Why did Freud supplement the Oedipal myth with the mythical narrative of the "primordial father" in Totem and Taboo (T&T)? The lesson of this second myth is the exact obverse of the Oedipus: far from having to deal with the father who, intervening as the Third, prevents direct contact with the incestuous object (thus sustaining the illusion that his annihilation would give us free access to this object), it is the killing of the father, i.e., the very realization of the Oedipal wish, which gives rise to symbolic prohibition (the dead father returns as his Name). And today's much-decried "decline of Oedipus" (of the paternal symbolic authority) is precisely the return of figures which function according to the logic of the "primordial father" from "totalitarian" political leaders to the paternal sexual harasser. But why? When the "pacifying" symbolic authority is suspended, the only way to avoid the debilitating deadlock of desire, its inherent impossibility, is to locate the cause of its inaccessibility into a despotic figure which stands for the primordial jouisseur: we cannot enjoy because HE amasses all enjoyment ...
Interview held by Sergio Benvenuto and Raffaele Siniscalco in July 1996 at Prof. Kernberg's office at Cornell University, for the Multi-Media Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences by RAI (Italian Radio Television).
The author recounts shortly the story of psychoanalysis in Italy, especially in these latest forty years. He links this history to the evolution of Italian psychiatry (passed through Basaglia's anti-institutional dream to the present DSM dominance) and to the tides of cultural hegemonies in Italy (earlier historicism and Marxism, later positivism and rationalism). The influence of techniques other than psychoanalysis (such as systemic family-therapy, Jungism, cognitivism, etc.) even inside psychoanalysis is stressed. He focuses on weak points of the Italian analytic tradition--especially dependence on some foreign models--but also on the paradoxical advantage of a "weak psychoanalysis" in our epoch. He gives also a large space to the historical "lost opportunity" for Lacanism in Italy, which is more marginal than in many other countries of Romance languages.
More than thirdy years ago, when I first become interested in the history of psychoanalysis, analysts were a secure part of the American psychiatric profession. A number of these practitioners were unhappy with Freud's written rules recommending the analyst's neutrality, and sometimes expressed skepticism as to the desirability of offering patients a blank screen on which they were supposed to deposit their emotional transferences. Prominent professionals were rejecting this orthodox approach for years, but it still remained the dominant paradigm. Despite the disputes about technique however, throughout the 1960s psychoanalysis was highly regarded as a therapeutic procedure.
Psychoanalytic interpretation, traditionally considered the specific intervention of the analyst and the driving force of therapeutic change, is presently in a state of profound crisis. A symptom of this is the uncertainty prevailing in defining this type of intervention. Originally, in his The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Freud linked the meaning of the term "interpretation" to the clarification of a hidden meaning(1). This definition has long characterized the meaning attributed to the term "interpretation" as intervention in analysis, as in Laplanche and Pontalis's definition in The Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis; there interpretation is defined: "A) Clarification, by means of analytical investigation, of the hidden meaning in the talk and behavior of a subject. B) During treatment, communication made to the patient aiming to provide him with access to this hidden meaning, according to rules determined by the direction and the evolution of the treatment"(2). A similar meaning may be found in many current definitions, such as that of Gabbard(3), for whom "Interpretation, in its simplest form, entails making conscious what was formerly unconscious".
A correct “theoretical localization” of the category of “interpretation” is bound to shed light on certain-in particular temporal-aspects which are usually neglected. I will thus provide a profile of a specific place of interpretation.
The term psychoanalysis on the formal level denotes the analyst-analysand relationship as the space of the analytical process, and in particular the operating method of the analytical couple: to analyze the psychic event of the couple, following specific procedures. This couple is both the factor and actor of the analytical action.
L'interprétation porte sur la cause du désir, cause qu'elle révèle, ceci de la demande qui de son modal enveloppe l'ensemble de dits. J. Lacan, L'étourdit
The theme proposed for this meeting (1), "Aims of the Psychoanalytic Process", displays a great perspicacity. It allows us from the very beginning to make an essential distinction between the aims one would like to propose from the outside - so to speak - to analysis, and those emerging from the process itself. A distinction nowadays more and more overlooked.
Teresa (lying on the couch, silently, for three minutes, before starting to speak with a plain voice, a slow rhythm, and long intervals between words): This morning, Dr. Lai, when I got up, I realized I didn't feel like getting up, and I noticed that this was happening to me a lot lately, just as it often happens that, coming home, I feel like staying in the dark and going to bed to rest. It occurred to me that my father, when he was depressed, did likewise, he didn't get up, withdrew, and kept silent. It also occurred to me that he stopped working just as I have done in this period, that is, I go to work, although my tendency would be, is, to avoid it, or at least not give it any value. This gets me into a little trouble. And always brings me to the inside of things, inside the house, inside my stories.
It is never easy to provide name and visibility to the figures which dwell in the unconscious: their fleetingness and impregnability resist any attempt to fix them within precise limits or in a one-way orientation. The imagos, to which Melanie Klein has often returned, refer effectively to the allusive, and never wholly comprehensible, unconscious material. The interpretative enterprise becomes even more exhaustive when one goes down to explore “the black continent” of stratifications of the female unconscious, a place which Freud himself found particularly difficult to pass through, and whose consistence he defined as shady, remote, “hard to bring back to life”. To women, the founder of psychoanalysis has left many questions open, requiring them to proceed personally to the construction and reconstruction of what more properly concerns femininity. The history of psychoanalysis has been marked by different phases: periods of fierce debate and sharp contrasts, about the incandescent question of the psychosexual development of the little girl, have contraposed phases of repression or disavowal of the same.
(London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998)