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Rizzuto, A. (1995). Sound and Sense: Words in Psychoanalysis and the Paradox of the Suffering Person. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 3(1):1-15.

(1995). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 3(1):1-15

Sound and Sense: Words in Psychoanalysis and the Paradox of the Suffering Person

Ana-María Rizzuto

Who or what is the suffering self? A functional concept conceives of it as a supraordinate and structural construct with the tripartite entities as component substructural systems. So conceived, the self-system is equivalent to the total person (Meissner 1993, p. 459). The term refers to the person as the agent of all mtrapsychic and external actions. This self-person is also the agent of analytic change through its capacity to work with the analyst and to progressively engage in self-analysis (ibid.). In the expression the suffering self the sense of agency seems removed from the experience of suffering. Psychoanalytic theory affirms that the individual is partly, if unconsciously, causing his or her own pain; but the person, as an agent of change, is incapable of carrying out effective mtrapsychic and external actions to alleviate pathological pain. The suffering originates in the internally contradictory and conflicting memories, representations, beliefs, and wishes dynamically present among the psychic components of the self-system. The self-person is neither free to attain satisfaction—be it from work, the world, others, or even himself—nor able to use internal (and external) resources to free him from painful internal contradictions. What is needed is access to the inner workings of the self-person and its agencies in order to remove the intrapsychic obstacles that interfere with the attainment of satisfactions and the alleviation of suffering. From the time of the first “talking cure” (1882) to the present, this goal has remained unchanged.

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