Friday, November 2, 2012

Hypnosis and Psychoanalysis: Toward a Research Prospectus


It is well known that the origin of psychoanalysis is in hypnosis. It is even more well known that Freud eventually left hypnosis behind in favor of the "fundamental rule" of psychoanalysis -- that the patient free associate. However, it is less well known that Freud was never quite able to "get rid" of hypnosis. Hypnosis remains psychoanalysis's repressed other, the true 'underside' of psychoanalysis. As Freud said, hypnotic relation is rediscovered in the "transference." In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud even writes that "being in love" is really a form of hypnosis, one in which everything is much less "clear." Hypnosis is evidence of the unconscious (what better evidence?) and, as such, remains a mysterious phenomenon that Freud cannot entirely grasp or explain. He writes,
there is still a great deal in it which we must recognize as unexplained and mysterious. It contains an additional element of paralysis derived from the relation between someone with superior power and someone who is without power and helpless. (60) 

On the one hand, Freud claims that the hypnotist possess a great power, similar to the power of a shaman: 


This mysterious power [. . .] must be the same power that is looked upon by primitive people as the source of taboo, the same that emanates from kings and chieftains and makes it dangerous to approach them (mana). The hypnotist, then, is supposed to be in possession of this power. (73) 

The argument that the hypnotist has too much power over the patient and thus, as Lacan might say, imposes the hypnotist's own beliefs, opinions, or modes of being on the hypnotized (the analysand) is problematic. Freud states outright in his essay on "Hypnosis" that, 
The chief deficiency of hypnotic therapy is that it cannot be dosed. The degree of hypnosis attainable does not depend on the physician’s procedure but on the chance reaction of the patient. (111)
If we follow Freud here, then the hypnotist actually has much less control over the patient then previously thought. Indeed, the hypnotist, like the analyst, is at the mercy of the patient's "chance reactions." While these may not manifest themselves in speech (although, is it not the case that the patient may report to the analyst what he or she is experiencing in the same way that analysand's report their dreams?). I would argue that similar to psychoanalysis, the hypnotist is not the "subject-supposed-to-know" but rather, the "subject-supposed-to-be-powerful." Both of these are "false" (and 'true') projects onto the analyst/hypnotist -- they both function as lures that keep the analysis/hypnotism going. Both are lures that manifest in the belief and susceptibility of the patient to treatment. 

There is much more to be said about Freud and psychoanalysis and I hope to go further into this relationship in my research paper, referring to further passages in Group Psychology and drawing on the work of Borch-Jacobsen, D. Diane Davis, and engaging critically with Dylan Evan's masters thesis, which argues that Freud mainly rejected hypnosis on ethical, rather than theoretical grounds. However, for now, I want to point to two passages where Freud makes apparent the close relationship between psychoanalysis and hypnosis in the phenomenon of the transference. Both passages are from Group Psychology. 

First passsage: 
The hypnotist avoids directing the subject’s conscious thoughts towards his own intentions, and makes the person upon whom he is experimenting sink into an activity in which the world is bound to seem uninteresting to him; but at the same time the subject is in reality unconsciously concentrating his whole attention upon the hypnotist, and is getting into an attitude of rapport, of TRANSFERENCE on to him. Thus the indirect methods of hypnotizing, like many of the technical procedures used in making jokes, have the effect of checking certain distributions of mental energy which would interfere with the course of events in the unconscious, and they lead eventually to the same result as the direct methods of influence by means of staring or stroking. (74)
First, we should note the distinction made between direct and indirect suggestion. Freud seems to equate direct suggestion/influence with physical gestures ("staring" or "stroking"). Indirect suggestion is likened to "technical procedures in making jokes," and,according to Freud, these methods can lead to the same results (!).

Second, we need to note that for Freud hypnotism is a way for the world to withdraw so that the patient focuses entirely on the hypnotist, which is evidence of the transference. This second point plays into the next passage I want to focus on.

