Over the years, I have had what is referred to as a “portfolio career” — that is, I have worked in a number of professional capacities and roles.
However, when having worked as a consulting psychoanalyst, I embarked upon legal training, eventually being admitted, working as a lawyer in Family Law, and then as a public servant, I found that my psychoanalytic training created problems for me.
The greatest difficulty I experienced was that of reconciling the legal practitioner’s thought processes with the thought processes of a psychoanalytic practitioner.
Now, as things have settled, and as I continue to work in both roles, I have come to understand the essential link between the two—the link being that of the role of “advocacy” in both environments.
This is how it goes…
In legal practice, the lawyer’s role is to advocate on behalf of the client. We do this by considering the client’s circumstances, considering the particular and applicable law, and then we start analysing and then we start writing.
The writing is of a particular kind where we articulate (that is, to unite by joints) the client’s case. We do this by way articulating an outline of the matter. We follow this by writing the pleadings—the application, the affidavit, the statement of claim and finally, the submissions to the court. In other words, through our written and sometimes spoken word, we create a narrative for the court’s consideration, on behalf of the client. It is necessarily an iterative process, not unlike creating a clay sculpture, or an oil painting, or even a musical composition—but the essential outcome is the creation of a narrative which the clients themselves have not been able to express for themselves. By speaking for our clients in this way, we are engaged in advocating for them.
In psychoanalysis, the process is not dissimilar. On presentation at the first consultation, the client is, as a rule, speechless. He is in psychological pain, but is not fully comprehending the cause of that pain. To an initial question from the psychoanalyst, a common reply might be something along the lines of “Everything is OK really. I don’t really know what the problem is, really. Actually, I’m not even sure why I’m here at all”.
And then the work begins.
The psychoanalytic practitioner listens and gains a preliminary understanding of the client’s circumstances. In time, the analyst will make observations. In time, the analyst will begin to make interpretations, relying on her knowledge and understanding of the role and function of the unconscious. (In legal terms, this process is similar to the process of “applying the facts to the law”).
In other words, the analyst begins to articulate for the client who is unable to speak for himself, having yet learned to speak for himself. The analyst begins to articulate a narrative by saying something like “You were talking about your sister, and then suddenly you mentioned your last birthday party. There appears to be a connection here. Is there?”
At this point, the analysand will either deflect or resist the interpretation by talking about something else or will contemplate the analyst’s observation, following with a comment such as “My sister hates birthdays”.
And so it begins.
As the analysand speaks, and the analyst observes, making interpretations at relevant points, the analysand begins to understand and learn that the psyche has a logic of its own—laws of its own—and is not a random chaotic thing, but can be understood. However, this can only happen if the unconscious conflicts are drawn from the unconscious status to that of conscious revelation, or, significantly for our purposes, articulation.
In this way, the analyst advocates for the analysand’s unconscious, speaking for the unconscious, bringing the unconscious thoughts to life, as it were, just as the lawyer brings the client’s case to life, through a process of narrative articulation.
Over time—and it takes far more time for the psychoanalytic narrative to take shape than it does for a legal narrative to take shape—the analysand learns to make interpretations of his own as he begins to gain insight into his unconscious life. By so doing, the analysand learns to speak up, and speak out for his unconscious self, thus creating a narrative which sets the pre-condition to his healing.
“The truth will make you free” it is said.
In both cases, legal and psychoanalytical, the truth is revealed by way of the articulated narrative in the legal environment, and by way of the articulated narrative in the psychoanalytic environment. In both environments, the articulated truth is a product of advocacy on the part of the practitioner.
Neither the legal client nor the analysand were capable of ascertaining the truth of the matter at the outset. While the lawyer advocates for the legal client by speaking up for, and articulating the legal truth, the analyst advocates for the analysand by speaking up for and articulating the psychic truth.
And this, I conclude, is the role that is common to my work as a lawyer and my work as a psychoanalyst. Advocacy is common to both. Advocacy is at the essential heart of both.