The Disappearance of Hysteria Today - 2 April 2016, San Francisco
In this talk I want to address the supposed disappearance of hysteria today, the original neurosis at the heart of psychoanalysis. In the US in particular many feel that hysteria does not exist any longer; that it is a relic of the late 19th century. It has been taken out of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Psychiatric Disorders as a category in its own right, collapsed into Histrionic Personality Disorder a number of years back, and finally removed all together, its features dispersed into somatic disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, dependant personality disorder, and masochistic personality disorder. You do not hear mainstream psychology and psychiatry talk about hysteria – whereas it was the reference points for modern psychiatry at its birth, with Charcot for example, and for psychoanalysis more broadly. Freud even claimed that obsessionality was a dialect of hysteria. When I have sought to talk to contemporary psychoanalysts of all persuasions- Freudian, Kleinian, Relational- what I have to say about hysteria from a Lacanian perspective utterly fails to resonate with their clinical world-view. Why? It is my contention that we should look to what hysteria today, even in this radical ‘disappearance’ and illegibility, tells us about it and our clinical work; that this “disappearance” is more important than either preserving or negating the disorder. Finally, I will speak to how Lacan’s late work on the real, on topology, and on the sinthome and super-ego in particular, are perhaps in themselves a disguised or hidden discourse on hysteria and hystericization.
Jamieson Webster, Ph.D.
Saturday April 2, 2016
CIIS, 1453 Mission, San Francisco, room 304