Search This Blog

Saturday, 9 September 2017




Hints about the theory of the subject:

After an interesting exchange with a colleague about the “theory of the subject” I replied to some of his queries in the following note, which he seemed to be a greable to publish it on my blog.

I believe we do not have the same meaning for the term “theory”. A theory, epistemologically speaking, is a statement (s) regarding a subject matter in which the theory provides a comprehensive understanding of the link between the structure and the function of that subject matter. I limit my usage of that definition to what I consider a theoretical aspect in psychoanalysis. Freud did not have a theory of psychoanalysis but had three theories about issues he dealt with in investigating the intrapsychic (dreams, sexuality and Trieb (instinct). For example, his theory of dreams goes that way: a dream’s structure is combining the day residue and a corresponding infantile situation in a visual image, in which the unpleasant condition that instigated the dream is changed to a better outcome (fulfilling a wish). The theory also includes an extensive elaboration of the manner the unpleasant instigator of the dream is transformed into the visual nature of the dream. The theory also shows the mechanisms that makes the function of the dream (wish fulfilment) reach its objective through that particular structure (the dream). I cannot see how psychoanalysis as a whole (not as theories of dreams and theories of sexuality and Trieben) could have a comprehensive theory without a comprehensive theory of the subject, as an ontological entity. Let us go to something concrete. Medicine in the middle ages was a practice without a theory; just very few procedures that were practiced, like bleeding patient of fever or infections. In needed a comprehensive theory of the subject (the person who gets sick) to be become a true profession of medicine. Basically, we still believe in some sort of modified theories of catharsis: make the patient get rid of his neuroses by bleeding out his unconscious as confession, without any idea of how revealing the repressed cures. We also aspire to provide the patient with what could replace his neuroses with new fresh psychical constructs. All that without a theory of the subject or even of cure (in first fifty years of psychoanalysis there was a deep conviction that we work according to a theory of pathology and of cure).

        Some physicians in the middle ages started to investigate the ‘intrafunctions’ of the human body and gradually built the theory of physiology in which each organ has a function that corresponds well with its structure. They also considered the whole body a physiologically dynamic functional entity. At the sametime, when the prohibition on anatomy was lifted anatomy complimented physiology with a better understanding of the anatomical nature of the organs. A better conception of modern medicine was thus born. We do not have such a comprehensive theory of the subject equivalent to physiology and anatomy in medicine. Therefore, we can only claim that our practice of psychoanalysis is ‘points of view’. What we have is modalities, assumptions of functions derived from each analyst’s understanding of their signification, and some idiosyncratic vocabularies. What we need is a theory of the subject as an ontological entity (homosapiens). The human subject is the only living entity that has an intrapsychical life, which has distinct manifestations that are absent even in the high primates. The intrapsychical life of the subject gives him the latent psychoneurotic nature., which other living entities are ‘deprive’ of.
       We practice with objectives and criteria of our creation and based on a belief that they are supported by the theory we adopt. This is belief is unsubstantiated  because what analysts used to have is Freud’s ever developing and changing theoretical configurations. After his death every “idealised” analyst had input in the heritage Freud left us. Freud’s importance is in being the first thinker who stipulated firmly that the human subject has an internal psychical life (in contrast with the banality of knowing that we have human reactions) and that intrapsychical life is affecting ALL our apparent human reactions. Better, Freud is the first thinker who pointed out that understanding human reactions will come from exploring the intrapsychical life of the subject. It is important to note that the insight that created psychoanalysis was the product of more than half a century of laborious works that were full of twists and turns. It was not a brilliant insight that hit Freud like Einstein’s first of two insights that engendered his two theories of relativity. It is important to underline this fact because Freud’s significance appears only when he is studied scholarly to comprehend the way of thinking that was prophylactic against the sudden and premature death of his endeavour. This is a better way of idealizing him. Therefore, we need to investigate and study the intrapsychical enough and better to derive from it what we could use to formulated the theory of the subject. This has to be a collective, collaborative work.
       My interest in the subject pulled my attention to four psychoanalytic Freudian discoveries in the intrapsychical: the wish and wishing, the duality of the I and the Me in self conception, sexuality (infantile and adult) and anxiety. I believe that those four intrapsychical could help other analyst in advancing the theory quickly.  Those four attributes distinguish the human subject from all other living entities including the higher primates. They are also of significant diagnostic value within the homosapiens entity. We can, or used to be able, to relate most of the subjects creative and pathological manifestation to the dynamics of those attributes. Psychoanalysis has to go through the same process that gave medicine its physiology and anatomy; and pharmacology too. Discovering (and or assimilating) the notion that the human subject as a dynamic system of psychological function that integrate to create the psychological human being we deal with, is an essential demand if we want to continue calling ourselves psychoanalysts. I can say that psychology, as an academic discipline has covered a great deal of that territory but got no help from psychoanalysis to compliment the cognitive discoveries in psychology. In other words, the theory of the subject, the physiology and anatomy of the psychological human being, needs to be constructed and seriously construed with an eye on what we still do not know about our intrapsychical life.      However, this is not possible to consider unless we agree on an answer to this question: Is psychoanalysis education or training?


