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Issue 12: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 12, Spring 1998, Pages i - ii


Has Psychiatry no shame? This week an eminent British journal of psychiatry published its finding on the subject of 'false memory syndrome’ and recovered memory' of sexual abuse during ’talking cures'. While the level of naivete of the ensuing discussion in newspapers and on radio is to be expected, the way in which prominent psychiatrists here have used the finding to undermine confidence in psychotherapy, suggesting that while therapy was previously seen as quite probably useless but at least no harm for the suffering subject, that now this new study proves it positively dangerous! Such comments have succeeded in almost completely overshadowing the more obvious questions which psychiatry itself must answer, following on its research. Why, for example, has it taken one hundred years longer for psychiatry to cast doubt on the 'seduction theory' than it has for psychoanalysis? How can the bastions of psychiatry claim without embarrassment to have 'discovered' something which Freud was writing about a century ago? What explanation is it going to give for its findings? If it is going to rely on the old favourite - suggesting' suggestion on the part of the therapist -how is it going to explain the intricacies of this phenomenon? Will it be able to come up with something which would be equal in weight to the psychoanalytic concept of Transference? What theory of human subjectivity will it now develop? Will it be able to make sense of its discovery without recourse to the Unconscious that it seems to have stumbled upon? It would appear that, rather than consigning the talking cure to the waste bin as dangerous in favour of what one commentator referred to as a practice based on proper, empirical, scientific studies, - fleeing from the implications of its discovery in the manner of a Breuer from an Anna O .,- it would perhaps be worthwhile for psychiatry to read Freud. Alternatively, the questions which its new-found knowledge must provoke might make it curious enough to engage with the psychoanalysts who would be more than willing to speak of the findings of their discipline, to introduce them to the notion of the Unconscious, to inform them about the psychoanalytic theory of repression as opposed to the half-baked (ab)use of the term as currently used, to debate with them the nature of reality for a human subject. At best this might mean that psychiatry doesn't have to wait another one hundred years for the next ’breakthrough' in its theoretical understanding of the human subject, ... at worst it can do no harm!

As part of our own continuing enquiry into the nature of human subjectivity as psychoanalytic practice and theory reveals it, and as evidence of our continual questioning of the field in which we operate, this issue of THE LETTER gathers together the various contributions presented to the fourth Annual November Congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland, which took The Object of Psychoanalysis as its theme. Tom McGrath's closing remarks', the final paper of the day, provides the reader with a useful overview of the issues raised during the congress. In addition to the main speakers on the day, this year's programme introduced a new 'Reports' section which provided a forum for students and practitioners to present briefer accounts of their areas of special interest and outlines of research projects in progress. We are happy to be able to present the fruits of these various labours to you now, - remarkably, a harvest in Spring!

Helena Texier


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