Northern Rockies Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

Psychoanalysis: For the sake of Us All

Excerpts from “The Call of the Wild”, by Robert W. Service (1907)

Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there’s nothing else to gaze on,

Searched the vastness for something you have lost?

Have you wondered in the wilderness?

Have you known the Great White Silence, not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?

(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies.)

Have you broken trail on snowshoes?

Have the marked the map’s void spaces…?

Then harken to the Wild – it’s wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory,

Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?

“Done things” just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,

Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?

Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders?

They have cradled you in custom, they have primed you with their preaching

They have soaked you in convention through and through;

They have put you in a showcase; you’re a credit to their teaching –

But can’t you hear the Wild? – it’s calling you.

Let us probe the silent places,

Let us journey to a lonely land I know,

There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a star agleam to guide us,

And the wild is calling, calling … let us go.

 Today’s superego mandate, Enjoy!, tells us that we should be having fun with society’s allegedly wonderful offerings, and that there is something terribly wrong with us otherwise. We are assailed by advertisements and texts of many sorts with ideas about psychological disorders.  We’ve all seen the ads: “Do you have this or that symptom, or these or those experiences? You may be depressed!” Or, “You may have x or y disorder!” And then some psychopharmacological or psychotherapeutic remedy is offered, designed to eliminate or lessen the symptom or the disorder. But what if our presumed sufferings are signposts to the real? What if the purported disorders we are enjoined to manage instead are “calls of the wild”?

 Psychoanalysis looks upon symptoms and psychological disorders as efforts by the individual to express something vital in themselves, but something which at the same time has had to be repressed, or has never found its way into consciousness in the first place, and is “returning” in the form of the symptom.

In our fast-fix culture of mandated “enjoyment”, we are indoctrinated to think it is obvious that we should just try to get rid of our symptoms, or at least suppress them as much as possible.  But when we do that, the consequences are often tragic.

A “simple” example will suffice.  Popular, contemporary treatment for psychotics puts forth the idea that psychotics – for example, schizophrenics – have a biological condition that makes them ill, that causes delusions.  The story goes on to say that this is not the fault of the patient and that there is no “stigma” to be associated with it, but that it is a lifelong condition that can be treated by taking powerful, side-effect-producing medications, perhaps for the rest of one’s life.  Maybe this is “de-stigmatizing,” but it is hardly great news for the patient.

In psychoanalysis, it is understood that all persons have either a neurotic or a perverse (not meant in the everyday use of the term) or a psychotic structure; one falls ill, or not, within any of these structures.  Furthermore, psychoanalysts do not think that a neurotic structure, say, is inherently superior to a psychotic one.  But when we fall ill, perhaps a psychotic with a delusion, or a neurotic with a phobia, that delusion or that phobia is expressing something which is not in the patient’s conscious considerations, but something which is vital to her living a full life.  To simply remove or suppress the symptom simultaneously represses what might be the most potentially liberating aspect of the person: this is often why patients “refuse” to take their medications, and are “not cooperative with treatment.”

Whatever one’s presenting problem, this fundamental operation that I have just described is present.  But to recognize it and to come to terms with it is never easy.  It often goes against the grain of the values and beliefs that have sustained a person, even if falsely, so to speak, and coming to see such a thing requires a journey of sorts.  Also, such recognitions often go against the grain of some of the blind beliefs of society, so the patient must also navigate a kind of independence and develop a kind of maturity that society neither celebrates nor to which it wants to grant time and resources.

It is psychoanalysis that holds the place for the human to explore what in himself might be vital to his own life and, simultaneously, to the progression of human society, toward a maturity that aims for the good of the all, against the false but common claims of its impossibility.

What is Psychoanalysis?

Invented by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis originally proved curative of certain neuroses that had resisted other forms of treatment.  It continues today, as a mode of treatment for a broad range of disorders, and as a method of inquiry into pathogenically unrecognized – even refused – elements that disrupt cultural and familial life.  It seeks their expression so as to develop capacities that will allow us to locate the censored – that very censored crucial for survival as a global collective on a finite planet, and that very censored whose embrace is vital to a peaceful life in a hopeless time.

Northern Rockies Psychoanalytic Institute & Society (NRPI), well into its second decade, is the only psychoanalytic institute in the United States north of Colorado and between Minneapolis and Seattle.  We formally opened our doors with the aim of training psychoanalysts in a region where very few people even knew what psychoanalysis is, and we wanted to attempt to bring to this beautiful country what is unique and indispensable about both the intellectual discipline and the form of cure that is psychoanalysis.

In our growing pains, we have grappled with the struggle of competing schools of thought within our discipline, finding ourselves distinctly Freudian while also deeply incorporating the theoretical schools of Lacan; Klein; the British Independent Group; American object relations theory, Modern Psychoanalysis; and the contemporary works of Christopher Bollas, Michael Eigen and Jeffrey Eaton.   Although we cannot be said to be integrating Jungian theory, Paul Watsky has lectured here on two occasions.  Other conference lecturers have included Leo Rangell, Paul Geltner, Christopher Bollas, Jeffrey Eaton, Charles Turk, Anthony Molino, and Barton Evans.

Several years ago now, we formally instituted our Center for Cultural Critique and Intervention (CCCI), which aims to bring the insights and capacities of a psychoanalytic praxis to the problems of collective life.  To that end, we have begun a uniquely psychoanalytic and Continental philosophical approach to group disputes, and started an outreach program to the local and regional community to bring the censored – crucial ideas which, to our peril, have no place in the public’s mind – into public discourse.  The outreach includes traditional, formal presentations or lectures and discussion as well as a film discussion and critique program.