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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Powerlessness in Care-Giving Professions: A Qualitative Study from a Lacanian Perspective

In 'Analysis terminable and interminable', the old Freud concludes rather pessimistically that governing, educating and psychoanalyzing - or, more broadly, professions that involve some degree of curing - constitute impossible professions. According to him, in none of these professions can one predict one's ultimate success owing to the large number of uncontrollable factors involved. At any rate, one can be sure beforehand of achieving unsatisfying results. Freud's focus here is of course on psychoanalysis, and his essay accentuates the unresolved and troubling factors that persist in the person of the analyst, in the analysant, in the relation between them, and in the psychoanalytic technique. Over the years a number of authors have returned to Freud's pronouncement on the impossible professions and discussed the question of impossibility within psychoanalysis. Some reject Freud's cynical conclusion, arguing that it no longer reflects the actual status of psychoanalysis; others consider it still to be all too appropriate. While only a few authors have thoroughly considered the concept of impossibility and its clinical roots, fewer still have discussed the consequences of Freud's pronouncement for the care-giving professions. Those who do, stress the difficulty inherent in this type of work. In this paper we will discuss the problem of impossibility in care-giving positions and focus on the nature of the difficulties care-givers experience. Our interpretation starts from Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and from our own research in the special education profession.