Civilization and its Discontents

Civilization & its Discontents

Civilization and its Discontents, published in 1930, follows a preceding paper entitled The Future of an Illusion that was itself written and published a few years earlier. Although I will offer here comments on the former only – Civilization and its Discontents – I nonetheless of course strongly invite people not to pass The Future of an Illusion, if only for the sheer power of argumentation in it with regard to religion.

The book was originally titled ‘Unhappiness and Civilization’ after Freud himself suggested to his translator the title ‘Man’s Discomfort in Civilization. This work is a clear reference to his earlier writings in which he exposes the irremediable antagonisms between the demands of the drives (and not instincts) and the restrictions brought to bear by civilization. Incest is de facto antisocial and civilization is nothing if it doesn’t consist of a progressive renunciation of it, as Freud argues in 1897. For him, it is civilization, and more precisely education, that is the main culprit for the spread of neurosis. It is easy to think after reading the book that the solution to neurosis is to let our instincts ‘go free’, as portrayed somewhere in the film A Dangerous Method. With Lacan, we will understand that what is important in tackling neurosis is of course not to go ‘wild’ but to principally use language as a means to symbolize the drive.

It is in this essay that Freud further explores his ideas on the nature of the sense of guilt. On p. 134 he declares his ‘intention to represent the sense of guilt as the most important problem in the development of civilization’. In turn, this paper will become the basis on which to build his reflections on the destructive instinct (Cf. my The Big Other, the Symbolic and Death). With Lacan again we will later see that, if indeed the origin of guilt in the restrictions imposed by civilization encapsulated in the Oedipus complex cannot be disputed, guilt is also seen as an injunction from the super-ego which commands the ego ‘to enjoy!’

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  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426769

Introductory Lectures, Part One and Two

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis Part1&2

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part_One_and_Two is where Freud gathers his insights collected from his work on dreams, as well as being seen as an introduction to his developments on the neurosis and, of course, the unconscious. For Freud indeed posits that his research on dreams, and more specifically on the dreamwork itself has given him the key to understanding the mechanisms of repression that form the unconscious. Early in his work he writes: “The obscurity in which the centre of our being is veiled from our knowledge and the obscurity surrounding the origin of dreams tally too well not to be brought into relation with each other(Freud, 1900:36)

For Freud dreams are first of all the means by which the mind handles a stimulus and the risk it may cause in interrupting that sleep. Something is irritating the sleeper who deals with it by producing a dream and thereby continue sleeping. One way to view this irritation experienced as a stimulus is effectively as a wish that needs to be rid of for the dreamer to continue sleeping. Of course the most radical and efficient way to get rid of a wish is to fulfil it. And so a dream for Freud is seen simply as a wish that the dream represents as having been fulfilled. Now it is also the case that different kinds of wishes may be fulfilled by the dream. The sailor who as been away for too long will surely be satisfied in his dream as he is enjoying himself with a sumptuous meal. But in his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part_One_and_Two Freud makes a point in explaining that not all dreams as so easily enjoyable. More disturbing and ‘evil’ wishes as he calls them most often find their ways into a dream by way of using the day’s residues. Those wishes, for instance the desire to murder one’s father or sleep with one’s sibling, are not admissible for the adult person. Sill, wishes such as those are still expressed and fulfilled in the dream, but in a way which is necessarily unintelligible to the dreamer who would otherwise wake up panic-stricken (the nightmare).

In his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part_One_and_Two Freud helps us make a clear distinction between the different parts forming a dream. There is the manifest content of the dream, the dream as remembered on waking up and produced by the actual dreamwork from the latent dream-thoughts that are not necessarily conscious before the dream. The dreamwork can be understood as the transformation the censorship operates in order for the wish to be acceptable and avoid anxiety to the sleeper. The mechanisms at work in the dreamwork are of only two characters: each elements forming the latent thought can be either displaced or condensed. Lacan will later assimilate those as the work of metonymy and metaphor respectively. But we also discover that the dream-work can easily make use of contraries to signify the same idea, adding to the complexity of interpreting dreams.


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  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426684

Enjoy Your Symptom! (now) – Žižek

Zizek - Enjoy your symptom!

Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out from the psychoanalyst and philosopher Zslavoj Zizek exposes a number of psychoanalytic principles via Zizek’s analysis of carefully selected hollywood films. Those briefly include:

  • Death and Sublimation
  • The Imaginary, Symbolic and Real
  • Woman as a Symptom of Man – Suicide, Freedom, the Sacrifice
  • The Lacanian Act and Repetition – Identity and Authority
  • The Phallus – The Real, The Synthom, The Thing, The Anal Father
  • The Humiliated Father
  • Multiple Reality – The Gaze, Perversion

Enjoy your Symptom! has for me been surprisingly helpful in clarifying those Lacanian theoretical concepts listed above. Zizek is obviously so comfortable and at home with psychoanalysis and philosophy that those analysis he offers in his book seem almost unimpeachable. Zizek’s way of illustrating his chosen psychoanalytical concepts makes those readers already versed in Lacan (that still needs to be said) go “So this is what Lacan meant!”. To use Lacan himself it would be appropriate here to evoke the notion of so many ‘points-de-capiton’ anchoring a particular concept  to its corresponding signifier (say, Sublimation, the Real, etc). I, for one, was most impressed by Zizek’s analysis about Sacrifice, and how tragic it may be for some to choose a life in which the Other has almost taken complete predominance, but also the bigger price for rejecting the sacrifice of alienation.

But this perhaps is going a little too fast. Zizek takes us first through the mechanisms of dialectic and how something and its opposite (its antagonism) is effectively constitutive of reality. One is defined in relation to the other and simply cannot exists without it. Enjoy Your Symptom! then takes us on an exploration of the Real and as a result produces something coherent and consistent, if not a little bit felt as a challenge to grapple with at first. Reading Enjoy you Symptom! may take you by surprised by its depth and steepness, but it also presented for me something of a riddle I felt the urge to crack. The reader can feel the desire of the author all throughout the pages. Just like a mountain the climber has scaled through sheer resilience to finally enjoy a well earned view, Enjoy your Symptom! may just be this invitation (an injunction, rather) from Zizek for his readers to effectively enjoy their symptom, the symptomatic act of not simply resting content with not knowing, but to enjoy the heap of transformative phallic Jouissance his analysis offer.

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  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (3 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780415772594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415772594

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part3

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 - the unconscious

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 is an essential part in the analyst’s arsenal. Written some 17 years after his Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and following up on his first Introductory Lecture on Dreams, Part 1&2 (Volume 15) Freud summarizes here for us his theoretical researches on:

  • the sense of symptoms
  • fixation to traumas, the unconscious
  • resistance and repression
  • the sexual life of human beings
  • the development of the libido and the sexual organizations
  • thoughts on development and regression – aetiology
  • the path to the formation of symptoms
  • the common neurotic state
  • anxiety
  • the libido theory and narcissism
  • transference
  • analytic therapy

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 (volume 16) is of significant help to those readers, analysts and therapists who wish to get to Freud’s foundational ideas and principles directly. If Freud had already began to develop most of those themes in his previous works, this is not to say that in this volume those subjetcs are not even more polished and consolidated. Freud’s writing is as always most illuminating to read. Reading Freud is already enough to be able to feel as if the effects of psychoanalysis are at play in the reader – transformative reading.

