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Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry

The Letter, Issue 38, Autumn 2006, Pages 81 - 90


PSYCHOANALYSIS AND PSYCHIATRY


Aisling Campbell

When I was twelve or thirteen I became interested in Freud when a friend came across the Penguin paperback edition of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. The discovery that the omissions, lapses and slips that are part of everyday life are actually evidence of an everyday psychopathology was astonishing to me. The fact that my friend and I were quite ignorant of life did not get in the way of our enjoyment of the story of the various slips of the tongue and bungled actions which betrayed the obscure motives of their subjects. Indeed, I suspect that it was the discovery that there was a whole other side to life, right under my nose as it were, that made the book so fascinating.

However, as I had never studied German and no-one in my family spoke it, I had no point of reference and am most embarrassed to tell you that I used to mispronounce his name as "Frood"! I suspect that my mispronunciation was unconsciously motivated - no doubt I could easily have discovered the correct pronunciation. But each of us has to discover Freud in his/her own way, to discover the theory in his own way and to reinvent it (although not perhaps to the extent of such mispronunciation). Furthermore, we each have to come upon the discovery of the unconscious for ourselves; it has to strike us with surprise, rather than being taught. The discovery of it can be a way out of hysteria, and hysteria is the hallmark of adolescence; the ignorance or supposed innocence, the not-seeing or not-knowing, the meconnaissance that is consolidated during the so-called latency period leads commonly to the taking up of a master discourse as a solution. There is no-one surer of things than the adolescent. For me, this early discovery of Freud was condensed with other identifications and led me to psychiatry as my chosen profession. I - incorrectly, of course - assumed that Freud was a psychiatrist. I really had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Just as The Psychopathology of Everyday Life might suggest to the novice that there is some easy way to know the mind, so I thought that psychiatry would involve the divination of unconscious motivations and possibly talking to the odd serial killer. Freud, for me, held the possibility of a master discourse which would inform this enterprise. No doubt the stern photograph of Freud on the front cover of Die Psychopathology of Everyday Life contributed to this as well. As is the case in analysis, I started off with what I thought was a guarantee, a master discourse, a primal father and ended up discovering the real limits of this discourse.

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