A new book which attempts to reconcile psychoanalysis with neuroscience may have practical implications in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and PTSD. Catherine Malabou’s What Should We Do With Our Brain? argues that “we have failed to understand ourselves because we have failed to acknowledge recent scientific discoveries, particularly ‘plasticity,’ or the brain’s ability to change.” Through the course of the argument, Malabou updates psychotherapy’s concept of clinical treatment by recognizing that mental wounds do not come from a buried subconscious but from events that befall us in the real world.
What’s the Big Idea?
Malabou references clinical trials with patients who have acquired neurological disorders (rather than being born with them) and finds that patients do not identify with a stable psyche—the sort required by traditional psychological investigation. Rather, patients experience themselves as a different person, one with whom they are unfamiliar. “The old onion of the psyche, with its layers upon layers of meaning, is simply not there to peel apart in analysis; rather, it has been replaced by a new self, which requires a different clinical approach.”