Each subjects treated in this Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Part 3 form the foundation of a Freudian practice. It would become the base upon which all the following psychoanalytic shools of thoughts would be built. In reaction to what eventually became a misguided use of his ideas, Lacan even declared his work was effectively a return to Freud. A brief glance suggests the bulk of Freud’s theoretical preoccupations centres around the notion of the symptom, its formation, aetiology, regression, the fixation and a regression of the libido to those traumatic moments that were psychically overwhelming for the subject. Lacan would later expand on what he called the order of the Real in his theoretical work on anxiety.

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  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426691


Phenomenology and Psychological Research – A. Giorgi

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Phenomenology Research Giorgi

Phenomenology and Psychological Research by A. Giorgi put together four research studies in psychology from four authors and using phenomenology as a research method – The Phenomenological Psychology of Learning – the Structure of Thinking in Chess – Self-Deception: An Empirical-Phenomenological Inquiry into Its Essential Meanings – Method and Findings in a Phenomenological Psychological Study of a Complex Life-Event: Being Criminally Victimized

The book begins by first taking its reader through the phenomenological method as applied to psychological research specifically. Following Husserl’s development in phenomenology, the researcher must go “back to the things themselves”. Practically speaking, this means looking at an experience with the view to describing its defining characteristics.

Personally, I found Phenomenology and Psychological Research by A. Giorgi a useful book to have for my master of science. Granted the material examined in it is psychological in nature, and because of this may repel those people who have something against the word ‘psychology’. But it was in reviewing this book here that I found myself irresistibly drawn towards rereading the study on Self-Deception. As with many of the books I offer to read on this website, I subsequently put this book on the top of the pile of those I want to delve into again.

If there is any advice I can offer to research students working on their master and/or PhD thesis, it would be to read this book. Those four small but rich studies regrouped in it couldn’t illustrate more adequately the phenomenological method devised by Husserl. If phenomenology may at first appear like a daunting task, Phenomenology and Psychological Research shows that there may be more fear (of the unknown) than in reality. In fact, the more the research student acquaint himself in qualitative research, the more self-evident the phenomenological approach becomes. Please do not hesitate to look at my master thesis.

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Playing and Reality – D. W. Winnicott

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Winnicott Playing & Reality

Playing and Reality from Winnicott investigates the origin and place of creativity in the earliest years of life. It is a book written by an influential British psychoanalyst who, as the story goes, happened to have participated in judging Lacan’s work ethics at the time when the latter was being excommunicated from the International Psychoanalyst Association.

Having begun his career as a pediatrician before embracing psychoanalysis, Winnicott was naturally well placed to developing theoretical views that are still considered significant today. Amongst several subjects of study the reader of Playing and Reality will discover Winnicott’s work on the Transitional Object – the equivalent of which would be found in Lacan’s object a, Creativity and its Origin and Mirror Role of Mother and Family in Child Development. Reading Winnicott regarding the latter will certainly provide a helpful contribution to understanding Lacan’s theory on the Mirror Stage.

Winnicott’s work belonged to Object Relations Theory, and thus in this respect was joined by Melanie Klein. The association is less meant to produce a positive reaction than to evoke criticism. The shadow hovering above British psychoanalysis may be seen to be one of knowing, if not practically in advance, what the subject has formulated in his or her mind. Offering, if not altogether forcing interpretations onto patients is unethical in its alienating effect, if not potentially dangerous. Martin Heidegger reminds us here that, if anything, the subject (Dasein) is above all else, a question.

Regardless, Winnicott’s Playing and Reality belongs on the psychoanalyst shelf along with all the authors mentioned on this website. It is for the reader and analyst to make up his own mind regarding the significance of this analyst theoretical import.

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  • Paperback: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (20 Jan. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415345464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415345460
English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Winnicott

Melanie Klein, selected texts – J. Mitchell

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Melanie Klein Mitchell

Who is Melanie Klein? A pioneer of child analysis with the significance it attaches to the relationship with his caregivers, Melanie Klein is a direct descendant of Sigmund Freud’s work on psychoanalysis.

In her book, Juliet Mitchell regroups the most significant ideas from Melanie Klein that have established this Austrian-British author as an authority in her field. Questions regarding the early stages of the Oedipus Complex, the infant’s anxiety, the importance of symbol formation in the development of the ego, to cite the first half of the book only, are addressed using a form of imagery which may appear be quite surprising to the reader. Is this account really what a child may be imagining in those situations? could be one of the questions that keep haunting the reader.

Regardless, Melanie Klein’s work would eventually be commonly assimilated to object relation theory. As its name suggests, this specific theoretical edifice deals with the effect of the internalized relations with primary caretakers during infancy (i.e. objects), and their unconscious influence on the nature of future relationships. This school of thoughts would later include house names authors such as Otto Rank, Sandor Ferenczi, Ronald Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott, Harry Guntrip, and Scott Stuart.

One may argue that Jacques Lacan owes a debt to Melanie Klein. Seen by him as proposing a clinical approach that at times may be considered dangerous, Lacan uses object relation theory to lean against with the view to promote his own ideas. In this context, Lacan’s work may be viewed as almost an antithesis to Klein’s ideas. When she knows and interprets her young patient’s drawings with certitude Lacan would not approach the clinic with the same confidence about the truth.

Klein’s work is for Lacan situated in one of the three realms that constitute the Borromean knot, that of the Imaginary. In this respect, Klein’s developments de facto become only one dimension within a bigger ensemble that also comprises the Symbolic and the Real. If Klein’s views were that interpreting the child’s fantasies contributed efficiently to the treatment of her patients, for Lacan it is the Symbolic that heals.

Still, however much Lacanian analysts believe in the dangers in approaching the clinic via the Imaginary, one nonetheless feels obliged to acknowledge the debt owed to her in the sphere of psychoanalysis.

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  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster; 1st American Ed edition (6 Feb. 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780029214817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029214817

Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Freud Pleasure Principle Group Psychology

Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other works (v18) left me with a deep impression, not only because those texts are nothing less than landmark writings in Freud’s work – which part of his work can be considered as secondary – but because of Freud’s style of writing. Perhaps this may explain why Freud was nominated for a noble price, in literature. Deciding not to read Freud is not based on a reputation for producing such vertical phrasings as to put anyone off from delving into it. The reason for avoiding Freud in the first place may just turn out to be more connected with what the reader is going to ultimately discover about himself, or herself; reading Freud is (almost) psychoanalysis in practice already.

