“On his 150th anniversary, Freud’s legacy is being dismantled by the ideas of his greatest challenger, Aaron Beck. Cognitive therapy is now the orthodox talking cure in Britain, and the government wants more of it. But with cognitive science comes a new battle for the meaning of the human mind.”
Alexander Linklater and Robert Harland in Prospect:
Psychoanalysis is hardly redemptive, and never promised to be. When early patients of Freud’s complained to him that nothing could change the original circumstances which made them unhappy, he agreed—with a caveat: “Much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.” This is one of Freud’s most celebrated remarks, though it appears in Studies in Hysteria, which was published in 1895, before he had developed the full psychoanalytic method. But it captures the pessimism—or realism—which threads its way through all Freudian practice. It is one of the peculiar fascinations of psychoanalysis that a method seized upon by so many in the search for self-transcendence should have sprung from a man so captivated by the irredeemability of human nature.
“The crowning paradox of psychoanalysis is the near-uselessness of its insights,” Janet Malcolm wrote in the New Yorker in 1983. “To make the unconscious conscious—the programme of psychoanalytic therapy—is to pour water into a sieve. The moisture that remains on the surface of the mesh is the benefit of the analysis.”