Science – By Marcelo Pakman

This post is also available in: Spanish


You devote part of your book to analyzing the changes in psychotherapy after the fall of the Berlin wall.

In many parts of the book there are discussions in which I show how the macropolitical is not only part of a context which is far from fields such as psychotherapy, but is also a constituent part of what happens in the room where psychotherapy is being conducted. The changes that have happened in the last 20 years, from the fall of the Berlin wall, in the field of psychotherapy, have been fascinating and terrifying at the same time. They are coincidental with the decade of the brain, where the idea that mental illnesses are brain illnesses takes root, with huge consequences that I have explored. And during this years therapy becomes a technique, a technology, be it a problem resolution technology or an interpretative one.

And in the field of philosophy, analytic philosophy reigns supreme. Maybe both events are related.

I think so, I think they have a lot in common. Maybe we are being a bit unfair because there are developments in analytic philosophy which, as Derrida would put it, are deconstructed from within. Despite their intention. They deconstruct themselves and end up reaching limits to their own project. Some people accept them, but in general it’s true that the academic triumph of analytic philosophy happened in parallel to the process I’ve described in psychotherapy. And from that perspective the so-called continental philosophy is slated from the American academia as the prototype of uselessness. The worst one can say about something: being useless.

At the same time, they accuse it of living with their backs against reality.

Exactly. I think I restrained myself at times in order to avoid controversy, but I was tempted to say that what can really facilitate the recovery of the singularity of the human condition in psychotherapy is to start considering the fact that it deals precisely with what’s useless. Psychotherapy is not about what can be measured in terms of benefits, even though that’s not its most extended mode.

If a patient overcomes bulimia and suicidal tendencies, there must be something useful in psychotherapy.

Of course, but in general what happens is that, in order to do that, we need togo beyond a world where everything has to me measured in terms of benefits. The trip around what’s useless, through useless aspects which lie beyond what can be measured, weighed, commercialized, is necessary even in the most dramatic cases.

In fact what you criticize is the administrative vision of psychotherapy, rather than psychotherapy iself.

The notion of what’s useful, exactly. Since the so-called manage care -administrative cares spread all over the world- appeared in the USA, there’s a strong tendency to weigh, measure, to find evidence. And not everything that’s fundamental in psychotherapy can be seen in those terms.

Does this tendency to measure, using commercial criteria, include humankind?

Absolutely yes. The fundamental point, the foundation of this book, is to counter-weigh and legitimize the notion that the existence of what’s singular, what’s sensual, what escapes radical reason, lies on the surface of things, in life. When I speak of poetics I’m not making a call to writing poetry in psychotherapy, but a call to recover the dimension which will allow us to go beyond constantly creating scripts which are preformed in life.


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