I happened upon this video via a share the other day – three psychoanalysts in conversation at the Science Museum some months ago. It’s not a blinding presentation – little stuffy and the quality is not great – but I was really struck by the (near) opening words of the first speaker (around 3:50 in):
‘The unconscious permeates everything that we do in our life, often without seeing it. Why do young people say to each other “don’t give me any of your shit, man,” or why do lovers call each other “baby”?’
I’ve long been a fan of The School of Life, part of whose mission is to demythologise psychotherapy and offer people a ‘mental MOT’. Their view, which I share, is that psychotherapy ought to be something available on the High Street, rather than in some high priestly counselling room.
Too often, psychotherapy is thought of as an extreme measure or a bizarre indulgence. At The School of Life, we believe it would benefit many of us to talk in confidence to an exceptionally responsive person about our private concerns.
At around £60 per hour, it really is an indulgence – and the historic Catholic use of that word is perhaps worth noting. Yet the first quote above goes some way to revealing just how much of the ‘unconscious’ does permeate our language and meaning – yet in, obviously, an unconscious way. Yet this language – of street talk, of lovers – is not the language of the neurotic, but of the everyday.
I’ve been re-watching The Wire recently, and reflecting on some of the time I’ve spent teaching in various London schools – (though none at the level of trouble witnessed in that show) and it’s struck me that this is where the therapist’s work is really needed. If the psychoanalytic community truly believe in their work, then surely they should be doing their best to get therapists into schools and youth clubs. The School of Life are calling for there to be psychotherapy on the High Street… I’d say the High School was an equally important focus. The way that children forge language to their own ends, and with the unconscious yet to be buried too deeply, it would appear to be the best time for good work to be done, to prepare people for the trials of life ahead psychologically, as well as intellectually and socially.