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Lacan and the Jesuit connection

Brendan Staunton SJ was one of a panel of international speakers who took part in a psychotherapy conference in honour of former Jesuit and Lacanian psychotherapist Cormac Gallagher. Cormac launched and grew Lacanian psychoanalysis in Ireland and translated Lacan’s works from French into English. The conference was hosted by the UCD School of Medicine and the School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s hospital Dublin, where he was once Professor. It took place from 30 Nov – 1 December, 2018. The theme of the conference was the challenge faced by those in the field of psychoanalysis to “accurately represent it so that it can be encountered and can intervene effectively in 21st century civilisation and its discontent.”

Brendan Staunton SJ is himself a graduate of the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy programme in St Vincent’s. In his address to the conference, attended by some of his fellow Jesuits, he highlighted a number of key encounters he had with Cormac which profoundly influenced him. One concerned the period in his Jesuit life when he was called on to make a decision about getting ordained. At this stage he was 13 years in Jesuit formation.”Decision is looming,” said Brendan. “I go to Cormac, who listens as only he can. When my disjointed thoughts come to an end, he just says, ‘you’re ready for analysis'”. That insight from Cormac led to Brendan beginning his journey into psychoanalysis.

An article in the Irish Jesuit Journal Studies written by Cormac also made its mark. According to Brendan it contained one sentence that has stood the test of time, and is so clear and concise that it belies the complexity of Freud and Lacan. Cormac wrote: “Without denying the importance of biology and emotion, Lacan argues, after Freud, that biology and emotion are secondary to modes of identification unique to human subjects”.

Other papers presented at the conference included a Lancanian analysis of President Donald Trump, and an exploration of the problems facing the future of psychoanalysis in 21st century Ireland, a place, according to Gerard Moore, “that has hitched a ride into consumerism and globalisation exemplified in the reduction of its cultural contribution to a repetition, a River dance?”  The author argued that “psychoanalysis is sufficiently plastic to infiltrate and influence the health of the nation and this could be part of our overt work if we came out from behind the couch.”

There were lighter moments during proceedings, one provided by Brendan Staunton when he recalled a throw-away comment made by Cormac during ‘Monday reading nights’. “The unconscious will never become a tourist attraction!”, he once exclaimed, and Brendan offered it to those present as “a truth about Truth that needs to be unlocked”.