Thursday, December 15, 2011

Theodor Reik: Listening With The Third Ear, Part 2

In his 1982 contribution to psychoanalysis, Freud and Man's Soul, Bruno Bettelheim describes an American psychoanalysis that has become sanforized, impersonal, and theorized beyond any semblance of human empathy. Through an ideologically-driven (and Bernaysian promoted) translation by Strachey, self-serving presentation, and overt misrepresentation of Freud's thoughts and words, psychoanlysis had strayed far from Freud's intentions. Possibly the most noted example of this bastardization is the English translation of "das Ich, das Über-Ich, and das Es" as the ego, superego, and id," Latin terms that never appear in Freud's writing.

In the second chapter of Listening With The Third Ear, Reik discusses how Freud came about the "discovery" (we might consider it less of a discovery and more of a model or system) of psychoanalysis, and how the method Freud used came to shape the system that he established. Reik also shows us that the intimate nature of this method of exploration, namely self-analysis, is necessarily personal -and must remain personal once the analysis is turned towards objects.

Reik describes self-analysis as a requisite for anyone who intends to use psychoanalysis as a tool for modeling self understanding. Examples from Freud's own self-analysis run throughout his own works, disguised as case studies from his examination room. In fact, a good number of the vignettes and examples which Freud wrote on are more likely to be from his own self-analysis.

Reik points out the necessary distinction between undergoing analysis and undergoing self-analysis. The latter is, essentially, a more personal, convoluted, and difficult endeavor. However, Reik suggests, it is a required experience which makes analysis a more personal act.

"Psychoanalysts have not observed that psychoanalysis has, so to speak, two branches. One is the research into the symptomatology and etiology of neurosis, of hysteria, phobia, compulsion neurosis, and so forth. The other is the psychology of dreams; of the little mistakes of everyday life such as forgetting, slips of the tongue, and so forth; of wit and of superstitions -including all that Freud called metapsychology"

Reik describes here something that is essential in considering contemporary criticism of Freud's theories. In fact, most of the criticisms are leveled, from within and outside of psychoanalysis, at the former branch that Reik speaks of, namely the etiology of neurosis. Amongst therapists of most schools of thought, the defense mechanisms which Freud described are typically acknowledged, to some degree or another. Even when disputed they often resurface under new management and dressed in new nomenclature.

A Jungian psychologist at The New School, with whom I studied Jungian analysis, once lectured that "we choose to do in life that which we feel least competent in doing." This seems to be the lesson that Reik offers us from Freud. The necessarily personal aspect of psychoanalytic psychology is essential in the analysis of culture, people, or art. Our own active engagement with the phenomenon and our willingness to come out from behind the bulwark of "objectivity".