Have you seen some of those New Yorker cartoons with an old, bearded psychoanalyst taking notes behind a patient on the Couch? You probably know, then, that the “Freud Couch” is an ageless symbol for psychoanalysis.
The two go together. Tangled, unfortunately, with disturbing stereotypes of a distracted analyst who prefers not to look, falls asleep, or sits without saying a word behind you – leaving you, all too alone, to come up with your own ideas and insights.
“It isn’t still a part of psychoanalysis, is it,” you ask? “It must be outdated. Who would want to use that?”
You Have A Freud Couch?
What do you do, then, if you walk into my analytic consulting room and see it? Keep your eyes from trailing over to that offending object, as if the Couch doesn’t exist; hoping I won’t bring it up?
Or, if you are among the more forthright, let me know in no uncertain terms: “I will never lie on that thing, don’t even think about it.”
What is that thing – the “Freud Couch”? And, what is it for? Stereotypes are best dispelled. One stereotype is: I’m going to make you lie down on it.
My work as a psychoanalyst is not to make you do anything, but, instead, to understand your feelings. There are many things in my office, including myself. All can provoke reactions, which are grist for us to learn about you.
The Couch, in that endeavor, is not excluded – nor is any concern you have about why I would consider using such a relic. And, why would I?
What is A Freud Couch For?
The “Freud Couch” is a tool.
Sometimes it’s hard to look at me. Gauging my reactions, or feeling my gaze as a demand, doesn’t leave you free to have your own thoughts. The Couch, then, can be a peaceful respite from such imagined pressures.
Much has changed since Freud (for example, I talk, I’m active, I’m not silent.) But his instruction not to censor what comes to your mind still has its merit. Understandably, that’s easier said than done.
When it’s hard to be open with your thoughts, that very difficulty is an essential part of our work. Talking about it is one thing.
But, lying in a supine position on a couch encourages something close to dreaming, giving nearer access to what is right below the surface in your mind.
Yet, for others, the “Freud Couch” can feel too lonely.
You might have a lot of concern about your relationship with me, due to failures or abandonments in your past. Seeing me might be the only evidence I am there. Or, not a judge.
The act of keeping me in close visual range is what paves the way to some sort of proof that I am the least bit trustworthy. In such instances, the “Freud Couch” is a far off consideration.
Will I Have To Use The Couch?
Feelings must be respected, and everyone’s timing and needs are exclusively their own. Will every analysis, eventually, make use of the Couch?
I might say yes – because once the worries, distrust, and fears are worked out between us, the “Freud Couch” is often naturally open for a try.
But, I really can’t, and won’t, take a single-minded position. The true answer is: I don’t know.
Since the “Freud Couch” is a tool and not an expectation – whether, how, and when it is used is interwoven into the fabric of every individual analysis.