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New, C. (1993). The power of lies and the project of feminist therapy. Free Associations, 4(2):191-209.

(1993). Free Associations, 4(2):191-209

The power of lies and the project of feminist therapy

Caroline New


Feminist therapy is at present the most influential and challenging form of radical therapy. My aim in this article will be to describe its origins in the political practice of consciousness-raising, to spell out its central unifying beliefs, and to show how these offer a challenge to traditional psychoanalytic notions of the neutrality of the therapist and the relationship between internal and external worlds. I shall argue, along with many feminist therapists, that women are psychically hurt not so much by mistreatment and discrimination as by their own belief in the justifications offered for such mistreatment. That is, what is damaging is women's acceptance of the view that the way which they are treated is the natural consequence of the way they are. I describe such justifications as ‘lies’, deliberately using that term rather than milder ones like ‘misinformation’ and ‘ideology’, in order to emphasize that they are both evidently counterfactual and pathogenic. Psychoanalysis has extended our notion of deceit by its discovery and theorization of the unconscious mind, and has shown how we lie to ourselves, how we suffer from such lies, and how the truth can heal us. I draw on these ideas in what follows.

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