The creation of the ‘mind’

In psychoanalysis, and in the whole array of psychotherapies that accompanied it, the eye gave way to the ear: it was the voice of the patient that was the royal road to the unconscious. Madness, as mental illness, neurosis, and psychosis, came to be located in a psychological space – the repository of biography and experience, the origin of thoughts, beliefs, moods, and desires. As David Armstrong has suggested, what was fabricated here was a new object – the mind:

“The mind was represented to the gaze in words. Whereas under the old regime the body of the patient had to be made legible to the physician’s interrogation, under the new regime the body produced its own truth, which required not legibility but encouragement. The patient had to speak, to confess, to reveal; illness was transformed from what was visible to what was heard.” (Armstrong 1983: 25)

A psy-shaped space opens up, and becomes the privileged object of the psychiatric gaze: the inner space of the individual. This was not the mind as it had been in the nineteenth century – “a space of rationality coterminous with the cerebral tissues” (26) – but a “moral” space between the organic brain on the one hand and the social space of conduct on the other, a space on which the sediments of familial and human relations were superimposed or inscribed, perhaps even those of collective existence in society. This space could not be seen, it could only be interpreted by analysts or imagined by poets or artists.

Nikolas Rose, The Politics of Life Itself, Pg 194, Princeton University Press

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