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Bruce Fink joins me for a second interview to discuss Volume 2 of Against Understanding: Cases and Commentary in a Lacanian Key (Routledge, 2014).  We talk about everything from desire, jouissance, and love to variable-length sessions and  “why anyone in their right mind would pay for analysis.”  Just like one might go to a personal trainer to shed some pounds, one goes to an analyst to lose something.  We often enter analysis against our will and immediate interests, kicking and screaming, to have our symptoms – the sources of our most precious satisfaction and exquisite misery — taken away.  We pay, in other words, to be castrated.  This is a better deal than it initially seems: we cede self-pity related to primordial loss – the loss of something we never had in the first place – in order to be able to pursue our desire and derive more joy from our enjoyment.

In the second volume of Against Understanding, the initial chapters on practice and technique cover fundamental questions like the goal of analysis, ethics, diagnosis and fantasy.  Next there are several close readings of Lacan’s papers and seminars on Kant and Sade, semblance, personality, and love.  The Cases section takes up the themes of the earlier chapters, demonstrating Fink’s talent for communicating complex ideas in a direct and remarkably limpid style.  He wades through Lacan’s explanation of why and how both sadists and masochists seek to stage the other’s anxiety; discusses the role semblance-as-ideology might play in fantasy; and interpolates Freud’s phases of “a child is being beaten” to get at the specific ways several of his analysands fantasize and enjoy.

True to Lacanian theory and practice, Fink does not lay emphasis on affect and empathy as central facets of technique in the book. Yet, during our interview, as he discusses his reluctance to display mastery in case presentations and reveals his willingness to stretch (and not only scand) sessions of patients in crisis, his compassion and humility are very much in evidence.


Liran RazinskyFreud, Psychoanalysis, and Death

January 5, 2015

Liran Razinsky’s book, titled Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Death (Cambridge University Press, 2014) came out of a decade’s long attempt to reconcile Liran’s personal search for meaning within two areas of professional inquiry: philosophy, and psychology.  These two fields are intimately related in that each asks essential questions about what it means to be a human subject that lives [...]

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Gohar HomayounpourDoing Psychoanalysis in Tehran

December 19, 2014

In Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran (MIT Press, 2012) — part memoir, part elegy, and part collection of clinical vignettes — Gohar Homayounpour takes a defiant position against the Orientalizing gaze of Western publishers, editors, and journalists who search in her book for the exotic Iranian subject and the trauma of the Eastern Other. She turns [...]

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Jennifer KunstWisdom From the Couch: Knowing and Growing Yourself from the Inside Out

December 13, 2014

What happens when a Kleinian psychoanalyst wants to write an intelligent self-help book for the general reader?  First, she recognizes that one must have an online platform from which to launch, so she starts a blog called “The Headshrinker’s Guide to the Galaxy.“ Then she sets about writing her debut book, Wisdom From the Couch: [...]

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Bruce FinkAgainst Understanding: Volume 1: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key

November 17, 2014

What can possibly be wrong with the process of understanding in psychoanalytic treatment?  Everything, according to Bruce Fink.  In Against Understanding. Volume 1: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key (Routledge, 2014), he argues that since understanding is part of the Lacanian imaginary, it often leads to fixed assumptions and projections on the part of both analyst and analysand, [...]

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Sophia RichmanMended By the Muse: Creative Transformations of Trauma

October 21, 2014

In a wide ranging and courageous interview that touched on the creative process, personal history, memoir and self-disclosure, the psychoanalyst and writer Sophia Richman explored the connections between trauma and the creative process. Although many have written about the arts and psychoanalysis, utilizing contemporary relational thinking, Richman brings the discussion vividly into the present day. [...]

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Mark EpsteinThe Trauma of Everyday Life

October 13, 2014

Being human, much of our energy goes into resisting the basic mess of life, but messy it is nonetheless. The trick (as psychoanalysts know) is to embrace it all anyway.  “Trauma is an indivisible part of human existence. It takes many forms but spares no one,” so writes psychiatrist and practicing Buddhist Dr. Mark Epstein. [...]

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Thomas KohutA German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century

October 6, 2014

Germans belonging to the generation born at the turn of the twentieth century endured staggering losses, many of which became difficult to mourn or even acknowledge: their parents in World War I, financial and physical security during the Weimar Republic, the racially pure utopian promise of the Third Reich, and likely several loved ones in [...]

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John FletcherFreud and the Scene of Trauma

September 29, 2014

Putting Freud’s books — not the man but the writings — on the couch, listening closely for the breaks, the retractions, the internal conflicts, the sudden about-faces. John Fletcher, professor of English literature, reads Freud very, very closely. When we view Freud’s work as an unfolding process, the main themes are often not even what [...]

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Mari RutiThe Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living

September 21, 2014

Exploring everything from the impact of her own psychoanalysis on her mode and mien to the effect of consumer culture on the psyche, the delightful Mari Ruti keeps the ball rolling.  We pondered with her so many things that the interview feels like xmas morning! Traversing the advent of self-help books, Lacan, the Frankfurt School, [...]

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