The psychoanalyst’ silence



Silence in psychoanalysis


The first silence is the one of repression. It is an echo, a mirror of repression, necessary to start the work of finding once again a human desire behind a symptom. This method’s first theory is that the psychological symptom isn’t a biological, mental or genetic anomaly but a hazard of the desire’s creation. (But obviously this does not work the moment the problem comes from a biological illness! A complete medical diagnosis is often necessary to make sure that those are not the psychological side effects of some treatment, hypothyroid, etc.)


Despite being a central procedure, the silence doesn’t have a place in the therapist’s effective methods. If it is necessary, it is never enough on its own. Silence and transfer, deconstruction and reconstruction are the two pillars of every psychotherapy encounter, including in psychoanalysis. If the narcissism within the symptom needs to be deconstructed, the subjectivity needs to be reconstructed in other ways. This aspect has already been brought up in the paper titled “Transfer and structure”.


Silence and castration


The therapist’s silence first indicates that castration exists within them. It is the space made for the other, the lack of theoretical omnipotence, sign that the patient’s journey will happen alongside the therapist’s without any obligation to be similar, to fit within it like in some medical model or lacanian psychoanalytical practice which says that the end of a therapy is… to become a therapist. However let’s not forget that there are other ways to practice medicine that includes this theoretical humility, for example what is found in the practitioners of the Balint groups.


At the end of the cure this silence will be answered by the distance the patient took with the therapist when it is not an exact hysterical replica of the therapist’s as it is seen too often. This will then be a peek from the patient at the unique journey they achieved, never reducible to any else, including the therapist’s.


This silence of the therapist is the beginning of a space available between the other and the self, although only if the silence is inhabited, if it is not a game of non-being where sadness of the self wins over the pleasure of individual creation as is too often seen in analytical schools where the repetition of the founder’s “theory”, be it Lacan or somebody else, is above the personal creation. There is a big risk that being this silence hides an unmovable theory close to the theory of the melancholic ideal. If not, the silence is then the representation of listening to the other, allowing a space of creation between the beings.


On the contrary it can be a force of psychological repression, being then tinted in anguish, fear, shame and sadness, stopping the thought process, creating a psychological inhibition. This type of silence is seen in therapists that try to resolve their problem by identifying themselves too much with their patients, alongside an incomplete therapy.

Nothing good can happen at this point, except a herd instinct and a collage in which the patients often find themselves trapped. The guru is then the one that needs disciples to believe in their own lies. Each one, master and student, have to hold on to the other because they are not capable of staying up alone. The illusion of the group is one of the many coping mechanism against the psychological suffering, reducing the world to a small group in a Manichean and pathological point of view.

This kind of silence is easily seen once the register does not correspond to the rigid theory used: no castration, then no visible boundaries of how things work, no critical evaluation of the practice and its results. Those coping mechanisms coming from a fragile identity, despite an evident problem with crossing reality, show a very human psycho rigidity in nature which means that the following damages are not even close to an end: silencing your own creation to transmit things to somebody else without copying is not a given for everybody!


This silence although is still the key to the practice of therapy for the patient to have any chance to go from the symptom back to their own desire. The analysis of transfer as it is described, bringing back every structural element of the cure to the patient can not describe accurately the whole work done all by itself as it is the result of two different thinking processes, the patient’s and the therapist’s. Once a point of the dialogue becomes unmovable, no encounter, no transformation is possible. The therapist’s silence is not a sacred silence, used to hide behind the theory but a silence of interrogation,  doubt and transformation.


Only then is the silence the place of the transfer’s analysis, of the counter-transfer. I understand well the lacanian critique of the counter-transfer and admit that it is only a transfer. But this could be understood wrongly, same as saying that the whole space of the transfer is on the patient’s shoulders.

No, if the transfer is unique it is because it works on both sides, with the patient and the therapist, following this very specific status of the signifier as studied by Lacan. Every word said by one of the other, every silence, every interaction is part of the transfer which interacts, transforms, creates resistance or opening in one and the other.

