Alan Rowan Seminar


Saturday 22 February 2014 – 10:00 to 12:30
St. Teresa’s, Clarendon Street, Dublin 2 (opposite Brown Thomas Car Park)

Ordinary Psychosis – a clinic of our time?

Abstract: It has for many years been clear to psychoanalysts and researchers alike that symptoms vary – they vary over time and within different historical periods and they vary culturally as many anthropological studies have demonstrated. To take one simple example, it is a truism that today we seldom – if at all – see in our clinics the “grand hysterics” of Freud and Charcot’s time which were frequently found to present with various forms of paralysis, fainting fits and memory loss. Today by contrast we meet many patients who present with so-called “mono-symptoms” such as addiction, panic disorder, self-mutilation, eating disorders and of course the “great bin” of subjective dis-ease that goes under the term “depression”. In addition to this there is, since the 1960’s, the ever increasing use of the diagnosis “personality disorder” and in particular “borderline personality disorder” – with some studies suggesting that anywhere between 20% and 50% of patients attending mental health services meet the criteria for one or other form of personality disorder. At one level this is not surprising as symptoms are always and necessarily formed within a particular socio-cultural context, and yet, at another level we may wonder why today, in modern western society, we seem more symptomatic than ever?

In this context it is fascinating to see how Lacan, shortly after he introduced his concept of the “Name-of-the-Father, noted something truly ground-breaking concerning the existence of the big Other (the socio-cultural “Other” we could say here). Namely, that the era of the Name-of-the-Father was on the wane, something he definitively indicated when he pluralized this term, as in, the “Names-of-the-Father”. As Miller (2014) has stated this means that “there is no Other of the Other” – no universalising “norm”, whether Freud’s Oedipus or Lacan’s “Name-of-the-Father”, that can be said to act as a law-like guarantee of human subjectivity. It is in this context, and following a three-year study of so-called “rare” clinical cases, cases that turned out to be not so rare at all, that Jacques-Alain Miller, in 1998, proposed the term “ordinary psychosis” to describe those clinical cases that did not fit into the – until then – classical psychoanalytic diagnostic categories.

Since that time much research, has gone into further clarifying the boundaries and meaning of this term “ordinary psychosis” along with it’s clinical implications. This talk will introduce this new productive signifier in the context of Lacan’s  

theoretical approach to psychosis and also seek to make clear why this category is so crucial in our contemporary clinic where, it could be said – that increasingly today – it is “classical neurosis” that is becoming “rare”.

Alan Rowan is a member of APPI, ICLO-NLS and the World Association of Psychoanalysis. He is currently Principal Clinical Psychologist/Manager of Clinical Psychology Services at St Vincent’s Hospital Fairview in Dublin and joint lead for the Hospital’s Psychotherapy Service.

Price: €15 (full member); €20 (non-member); €10 (student w/id)

(For further info: Eve Watson 087 9678965 or Mary Barry at 086 7849145)