Freud, in my experience as a reader, reassures, put the reader at ease, lead him by the hand, intuitively knows when to go back to some of what may have been misunderstood or felt to be confusing. In his Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud is alive, so rigorous yet honest that I would on occasions burst with laughter – how can anyone resist when, after a relatively lengthy and exhaustive description of a dream a woman had shared with him in connection with the subject of telepathy, he had remarked after her being so astonished about the fortune teller’s words ‘this man predicted you would be having a child by the age of 31, you are now 45’.

Again, it would be quite redundant here to use this space to simply emphasize the value of reading Freud. Any so-called therapists whose practice he claims to be psychoanalytical even though he has not read Freud if only to find errors, deserve to be legitimately questioned. Freud’s theoretical elaborations on the Death drive, Identification amongst group psychology based on his libido theory and his case of a homosexual woman will be found inside this specific volume.

Of the many insights Freud left me with after reading his ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ the following one has stayed with me in particular. Contrary to what some may seek in a fortune-teller, however mechanistic and materialistic some other may wish to view psychoanalysis, it will never predict anything in the future for you. It can only try to retrace and somehow make sense of the present. The reason is mind-bogglingly simple: it is impossible to know the extent to which we have invested ourselves in one thing or another.

See also The Interpretation of Dreams

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  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426738

Existentialism: A Reconstruction – D. Cooper

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Existentialism

Neither puzzlement nor awe, neither a thirst for knowledge nor a craving for clarity has been the abiding inspiration for philosophy; the anxiety men feel from being hopelessly alienated from their world has.

Alienation and estrangement constitute the whole problematic of existentialism; it attempts to address questions of, amongst others, freedom, choice and responsibility. In contrast to Rene Descartes’ ontological view of what it means to be human – “I think; therefore I am” and taking the ‘I’ as an exterior object to be studied, existentialism claims it is an error to look at human existence as being enjoyed by ‘mere things’.

Human existence is above all said to be concerned with itself – it can reflect on it, try to transform it, even destroy it. Humans are such that their being is a question and an issue for them, as Heidegger would have it. Moreover, in the continuation of Kierkegaard’s idea that an existing individual is ‘constantly in the process of becoming’, Heidegger posits that it is not possible to give a complete account of the existence of an individual without a reference to what he is in the process of becoming; he or she can make sense of his present in terms of his or her future intentions. Thus, an individual is always already ‘ahead’ or ‘beyond’ whatever properties characterise him at any given time – he always already has a foot in the future and therefore never fully in the present; for heidegger he ‘ex-ists‘.

It is almost impossible to address what existentialism is without evoking phenomenology. In contrast to an empirical science which, following Descartes, would address the properties of things and objects ‘from the distance’ by neutralizing the observer, phenomenology is interested in revealing those essences which form the experience, the phenomenon. As part of its method is the requirement to ‘bracket off’ all prejudices that may potentially come in and spoil the ‘seeing’ that is involved in the phenomenological enterprise. Itself inspired by Descartes’ ‘methodological doubt’, it is interesting to notice a somewhat similar endeavour in psychoanalytic work when, as part of the analytical rule of free association, it is required of the patient to tell the analyst anything that pops into his mind without censoring himself.

Personally, reviewing Existentialism by Cooper has brought home the place Existentialism has in Lacanian psychoanalysis. Existentialism, with its working tool in phenomenology, is an essential building block in human sciences. Highly recommended reading by an academic who has known how to inspire me for more in its clear approach, layout and understanding.

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  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (28 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631213236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631213239

Social Constructionism – V. Burr

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Social Constructivism

Vivien Burr’s Social Constructionism is a valuable contribution to understanding the part society and culture inescapably has in the formation of the subject. Indeed, one can no longer afford to overlook the impact society has on who we are as psychological beings.

Burr begins by reminding us that, as an approach to the social sciences constructionism draws its influence from a number of disciplines, including philosophy, sociology and linguistics, making it in my view a fascinating, if not a compulsory subject for Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Social Constructionism may be regarded as belonging to the era of Post-modermisn because it adopts a critical stance towards taken-for-granted knowledge. For example, is the distinction between men and women simply based on a biological fact, or is it rather that gender is a social construction?

In a way similar to sociology, all understanding is claimed by social constructionism to be historically and culturally determined. We look at and make sense of things relative to where we stand in time and its associated culture. Todays’s critics of Freud, to take an example, have no serious legitimate ground for their arguments, no matter what they are. The time between Freud’s work and today’s advances in human sciences is now so significant as to render it practically beyond any sensible reproach.

Social Constructionism also claims that knowledge is more of a social product than based on objective observations of the world. Truth is constructed within discourses people produce and exchange in a social context (Cf. my introduction on the Name-of-the-Father).

Social actions interacts with the current knowledge. Constructionism does not separate our actions from the state of our knowledge at the time they take place. It is easy to deduce from this that the Law and Ethics should equally be evolving relative to our present knowledge.

In conclusion, Social Constructionism is inseparable from the Lacanian notion of the big Other and forms a significant part of our unconscious. For we as subjects are very much determined by those social narratives; how could it be otherwise? I would certainly recommend reading Vivien Burr’s book along with M. Sarrup‘s Postmodernism and Post-Structuralism.

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  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (7 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415317606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415317603

Phenomenological Research Methods – C. Moustakas

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Phenomenological Research Methods Moustakas

Moustakas’ book Phenomenological Research Methods is, in my view, an essential complement to the other books available to research students. Under the chapter called Human Science Perspective and Models Moustaka begins by first exposing the five different qualitative methods currently available in human research:

  1. Ethnography, involving extensive fieldwork;
  2. Grounded Research Theory, where the focus is restricted to unravelling the elements of experience and their relationship
  3. Hermeneutics, similarly concentrating on consciousness and the experience itself while also adding the experience’s historical grounding and associated conditions
  4. Empirical Phenomenological Research, which through a purely descriptive approach seeks to disclose the underlying structures of experience. It is difficult not to notice with this method the parallel between what corresponds to Freud’s condition of free association on the part of the patient and its counterpart in the analyst who is ‘freely’ listening without attaching any importance to one detail in particular’. Also, the phenomenological approach reminds us of the work of interpretation with patients in psychoanalysis when, by ‘adopting a strictly descriptive approach, it let the phenomena speak for themselves. While doing so, one discovers that whatever appears suggests in its very appearance something more which does not appear, which is concealed..’ (p13)
  5. Heuristic Research, which is a process of internal search one discovers the nature and meaning of experience and develops methods and procedures for further investigation and analysis.

What for me makes Moustakas’ Phenomenological Research Methods stand out from all the others on the same subject at the time of this writing is his practical use of short and concrete case-study examples. Moustakas uses those with the view to operationalising the various methodological approach found in qualitative research. Thus, students are given an opportunity to see and understand how, using very short extracts about some specific experience, the analysis should be conducted technically to produce good research.

