Successful End to Week Two of Discovering the Unconscious
I am writing to you from the end of the second week of ‘Discovering the Unconscious’. I think I may be able to anticipate your first question – have we delved deep into that mysterious thing locked within our selves and emerged alive gripping the slippery key which unlocks the rusty doors into the untapped regions of our rawest beings? Absolutely not. Even if that feat is possible, it would take one’s lifetime, not a matter of weeks, to pioneer into those recesses of our minds. We are, however, making strides in understanding how this impossible presence within us reveals itself in our conscious lives. Or rather, proves its existence through our inexplicable feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Some neuroscientists may take issue with the idea of an unconscious, as it cannot be physically proven. There is no space in our brains we can point to and say, “There it is”! Perhaps, it is this elusive quality that magnetized so many students towards this class.
Regardless of the reasons that brought us all together, we are now aboard this ship and land is a far cry away. For the past two weeks we have been floating upon the words of W.R. Bion, Thomas Ogden, Hanna Segal, Melanie Klein, and of course Sigmund Freud. We have strained our brains over extraordinarily technical theories, clutched our knees against our chests while watching the multiple personalities of Sybil emerge, and relaxed into the dreamspace of our classmates as they recounted the details of their fantastic worlds while we furiously scribbled down their words in hopes of illuminating some kind of truth for them. However, the discussions, the readings, the films – they are not what have been of utmost significance for me.
This past week our class read an article by Thomas Ogden which discusses the presence of an “analytic third”in the room between an analyst and the patient. The “analytic third” is the idea that an interplay between the two individuals’ subjectivities begins to occur during the therapy session. They, the subjectivities, occupy the space between the patient and the analyst creating an intersubjectivity within the room. By tapping into this intersubjectivity, the analyst, and even the patient, is able to see and understand things that were previously inaccessible. While this may sound like it is some sort of sorcery that should stay within the realms of Hogwarts, Ogden assures us it is simply tuning one’s self into, “the most mundane, everyday aspects of the background workings of the mind…” (4).
I brought up Ogden, and the “analytic third,” because I believe it sheds light on what has been of utmost significance in this class. Every morning, as I sit down within the circle of chairs and look around at my classmates I feel as if an understanding is occurring. Each of us, having read the intensive material the night before, cannot seem to help but connect to it on a personal level. I know, for me, much of the material from this week has been quite close to home. Carrying with us these personal connections into the discussion, even if they remain unshared, create a space in which valuable class time is constantly occurring. There are a multitude of unspoken, yet felt, “Amens!” Fervent nodding is a common sight. Attentive eyes watch the speaker as they delineate a specific theory from Freud. It is a time of engagement supported by the understanding that we all have maybe ‘been there’. While it has already been a long two weeks aboard this psychoanalytic ship, I feel that none of us believe it is quite yet time to dock.
Ogden, T.H. (1994). The Analytic Third: Working with Intersubjective Clinical Facts. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:3-19