Interview by Luz Saint Phat


How can psychoanalysis contribute to understanding and shedding light on some of the situations faced by subjects within the Covid-19 outbreak and the statutory provisions for isolation and social distancing?

While discussing it with Comercio y Justicia, psychoanalyst Marta Goldenberg, analyst member of the EOL (Escuela de Orientación Lacaniana) and of the World Association of Psychoanalysis (WAP), expanded on this matter.

In a lengthy conversation, Goldenberg, in connection with clinical practice, indicated that “considering this contingency, which is absolutely new, not only due to the local aspect but also the global one, innovations are coming up, even though the use of new technologies, such as video calls – which may be resourceful at the moment –, it is not fit for all patients”.

The interviewee indicated that it is about a moment, a circumstance, until the meeting with the analysands can take place. “And it is that meeting that has to take place since pure psychoanalysis has to be between two bodies, and presence is the real presence of the analyst who is embodied there. This is essential because there is the gesture, the cough, the grunt, the handshake, which is very different when metabolized or captured by a camera.”

Nevertheless, it turns out that today more than ever “the analyst must be flexible,” she specified.

Along this lines, Goldenberg stated, “the psychoanalyst must live up to the time, of what is being experienced. And what does this mean? It means to make an interpretation. An interpretation says that which one does not want to hear; what the subject himself does not realize.” Thus, in this scenario, “psychoanalysis must go out to the community a posteriori, taking some time, not in a hurry. We are still immersed in all these signifiers, such as lockdown and social distancing, which eventually affect us.”

“What is expected from psychoanalysis via its instrument – the psychoanalyst – is that it can contribute to interpreting that which today is unspeakable and unknown”, she affirmed.


On the other hand, in relation to how the pandemic and social distancing can have an effect on subjects and on the social bond, Goldenberg pointed out that it is not possible to get ahead on this, but she did say that some important issues to shall be taken into account arise.

“For instance, loneliness”. “Notwithstanding that loneliness has always been present in a subject, in view of such an acute moment one may feel utmost loneliness”.

Then, there is also the case of another subject who, due to the fact of not working while relying on their partner financially, may feel underappreciated until the analyst intervenes and works on that which has become faded, overshadowed by the situation”, she added.

“Others manifest they had to shut their businesses down, and such feeling is always in the body. I feel like I’m falling apart’, they say. In other case, the subject conveyed ‘I don’t know how to shield myself’, while someone else stated: this is a fixed-rate suffering’. In addition to these cases, another analysand thought about how to remove isolation from herself.”

On the other hand, those who are most affected by the spreading of the virus, such as health care workers and people who have been infected so far, also must be taken into consideration. Fear, stigma, discrimination are now emerging issues.

“I heard an Argentinian living in Italy, who said that when he got infected, he did not recognise his body. For psychoanalysis, the body is crucial. If there is no body, there is no jouissance; and this is exactly located in the body. The body was not recognized by the subject. ‘It is a body that is not a body’ he said while being infected, and the pain he suffered was extremely unbearable.

However, Goldenberg remarked, “what is happening now is not a ‘horror situation’ for everyone in the worst sense, since for many it depends on how this real ‘has an impact’ on them”.


Yet in this real that erupts, Goldenberg envisions an opportunity for subversion.

“I find interesting the condition for subversion of things, in order to interpret what has erupted in each one’s life,” stated the psychoanalyst.

“There are certain logics that have thrived for centuries in one direction and now are changing,” she explained.

“For instance, I heard a professional talking about how in a very small place, where very conservative people live in a self-sufficient community, where it is not allowed to let anyone in from outside. However, these subjects have now accepted that people from the ‘outside’ could be ‘friends’. They have accepted that the ‘enemy’ would come in, bring them masks and the like.”

“This is what strikes me, and I interpret it as a subversion of the real,” she stated.

“Therefore – the psychoanalyst warned –, today we have this opportunity, not so much in the sense of selfishly taking advantage of it, but in the sense of interpreting the excesses. The so-called capitalist society is showing its limits.”

In the same way, Goldenberg identified that “there needs to be a way to write, not only to subvert, so that what is done has the strength of an inscription.”




Published originally in Spanish in Comercio y Justicia, on May 7, 2020. Available online.