In the next chapter, Moustakas takes us step-by-step through the conceptual framework of Transcendental Phenomenology discovered by E. Husserl: a philosophic system rooted in subjective openness that is regarded as nothing less than a new radical approach to science.

– See my qualitative research here

– On online lectures about Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, see here

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  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications, Inc; 1 edition (30 Aug. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780803957992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803957992

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis – Smith, Flowers and Larking

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

IPA or Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis is a qualitative research method which it is said is becoming increasingly more popular with researchers. Like the other books under the heading of Research Methods, this book guides students through a detailed, step-by-step method to conducting research using an IPA approach, and includes in its chapters study design, data collection and interviewing, data analysis and writing up.

What stands out for me in this valuable book is the extent to which their three authors have used their wide-ranging educational and professional experiences with the view to illustrate practically how to approach the qualitative research method of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In this instance, it may help to see how IPA as a research method was applied to Health and Illness, Sex and Sexuality, Psychological Distress or Life Transitions and Identity.

Despite, and perhaps because of, IPA becoming quite popular with PhD students and researchers alike, some important considerations must be brought up about its validity as a research method. The authors in this book are reassuringly quite honest about this side of IPA as their critics allow us to understand the consequences and limitations of what we are doing when we are doing research, something the researcher is expected to have recognised as part of his thesis.

In this book also, the reader will find a useful summary of the theoretical foundations of IPA with thinkers including Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. Combining this book with the others from the same section should provide students with enough theoretical understanding to begin writing confidently about what and why they choose their particular method of research.

– See my qualitative research here

– On online lectures about Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, see here

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  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd; 1 edition (21 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1412908345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412908344

Phenomenological Psychology – D. Langdridge

Phenomenological Psychology

If there is a book the student interested in qualitative research is recommended to own at the time of writing this post, it may turn out to be Langdrige’s Phenomenological Psychology. The prospect of writing a 40 000+ word research thesis can be quite daunting for those students facing this project for the first time. Fear no more. In his brilliantly structured and practical book, Labddridge takes the researcher through all the necessary stages expected to be found and explored in a thesis.

After a brief but precise summary of the most influential thinkers in this field, which includes Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, Ricoeur and Kierkegaard along with their respective contributions to phenomenological psychology, the author takes us through the structure of the research itself: the design, sampling, reflexivity, ethics, collecting data and writing and communicating the research findings.

Following the research method just outlined above Langdridge then takes the researcher through what he identifies as three distinct approaches in phenomenological psychology to choose from 1. A focus on the thing themselves: Descriptive Phenomenology (Husserl’s initial work); 2. Interpretation and Meaning: IPA, Hermeneutic Phenomenology and Template Analysis; 3. Narrating the Lifeworld: Critical Analysis.

In the last part of the book, the reader will find an essential chapter the author names ‘Key issues, Debates and Rebuttals’. As all good research papers should demonstrate – note that a parallel may here be drawn with the actual direction of the treatment with patients – the method should be subjected to critics and be problematized. This is a crucial part of the research as it creates a vital opening towards even more research, more work. More than anything one may argue that a scientific paper should not overlook the place of the Real. However impressively thorough a piece of research turns out to be, or may even be Nobel prize material, it will always only describe a fraction of the Real.

– On online lectures about Phenomenological Psychology, see here

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  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 01 edition (29 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780131965232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131965232

The Interpreted World – E. Spinelli

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy The Interpreted World

In his Interpreted World Ernesto Spinelli reduces E. Husserl‘s phenomenological study of the human experience to a three-step method. Step 1: the epoché where the enquirer is required to set aside his initial biases and prejudices of things, suspend his expectations and assumptions or bracket those temporarily and as much as possible so that he can focus his attention on the primary data of his experience. Step 2: the rule of description only; the essence of this rule is ‘Describe, don’t explain’. Step 3: Horizontalisation. For Spinelli ‘having stuck to an immediate experience which we seek to describe, this rule further urges us to avoid placing any initial hierarchies of significance or importance upon the items of our descriptions and instead to treat each initially as having equal value of significance’ (Spinelli, 17 etc.).

Spinelli’s Interpreted World is a useful synthesis to understand what phenomenology generally does. It may be seen as a Phenomenology for Dummies in its intended practicality. Read as an introduction to phenomenology Spinelli’s book allows novice readers to get to grips with Husserl’s method of scientific research. Phenomenology spawned a new era in philosophy and in thinking in general; for this reason alone it cannot be put aside by anyone serious about the human sciences. Phenomenology, alongside psychoanalysis, is at the core of philosophical movements including post-modernism and in this sense alone is crucial to the work of psychotherapy. Merleau-Ponty will be relying on phenomenology to describe human perception. Spinelli’s allows the reader to understand how to adopt a so-called phenomenological approach to human existence; it throws even theorising into question. The idea of the subject is a question, with its effects of opening-up, will later be taken up by M. Heidegger in his Being and Time. In the clinic with analysands the (Lacanian) analyst will decide upon a similar work of ‘questionning and opening things up’, that is, diagnosis permitting.

Spinelli’s Interpreted World was of great help in my qualitative research here

On online lectures about phenomenology, see here

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  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd; Second edition (16 Feb. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141290305X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412903059

Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism – M. Sarup

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Post-Structuralism and Post-Modernism

An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism by Madan Sarup brings thinkers including Freud, Lacan but also philosophers such as Derrida, Foucault, Nietzsche and Hegel in a debate around the question of what it means to be a human subject. Sarup’s introduction helps therapists, analysts, students or passionate in psychoanalysis and philosophy to situate the work of Lacan in particular in relation to the diverse philosophical trends that were emerging at the time, that is, in the middle of the 20th century in France.

In this fascinating and most concise account Sarup retraces the paths and articulations between existentialism – which regarded the subject as ‘only’ a conscious and a responsible being who, following Descartes, thought rationally and therefore was unable to conceive of a self whose choices could be dictated by any other force than freedom, phenomenology which was the new philosophy born in Germany and which made ontology its study (still articulated with the subject at its centre), and finaly Post-modernism as a blend of structuralism and Post-structuralism. As its name indicates post-structuralism brings in the notion of structure that one finds in society, but also to begin with that which is at the centre of language.

Sarup’s Introduction was essential to my qualitative research found here

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Longman; 2 edition (1 Mar. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780745013602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745013602

Post-Modernism for Psychotherapists – D. Loewenthal

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy post-modernism for psychotherapists

If the Modern was a time in culture which saw man as the centre of his thoughts, bringing to mind Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’, and in this context ushering in various philosophical schools such as existentialism, humanism and phenomenology, post-modernism – along with post-structuralism – may be described as the last attack on man’s narcissism. The reader may recognise here an expression first used by the inventor of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, arguably the first scientist and writer to establish what in effect post-modernism is all about: a decentering of man’s orbit of potency in his ‘being subject to’.

