‘A Question of Training’ by Chris Oakley

Now it had never been my intention to write at any great length about what goes on between H and myself. Quite what H’s assumptions have been are less clear; it is not something that we have discussed, but there had been an almost implicit understanding that, whilst there might be mention of the way in which we met, the arrangements over phone calls, and a few more generalised comments, that would pretty much be it. However something happened in reaction to my response to this particular bit of her writing that seemed so important, so emblematic of the dangers that she has underlined so eloquently about submitting to the psychoanalytic tie that it called for considerable attentiveness. As has been repeatedly emphasised the psychoanalyst is in this position of assumed knowledge. At times this knowledge is taken to be a knowledge of what the other is not as yet aware of, in other words a knowledge of what the other is unconscious of. But for someone, such as H, whose faltering subjecthood is primarily an effect of someone thinking in her place, this potentiality, is redolent of the most hideous dangers. It all has too indelible a proximity to someone, the analyst, taking up the place that is tantamount to saying ‘I know what you really think.’ Put another way, the knowledge that is to be supposed by the analyst in his or her relating to H has to be precisely with regard to these very dangers. In other words not an interpretative knowledge. One might have thought that I have been so repetitive in drawing attention to these issues when it comes to a commentary on the analyses with Dr.D and Dr.E that surely I would avoid falling into a similar trap. But perhaps there has been an insufficient reiteration that, my sense of some of what those analysts were up to, was an effect of my knowing that, either I had been in a similar place myself, or, it was only by the skin of my teeth that I had managed to elude it. But not this time. I was right up to my neck in it. Of course, initially, completely unwittingly. What had particularly caught my attention was H’s statement that she”had been living an intermittent fantasy”. Maybe it was that word “fantasy”. Maybe that’s enough to get the psychoanalytic juices flowing. You know what we can be like. But whatever, I was off and running. There was no overt wish to dismiss the question of Dr.E and his ‘abuse’ of H. (I said that neither legality or “vindictiveness” were the order of the day, but rather it was an expression of H’s experience that something of her ‘Truth’ was damaged in the protracted exchanges between herself and her analyst…little did I realise that I was, at that very moment, about to restage precisely such an ‘abuse’) More there was a desire, inmixed with my own miserable enjoyment of my cleverness, which of course is never very clever at all, to show that whilst her conscious experience was that the problem was her frustrated ‘love’, that her suffering was an effect of not being ‘loved’ by Dr.E (here ‘love’ is in part to be understood as her ‘Truth’ being recognised, embraced, accepted) the real problem was her continuing assumption, or fantasy, that she was loved really, as exemplified by the imagining “the most wonderful reconciliation going on between us”. My claim was that, ‘in common with all amorous subjects’, she lived in the belief that her loved one really does love her, but does not tell her so. That it was her living within the complication of supposing herself simultaneously loved, but abandoned, that so crucially informed her pain. All this (“fantasy”) was annihilated by the unbearable news of Dr.E’s death. At least that was the thesis. What usually happens is that H will give me her most recent bit of writing. I will quickly glance over it, we may discuss it a bit, and then I will put it away to type out and make my responses to. This will be given back to her, again, to quickly glance over, before she takes it away to look at more thoroughly. Then she will return, sometimes with some minor corrections, and in all probability we will talk about it some more. Sometimes there are some more serious differences that need straightening out. But nothing like what happens this time. H comes into my room. She is livid. Or is very, very frightened. Or both. Her ‘Truth’ has been trampled upon. She is absolutely insistent: she was fully aware that Dr. E did not love her, nor was he ever going to. The “fantasy” was exactly that, it operated as a comfort, that which took the edge off the awful realization that eighteen years of struggle had left her nowhere, absolutely nowhere. This was her claim. This was the ‘Truth’. But more importantly unless this could be redressed everything would come to a halt: the book, her going away for a short holiday with her daughter, her very life would be brought to a standstill. It would be the end of everything. A point of seizing up…once again I had unwittingly pushed things in the direction of petrification, a paralysis, nearly but not quite, for at least she could still protest most vehemently. Almost literally H was battling for her life, and for a while we were caught on the roller coaster of being the one who maddens and the one who is maddened. A place that one should never enter. But it happens.

What it seemed important to understand was that for a critical moment I had been in the wrong place…I had not merely brushed up against but had firmly situated myself in the place of assumed knowledge about the other. What goes with this is the implicit invitation to the other to speculate with regard to their fantasies, to fantasise about what they might not as yet be aware of…this is what I struggled to see was utterly besides the point for H. Initially I couldn’t see this at all, and resentfully sought to argue my corner…all the while driving her to increased desperation as this assumed ‘knowledge’ on my part could destroy everything. For the one who knows on her behalf engages in, at best, theft, a stealing of her ‘Truth’, at worst, a murder, a reduction of this ‘Truth’ to nonexistence.