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The First Steps in Psychoanalysis

- Self-analysis Requirement -

By Jean Chiriac

I have recently seen a film with Robert de Niro in a leading role, called "Analyze This" (1999). It was about a psychiatrist called by a Mafia chief in order to cure him.

The psychiatrist was a sort of psychoanalyst in fact - as things go with Americans - and, needless to say, the mafiot was a feared mobster.

On their first meeting the analyst asked his patient to tell him about his relationship with his own father. And he then presented him with the ready-made story of Oedipus' complex, of how the son desires to do away with his father and replace him for his mother, etc. Upon which the patient, vexed, retorted: "Are you trying to say that I would go to bed with my own mother?" Such a thing is truly inconceivable, even to a mobster!

It is not my intent here to deny the truth of the Oedipal complex, its universal, unconscious feature that make it impossible to consciously accept. What I try to criticize is the attitude of the psychiatrist who made the mistake of talking about such sensitive things to a lay man, untrained as he was for psychoanalytical debate and science.

This is a wild approach, and he probably resorted to it not so much out of his desire to heal his patient, as mostly out of a wish to somehow frighten him!


There is another great error in such approach, in fact: it asserts that psychoanalysis does nothing more than assign ready-made labels to human behaviors, therefore invalidating them.

In addition, there are no rare cases when such labels are assumed as true titles of fame. I have in fact been acquainted to a certain case of a student in psychology who was loudly boasting an Oedipal complex in front of her own colleagues! That becomes even quainter as Freud himself would once take great precautions and assuming outstanding discretion when talking about his cases. (It seems to be in fashion today to leave aside any decency and shout about having your own Oedipal complex too. It's as if you boasted on your cancer or AIDS. This is true absurdity!)

All errors of this kind and many such others can be attributed to the same one cause: lacking psychoanalytical culture and mostly a sharp need in self-analysis.

Insufficient psychoanalytical education has its explanations. Freud's works are rather difficult to follow and sometimes even boring due to too much theory making. Some other times they are apparently confusing. Even the most learned of us can get lost in the maze of theoretical considerations.

Secondly, the lack in self-analysis makes it so that things one reads about in books remain with no practical support and hence the feeling one is going past things, without truly grasping them.

We could say self-analysis is not exactly absent since national and international analysis institutes make so much fuss about it. The issue here is how deep this analysis goes and mainly whether or not it is focused on real psychic events rejecting all sorts of intellectual dialogue telling us what this and that are called in psychoanalysis! It is acknowledged fact that the failure of psychoanalysis over the past years is due to this very lack of consistent and vivid interest in practicing it in a less scholarly way!


Returning to the psychiatrist in the above-mentioned film, we have to say that is not only a comical character on the screen, but also a symptom of a lay audience's perception of psychoanalysis. In short, the psychoanalyst is a conceited individual who puts on a lot of airs and delivers crazy ideas. And maybe that's what things are like in United States. (Let us keep in mind that Freud never showed any interest for the United States. American superficiality and mercantile spirit made him feel depressed!)

Therefore, the first steps in psychoanalysis have to start from self-analysis, as it is only the field of real practice that enhances the assimilation of the main concepts psychoanalytical theory maintains.

Before going to the details of self-analysis techniques, we should first mention that this cannot be carried out thoroughly without some external contribution. This is what Freud used to say to that respect : "Self-analysis is truly impossible. I can not analyze myself unless I have the support of what I find on the outside (as if I were another). Had it been otherwise, no disease would have been there" (1897).

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