Just like Darwin before who himself had followed on Galileo’s scientific findings, Freud made us realise that man doesn’t stand at the centre of his choices as a conscious being; he is not the master of his thoughts and destiny but rather subjected to social influences such as Language (Lacan), the Other and Difference (Levinas), Oower and Knowledge relationships (Foucault), Undecidability and a constant deferral of Meaning (Derrida), or finally to the strange and disruptive (Kristeva).

Post-modern texts from post-modern writers are essential reading for analysts and psychotherapists alike; they contribute to an understanding of what the Subject is. Although not a post-modern thinker himself but a phenomenologist existentialist, Martin Heidegger can still be included in a post-modern context and quoted as saying ‘man is a question‘. This line of approach towards human beings is post-modern. A question essentially calls for some opening, shows the lack for a satisfying answer which would otherwise close off something in us. In the footstep of the Deutsh philosopher B. Spinoza Lacan would take on Heidegger’s view and himself declare that a questioning attitude equally dictates that man’s destiny to life. Indeed, for Lacan ‘Desire is a Question‘.

Post-modernism and its thinkers including Freud, Lacan, Levinas, Derrida and others invite us to wonder, question and challenge, starting with theory itself. This mental attitude, the scientist would argue, is a necessary condition for science (itself a hysterical discourse). In this sense post-modernism may be seen to refer to this idea of becoming – what Lacanians would express in terms of being a subject for one signifier in relation to another signifier (Cf my short introduction on the signifier).

Post-Modernism for Psychotherapists by D. Loewenthal and R. Snell has contributed significantly in my writing of my master thesis (conducted under prof D. Loewenthal at the University of Roehampton) and can be found here.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (28 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583911014
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583911013

The Worlds of Existentialism – M. Friedman

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Existentialism

Maurice Friedman’s Worlds of Existentialism regroups writings from the most influencials authors in existentialism of the 20th century.  It should hardly be a surprise that it is an essential book to own. In fact my understanding is that Friedman’s anthology is still unsurpassed in its quality even today. In it the author has picked passages from writers including Heidegger, Sartre, Buber and Merleau-Ponty to name only a few, to regroup them under such categories as Phenomenology and Ontology, The Existential Subject, Intersubjectivity and Existentialism and Psychotherapy. The latter section is particularly relevant for psychotherapists as it brings together specific extracts from for instance Kierkegaard (The Concept of Dread & Sickness unto Death) but also morecontemporary authors including Medar Boss, Rollo May or Carl Rogers.

It is difficult to imagine a better introduction to existenliasim than this critical reader from M. Friedman; the theme of a philosophy which may perhaps be regarded as a symptom of the anxiety lodged at the centre of what it is to be human.


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See more lecture online here


Product details

  • Paperback: 590 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (19 April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573922765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573922760

Jacques Lacan Practice of Psychoanalysis- Dany Nobus

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis Jacques Lacan

Dany Nobus is not just a personal friend; he is also an expert in psychoanalysis who has shared with us in this essential book his knowledge and understanding of Lacan. What makes Dany’s Jacques Lacan so important in its content is also the fact that the author is an authority in Freud. As Lacan once said himself somewhere “you may be Lacanian, but I for one is Freudian”. To be sure, Lacan was not so much as always agreeing with what Freud wrote, far from it. But what defines Lacan’s work, to its detriment at the time, ironically, is his not being shy of trying new things, of shaking and challenging the Freudian institution. This must surely be why Lacan is so fascinating to study, and not just for psychoanalysts.

There is a definite style in Danny’s accounts of Lacan’s concepts, and this makes reading this book a serious learning experience – everything is so clear and transparent – but also, I almost dare say, an entertaining moment. In his Jacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of Psychoanalysis Dany has successfully managed to marry erudition and humour, with the whole taking place inside a conversation between Lacan and Freud. Read and re-read Dany’s book with wonder each time.

See also D. Evans dictionary, Bruce Fink, Lorenzo Chiesa

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (24 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415179629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415179621

Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis – D. Evans

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis Evans

The Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis by D. Evans is unavoidably a necessary possession practising as an analyst. In this precious book, Dylan Evans offers around 200 entries of Lacanian concepts. Those are explained clearly while retracing their history throughout Lacan’s evolving edifice. In contrast to Laplanche and Pontalis’ Language of Psychoanalysis – a comparison which arguably is not entirely justifiable, it will be confessed –  Evans dictionary appears in my view much less daunting, more succinct in its style and approach.

In each concept that is explained one will find embedded in it at least one reference to yet another Lacanian notion whose writing in capital letters conveniently let the reader know that this one also is explained at the corresponding page, perfectly illustrating the idea of the ‘chain of signifiers’ at the core of Lacan’s work. I, for one, almost always find it a struggle not to get caught jumping from one definition to another whenever I open Evans’ book. I guess a Lacanian would suggest that this Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis may be understood as a vehicle of metonymic desire.


See also Bruce Fink Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (2 May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780415135238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415135238

Language of Psychoanalysis – Laplanche & Pontalis

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Language Psychoanalysis

Laplanche and Pontalis’s Language of Psychoanalysis should evidently not be absent from any psychoanalysts who claims oneslelf to be one.  For rather obvious reasons this book is essential to own preciously. It is essentialy nothing other than a dictionary of concepts in psychoanalysis, from the birth of psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, but not only. We find in it also concepts and notions from other writers, including Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan. The definitions are concise, with a succint but clear summary of the history of the concept in question.

Unsurprisingly enough concepts have a life on their own. They somethimes evolve into something one may find difficult to retrace with confidence, leaving us instead with the risk of not having properly understood what is ultimately at stake. The Language of Psychoanalysis by Laplanche & Pontalis is essential to own because its aim is to make the foundations of psychoanalysis robust, something which allow for psychoanalytical research to be solidly built upon. It is an instant authority in itself.

Jean Laplanche (1924 – 2012) was described by the journal ‘Radical Philosophy’ as “the most original and philosophically informed psychoanalytic theorist of his day.” Studying philosophy under Hyppolite, Bachelard, and Merleau-Ponty, he became an active member of the French Resistance under the Vichy regime. Under the influence (and treatment) of Jacques Lacan, Laplanche came to earn a doctorate in medicine and was certified as a psychoanalyst. He eventually broke ties with Lacan and began regularly publishing influential contributions to psychoanalytic theory, his first volume appearing in 1961. In 1967 he published, with his colleague J.-B. Pontalis, the celebrated encyclopaedia ‘The Language of Psychoanalysis’. A member of the International Psychoanalytical Association, co-founder of the Association Psychanalytique de France, emeritus professor and founder of the Center for Psychoanalytic Research at the Universite de Paris VII, and assistant professor at the Sorbonne, he also oversaw, as scientific director, the translation of Freud’s complete oeuvre into French for the Presses Universitaires de France.