The multiple objects created by both will have to explore the difficult singularity of the patient on one side and the limit of the therapist’s theories on the other. The silence of the being, powerful access to desire at the heart of the cure will have to pass through those conditions, paying no heed to what truth is supposed to be, for both. Without this, nothing happens.


The analytical dialogue’s logic can be reduced for profit to the concrete exchange of words and silences, their effects being thankfully mostly uncontrollable on each side. Without an important amount of silence, those effects might get lost between the patient and therapist in a fake dialogue which would only be the logic of what seems to come from knowledge, from the sounds without actually having anything to do with the unconscious’ logic.


So, silence to hear the echos of what just happened in oneself and in the other. The silence is then the analyzable condition of the transfer, carefully thinking about what has been said on each side.


Silence, narcissism


What is most important for the patients always happen outside of therapy. It is to say first thing that we are far from any kind of narcissistic reassurance through the other, but we are closer to a singular desire, which is very different. The narcissistic reassurance, encouragements, the expression “Stay positive!” only work to reinforce the therapist’s alienation, put back in place a dictatorship of the images of which the effects won’t be long to show up, once the reality of the psychological problem or life reappears. The fact that every word said, no matter which one, is always a way of taking power over the other should not be forgotten. Only the silence can avoid this!


Realizing the vanity of images of oneself or the other and the fixated words that represent them against the strength of the being, of desire, of movement creates a transmission of acts, inventions, risk taking, freedoms, speech even concerning the therapist, which signifies the end of a cure better.


The therapist absence of the idealized world and their presence in the universe of desire, all of this goes through the silence of narcissistic validation. So, being happy of what one did is not the same as being happy of oneself…

Too much presence, too much speech can participate in an inflation of the narcissistic axis of which sometimes the very weakness from the beginnings does not justify its alienating inflation.


But too much silence and a like of presence will prohibit the space of transfer to be created, keeping the material needed a minima to have an efficient therapy from being created. For the drama of transfer to happen there is a need for a minimum of common context, of common history. Only a moment of pleasure, a moment of captivation in the transfer is necessary to the creation of this space, then followed by silence, of removal, of silent analysis of what happened allows the elaboration of desire, which is not the narcissistic identity.

If the minimal basis of encounter is lacking, there is no elaboration of desire, replaced instead by reoccurring symptoms made to reestablish an imaginary narcissism.


Unlike other psychotherapies, the analysis’ vocation is not to restore it when faces with the failures of narcissism. It can only reboot the desire to help the patient understand that being their need of narcissistic restoration hides a need for an imaginary omnipotence that can only take them away from their actual desire. The therapist also needs to understand that this omnipotence of the symptom is but the infantile consequence of a castration that did not happen and that just analyzing it is not enough: it also needs to happen within the drama of the transfer and then in life outside of therapy. In fact, letting go of the symptom’s imaginary omnipotence will come along the reconstruction of the actual knowledge of castration.


If, as Michel Balint with his work on “the fundamental flaw” and Lacan have well shown, a certain amount of narcissism is normal, it is better when it it also found in the Other which is what the patient’s parents hide from them (I am talking about the speech parents, not the actual parents…). It is when the patient realizes that narcissism also exists in the other that desire will be restored little by little, to the condition that the therapist also sees the same thing on their side and that they don’t base themselves too much on the theory. It is not always nice when you do this job to silence the unconscious motivations that make you do it.

It is certain that there is a crack that is represented by the imposed silence which here is the part we give to the other for them to be able to heal. This silence of the therapist then show the minimum narcissistic crack that is necessary for being to communicate with each other, only condition for the signification to become signifier which helps in cultivating the self. Certainty does not equal communication!

When it is here to introduce the therapist to the concept of castration then the silence can play its part. But when it is just the witness of an omnipotence or omniscience, which is the same, it plays a game of narcissistic reflections without any analytic purpose. Indeed, the therapy that counts on always being right for the patient misses the point of its job. Therapy is only theater! Which is not nothing already.


Then starts a productive balance between silence and presence.