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Friday, 23 June 2017

About the Postings on the Theory of the Human Subject.

It was my ambition, in the last few years and since publishing my book on future psychoanalysis in 2015, to show that psychoanalysis did not just create a theory of psychopathology and psychotherapy but was essentially a theory of the human subject. I tried lately to write a short exposition on the issue of the human subject and publish it in parts in my blog. After a short time, I realized that this task requires the efforts of a group of analysts who realize the significance of deducing a theory of the human subject from the literature of psychoanalysis. Moreover, I had a difficulty in putting my ideas in a concise way. There were many side ideas that kept diverting my attention. They did not belong in a blog because they were more evolved.  They were important enough and have clear intrinsic relationship to the contemporary unsatisfactory condition of psychoanalysis to go over them lightly. They prove that  the absence of a theory of the human subject, if not a cause for the deterioration of contemporary psychoanalysis, at least the existence of such theory is vital in reviving psychoanalysis. What I mean is that neglecting the need for a theory of the human subject that compliments the clinical point of view  was the reason or the cause of the present unsatisfactory condition of clinical psychoanalysis and its loss of credibility.
This is talk but no action. The action, in my case, is to ‘put my pen where my mouth is’. This is what I decided to do: write a book or a booklet on the theory of the human subject, instead of tinkering with a posting on the subject. I have an altruistic reason for taking this decision. Psychoanalysts acknowledge the existence of a crisis that is unavoidably going to end psychoanalysis in a couple of decades. They have no alternative, and maybe no better thing to do but to let it die. However, the psychoanalysis that they are unable to save is not “psychoanalysis”. The example to this paradox could come from politics. Communism died a couple of decades ago when the Berlin wall was demolished, Marxism did not die but even proved to be the only theory that could explain the collapse of communism. Marxism has always considered communism a stage in the evolution of history, thus it should reach the point when it had to collapse. Psychoanalysis (Freudianism) emphasizes the significance of development and maturity as its product. After decades of justified idealization of Freud followed by unjustified adulation of some of his companions and followers we should have matured enough and started to create our own psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a theory of the subject who is not anymore the Viennese Herr. I hope that in few moths I will be able to fined a publisher to publish my booklet on the theory of humans subject.

Two questions I think could clarify the subject of this theory. Does psychoanalysis have anything to say about “me” who is not neurotic or psychotic in any shape, form, or degree!!!? If it does not, is that because it has nothing nice to say about people?   

Friday, 16 June 2017

I intended to publish the second and last part of my posting on Trump this weekend. I think it is much better to let the events that started today to do the finishing.
Before I leave the posting I want to mention an improvised diagnosis made by a bright psychiatry resident at the weekly case presentation at Ste. Mary's hospital in Montreal few decades ago: Counter phobic character disorder....It might be useful following what is going to happen in the next few  weeks or months.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Trump in Perspective: A Point of View
 Part One: Trump and Western Civilization
I am going to differ with some colleagues in regard to narcissism. Narcissism is the most unconscious condition in psychical life. In relation to Trump’s condition I suggest considering ‘self deception’. Self deception is part of character formation and is done consciously and leads to all sorts of forms; one of them self aggrandizement. The self-deceived person believes in his deceptions. I think, from watching Trump on TV he is way deep in self deception, and enticed his supporter to do the same and self deceive themselves.  
Because this posting is controversial and will raise many eyebrows and objecting voices I will start by specifying three underlying ideas that are the basis of my argument. Thus, if you disagree with them you could save your effort and time by not reading the posting:
1.     Psychoanalysis has no theory of social phenomena (group and historical). Applying the psychodynamics of the individual on society (treating it as an individual) is misleading. As we look for the intrapsychical in the individual we should be looking for intra-social dynamics in society. However, I will try show that there is a certain similarity between the two processes shortly.

2.     It is also erroneous to use the diagnosis of a historical character to explain the historical events that he might have created (not even with Hitler). Historical characters are just agents and tools conceived and amplified by the society to fulfill a historical objective. Hitler alone would not have gave birth to the European Union and Israel.