Language of Psychoanalysis by Laplanche & Pontalis seats at the foundation of my clinical practice

The book may be found here

See also my Short Introductions in Psychoanalysis here


Book details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (31 Dec. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0946439494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0946439492

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy dreams Freud

Subjectivity and Otherness – Lorenzo Chiesa

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Subjectivity Otherness

Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan by Lorenzo Chiesa was my point of entry in the work of Jacques Lacan, simultaneously with Heidegger’s Being and Time and Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle; perhaps not such a bad combination, given the title of this book. For indeed, however Freudian Lacan claims he is – “you may call me a Lacanian if you want to, but I consider myself a Freudian, first and foremost”, he later declared, Lacan’s oeuvre nevertheless inscribes itself in time. A time which was rich in intellectual insights at the time, in fact, Lacan had invited Heidegger and his wife on holidays to his home near Paris. It transpired that despite Lacan’s efforts to befriend Heidegger it is understood that the latter could not follow him, and was not so much interested in his work.

Beside this little anecdote, Chiesa’s book is indeed worth talking about here for its efforts to clarify the main concepts developed by Lacan, if not where they originate with their relation with Philosophy. On the back of the actual book, it is remarked that the author describes Lacan’s work as “a consistent philosophical system”. In my opinion I am not entirely sure that Lacan himself would have approved his work being described as a ‘philosophical system’, for it is crucial to remember that the whole of Psychoanalysis, let alone Lacan’s career, is centred around the notion of the unconscious, subjectivity and otherness, whereas philosophy may be seen as still somewhat in the grip of the transcendental subject – it indeed was in the middle of the 20th century – If it true that Lacan was in the habit to taking bits here and there from the philosophy of his time (without much acknowledging who he had borrowed some of his ideas from) it remains crucial to draw a clear distinction between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis.

Chiesa’s important book is, in my eyes, necessary to read because it does indeed expose for us the key concepts of Lacan, including the subject, subjectivity, the big other or otherness, in a way that preserves something of what makes Lacan’s writing: it asks the reader to work hard. If you are anywhere a bit like me, you will read, re-read and re-read Chiesa’s Subjectivity and Otherness again. Just (just like the work of Lacan) fascinating.

Cf. My Short Introduction on The Name-of-the-Father, At the Beginning was the Signifier, the Mirror Stage, Metonymy and Metaphors

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Book details


  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; 1 edition (28 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781420044874
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420044874


The Divided Self – R. D. Laing

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Divided Self Laing

The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness by R. D. Laing (1927-1989) may still be considered a landmark writing today. It is expected that students in Psychotherapy and Counselling will read Laing, starting with the Divided Self and perhaps follow with his Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise. The reason is simple, it is a crucial book where Laing explores madness and the way we usually perceive this condition.  The author’s revolutionary thinking, one of the best-known psychiatrists of modern times, allows therapist and psychiatrists to view mental illness in a completely new light, opening treatments with to a new found creativity and certainly more humanity.

Laing’s account and understanding of the clinic is fascinating in itself. Using case studies of patients he had worked with, R. D. Laing argued that psychosis is not a medical condition, but an outcome of the ‘divided self’, or the tension between the two personas within us: one our authentic, private identity, and the other the false, ‘sane’ self that we present to the world. In this account the author was certainly near to the psychoanalytical theories of the time.

Laing was cerainly a man not afraid of exploring different avenues to therapy, prefering to use a phenomenological approach, even experimenting with psychedelic drugs at time, working against a psychiatric establishment solidified by a medical tradition which at, this time in its hstory was badly in need of change.

If The Divided Self could perhaps be regarded as a form of introduction into the study of mental illness, it should not be taken any the less seriously.


  • R. D. Laing’s has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here
  • Click here to watch online lectures
  • See here on Amazon


Book details

  • Publisher: Penguin (1703)
  • ASIN: B0161T6EOE

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Laing

Politics of Experience & Bird of Paradise – R. D. Laing

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy politics of Experience Laing

The Politics of Experience & The Bird of Paradise from R. D. Laing is a little book (only 160 pages) which is no less important to own and read in all seriousness. In it R. D. Laing explores the influencethe the society at large (what in Lacanian terms we would name the Other) imposes on the subject, in particular the experience of alienation and its subsequent result in the subject’s loss of potential. For him the notion of normality could not be more problematic in itself, and not cerainly not something one should somehow  encounter by default.

In this enterprise Laing adopts a phenomelogical approach to the clinic, a research method which one may argue was quite in vogue at the time of his writings. Around that same time there also was a number of questions being raised with regards to psychiatry in general, and Laing was an important actor in trying to shake what could almost be seen as an old and conservative establishment.

Laing is important to read and reflect on for his injection of humanity in the work of psychotherapy. His views on psychosis were rather revolutionary at the time, but should still be considered today. Surely it is not difficult to understand that respect and a minimum of empathy can go a long way in helping patients.

The book by R. D. Laing is not a technical book constructed around a complex theory of the mind. Both his accounts are like mini treatises encouraging to treat simply patients as human beings to begin with. Psychoanalysis have of course made some big steps since then, and Laing’s clinial practice was reflecting the new found freedom that the western society of the 60’s and 70’s was going through at the time; still, he certainly remains an author and writer to contend with.


  • R. D. Laing’s Politics of Experience & The Bird of Paradise has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here
  • Click here to watch online lectures
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Book details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (26 April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140134867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140134865

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Laing

Gadamer: A Guide for the Perplexed

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Gadamer Guide

Hans-Georg Gadamer (/ˈɡædəmər/; German: [ˈɡaːdamɐ]; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German philosopher of the continental tradition, best known for his 1960 magnum opus Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode) on hermeneutics.

In his most a book, Truth and Method published in 1960 Gadamer challenges the false objectivity often present in the human sciences while stating that “method is not sufficient”. According to the philosopher, the reading of a text is made in the tension between the past and the present horizon of expectation. Also, Gadamer asserts that “all text is a response to a question” – if the text speaks to the readers it is that it meets a certain question.
The notion of meaning is also central to the project of Gadamer. And of course equally central to the process of psychotherapy is the idea of exploring the various meanings in the client’s life as they are progressively uncovered within the unfolding narrative.

The video here from YaleCourses offers a quick introduction into Hermeneutics as developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer, an ex-pupil of Heidegger.

This book may be found on Amazon here

See also Heidegger here



  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum; New title edition (24 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082648462X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826484628

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Gadamer


Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit – Kojève

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Phenomenology of Spirit

Alexandre Kojève (Russian: Александр Владимирович Кожевников, Aleksandr Vladimirovič Koževnikov; April 28, 1902 – June 4, 1968) was a Russian-born French philosopher and statesman whose philosophical seminars had an immense influence on twentieth-century French philosophy, particularly via his reintroduction of Hegelian concepts to continental philosophy.

In 1933-1939 he delivered in Paris a series of lectures on Hegel’s work Phenomenology of Spirit which subsequently inspired numerous thinkers, notably the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Hegel’s dialectic of the master and slave allows Lacan to expand on the idea of consciousness, that is, in contrast to an Other (a symbolic one this time) which is inescapably present. Following on this Lacan will also point out the danger that exists when relationships are placed on a dual plane – in other words when taking place in the imaginary order – with death as the ultimate end.

