|Peak pseudoprofound bullshit* from Jacques Lacan; a proof that Woman does not exist|
- Psychoanalysts enjoy a celebrity status in France as public intellectuals.
- Their views are based heavily on writings of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Françoise Dolto, and are not intellectually or scientifically coherent.
- They promote ideas that are misogynistic and homophobic, and view small children as having erotic interest in their parents. Some of their statements appear to justify paedophilia and incest.
- They do not see their role as helping cure psychiatric disorders.
- They have a financial interest in maintaining their status quo.
- Some of them work with vulnerable populations of children in institutions, which is especially troubling given point 3.
Le Phallus et le Neant is a 2 hour-long film, and I recommend watching it in full; I started by finding the analysts merely irritating and pretentious, but as the film developed, it became increasingly disturbing. The last quarter included interviews with women who had suffered sexual abuse as children, and who were told they should not see themselves as victims.
Here are just a few clips to illustrate the content of the interviews with analysts.
Much of the first part of the film focuses on the negative views of Woman proposed by Freud and Lacan. Penis envy is taken extremely seriously.
Regarding homosexuality, the film notes the influence of the late Andre Green, who according to Wikipedia was 'one of the most important psychoanalytic thinkers of our times'. Green regarded homosexuality as a psychosis. Confronted with evidence of well-balanced and contented gay men, he claimed they were psychotics-in-denial, apparently healthy but likely to fall prey to insanity at any time. Sophie probed her interviewees about this, and they looked cagey, particularly when asked if there were any gay psychoanalysts. The idea of gay couples as parents has been highly contentious in France: if we believed the psychoanalysts, this would be a disaster. In fact, as shown by the work of Susan Golombok and colleagues, it isn't anything of the kind.
If you argue against the views of the analysts, by saying you never wanted a penis, you had a loving but unerotic relationship with your parents, and you find adult sex fun, then this is treated as evidence of the depth of your repression, rather than evidence for the invalidity of the theory.
The late Françoise Dolto had a major influence on psychoanalytic thought in France. Her claims that children have desire towards adults, and trap them because of this, were reflected at several points in the interviews.
A final point is the mismatch between the expectations of clients and what the psychoanalyst offers. One assumes that most people go into analysis with the expectation that it will help them: after all, they invest a great deal of time and money in the process. But that does not seem to be the view of the analysts. Their attitude seems to be that the human situation is pretty hopeless, because what people want (sex with a parent) is not possible, and the best they can do is to help us come to realise that:
* This term is taken from Pennycook, G., Cheyne, J. A., Barr, N., Koehler, D. J., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2015). On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit. Judgment and Decision Making, 10, 549-563.
**A version of the film with English subtitles is publicly available on Vimeo at a cost of €4 . Conflict of interest statement: I contributed to the funding of the film, but I will donate any royalties to charity.