This next passage is actually a footnote in Group Psychology, indicating that it is an "aside the point," that it can be subsumed under the main text. Footnotes are the unconscious, the repressed other of any text. It is the space of the text where the text exceeds itself, where the author must acknowledge other arguments or points of view: " See ____ for an argument different than mine."

This particular footnote does not point to another text, but it explicitly addresses a point of intersection between psychoanalysis and hypnosis:
This situation, in which the subject’s attitude is unconsciously directed towards the hypnotist, while he is consciously occupied with monotonous and uninteresting perceptions, finds a parallel among the events of psychoanalytic treatment. . .At least once in the course of every analysis a moment comes when the patient obstinately maintains that just now positively nothing whatever occurs in his mind. His free associations come to a stop and the usual incentives for putting them in motion fail in their effect. If the analyst insists, the patient is at last induced to admit that he is thinking of the view from the consulting room {etc.} Then one knows at once that he has gone off into the transference and is engaged upon what are still unconscious thoughts relating to the physician; and one sees the stoppage in the patient’s associations disappear, as soon as he has been given this explanation.  (75)

In the former passage, Freud argues that the hypnotist puts the patient into a state in which the "world is bound to seem uninteresting to him," at the same time as his unconscious is directed toward the hypnotist. Perhaps we should understand the remarks about the consulting room (the patient's immediate surrounding) as still marking this "uninterestedness" or "withdrawness" from the world. This speech may correspond to what Lacan once called "empty speech," speech that signifies to the analyst that something else is going on that the patient is not saying. Freud points to this phenomenon in the case of "The Rat Man"
 Next day he came in a state of deep depression, and wanted to talk about indifferent subjects; but he soon admitted that he was in a crisis. The most frightful thing had occured in his mind while he was in the tram yesterday. It was quite impossible to say it. His cure would not worth such a sacrifice. I should turn him out, for it concerned the transference. Why should I put up with such a thing? None of the explanations I gave him about the transference (which did not sound at all strange to him) had any effect. It as only after a forty minute struggle--as it seemed to me--and after I had revealed the element of revenge against me and had shown him that by refusing to tell me and by giving up the treatment he would be taking a more outright revenge on me than telling me --only after this did he give me to understand that it concerned my daughter. (326)
 Here, we see that Freud notices that Rat Man's speaking of "indifferent subjects" indicated that there was something else going on. However, we also note that Freud had a hard time explaining the transference. Freud argues that once he gives the explanation the patient's free associations go on again, but what if the transference cannot be explained away? And, does it really go away? There is more to say here (always more to say).

Lacan and Hypnosis

Lacan is generally thought to have dismissed hypnosis and the problem of suggestion outright. Whereas Freud confronted it again and again throughout his life, Lacan seems to have dismissed it as irrelevant to the search for signifiers. Hypnosis is the realm of affect and that which cannot be explained in words. In this sense, it is similar to the realm of "desire" which cannot be reduced to language.


But even in Lacan, there are a few passages where he makes a distinction between "crude suggestion" and another kind of suggestion.

in "Introduction to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's Verneinung," referring to ego psychologists, Lacan says,
What they in fact do--instead of confining themselves to the dialectical pathways by which psychoanalysis has been elaborated, and lacking the talent necessary to return to the PURE and SIMPLE use of suggestion--is merely to resort to a pedantic form of suggestion, taking advantage of our culture's ambient psychologism. (314, italics and capitalization mine)
The "pedantic" form of suggestion is one in which the analyst desires to "have the last word," that is, to form the patient in their own image of what they should conform to. This kind of suggestion would result in, as Lacan puts it in "Direction of Treatment," a directing of the patient, in particular his or her conscience, rather than directing the treatment. For Freud as for Lacan, directing the treatment is merely to put a process in motion. Freud writes that the analyst "cannot determine beforehand exactly what results he will effect," and that the process "on the whole, once begun, it goes its own way and does not allow either the direction it takes or the order in which it puts up its points to be prescribed for it" ("Beginning the Treatment," 368-69).

