I haven’t heard anything new about why those trained under Psychoanalysis use the couch in their practice. Typically, you hear that Freud used it to decrease distractions from what he was trying to do. And that the couch is there to promote free association, where you can say anything without reservation as to create progressive speech. It’s also said that it’s there to help the analyst freely work in the analysis which increases the ability for the analyst to be emotionally present. These are all true and the truth of these wobble per person and throughout the time of analysis. But, because of these beneficial attributes of the couch, there’s this resistance some analyst have to analysands not using the couch. It’s seen as a big deal, destructive to treatment. I am not so sure on how true this is currently. I’ll even give it to Freud and the analyst after him that those who they are and were analyzing, when resisting the couch, it was a certain type of a destructive act. I’ll also give to the idea that it still can be a destructive act today. In my experience and practice, I’ve seen that it’s not always a destructive act, not how it’s traditionally understood.
I was born in this in between time of culture and socioeconomic position in technology. I didn’t have access to the internet until I was a pre-teen. I had television and video games before I had the internet, but also spent much time playing outside with my friends. I have one foot in the ending of the classic way of being a kid and one foot in the beginning of the modern kid. So, when I first went into analysis, I used the couch immediately, with no resistance. I was also going in to train as a Modern Psychoanalyst, so that also influenced this decision.
I’m seeing client’s now that were born in the internet and all the social media that comes with it. Those kids in the store you see that can barely walk, but are holding onto that screen as tightly as their little fingers can…they grow up and the couch is “resisted.” When I first came across this I was too much into the literature about it and I was told numerous times by superiors that this is something to be resolved for analysis to happen. It became this law, and I just don’t believe in absolutes. That’s the modern kid in me speaking up. So, I took my own advice and stayed curious about it, watched, and asked. Sense was finally made of what was going on.
A college age male let me know he didn’t want to use the couch during the intake and we had the usual exploration about it and we agreed that we would speak again about it in the future. When the couch was brought up again by the analysand, they said something that resonated with my questions and feelings about the couch.
“Why do I want to speak into the ether? All I’ve had was the ether. I was raised on television and the computer because it kept me quite and I had make believe relationships with the people on tv and the characters in the video games. At least now I have relationships with the people that I play video games with all around the world over the headset. But here, I want to be with a person for once. I see you, you see me and give a fuck about what’s happening to me, not just trying to get a like from me. And look, there’s a lot of me that wants to use the couch, but not yet. I need this first.”
The “resistance” to the couch is not the classical idea of why analysands resist the couch. They’re not trying to just avoid speaking for instance. It’s a useable act to understand what’s happening with them. One observable detail is that they’re looking for a human relationship with someone who is invested with them and in them. Loneliness isn’t a new feeling, but there’s something novel happening here with this modern loneliness. As the analysand said, this will eventually pass and the couch will be used when what is needed off the couch is had, but this instance shouldn’t be seen as a static resistance we’ve always known about and fits into what was said 10-130 years ago. That would be ignoring the times we live in, the cultures that exist and misunderstanding the dominant interactions we have. Before the internet, people connected by seeing each other and may have been tired of that and were ready to use the couch just to get a break. It’s shifting to the opposite now, most of our connections are done through the air. In all places, we disinvest in curiosity because we’re so invested in being right and it’s good for us to stop being right about the couch and become curious again.
We can see and feel it. There’s a loneliness, a disconnection, when we’re “connecting” through the ether. Maybe it’s not a mistake the internet connects through Ethernet Cables and Wirelessly. It’s all in the sky, disconnected. If we have too much of this, we’re just starving. Psychoanalysis, of all the things that can be said about it, human connection, curiosity and understanding are its greatest strength on and off the couch.