3.     This last idea is the very basis of my posting: There are two links between psychoanalysis and social theories, particularly Marxism: A. All psychical and historical phenomena are products of dialectical interactions and not results of haphazard dynamics (psychopathology is the outcome of impeding the natural course of a dialectical course, and wars are the result of impeding the natural course of social evolution). B. All phenomena-individual or social- are ‘determined’, their causes are embedded within them, But reaching that determinism happens in the individual’s event by analysing it, and by rebuilding the social or the historical event from the preceding events. They are similar but work in opposite directions. We analyse a dream to find out how it was unconsciously structured, and use a historical event to restructure and understand a previous historical episode. The historical event of the Versailles treaty restructures all the vents that led to WWII.

When Trump withdraw from the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation followed by withdrawing from the Paris agreement the reaction was ominous: The US was withdrawing from the international scene- not just as its leader for the last seven decades- but as the most significant country in the world, as her politicians liked to call her. This is happening now under a false conviction that the US has no replacement in that role, therefore the whole world will get into disarray and be forced to accommodate her to remain its leader. This is a foundational conviction of few million Americans; conviction, which as we will see later is historically logical but politically illogical.

The actual problem is that lately- at least since the Soviet Union (then) created a communist government in Afghanistan in1971, the world entered a phase of disarray that had and still have unimaginable consequences. The most important consequence is the birth of ISIS, which is just the tail end of those consequences. The sequence of those events is the intrasocial structure of the current global disarray. It is important to consider them in any understanding of what is happening in the US now. But, it is not within my ability to do that properly and it is of no interest to psychoanalysts. However, we can say that after jumping few decades ahead of its present, the US people elected a black president of an impressive CV and a list of great achievements during his presidency. Yet history proved to pay no attention to the importance of individual political leaders.  Eight years later millions of the US citizens regressed mush more than anyone would have expected and elected the antithesis of Obama; a man with a very shameful CV and a list of four bankruptcies attesting to his incompetence, and more.

What could have interfered with the natural dialectical process of progress in the US to elect Trump? Reconstructing the vents that led to that drastic interfering in history is very interesting and vital, but it has to be done by historians of a certain background.  Because I am a psychoanalyst and speaking mainly to psychoanalysts I will concentrate on one idea: Is Trump really an oddity in historical terms or is he a logical choice for the moment? Remember, there is no chance for escaping historical determinism.

Trump’s shenanigans, especially when he caused the US to lose its long-accepted role as the leader of the world, even by its adversaries, reminded me of two books; one I read in the early 1960, and one I just finished few weeks ago. The first is a book written by a German philosopher (Spingler) which he published in 1922 (seventeen years before WWII; the other is by Richard Haass, published in 2017. The first is about “The Decline of the West” and the second is about the contemporary disarray of our world.

Spingler proposed that the history of humanity went through eight civilizations. Although his specification of those civilizations could be debated, his notion that civilisation moved from the east to the west in a consistent geographical sequence is easy to accept. According to him, and common sense, the Western Civilisation, which we are part of now, is the most recent and the one susceptible to decline. Although I do not remember his argument about its decline and what would replace it when this is done, it still kept me thinking about that issue. Nowadays when we see the world’s condition and a man like Trump becoming president of the leader nation of most of the world, one has to ask: is this the end of the Western Civilization (I do not mean that in terms physical destruction) or could this be the birth of the replacement of that civilizations?

To answer this complex question, I find some leading ideas in Haass’s book entitled “A World in Disarray”. As a political analyst, he gives a detailed reconstruction of the recent events that could give us an answer to the question: Is Trump the end of something or the beginning of something. I want to underline the fact that historical characters are not the initiator of change but merely products of change.

