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Haugsgjerd, S. (2016). Listening and the voice. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 39(1):80-83.
In order to reflect on the significance of hearing, the perception of sounds, in the analytic work, as a starting point, we might consider the difference between relating to the environment (Umwelt) through the eye and through the ear, respectively. In most everyday situations, the vision enjoys a privileged status when it comes to what we consider as knowledge and truth. We therefore tend, unquestioned, to regard what we hear as a mere supplement to what we see. Therefore, reality presents itself to us as a seemingly smooth audio-visual plenitude.
In psychoanalysis, we are confronted with the fact that this is not quite so. Words fail to describe our mental images, and what we hear is not always what meets the eye.
Eye to eye
Sitting vis-a-vis in psychotherapy, eye to eye, enhances the natural inclination to continually make assumptions about the other’s state of mind, seeking to avoid anxiety and seek for a situation of comfort, for instance, a state of mutual recognition. A turn-taking type of dialogue will naturally support the analysand’s construction of an unquestioned, anxiety-reducing understanding of the analyst and of the analytic couple’s common ‘reality’.
The psychoanalytic arrangement, with the analysand in supine position on the couch and the analyst sitting in an armchair behind, will automatically challenge this understanding on the analysand’s part, and provoke anxiety. This is the starting point for the analytic enterprise as ‘an experiment with truth’ (Leclaire, in Engelstad & Haugsgjerd, 1976).
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