The video presented here explains briefly the main idea behind Hegel’s notion of the Master and Slave dialectic where emerges fundamental notions such as Desire, Recognition, Process, Self-Consciousness; as many ideas that define us as human-beings in a world with others. (If the writing looks too small please use option ‘Full Screen’)

  • Kojève’s lectures on Hegel has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here
  • See a good introduction on Lacan’s ideas here
  • Kojève’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the “Phenomenology of Spirit” may be found on Amazon here


Book details


  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (31 Oct. 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801492033
  • ISBN-13: 978-080149203

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Alexandre Kojève


Dibs : In Search of Self – V. Axline

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Dibs In Search of Self

The true story of Dibs told by Virginia M. Axline is a classic in counselling which touched me quite profoundly. The necessary qualities inherent to a relationship for it to be ‘therapeutic’ are here elegantly illustrated through a poignant story of a young but bright child. At the same time, the book offers a quick glance at what other psychotherapists found most clinically significant in what sometimes is happening within some families.


Book details

Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (14 May 1990)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 014013459X
ISBN-13: 978-0140134599

Merleau-Ponty: A guide for the Perplexed

nglish French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Merleau-Ponty Guide

Merleau-Ponty is claimed to be “one of the most important figures in the existential and phenomenological traditions in the twentieth-century Continental philosophy”. And this Guide for the Perplexed by Eric Matthews set out to explore the key themes of the philosopher including his ideas about Perception; Embodiment; Behaviour; Being Human; Time; other People, Society & History, Art and Perception.

In my view, this book is a good enough introduction to Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. If my personal experience while studying this book was one of being a bit ‘dry’ it still allows for directly introducing the main concepts one needs to grasp in order to enjoy then reading an author who is not generally considered easy to understand. Merlau-Ponty’s work is indeed worth the effort.

  • See Phenomenology of Perception
  • Click here to watch online lectures
  • Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here


Book details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum (24 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780826485328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826485328
  • ASIN: 0826485324

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Maurice-Merleau-Ponty

Phenomenology of Perception – Merleau Ponty

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Phenomenology of Perception

The French philosopher and phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) submitted Phenomenology of Perception as his doctoral thesis in 1945. In this work of extreme sophistication, the author claims that perception and engaging with the world plays a fundamental role in understanding it. For him, the mind is first and foremost embodied and not split into two distinct entities mind/body, as Descartes would have the Western tradition to believe. Perception proper does not result from a cognitive approach of the world since we as a whole are inescapably part of it.

The work of Merleau-Ponty is crucial as it reminds us that the actual practice of psychotherapy cannot but unfold in he in-between the client and therapist, in the present relationship with the Other. In this context, it is difficult to conceptualise the Other as merely a bit of behaviour to be studied. He writes ‘My thoughts and his (the interlocutor) are interwoven into a single fabric’. Also and most importantly, we are speaking beings subjected to language – a clear and unambiguous reference to the significance of our lives and others that language inherently possesses.

Although Phenomenology of Perception is a key text for psychotherapists and counsellors in the making, it could equally be argued that Merleau-Ponty’s search for essences may have something inherently problematic to it. If the author’s recognition that we are speaking-beings opens the dialogue between individuals and culture, in my view the influence and full appreciation of its impact on us and how we feel and situate ourselves in society remain minimised. If there are no other means of describing what is closest to us but then through discourses, where do they take their contents from? Are essences all that there is and nothing else?

  • See A Guide for the Perplexed
  • Click here to watch online lectures
  • Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here


Book details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (14 Mar. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780415278416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415278416
  • ASIN: 0415278414

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Maurice-Merleau-Ponty

Relational Depth – D. Mearns & M. Cooper

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Relational Depth

In this book, Dave Mearns & Mick Cooper expand on the therapeutic principles at the core of the person-centred approach founded by Carl Rogers. Their work is concerned with what is happening at a depth between the therapist and the client. As in all therapeutic approach, it is safe to claim that the feelings of the therapist cannot but be part of the process unfolding itself in therapy. In this work the ‘constituents’ of what the authors call ‘relational depth’ are examined at great length and intending to offering the reader with some insights into what they claim help increase the therapeutic connectedness with the client.

I found this text very helpful in understanding or at least learning how to be on the look-out for those various emotional signs that would help me find my way in the therapeutic process. I could not but be inspired by this particular case of post-traumatic shock due to the damages of war. Some of the descriptions made by D. Mearns of his work with a soldier who would not want/could not speak any more was most relevant to my research project on the difficulties of talking for the client in therapy (see Research).

Still, it is important always to try to ‘problematize’ what is on offer. And so Mearns & Cooper invited me to wonder what influence had the part of imagination from the therapist in therapy? Where do ideas and thoughts come from in the therapist, and what do they represent? Who can ever claim that whatever is being ‘imagined’ by the therapist is at all safe and promoting the therapeutic alliance? Where do we put the limit? Say a therapist imagines something of what it is for the client; is this an absolute guarantee that, because of his status as ‘the one who is supposed to know’, whatever he or she thinks, senses or ‘feels’ is what is going on? It is easy to see here that in this context some potentially competitive stance between a therapist and a client – two human beings – can emerge.

  • See Carl Roger’s Reader
  • Click here to watch an interview with the Mick Cooper
  • Working at Relational Depth has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here


Book details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd; First edition (1 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761944583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761944584

The Carl Rogers Reader – Carl Rogers

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Carl Rogers The Reader

Phenomenology is a branch of western philosophy which, starting from E. Husserl‘s phenomenological method, takes as its motto the central idea that new discoveries can be made “if we return to the things themselves“. Those already-made principles and other prior understandings that we regularly use to understand things, experience or phenomena, are ‘put aside’ as much as possible to let the ‘new’ emerge. This is not an easy way of thinking as we are all ‘naturally’ immersed every day in the ‘taken-for-granted’, not least in the very language we have no choice but use to describe what we perceive.

The phenomenological implications in the domain of Psychotherapy & Counselling are for the most part illustrated by the American psychologist and founder of the humanistic approach to psychology Carl Rogers (1902-1987). In my view, it is doubtless the case that Rogers offers a reliable and crucial foundation for practitioners new in the field of psychotherapy and counselling. This book is a selection from Rogers’ published work and develops the ‘client-centred’ approach to therapy. Rogers’ concern is mainly based around three principal ideas which are ultimately meant to form such an integral part of the therapist practice as to become ‘a way of being’, as opposed to merely be used as a therapeutic technique.

C. Rogers reduced the phenomenological tradition to what he termed the ‘three core conditions’ which he understodd were essential for therapists to do their job:  1) Congruence: the therapist is meant to be ‘real’ in that he/she is directly and genuinely in touch with the various feelings which emerge in the session, and most importantly, act accordingly. 2) Unconditional positive regard: the client is accepted ‘unconditionally’ as a person without any judgement on the part of the therapist. 3) Empathy: the therapist ‘imagines’ how it is for the client in the situation he or she is presenting in order to apprehend better and consolidate the therapeutic alliance.