The gist of Haass’s book is world order, how it is reached and how it is lost. He argues that after a world’s crisis happens and resolved - mostly by war-, the victors reach agreements that decides the relationships amongst themselves and with the vanquished. He concludes from the beginning of his book that world’s order that was reached after signing the armistice of WWII and the surrender of Japan is now in disarray. The rest of the book makes an anatomy of the current situation showing how in every corner of the world this order is collapsing. This point of view validated Spengler’s idea of the collapse of the west. Yet, there are few things that points at a different picture. First, the nuclear deterrent is preventing any thought about solving the problem by war as used to happen before. Second, a significant part of the world does not believe much anymore in nationalism and leans toward globalization. Third, the globalization movement has gained independence of governmental control and governments are no longer able to decide anything about commitments and allegiances. (notice what Trump wants to take the US to). Everything now points at the birth of a new civilization that is going to replace the Western Civilization: a global civilization. Europe is showing that this civilization has been in the making for few decades (See Fisk: The European Dream). Obama as a politician was quite open and accepting in that new order (push for regional and international agreements). Contrary to Trump he wanted the West to link with the East not on Geopolitical basis but on trade cooperation. Trump revealed shameful ignorance of international affairs (intellectual) and wanted to undo all that progress which thw hole world is heading for.   
 The most amazing thing in this whole matter is how the world was already ready to moving from the primitive concept of Western Civilization to Global Civilization. The moment Trump renounced the US’s allegiance to regional alliances those alliances discounted the US, and in the same day showing that they were open for new alliances with China and give the hints that Russia will be next.  There is something of interest to even the already bored reader of this posting. We have works describing in detail the rise and fall of empires, nations, civilizations etc. But we cannot get from them the real feel of living the events of the fall of those institutions or the birth of the new ones. But here we are at the very moments of an old civilizations falling and a new one rising. It tells us something very significant about a possible psychoanalytic theory of social events.
In clinical psychoanalysis, we work through a pathological component for weeks and months without a comprehensive understanding of the matter, and unexpectedly a dream, a slip of the tongue, or a minor acting out would reveal the unconscious structure of that component and put the working through in frame. Analysis leads to the unconscious. In social events, we witness historical or social events and understand each separately but without being able to predict what they are leading to. Then comes an event and surprisingly all what we understood before takes a new meaning. All the events that were happening in the cold war took a new meaning as a surprise. All the events from Afghanistan in 1979 till now with the lection of Trump seems to be interconnected and nothing happened haphazardly. those events which made no sense when they happened could explain to us how after the election of Obama the US elected Trump. A psychoanalytic theory of social and historical events has to be about discovering “History’s unconscious”. It has to be a theory of getting meaning from historical events that could explain the historical characters, not visa versa. 
Trump and His Devotees.
Nine-elven was a major blow to the ‘insulated’ American pride because of the extent of damage it caused and its implicit message of the vulnerability of the country (not even in any war did the US lose a building). If we add to that the mild failures in Afghanistan and the major failure in Iraq we realize that a normal reaction to 9\11 was narcissistic rage that hit the whole population of the US, pro-war an anti war alike. Fortunately, and also unfortunately the recovery from this shock was quick and very impressive. In less than the eight years of Obama’s presidency the US recovered and improved its status.  The economy recovered completely, the country was moving ahead smoothly, Obama as a ‘cultured’ person sensed that the US has to be part of the larger world and he joined few important regional trade and economic organizations, gained the respect and confidence of most of the significant political entities. But the recovery was too to fast for a sizable section of the society to assimilate. Some people remained in their state of narcissistic rage being. Those people were prone to self deception for different reasons.
However, there is also a factor that exasperated the situation. Maybe as a stranger I was more attentive to it than the average American. After 9\11 American politicians and public figures never missed a chance to talk about the US as the greatest, the most powerful, the most democratic and the one with the highest values in the world. Even if that is true (which is not) it tempted people to deceive themselves by making their advantages an excuse to look down on others. The narcissistically enraged Americans found in Trump a perfect leader: he confirmed their sense of inferiority and promised them a total recovery.  Moreover, there was no ready leader on the other side to pull them from their despair and show them the actual strength of their country.
A theory of the human subject (the individual) acknowledges that everything in ‘man’s’ life always has two meanings: one obvious (conscious) and one hidden (unconscious). The unconscious one seeks a meaning and could become very vulnerable to self deception because of that need. In  crisis situations the leader with the exaggerated views of things and is able to -himself- to block critical judgment wins (Ghadaffy, Hitler, Trump). Therefore, if we put Trump in the context of the circumstances of his election we will see that what is important for us as psychoanalysts is not to give him a diagnosis but reach a proper diagnosis of the historical moment that gave him (his psychopathology) the power to win an election. We all have characters as we are our character. But some have orderly characters and some have character disorders.  

