Protest 2

On Psychoanalysis: The Personal is Still Political

From time to time, I like to blog about psychoanalysis as a way of introducing people to this fascinating and effective means of delving deeper into oneself.  While this form of psychotherapy requires more of a commitment of time, energy and resources than other types, it can offer more as well.  Although it has changed in the 100 plus years since Freud originated it, psychoanalysis still offers a way of investigating the deepest unknown parts of oneself, the unconscious, through the development of an intimate relationship.  That is what happens in psychoanalysis: an intimate relationship forms between the two, not only because of the amount of time spent together, but because of the commitment that BOTH people make to the process. One of the most intimate of human connections can form in which to then develop greater awareness of what motivates a person, what patterns keep a person stuck and struggling, and what passions remain hidden in order to access and live a more enlivened life.  That is what the commitment and investment that a person makes in psychoanalysis fosters.

The personal is still political.  Given the current insecurity that so many feel about so much that is unpredictable, unknown, the break-neck speed of change, and pressure to do, be productive, and do more, it is therapeutic to, as Blake (1971) said, “Labour well the minute particulars”; through the engagement with another human being, “attend to the little ones,” the quotidian, the most random thoughts and feelings.   I’m often amazed at what we talk about.  A patient’s history of birthday parties; dreams; an interaction with a parent, child, or stranger on the bus.  That thing a brother said that hurt so much.  What it meant to have a paper route.  Psychoanalysis provides the time in which to examine the particulars of a person’s life, to search out the meaning in events and develop more of a meaningful life.

I believe these conversations constitute political acts – they insist in the sovereignty of all human experience and in the sanctity of a reflective, thinking engagement with the world (now so under attack in what Gonzales [2016] calls the “precarious body politic” with social forms, structures and institutions that, citing Bauman [2007] “are no longer able or expected to keep their shapes for long”).  We see evidence of the breakdown of social forms displayed on a daily basis in our news. Psychoanalysis proclaims subjectivity.  The individual matters; an individual life matters.  At its best, it is an act of resistance against the forces that want to narrow possibilities, foster obedience, and stultify thought and feeling.


Bauman, Z. (2007). Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Blake, W. (1971). Jerusalem, Emanation of the giant Albion.  In The Poems of William Blake. Ed: W. H. Stevenson. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1971.

Gonzales, F. (2016). Catastrophic change: Cracked social containers and the precarious body politic. In Press.


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