The answer is at once simple and complicated.
Simple because one only needs to remind themselves that psychoanalysts work with what is unknown in the psyche rather than what we know. Freud, who was the first to systematically work in this way, gave to what is unknown the name “Unconscious”.
So, psychoanalysts work with the Unconscious. That’s why requirements about “quality assurance” and “improvement programmes” are irrelevant.
Simple, wasn’t it?
Unfortunately, it is not so simple.
That's another red herring.
Psychoanalysts are not the only people who work with entities that cannot be directly seen, felt, heard or perceived.
In fact all scientists work in this way –and I am talking about hard sciences now.
No scientist can claim that they work with the actual thing of their expertise. They all work with the indirect effects of the actual thing –whatever the thing in question is– to other things around it.
Verily, no one can claim direct access, any direct access whatsoever, to actual things. Humans only have access via proxy.
Let’s say I grab a stone and throw it to the sea. There is a splashing sound, and I can see some waves. What has happened?
When I grabbed the stone what I really did was to approach my hand to a specific visual target, and then move my fingers in a particular way until they find some resistance and they cannot move further.
Combining indirect visual information with indirect tactile, pressure and temperature information I reach the (presumably direct) conclusion that I have grabbed a stone.
And yet. My conclusion was not direct at all.
At no point of my grabbing the stone did I have direct access to the actual stone; I only had access to indirect information about it.
The same applies to everything.
You know, I am not making this up now. This is what the German philosopher Immanuel Kant has argued, towards the end of 18th century. We don’t have access to the Thing in Itself, he said (the "Ding An Sich" in German)
But we do have access to its effects.
In a similar vein, we do not have access to the Unconscious. We only do have access to its effects.
And what can the effects of this Unconscious be?
Many things really. Dreams; slips of the tongue or of the pen (they are called Freudian slips for a reason!); lapses of memory; parapraxes; symptoms such as phobias or obsessions. In fact its effects abound.
How do I work with it, then?
I am afraid that I do not have time to address this question now. I will leave it for my next post.
(to be continued…)