Writing a case history of oneself

The analytic vignettes I listened to at the APCS conference were eye openers in relation to a problem I have encountering with my PhD. My sessions are going somewhere (where, I don’t know yet) and my clinical diary. for as long as I kept it, was a useful tool in relation to establishing parallels between artistic and analytic practices.

The trouble began when it was time to think about this endeavour as a public one and I had to conceive of what had gone on as a piece of writing. I did not know where to start. How could I write a PhD involving my own desire without doing written self analysis? How could I avoid replicating what had gone on in the sessions verbatim? How could I be fair to the process without including insights gained post facto? How could I avoid being too personal? How could I avoid being too irrelevant? How could I gain some distance without being objective? How could I keep subjectivity relevant? These and many, many more question I asked while my fingers froze on the keyboard; this has gone on weekly since September and what you are reading are the first words that are typed about it.

The plenary panel ‘Psychoanalysis Under Fire: Kleinian, Winnicottian, Lacanian and Relational Theory and Practice, Part II’ at the last APCS conference, chaired by Esther Rashkin (University of Utah) and comprised by Kate Briggs (University of West Georgia), Marilyn Charles (Austen Riggs Center), Karl Figlio (University of Essex), and Lynne Layton (Editor, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society) was very useful in relation to my blockage. All presenters spoke, during two 5 minutes interventions with question intervals, about a clinical encounter.

In the best Freudian fashion, I felt the genre of case history was alive, ever compelling and relevant. There were insights and thinking (despite Figlio’s concerns with thinking) but also theories, sources, process, engagement, and, often, change. This is not new, though. When Freud wrote Dora, or Ratman these different types of content were intermingled, and he would even tell you were and how. But I must be too used to reading Freud, or must think of Freud as not alive, as cristallised, in terms of writing.

The case histories at APCS made me realise what the structure for the case history is, and what I had been doing wrong when conceiving the writing of my own: all of those encounters, and all of Freud’s histories were the result of transference and counter-transference. That is, they were relational: analyst-analysand-[supervisor].

I realised that, although Dr Sh— met with me weekly in the analytic room, I left him there when writing the PhD thesis, and so I wrote him off the case history. But, if with my photographs I aim to provoke a particular encounter between viewer and artwork, the parallel was not to work in the thesis if I shunted what stands in in the place of the artwork. My analytic process had not been a self analysis and trying to write it as one just wouldn’t work. Perhaps I had been wishing for emotional, artistic and academic independence (we are, after all considering the end of analysis). Still, if I am to write a clinical vignette in the spirit of Dora and with the energy of what I heard at the APCS, the analyst and the artwork must be acknowledged and given voice within the writing.