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Marcus, P. Marcus, G. (2010). Psychoanalysis as Theater: The Practical Application of Acting Theory to Psychotherapy and Real Life. Psychoanal. Rev., 97(5):757-787.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Review, 97(5):757-787

Psychoanalysis as Theater: The Practical Application of Acting Theory to Psychotherapy and Real Life

Paul Marcus, Ph.D. and Gabriela Marcus

Love art in yourselves, not yourselves in art—that should be your guiding thread. The theatre does not exist for you, you exist for the theatre…. It requires sacrifice.

—Constantin Stanislavsky, Stanislavski's Legacy


“We have to create ourselves as a work of art,” said philosopher Michel Foucault (1982, p. 237). What Foucault had in mind, and where it overlaps the main thrust of psychoanalysis, was the need to promote “new forms of subjectivity.” For both Foucault and Freud, there was an urgent need to embrace the self as an autonomous being who enjoys new forms of experience, pleasure, and meaning in nonconformist, non-normalizing, stylized, aesthetically pleasing forms. As Freud insinuated in a different context, when describing the appeal of using cocaine, he longed for a radically different sense of himself, one more “silly” (that is, playful), “daring and fearless,” and more “simply normal” (that is, a self with greater reasonableness and hedonic potential) than his usual “wretched self (cf. Jones, cited in Knafo, 2008). Thankfully, Freud gave up the quick fix of cocaine to achieve the radical self-transformation and self-transcendence he longed for, and invented a more realistic, profound, and enduring “technology of the self—that of psychoanalysis. As is well known, for Freud the main goal of psychoanalysis—living the so-called “good life” was the deep and wide capacity to love and creatively and productively work, without being too bogged down by neurosis.

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