Thus, "pure suggestion" (whatever that might mean) is not excluded. Does Lacan mean here suggestion without the transference? Or, on the contrary, does he mean the affect created within the the transference, a pure performativity without any content (i.e. the hypnotic effect?). Either way, Lacan says that the transference effect must be interpreted:
However, this interpretation [any interpretation the analyst gives], if he gives it, will be received as coming from the person the transference imputes him to be. Will he agree to take advantage of this error concerning who he is? Psychoanalytic morals do not forbid it, on the condition that he interpret this effect, failing which the analysis would remain at the level of crude suggestion. (494)
The "suggestion" spoken of here is meant in the sense of something spoken by the analyst that contains content. Lacan's distinguishing between "crude suggestion" and an interpreted suggestion refers to the difference of the analyst thinking he knows best once and for all and the analyst who allows the patient's reaction (the effect) start the dialectical process moving again. The mistake is to think that somehow a suggestion can cure a patient in itself, without the dialectical movement of further interpretation. That is, suggestion is understood here as a particular rectification.  Lacan sees this as one of Freud' strengths as an analyst:
The fact is that this rectification is also dialectical in Freud's work. It takes off from the subject's own words in order to come back to them, which means that an interpretation can be exact only by being. . .an interpretation. (502)
Lacan emphasizes interpretation, as Terry Harpold puts it, "does not mean the resolution of meaning, but the continued ongoing exposition of meaning" (from commentary on wiki)

 This is the mistake of hypnosis, if by hypnosis we mean that it is only by the suggestions of the analyst (while the patient remains silent) that the patient is cured. However, "hypnosis" here refers to a particular therapeutic technique and method rather than what Freud calls in Group Psychology the "hypnotic relation" (that constitutes group formation; hypnosis is a group relation involving two people) and what we refer to here as the transference.  For as Borch-Jacobsen argues,
At bottom, what is transference described by Freud if not hypnosis without a hypnotist, persuasion without a rhetorician, since it is produced in the absence of any direct suggestion? Paradoxically, the phenomenon of transference reveals that the influence of the hypnotist and/or analyst is based not on a particular technique or power, but rather on an a priori affectability (a 'spontaneous receptivity') in the patient-- that is to say, on the 'rhetoricity' of the affect as such, a rhetoricity anterior to any verbal persuasion and also to any metaphoric expression of passions. (71, first italics mine)
Thus, transference is indirect suggestion because what it suggests is that the analyst/hypnotist has the power to cure. What else could Lacan be referring to when he speaks of "pure suggestion" than this subtle indirect suggestion, the lure of the therapeutic situation itself?

Lacan leaves the question of "pure" suggestion far more open than previous commentators have admitted. Lacan even indicates that he may be able to come up with an account of suggestion that fits with the analytic situation. I quote at length for context:
And given that Freud goes on to deplore the fact that the concept of suggestion has drifted in an ever vaguer diretion which does not allow us to foresee the clarification of the phenomenon any time soon, what mightn't he have said about the current usage of the notion of resistance? How could he not have encouraged, at the very least, my efforts to tighten up its use in analytic technique? In any case, my way of reintegrating it into the whole of the dialectical movement of an analysis is perhaps what will allow me to someday provide a formulation of suggestion that will stand up to the criteria of analytic experience. (315)
Does this reduce suggestion to a verbal suggestion or, on the contrary, does it open it up to suggestion as an indirect, "pure" suggestion, a pure performativity, affectivity, rhetoricity that should only be used to further the dialectical process of interpretation? Should we perhaps follow Isabelle Stengers and Leon Chertok when they write,
“For Freud, psychoanalysis was not the opponent of suggestion, but had succeeded rather in ‘putting suggestion in the service of knowledge’ (272). 







1 comment: