Sarah McAuley – Psychoanalysis – Who Needs It

THE LETTER 12 (Spring 1998) pages 48-50

Indeed, in times like these, who needs Psychoanalysis? As we approach the close of the twentieth century, the human subject with a discourse of his own is in grave danger of extinction. We are indeed witnessing the death throes of ‘The Century of the Individual’: perhaps Marx will have the last laugh yet. Swept along on the wave of the ‘Information Age’, saturated by the mass media and made redundant by technology, we are becoming more hysterical and narcissistic. Entranced by the lure of the image, our lives are becoming increasingly externalised in the ‘Society of the Spectacle’, played out in passive vicarious experiences and virtual realities. This has led to a depletion of inner psychic reality, and what Anna O so aptly named, ‘our private theatre’. We know too much and understand too little. A creeping emptiness lies at the heart of modern life as we live much of our emotional lives by proxy.

For Kristeva, modern man is losing his soul, but he does not know it, for the psychical apparatus is what registers representations and their meaningful representations for the subject. But of course, the society that shapes modern individuals does not leave them stranded; neurochemistry and a panoply of therapies are readily available to repair the wounds of our amputated subjectivity.

In an attempt to mask the real of anxiety they operate and keep the subject stuck on the infantile level of demand to the m(other) to ‘Feed me! Understand me! Comfort me!’. To answer the demand is to act as a surrogate mother, which is unethical, because it denies the reality of separation and loss, which each human subject must negotiate in taking responsibility for one’s body and facing mortality. For Lacan, symptoms are derived from the basic propensity for narcissistic self-deception. The analytic ethical act consists in…

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