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Toward a Psychoanalytic Theory of the Subject

3.The Subject and his Counterpart:

Discovering the duality of the subject was a breakthrough, because it became obvious and an accepted fact that the subject is not an ontological entity, but a fusion of what we could notice of him and something else that is only ‘indirectly’ assumed to be there. The subject embodies an active counterpart that it is unconscious to him, but displays its presence to the “other”, but only partially concealed and partially unfathomable. Thus, duality was a great leap in our view of the human subject but did not offer something of theoretical value, because it was understandable. Two things needed to be explored: are the dual components linked or they exist independent of each other? Whatever the answer is it is till of great importance to know how they coexist in the same subject.
The contribution of German idealist metaphysics advanced the European culture in all its endeavours. Many thinkers joined the philosophers in advancing the modern western civilization as whole, and creating a general movement of enlightenment, which was most evident in France (1730–1800). It spread throughout Europe. It introduced two major enlightening notions to the issue of the subject’s duality, which allowed a shift in the attitude toward that duality. The first enlightenment was that the subject’s reason is his exclusive means of comprehending the world around him, and that it is his alone, although it may have some commonality with the reasoning of others. This means that if we are to understand anything about the dual existence of the subject, we have to find a way to ask him to explain it to us. But how can he deduce what is unconscious from consciousness? How can he transcend the consciousness of the self when the self is partly unconscious?

The second enlightenment was that the causes of events are inherent in the events themselves, and the affairs of the subject contain their explanations. Searching for external effects to explain the manifestation of the subject misleads and produce false explanations and comprehension of the human act. As Foucault underline, (1970) the rules of a game are part of the game itself and are not added to it from another source. Thus, the duality of the subject’s went through a major change in the age of enlightenment: the subject’s duality is longer accepted as a split within the subject with no comprehendible cause or possible natural bridging or potential resolution. It became a concept that stands for a partition that is a constituent of human nature, without which the subject would be an entity without quality, or ate best an entity with two different qualities. Thus, the subject has to have an-other lodged in him for both to be his self. That other is neither hidden, nor under, nor behind, but entwined with his other part. The other in the subject is a double that is neither expressing himself in the common language of communication nor making himself understood by any known means. Although the other is “there,” he does not seem to affect anything around him, and seems to be protected from being affected by external effects either. nevertheless, his presence is impossible to ignore because he is an integral part of everything the subject projects. Because the other was (is) not amenable to reflection, thus it is not material for ordinary thinking; it was denoted as the unconscious, the nominal, and the transcendental. The gap between the subject and his counterpart led to a gradual change in understanding that “Other”. The different philosophers who previously dealt with the counterpart as the Other in the subject named it differently. It was the hidden (Fichte), the subject in himself (Hegel), the alienated subject (Marx), the unconscious will (Schopenhauer), the implicit (Husserl), and the subject of reflection (Bergeson).

Laplanche (1997) said, “Western philosophy, which can be encompassed by the general term ‘philosophy of the subject,’ has always stumbled over the problem of the other. For it, the otherness of the external world has always appeared doubtful, problematic, having to be deduced solely from the evidence of subjectivity… Western culture and its philosophy is the culture of the “subject,” though its apparent interest has been in the subject as an object. The other in it is an object for the subject. However, the subject is an other to himself too (p. 653).
With the subject being a duality and the duality being antithetical nature a new concept- the counterpart- appeared to account for the puzzlement about duality. The counterpart is a concept that better suited the changes introduced by the two propositions of the Enlightenment. The counterpart meant that human duality is not the coexistence of an- other within the subject, but rather the self is a unity of an enwrapped antithesis. The proposition that the subject can rely on his subjective reasoning to learn was instrumental in creating a novel interest in the properties of human reasoning-its soundness, limitations, normalcy, and abnormality-and inadvertently led to curiosity about the function of the counterpart in that reasoning. Psychology was born as an independent science of reason (consciousness), and introspective endeavors moved gradually to the center of the studies in that field (Wundt, 1876). Introspection occupied a formal place in science, a place that had previously been the province of the transcendental ego. However, introspection did not provide any substantial additional insights into the nature of the counterpart. Understanding the counterpart posed a problem: the subject cannot be reached by introspection and the Other does not speak the same language the counterpart speaks.

