From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
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suggestion (suggestion) 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. Taking his cue from the French

psychiatrists Charcot and Bernheim, Freud began using suggestion to treat

neurotic patients in the 1880s. However, he became increasingly dissatisfied

with suggestion, and thus came to abandon hypnosis and develop psycho-

analysis. The reasons for Freud's dissatisfaction with hypnosis are hence

fundamental for understanding the specific nature of psychoanalysis. How-

  ever, 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


     1. Suggestion includes the idea of directing the patient towards some ideal or
  some moral value (see ETHIcs). In opposition to this, Lacan reminds analysts

that their task is to direct the treatment, not the patient (E, 227). Lacan is

opposed to any conception of psychoanalysis as a normative process of social


     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 recognises that a certain

residue of resistance is inherent in the structure of the treatment.

     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.

      Suggestion has a close relation with TRANSFERENCE (E, 270). If transference
  involves the analysand attributing knowledge to the analyst, suggestion refers
  to a particular way of responding to this attribution. Lacan argues that the

analyst must realise 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. In this way, the analyst is able to transform
  the transference into 'an analysis of suggestion' (E, 271). Suggestion, on the
  other hand, arises when the analyst assumes the position of one who really
  does know.
      Like Freud, Lacan sees hypnosis as the model of suggestion. In Group

Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud shows how hypnotism makes

  the object converge with the ego-ideal (Freud, 1921). To put this in Lacanian
  terms, hypnotism involves the convergence of the object a and the I. Psycho-

analysis involves exactly the opposite, since 'the fundamental mainspring of

  the analytic operation is the maintenance of the distance between I      - identi-
  fication - and the a' (S11, 273).