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Lacanian Psychoanalysis and Psychosis

The Letter, Issue 32, Autumn 2004, Pages 114 - 125


Colette Chouraqui-Sepel

Freud, Lacan and psychosis

It is usual to associate Freud with hysteria and Lacan with psychosis. Let us develop this theme.

Freud started from hysteria and considered psychosis as falling outside the limits of a psychoanalytical treatment, but he never stopped conceptualizing hysteria, obsessional neurosis and paranoia in parallel, and he could not avoid psychotics in his practice (and amongst his colleagues!).

Lacan started from psychosis but he was not the first to focus on it. Melanie Klein was the first, when she decided to apply psychoanalysis to children. While trying to conceptualize the preOedipal phase, she described what she called the schizoparanoid position. This was a way to situate psychosis and that opened the door to her followers, Herbert Rosenfeld especially, who devoted himself to the theorization and practice of psychoanalysis with psychotics. But that led him to a theoretical impasse which has to do with narcissism and interpretation, an impasse that Lacanian theory is able to avoid.

Lacan started from psychosis and did much more: he took psychosis as the model for understanding neurosis (Freud had done the opposite) and, in that way, he was the first.

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