The second proposition that causes are contained within their effects has changed the strategy of diagnosis in the field of psychopathology. In the beginning, mental disorders were ascribed to external causes such as bad spirits, evil eyes, the devil, or even to unexplainable causes such as God’s will. Pinel (1740–1826) broke the chains of the patients in the Salpêtrière hospital and refused to consider them victims of evil spirits. Hence, psychical disorders were considered diseases, i.e., their causes should be found within the diseases like all other medical conditions. Physicians resorted to treating the neuroses and psychoses as deficiencies or overabundances of certain biophysical elements. The advancements in “scientific” medicine based on research, anatomy, physiology, and some supportive branches put the unconscious firmly in the place of the counterpart. It took a very short time for the enlighten psychiatrists in France to discover hypnotism and reach the unconscious almost by accident; the accident of making a calculated hypothesis that it might be what characterizes the counterpart of the subject. The counterpart was not only unconscious but was the unconscious of that particular patient.

The Counterpart and the Particularity of Psychoanalysis:
Based on several details in the evolution of the concept of the counterpart I mean by the exitance of counterpart the emergence of antithetical poles from any of the attributes that constitute an evolving state in the human subject [I intend to revisit this idea later to shoe its validity from the analysts’ clinical work. The counterpart is an operational duality that allows the exploration of the issue at hand, as is the case of the mental function and its duality of conscious/unconscious. I want to highlight and underline something extremely Freudian in Freud’s discovery of psychoanalysis:  did not, create a polarity of two attributes of different qualitative origins in any of his works for the duration of continued modifications of his theory, except for a short time when he suggested a polarity between the ego and the repressed [1920, p. 19], or when he used the conscious, as a certainty to prove the existence of the unconscious which was not yet considered then as a certainty (1915).

By the end of the nineteenth century German Idealistic Metaphysics entered a phase of gradual decline, which led to the birth of the scientific method, both in physics and in the humanities. Freud’s thinking proves that it was a legitimate child of the German idealist metaphysics. His whole text is variations on the theme of duality, in every aspect of his formulations. Ricoeur (1970) said, “A reader familiar with Hegelianism [the philosophy of dialects] cannot but help noticing the constant use of opposition in the structure of Freud’s concepts [which are consistently dichotomous]. It is true that dichotomy is not necessarily a dialectic, and that in each instance the dichotomy has a different sense. But his [Freud’s] style of opposition is intimately involved in the birth of meaning; the dichotomy is already dialectical” (p. 475). The new polarity of the subject and his counterpart revealed a dialectical relationship between the subject’s positivistic status as a subject of study and his tendency to transcend the positivistic case  and undo it. The problem of the counterpart changed from a purely metaphysical problem to a problem that had to be sorted out first within a polarity of physical sciences and human sciences. Capturing the subject in positivist states was a dream of scientists, while facilitating his transcendence of being became a psychoanalytic and ethnological endeavor. Foucault (1970) made an important remark about that polarity when he said, “In relation to the ‘subject of sciences,’ psychoanalysis and ethnology are rather ‘counter-sciences’; which does not mean that they are less ‘rational’ or ‘objective’ than the others, but that they flow in the opposite direction, that they lead them back to their epistemological basis, and they ceaselessly ‘unmake’ that very subject who is creating and re-creating his positivity in the human science” (p. 379). Western culture reached an impasse in regard to the nature of the subject and then in how to understand him. Psychology was promising some serious formulations of the laws behind the subject’s behavior, cognition, and emotions and provided some facts about those aspects. But the counterpart, although there was no denying of its existence, was not amenable to the same methods of psychological study. There was nothing promising on the horizon that could have guided the thinkers to something they might have used to cross the abyss or bridge the gap between the endeavors “metapsychology” because psychologists intended -even then-to go beyond empirical psychology that had to be founded on empirical finding. It is important to bring to attention something that psychoanalysis is suffering from nowadays. Somehow, analysts are treating the counterpart (the unconscious Other) the same way they treat consciousness; i.e. as positivistic entity, and they interpret the primary process as distortions of the secondary process. The unintentional neglect that the counterpart is not repressed consciousness makes them keep seeing, working, formulating psychical phenomena as if the subject is a duality of similar though conflicting psychical entities, while the counterpart forces the issue that psychoanalysis is analysis of a dialectical link between an object-tive and a sub-jective entities.
Another feature in Freud’s thinking-taken from Germain metaphysics is the place he gave to the process of mental representation of whatever is physical, in the mind. This notion is -for the meticulous thinker- the origin of duality in western thinking. The notion that representation creates ideas (see Fichte’s and Schopenhauer’s representations of the unconscious) has become very important in Freud’s classical theory of psychoanalysis (thing presentation and word presentation). In addition to notion of representation, the concept of the Ich as a structure was sometimes considered the antithesis of the subject’s positivistic identity and his transcendental counterpart.
The idea of making the counterpart speak to the subject or even to another in his surroundings was far from being a viable idea. Western culture was waiting for an intuition that would make the counterpart talk and define itself. It was time for a qualitative change in understanding the riddle of the subject. Which of the two scientific approaches was going to give Western culture the intuition that could make the counterpart talk and define itself? Was the answer going to come from the positivistic physical sciences, or was it still going to come from the human interpretative sciences? Einstein once said, “All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge, namely, in axioms, from which deductions are then made…Intuition is the necessary condition for discovery of such axioms” (cited in Calaprice, 2000, p. 287).

