WHAT PSYCHOANALYSIS DOES
From the start analysis involves two people: one who brings a complaint and the other, the analyst, who is there to receive it and to provide support and space for speech to unfold. Some preliminary sessions take place first. Little by little the experience of pain leads to words that one by one connect to other words, making memories and past experiences emerge. Some of these are filled with meaning and some may be puzzling, unknown. The analyst listens and learns, and then intervenes and interprets at particular moments. The analyst is always on your side but, unlike a friend, encourages search for causes of your suffering by means other than cheering you up or giving false promises. The goal is to produce lasting effects.
Suffering, anxiety, depressive mood, and everyday difficulties in your relations with others, or where they are missing, alert your attention. You might need to speak about them sooner rather than later. What is life for if not to change the ways of destructive habits and of mortifying compulsions to bring out a difference that has resurrecting and enlightening effects? The issues you have worded to the analyst as having destructive influence on your life, and by this stroke on the life of others close to you, vary in degrees of intensity and historical roots but either way should not be ignored. Contrary to the common view, things do not change by themselves without our participation. Speaking about it first, and having an analyst who listens for a change, is a good start. Lacan said that in psychoanalysis speech is the only medium between the one who complains and the one who listens.
The urgent, pressing issues you come to speak about in analysis are addressed to an analyst but also, indirectly and paradoxically, to those who are of highest significance in your life because they shaped it to a great extent and for this reason remain the source of love and attentiveness. The analyst may remind you of one of them in some way. It can be a detail, a manner of speaking, a look, a visual feature. It follows you expect the analyst to have some knowledge about why you may feel disillusioned, angry or perplexed about the life you live.
Session after session, building on trust, more and more is said which has an effect of truth. Yes, truth is not the cause, but an effect brought about by a surprise. When you discover that certain things do not carry meaning you assumed them to, then there is time for truth. The unconscious that conceals fragments of the past, holds the key to surprises that in turn can lead to change. We can follow the thread of speech to arrive at something new you have not thought about before.
The past is not supposed to matter anymore and yet, as we know, it matters a lot and even too much. It can extinguish your enthusiasm and undermine the motivation to live and love. Some parts of the past have been driving your symptom in the way that it causes you too much misery, albeit sometimes you pretend it doesn’t. Analysts believe in the connection between the symptom and the "too much" because they discovered it, one by one, in their own analyses. Experience shows that there is a causal link between the meaning of your symptom, from which we suffer too much, and the things you have said, heard, forgotten, disregarded, neglected in the past. Now, the past is here at last, present in one fragment or another, and you can say how this connection works, or not, for you and what it means. What you discover has a meaning that is particular to you.
Whether it is a dream, a slip, a memory, an accidental mistake, something someone said to you a long time ago or something you overheard thinking it was about you or something you saw which wasn’t meant for you – each of these instances has left a mark in your body which continues to reverberate in a disturbing way and hinder your life because each of these instances carries an excessive weight of meaning imposed from without. Each one can affect you in your daily life, in work and in love, or the lack of it. But how? What is the cause in this connection? Our priority as analysts is to open up the space of thought and speech. Having waited long enough you can at last have a voice. This is where you can now find the analyst to be on your side.