This seminar will look at the crucial importance of dreams and anxiety in contemporary clinical practice, and how dreaming and dreamlife are powerful vehicles for the expression of anxiety, trauma, and repressed material. The interpretation of dreams is only possible through the combined work of the dreamer and the analyst.
Dreams are an enigmatic language which reveals something that cannot or must not be said openly. For Freud, this enigma concerned unconscious wishes or memories that are unacceptable for the dreamer to acknowledge as their own. In Lacan's understanding, the images and words of dreams speak of the loss and lack that lies at the centre of our being and that as such cannot be articulated. He introduced the concept of the Real to designate this void and he conceptualised the Thing that has apparently been lost as object a. The prospect of an encounter with this object is both highly exciting and extremely anxiety provoking. The object, if found, would close the gap that is essential for us to exist as separate speaking beings; closing the gap would bring us back to an original state of blissful unity in which we would, however, cease to exist as human subjects, in other words, it would lead us to death.
At the time of the pandemic the virus, which has been called by some the “invisible enemy,” makes the possibility of an encounter with the real object a reality. This engenders anxiety, and perhaps in some cases also a compelling fascination [the virus is foreign to us, truly “other,” uncontainable].
Astrid Gessert is a psychoanalyst and a member of CFAR (Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research London, https://cfar.org.uk) and the College of Psychoanalysts-UK. She has worked for many years in the NHS, in private practice and as a supervisor. She is a regular contributor to the CFAR annual public lecture and training programme, lectures and facilitates at other psychoanalytic organisations. Her recent book is an edited collection titled, Obsessional Neurosis: Lacanian Perspectives (Routledge, 2018). She features in the well-known short series of videos about psychoanalysis made by the Freud Museum London.
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