As professions that are now firmly entrenched in society, psychotherapy and counselling are relative newcomers. However, wanting to help another in difficulty must surely have ancient roots. Indeed, our success as an evolving species may have been due to our propensity to bond with others and work on shared challenges. We take for granted that it is normal to listen to the problem of a close friend and offer advice or support. For millennia, writers have praised the virtues of friendship, even regarding a person’s friend as their ‘second self’.
According to Freud (1933) the theory of the instincts is so to say our mythology. Instincts are mythical entities, magnificent in their indefiniteness. In our work we cannot for a moment disregard them, yet we are never sure that we are seeing them clearly. They can conceal something serious and powerful. Freud understood how significant the fantasy world is to us.
The psychoanalytic voyage of discovery is probably impossible to capture in words. If every analysis is unique, the signature of each human mind more identity-laden and whorled than any thumbprint, a verbal account of the process must fall short of its mark. Rensal the Redbit addresses the complex innocence of communication as two beings, a “tall one” and a “small one” fling the bridge of language across the chasm that separates them.
During my research for writing my book How To Laugh Your Way Through Life. A Psychoanalyst’s Advice (Karnac, 2013), I became sensitized to how people use tragic-comic humor—seeing the comic in the tragic and the tragic in the comic—in the service of life-affirmation amidst their personal ordeals. Recently, I had three instances in my clincial work in which my patients use of tragicomic humor reflected their mature capacity to recognize internal conflict with a degree of self-acceptance even if it involved some narcissistic bruising.