It was Freud’s destiny to get the intuition that made the counterpart talk, define itself, and still maintain its dual property as a subject of transcendence and an object of study. What I think is most curious, intriguing, and significant is that his intuition should have come from his work as a physician and psychotherapist buy it came from an unusual interest of his that was unrelated to his work. In other words, Freud was out there to discover a cure for the neurosis, which put him the camp of the nomothetic science of neurology and its medical application. Yet, when it came to him—the physician—from his interest (hobby) in dreams, which were not considered, in any way, a topic in the nomothetic sciences. Freud’s research and practice during the hypnosis period brought him close the splitting of consciousness and the formation of the unconscious source of psychoneuroses, the role of trauma and the notion of arrested affect associated with the repressed. He did not see in all that anything that could lead to a theory of psychoanalysis. But, he uncovered in the area of dreams, parapraxes and jokes a second and quite different language that the counterpart uses to speak in those three phenomena. Freud (1900) wrote of that intuition (in the preface to the third English edition of The Interpretation of Dreams), “Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime” (p. XXVII).

He was impressed, for a short while, by the splitting of consciousness; he believed that hypnosis revealed that part of consciousness that had been repudiated and caused the pathological condition. However, we notice in his contributions in the Studies on Hysteria (1895b), compared with Breuer’s cases, that he was attentive and sensitive to the patients’ whole stories more than the direct links between the retrieved memories and the symptoms. He was also able to read more in the symptoms than what was manifestly expressed. In the case of Fräulein Elisabeth von R., he commented on one of her symptoms by saying, “I could not help thinking that the patient had done nothing more or less than look for a symbolic expression of her painful thoughts and that she had found it in the intensification of her sufferings” (1895b, p. 152). He even presented a whole case (Katharina) in which he did not use hypnosis to reconstruct the patient’s sexual trauma and relied completely on a brief encounter with her. He mentioned in his presentation of the case history that “[it] is not so much an analysed case of hysteria as a case solved by guessing” (1895, p. 133; italics added).
This step led him to make a very valuable distinction between the manifest and the latent, which replaced the futile cause/effect dichotomy and overcame the limitations of the split of consciousness and the formation of an unconscious content. Freud ignored the significance of the discernment of the manifest/latent connection until he got the intuition that it is the psychoneurosis that does the splitting of consciousness and not the splitting of consciousness that causes the neurosis. In other words, what had been considered the cause of the psychoneuroses was found to be, in fact, its effect. Freud was not in any way prepared, trained, or advised to think about what was to come after the hypnosis stage. But it should be emphasized that the medical preoccupation with the limitations of the transcendence of consciousness-the way consciousness could become sick, its failure to keep the unconscious under control, and the derangement of the mind-led to studying the counterpart in a way quite different from the philosophers’ approach.

Freud realised very early that there no conscious events that does not have an unconscious counterpart. Therefor, psychoanalysis has to be considered not a theory of psychotherapy or psychopathology, but a theory of the human subject who is a formation of antitheses that are responsible for his sickness and health. This is not a different way of saying things; it is saying different things about the subject.