......• Debate: Death to the Shrinks •
It’s a time bomb the psychoanalysts thought they had defused. Five years ago, the profession had taken a stand against the parliamentary bill submitted by the UMP Deputy, Bernard Accoyer, who wanted to regulate psychotherapy. The law on the title of psychotherapist was never administered, for want of an implementing decree. But the Council of State looks set to establish this decree. The order that will follow is provoking the anger of the psychoanalysts. One of the most eminent has put pen to paper for this week’s column in Le Point.
The ‘shrink’ has become a familiar figure for the French people. Not that they’re any clearer about precisely what distinguishes the psychoanalyst from the psychotherapist, the psychiatrist who gives medication from the psychologist who doesn’t. In the public eye, the shrink is first and foremost someone who listens to you.
It’s someone you can confide in, trust in, who you can talk to freely. Someone who helps the suffering (or the enigma) that dwells within you to be expressed and put into words. Someone who welcomes you as a unique being, an exception, worthy as such, not as just anyone, not as a number, not as an example of your age bracket or social class. In a world where everyone can now feel just how disposable they are, the encounter with a shrink is still a clearing, an intimate enclave. One might even say a spiritual oasis.
Faced with the magnitude of this social phenomenon, the big institutions and corporations wanted their own shrinks. But the public make no mistake about it; they know full well when the shrink is serving primarily the interests of a master and when he is primarily at the service of the one who is speaking.
Well, this world is being threatened with its end. Let me tell you that in the depths of the State, obscure organisations have been working flat out putting the final touches to an as yet undisclosed prototype designed to progressively scrap the shrinks of old: both the shrink who, in the name of his professional autonomy, resists hierarchy, and the wonderful shrink, owing his clientele to word of mouth alone; along with the liberal shrink, who’s accountable to no one but his analysands. Ditch the shrinks! Make way for the techno-shrink!
The techno-shrink won’t have the function of accommodating each person in accordance with the singularity of his or her desire: what a waste of time! What a bad cost/profit ratio! And then, curing with words, that’s witchcraft! No, the techno-shrink doesn’t listen. He counts, he calibrates, he compares. He observes types of behaviour. He evaluates disorders. He pinpoints deficits. Zero autonomy: he obeys protocols, does what he’s told, gathers data and passes it on to research teams. The State apparatuses are present right from the first steps of his training, and he will remain subordinate to them throughout by way of periodic evaluation. The truth is, the techno-shrink isn’t a shrink: he’s an agent of total social control, himself under constant surveillance. I know, it sounds like science fiction. Even Stalin didn’t dare that. It’s even stronger than the Stasi: they used to plant microphones, now you’re going to have a technician wired up directly to your brain. This is nevertheless the main thrust of the text of the decree that a conclave of civil servants from the Health and Higher Education Ministry are boasting they’ll be making their ministers sign in muggy August.
This fine project is based on a slight of hand. It’s not enough to plan the death of the shrink people: to be sure that nothing of them survives, they have to be stripped of their name. Techno-shrink, I name you… psychotherapist! Once the Council of State has adopted the implementing decree for the law on the title of psychotherapist, there won’t be any more pretending: with a simple Ministerial Order we will be in Year One of the Techno-Shrink Era.
It makes you think of Brecht: unhappy with the people, the government decides to dissolve them and elect another. Or even Lewis Carroll: ‘The question is’, said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is’, said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’
However, it’s not so sure that the worst will come to pass. It would astonish me were Roselyne Bachelot, were Valérie Pécresse, to associate their names with this act of infamy. And then there is that young woman who has publicly testified to what she owes to psychoanalysis. Now that she’s become this country’s ‘Queen of Hearts’, she won’t be saying: ‘Psychoanalysis? Off with its head!’
Translated from the French by Adrian Price
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