of his patients.1 So radical was his step that one has to ask how a young medical doctor in the 1880’s and 1890’s found himself able to make it. What distinctions did Freud have to make to realise an innovative clinical position which could respond to his fundamental redefinition of hysteria? Central to his founding of a new clinical practice was his recognition of the phenomena of transference. In my paper I would like to present to you some details and some remarks on what I gather to be a key moment in his taking this step, namely his case history, Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria, otherwise known as the ‘Dora’ case.

Before looking at this case history it is useful to consider a little bit of history. Freud’s birth in 1856, even with the error in the date recorded by the Registrar, is easier to pinpoint than a moment when he recognised the transference and decided to respond to it in a new way. The dominant theories of hysteria…

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