In nineteenth-century French psychiatry, the term "suggestion" referred to the use of hypnosis to remove neurotic symptoms; while the patient was in a state of hypnosis, the doctor would "suggest" that the symptoms would disappear.
However, it is beyond the scope of this article to enter into a detailed discussion of these reasons.
Suffice it to say that in Freud's later work the term "suggestion" comes to represent a whole set of ideas which Freud associates with hypnosis and which is thus diametrically opposed to psychoanalysis.
Following Freud, Lacan uses the term "suggestion" to designate a whole range of deviations from true psychoanalysis (deviations which Lacan also refers to as "psychotherapy"), of which the following are perhaps the most salient:
Direction Toward Moral Value
- 1. Suggestion includes the idea of directing the patient towards some ideal or some moral value.
- In opposition to this, Lacan reminds analysts that their task is to direct the treatment, not the patient.
- Lacan is opposed to any conception of psychoanalysis as a normative process of social influence.
Resistance to Treatment
- 2. Suggestion also arises when the patient's resistance is seen as something that must be liquidated by the analyst.
- Such a view is completely foreign to psychoanalysis, argues Lacan, since the analyst recognizes that a certain residue of resistance is inherent in the structure of the treatment.
Interpretation, Signification and Meaning
- 3. In suggestion, the interpretations of the therapist are orientated around signification, whereas the analyst orientates his interpretations around meaning (sens) and its correlate, nonsense.
- Thus whereas in psychotherapy there is an attempt to avoid the ambiguity and equivocation of discourse, it is precisely this ambiguity which psychoanalysis thrives on.
Position of the Analyst
Lacan argues that the analyst must realize that he only occupies the position of one who is presumed (by the analysand) to know, without fooling himself that he really does possess the knowledge attributed to him.
Suggestion, on the other hand, arises when the analyst assumes the position of one who really does know.
Hypnosis and Psychoanalysis
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.227
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 270
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.271
- Freud, Sigmund. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1921. SE XVIII, 69.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 273