Whilst in my view the person-centred approach is arguably the most appropriate start in the domain of psychotherapy and counselling, it is also true that Carl Rogers was born and raised in the West American humanist tradition of the 60’s. In the light of other theories (psychoanalytical, existential and post-modern) the person-centred approach could appear somehow to be based on a positive ‘can-do attitude’ whereby the mind is in absolute control. How about the Others and the society at large? What influence does it have on us? How about those ulterior motives so deeply ingrained in us and which we don’t have immediate access to? Indeed there doesn’t seem to be any place in Rogers for what the Others think of us and how they influence our feelings. Perhaps those questions show the limits of the client-centred approach which remains nonetheless very insightful towards a general approach to psychotherapy and counselling.

  • See Working at the Relational Depth
  • Click here to watch some useful lectures online
  • The Carl Rogers Reader has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here


Book details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Robinson; Reprint edition (23 April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0094698406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0094698406

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy C. Rogers

Being and Time – Martin Heidegger

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy - Being and Time M Heidegger

Martin Heidegger was born on 26th September 1889 and died on 26 May 1976 and is a German philosopher. First a disciple of Edmund Husserl and phenomenology, he is quickly moving towards the question of being or ontology. Author of Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), Heidegger it is considered one of the most influential philosophers of the XXe century: his approach mainly influenced Existentialist philosophy, phenomenology and later, postmodern philosophy, German hermeneutics, and other Humanities such as Theology and Psychoanalysis.

Being and time (Sein und Zeit, 1927) is claimed to be Heidegger’s most important work, even though it was never completed beyond its first part it still marks a turning-point of continental philosophy. It is under its influence that grew the branch of Existentialism and Deconstruction.

Heidegger’s project queries the sense of Being from a deconstruction of Dasein (Being-there). For Heidegger, the question of Being fell into oblivion and triviality and therefore suggests that this question should be restated in the light of an “analytic of the Dasein”, i.e. a structural study of human existence.

Dasein may be conceived as a human existence thought as a presence in the world. “Being-in-the-world” is a being which does not merely appear within being. Also, understanding of being itself is a possibility of being of Dasein. Man, Heidegger argues, is this being ontologically privileged in that it always has a certain agreement, not knowledge, of some implicit understanding and theme of what it means “To be” for the things that surround it. As opposed to the ontical, for instance, what imparts to the knowledge constituting that being (ex science) never query the assumptions of its relations to objects. The question of being, on the other hand, is ontological.

Existentialism is finely intertwined with the phenomenological method of ‘returning the things themselves’ which it uses to uncover what it means to be human. It is generally accepted that ‘most esistentialists are phenomenologists, though there are many phenomenologists who are not existentialists’ (Macquarrie – 1972).

  • Click here to watch some useful lectures online
  • Being and Time from M. Heidegger has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here


Book details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Blackwell; Reprint edition (2000)
  • ISBN-10: 0631197702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631197706
  • ASIN: B007Z04H48

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Heidegger


Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis – Bruce Fink

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy - Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis Intro Lacan Fink

A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis by Bruce Fink may, in my opinion, be regarded as a book it is almost impossible not to have, read and re-read if interested in Psychoanalysis, in Lacanian Psychoanalysis in particular and in wishing to become an analyst oneself. Introductions are just that: introductions. They introduce a subject, and unless the writer goes beyond this aim, which it would be more appropriate to call commentaries, they cannot replace the original text.

Still, Fink’s introduction is welcome for its plain English. It may eventually bring the experienced and dedicated analyst a smile everytime he hears how almost despairingly tricky Lacan is to read, but he or she would do well to remember his or her first days trying to grapple with those ideas. At the time of his seminars, Lacan’s pupils did not have a book written by a Fink to go back to in their quiet moments. The very experience of not understanding while simultaneously sensing that something important is being exposed may be quite anxiety provoking, if not altogether uncanny. This is why, again, Fink is a relief to have at hands. One can only be impressed by the amount of work and reflections Lacan demands to make a coherent sense of the mountain of insights the French psychoanalyst offers. If anything, Fink’s A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis saves the anxiety that may potentially arise from a too direct and immediate encounter with Lacan. The danger, of course, and one that Lacan himself would let define his style, was the one of understanding too quickly. Fink’s book is of great help, no doubt, but some would point out the risk of being almost too clear and with this the dangers of taking Lacan’s ideas as set in stone, immutable, or ‘The Truth’. The reality is that Lacan’s thoughts were always in movement, always fluctuating and changing.

Fink’s book is almost essential to have, but it ought not to be forgotten that it is but the first step towards Lacan’s writing itself: impossible to dodge if one is serious about his training towards becoming an analyst.


Find on Amazon here

See My Short Introduction on the signifier here

See Freud here


Book details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (5 Aug. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780674135369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674135369
  • ASIN: 067413536


The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Dreams IV Freud

The Interpretations of Dreams by Sigmund Freud,  published in 1900, forms the traditional psychoanalyst’s understanding of how unconscious processes work generally. Freud was the first scientist to take dreams seriously enough to want to devote himself to a thorough examination of them. In this fascinating, if not altogether essential account of the nature of dreams the reader is taken through a journey in which a theory describing their work will gradually form.

First of all, Freud argues that, given that every human beings, that is, irrespective of whether they are mentally sick or not, dream, then whatever those dreams reveal about the human psyche may be deemed a universal and valid rule in everyone. If philosophers couldn’t be bothered to look into them properly and preferred dismissing them as some insignificant quirkiness in us, Freud would still invite them to offer some rational explanation. Why did they appear so strange and distorted? What did they mean? Why do we have them all together?

Freud would eventually realise that dreams invariably follow an exact set of rules. Three broad components would be seen time and again when looking at dreams. The dreamer’s initial report of his dream may be named the manifest content of the dream, but this story is a distorted version of another, an original version whose content is understood by Freud to be inadmissible. At the time of his practice Freud would offer an interpretation of his patient’s dreams as the realisation of wish fulfilment of a hidden and secret thought, too disturbing to the dreamer not to need to distort it along the way. And so finally, the last component Freud entering into the formation of dreams would be this distorting effect in between the original or latent thought – what was never consciously acknowledged – and the manifest thought which is remembered upon waking up.

  • If the validity of an interpretation of a dream can be legitimately questioned, Freud’s research is primordial in its revealing the mechanism in dreams, the ‘dream work’. We are here, of course, referring to the notions of displacement and condensation, the same processes of which can be noticed in linguistics with metonymies and metaphors (see my short introduction)
  • Click here for more on the internet
  • Find The Interpretation of Dreams on Amazon here


Book details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099426552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099426554

English French Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy dreams Freud