Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Eight: Tales of Love and Life after Analysis: Of Art, Opera, and Halloween

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Eight: Tales of Love and Life after Analysis: Of Art, Opera, and Halloween

Article excerpt

The city's final visit, at least for a while. Outside, the jumble of houses is interrupted by the brilliant outbursts of purple jacaranda trees that mark each spring. This energy seems to magnify as the office door opens and the city comes inside. She has a lighter step, and she holds out some of her writing for me, which I accept with excitement. I am already anticipating pouring over it after our appointment. I am anxious to read these texts to see if, indeed, she has been creatively reconsidering her ideas about self and other and, more importantly, asking herself new questions. We reminisce about her original presenting problem and I ask how she is doing with the host of others with whom she continues to interact every day.

Any more nausea, I ask? Anxiety? How is your writing evolving?

I am pleased when she smiles in response ...

For the Kristevan analyst, the contemporary Western subject suffers from what she has termed "new maladies of the soul," catalyzed in large part by the Debordian spectacle. As both Debord and Kristeva have argued, the spectacle's deluge of images mediates social relationships, squashes creativity, and takes over the subject's ability to think and feel. Singularity, the particular emotional and physical experiences of each subject, gets discounted as the generic mass-produced image in its myriad media forms takes over. As a result, the subject becomes detached from language, unable to express pain or pleasure. She is left practically anesthetized and cannot question or respond. For the female subject, the set of psychic crises produced by the spectacle only compounds an existing crisis within the patriarchal society of the West. Patriarchal religion has already abjected women's sexuality, pain, and pleasure, robbing them of a place in society, through manipulations of the figure of the Virgin Mary. Reduced to her maternal function, the female subject is left with a sexuality that is abject, sacrificed, denied. This disconnection between the sensing, sexual body and language (the Word) is thus simply redoubled with the onslaught of the spectacle. These two crises, combined with the individual contours of each analysand, make the treatment of the female subject especially complex.

When my city-analysand came in for analysis, it was immediately apparent that she could be situated within this double crisis. She is threatened by the untiring spectacle in which images reproduce other images and mediate how people relate to her. Over the course of our treatment period, I have watched her try desperately to become the image of tourist desire (perfect Spanish colonial tranquility, pure provincial tradition). These moves distance her from her body, deny her desire, and, at many times, impede a creative response and revolt. Furthermore, constructed as female within Mexican national discourse, the provincial city also endures the asexual, abnegated maternal prescriptions of Catholicism. The city has thus offered a fairly representative contemporary female subject, even as the particulars of her traumas, her body, her desires, and her variant of the spectacle are, of course, unique to her alone.

Having traversed the conflicts of transferences and countertransferences in the necessary crisis our encounter provoked, it is now lime to see what the city has done with the interpretations I have tentatively offered back to her. Psychic change takes time, of course, and it would be illogical and unethical to conclude that, after my analysis, the city "suddenly" changed and wrote herself a happy ending in which self and other tensions existed no more. Furthermore, the Kristevan subject only permanently resolves her subjectivity with death, so a lifetime of crises provoked by one's others is an essential part of being alive. But I believe that the city has resignified an impressive part of her psychic content and that she is questioning and responding to the symbolic order from a position of corporal and emotional singularity. …

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