Alex Duval Smith | The Observer | 25-09-2005


Psychological warfare has broken out over a book that calls on the French people to stop blaming their parents.
The Livre Noir de la Psychanalyse (The Black Book of Psychoanalysis) claims French mind-healers have become ‘fossilised’ in the ‘marginal, discredited’ teachings of Sigmund Freud. The practitioners have been saved from total disgrace, claims the book, only by the complicity of the French Foreign Minister.


But France’s 6,000 psychoanalysts question the book’s motivation, claiming that its authors advocate cut-price American-style therapies, of the kind that involve locking up arachnophobes with spiders.


The 800-page book, made up of essays by 40 Freud sceptics, sold out in its first two weeks and is now in a second print run.


The book marks the revenge of behavioural psychologists and neuroscientists, who claim to have been censored by Philippe Douste-Blazy when he was Health Minister.


In February, after the Inserm scientific research institute published a damning study of psychoanalysis, Douste-Blazy ordered the report to be removed from his ministry’s website. Its authors blamed pressure on the government from disciples of the Freudian Jacques Lacan.


The ‘Lacaniens’, writes Livre Noir contributor Filip Buekens, are ‘incoherent to any reasonable human being’. Swiss psychiatrist Jean-Jacques Déglon even accuses psychoanalysts of being guilty of 10,000 deaths because, in wanting to promote therapy, they ‘for years stood in the way of the development of substitute drugs’.


Editor Catherine Meyer claims she wants the book to serve as a wake-up call for France, the ‘world champion in anti-depressant consumption’.


Meyer claims that Freudian techniques have retained credibility in France because the generation of 1968 has raised them to the level of an ‘untouchable dogma’. It is time to ‘open our minds and stop blaming our parents,’ she writes.


Advocates of psychotherapy claim that the fury of the book’s authors verges on the hysterical. Psychoanalyst Elisabeth Roudinesco said: ‘The general tone is one which tends to rubbish any attempt to explore the subconscious.’