Vienna is the place where Freud discovered the unconscious, it is the birth place of psychoanalysis. Also, it is the place where psychoanalysis was wiped out in 1938. What can be said about psychoanalysis in Vienna now? How did and do psychoanalysts work with this radical hole, a hole in a place that once was a center of psychoanalysis?

Recently some Austrian psychotherapists were interviewed in a well-known culture radio channel in Austria (Ö1) under the title Psychotherapy in the 21st century.[1] One of them said about Freud that it was the “primitive beginnings”, as if the Freudian discovery had no currency whatsoever for the contemporary clinical discourse. It is not a rare phenomenon that the Freudian discovery is rejected or forgotten. I would go so far to say that it has to do with the nature of psychoanalysis itself: it easily gets forgotten.

It gets forgotten, though there are many examples of its presence in the culture. Freud’s image is there in Vienna, right at the gate to enter the city at the airport where you find posters with his face. The Freud Museum – which is a place that marks a hole, because most of the objects are in London – pleases many visitors. There is a university named after Freud. Exhibitions are made. Furthermore, the Freudian discovery has inscribed itself in Austrian everyday language, such as when we say das Unbewusste (the unconscious) or ein Freud’scher Versprecher (a Freudian slip).

But who reads Freud?

It was Lacan who insisted on reading Freud to the letter. With the help of Lacan and Miller, the Freudian texts, which are threatened to vanish by claims they are outdated, were given new life. A text is brought to life when one reads it with his own symptom, his own analysis, with the clinic or something that touches him in the phenomena of culture. This is what Lacan and Miller did. Analytic reading opens the question ‘how does the text speak to me?’, which is not a scientific question. It also makes the idea of an ‘outdating’ of a text obsolete. From ‘outdating’ to ‘out(side)-of-date’; it is then not a question of which year a text has been written, but rather a question of transference, or in other words, a question of love.

Psychoanalysis and the failure, psychoanalysis and the crises – there is an intimate relation.

In The Third, Lacan formulates, “Should psychoanalysis succeed, it would die out, in being but a forgotten symptom. This should not surprise it; it is the destiny of truth, as itself established from the start – truth gets forgotten. Thus, everything depends on whether the real insists. For this to happen it is necessary that psychoanalysis should fail.”[2]

There is no guarantee that psychoanalysis will exist. That is very radical. The only thing that makes it exist is the desire of a single one, the desire of the analyst. The School exists of singular ones, each of them alone in relation to the psychoanalytic cause, as Miller puts it in the Turin Theory.[3]

When is psychoanalysis in the city? It is in the city when one makes it exist, each time anew, for a moment.


[2] Lacan, J. The Third. The Lacanian Review, No. 07, 2019, p. 92.

[3] Miller, J. The Turin Theory of the subject of the School.