Dr Serena Smith PhD

Psychoanalyst Melbourne
Registered Analyst (ACP), Accredited Mental Health Social Worker (AMHSW)

Lacanian Psychoanalysis?

My formation has been in the orientation given to psychoanalysis by the French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. This training has been undertaken with the Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis (ACP). The clinical practice developed by Lacan, although embedded in Freud’s original discovery - and as such shares with all psychoanalytic orientations the idea that there are unconscious mental processes at work which cause psychopathological symptoms - radically shifts our understanding of the nature of the unconscious. Lacan considers human experience is structured by three distinct yet interlocking registers he calls the imaginary, the symbolic and the real, each producing a particular effect and formulates Freud's discoveries in light of these registers.

It is Lacan's contention that the unconscious is a remnant of the fact that we are beings who need to represent our experience to ourselves in order to make sense of it. This basic human need to represent and make sense of our experience means we have to translate our experience into speech or some other form of expression that can be understood by those around us. Each of us have a unique system of representation which is the product of our particular formation in a world where we have to speak in order to be heard (even if that involves being silent, or by crying and so on, or symptoms). Often our unique way of representing the world cannot be shared, which leads to painful failures in our attempts to be understood by others and miscommunication with those around us. This failure to be heard, or understood, takes its toll on the mental life of the subject. As does our confrontation with experiences that can't be understood or integrated in mental life, but are lived in so far as they concern our real bodies. We usually experience these encounters as traumatic. Experiences that result from these  failures and traumas often cause psychological distress, which can manifest in symptoms many of which impact the body and seem unrelated to mental life.

Psychoanalysis cannot be administered as a standard practice precisely because how an individual subject frames their life experience is unique and cannot be known in advance. It is in the process of putting these struggles and traumatic encounters into words, within the context of transference relationship, that the subject in analysis is able to produce knowledge and a 'know how' about the unconscious forces which operate inside them but feel alien to them, producing certain pathological acts, symptoms and distress.