       A couple of years ago I was expressing the idea that training needs a general overhaul and academia should be considered as a way to get to that point. The idea of moving psychoanalysis from the institute system of training to academia, was not well put together in my mind. Thanks to Dr. Arlyne Richards’s sharp mind, she put the problem in this format: education instead of training. What we cannot miss is the psychoanalysts’ preference of training over education. I do not need to delve into the conscious and the unconscious reasons for that preference. However, the main point in answering this question is that psychoanalysis was born as training, not out of choice but out of necessity. There was nothing much to consider the issue of education, and whatever was there to study was piecemeal knowledge. Moreover, Freud and his followers, that will one day require anything different from what they were doing.at that time. They were limited clinicians.  E. Roudinesco (2016) said:” Freud had thus invented a “discipline” not only impossible to integrate into the field of physical or natural science but into that of human sciences, an area that had been steadily expanding since the late nineteenth century. For scientist, psychoanalysis belonged to literature; for anthropologists and sociologists, it attested to the resurgence of the ancient mythologies; in philosophers’ eyes, it resembled a strange psychology that had sprung up both Romanticism and from Darwinianism, while psychologist saw in it as putting the vert principle of psychology in danger” (217). No blaming her but to us practicing psychoanalysts. We did not develop the theory of the subject in conjunction with the other blooming sciences and imprisoned ourselves in a narcissistic imaginary isolation. If and when we will configure a theory of the subject we would then provide the neurologist, the biologist, the geneticist, and maybe the pharmacologist with few hypothesises that could guide their pure scientific research in regard of the nature of the human subject, which distinguishes him from the rest of the rest of the living creatures. We could also do something similar with the human sciences.  One of the most important attributes of the human subject is hummer and laughter. It is more than just a differential characteristic of the human subject, it is also-in a way- a differential diagnostic feature. Moreover, it is a developmental yardstick in the evolution of the human infant. We could come up with many questions to aske the the academic psychologist (adult and child) about this feature and let him create a scientific theory about this human subject’s useful attribute, which is a new and rich method of expression (forget the Alamo, and remember Freud’s book on Jokes, 1905).There is a wealth of issues about the subject that has been dug out by the related human sciences that we, as they, needed to work together to create a more comprehensive theory of the human subject. The training system., especially in our institute system, is physically inadequate to regenerate psychoanalysts. Future psychoanalysts need few years of full time education by academics from the other branches of science. A more enlightened training program has to be developed to make psychoanalysis less restricted and not associated solely with the couch. It is expected that this method of preparing future scientific psychoanalysts will not be accepted by the current candidates of training.  Logically, psychoanalysis in its present state will die in two or three decades. However, I firmly believe that psychoanalysis is the genie that came our of Alaadeen’s  (Freud’s) lamp and no one could put it  back anymore. We will eventually wake up.