Loving Psychoanalysis - On Psychoanalysis and with Lacan

Psy-Complex in Question: Critical Review In Psychology, Psychoanalysis And Social Theory - Ian Parker 2018

Loving Psychoanalysis
On Psychoanalysis and with Lacan

Golan, R. (2006) Loving Psychoanalysis: Looking at Culture with Freud and Lacan. London: Karnac.

As more writing by practising psychoanalysts in the Lacanian tradition is translated into English it becomes apparent that the field of work in that tradition is very diverse, and the differences between followers of Lacan are at least as deep as the differences between psychoanalysts trained in the English-speaking world. Those differences are far deeper than disputes that divide Lacanians from their colleagues in the so-called ’British tradition’, a cultural mindset that all analysts here are implicated in. Psychoanalysts in Britain, for example, often avoid all expressions of emotion — stretching the worst elements of English middle-class distance and disdain for others into caricature even outside the consulting room — and this makes work from other cultures a vital resource for reenergising analytic theory and practice. Ruth Golan’s book is a case in point, and her work will serve as an antidote to the rather severe and cryptic image that Lacanians here enjoy, even more so members of the school of Lacan’s son-in-law Jacques-Alain Miller, of which Golan is a member in Israel.

The book was first published in Hebrew in 2002, and it brings together clinical and cultural reflections prepared as responses to a variety of events; it could also serve as another introduction to Lacan’s reading of Freud, of which there are now so many, but it provides a quite different way of working through the relationships between language, fantasy, sexual difference and the body. It would not be an easy introduction though, for it circles around Freudian concepts and images, by turns explaining and evoking aspects of the unconscious and the unconscious in culture. Golan is a published poet as well as a psychoanalyst, and this brings to her writing a lyrical quality, and perhaps it is this also that gives to the book a spiritual if not new age edge. On the one hand, then, there is a typically psychoanalytic questioning of the way we tend to seek a guarantee for who we are in God (p. 177); and, on the other hand, there is the promise of ’free choice’ (p. 222), ’liberation’ (p. 225) and (with a reference to Miller to anchor this claim on the final page) ’transformation’.

The suspicion of codified ’university’ style knowledge that haunts the text will be familiar to psychoanalytic practitioners here, especially to those trying to prevent ’competency’ frameworks from crushing ethical therapeutic work, but more strange will be the appeal to ’living knowledge that pulsates within the Real — that stems from the unknown and is exposed more and more in the course of evolution’ (p. 211). Meditations on silence and testimony in the Shoah are interwoven with clinical case histories which are necessarily structured by histories of violence and memory among Jews arriving in Palestine and making it Israel. The exploration of the meanings of Hesed Shel Emet — ’True Grace’ or ’Gracious Truth’ — written on the backs of those who collect bits of bodies after suicide bombings, those who are ’keeping the Real within some kind of Symbolic framework’ (p. 175), drives home what life and death includes now there. But then, as much makes itself present in this text by its silence as by its testimony. There is no explicit acknowledgement of the existence of Palestinians, and some curious references to the Jews in the concentration camps who lost the will to live who were known as the ’Muslims’, curious because these references do not then connect with the bare life of Muslims and Jews facing each other inside and at the borders of Israel.

There is evidently anguish and unease at the nature of the Israeli state, but attention is turned from state violence to the ’masses’ seeking to guarantee its borders, and the problem is framed as ’the language of the masses, the language of sex and violence combined with identification with the national ideal’ (p. 193). And then, when an ’artistic act’ that Golan describes takes place (the taking of a frame on the wall of a disused cinema in Mitzpe Ramon and making it into the pattern of an Arab headscarf), ’it became the voice of the individual’ (p. 197). More disturbing still is the claim that ’the movement of radical transformation and liberation’ that Golan hopes for will, she says, be ’characteristic of a tiny fraction of the population’ (p. 222). It would seem that it is necessary to individualise culture in order to bear it, in order to take the step from barbarism to civilization. Perhaps this means that only a few enlightened individuals will escape the plight of the many beautiful souls suffering the violence which they themselves perpetuate and benefit from.

The papers gathered together here show us a new Lacan and so a new Freud and they force us to think and rethink some difficult questions. It is a shame that the translation is a little unsteady at times, with some distracting discrepancies in the spelling of some key concepts, and the separation of paragraphs by asterisks gives to the text a disjointed quality (and perhaps these typographical peculiarities actually helped me stop and think, and it will now repay rereading). This intriguing book brings psychoanalysis to life as part of culture, a particular culture with implications for all forms of difference in psychoanalytic clinical practice.