In an institution founded to ‘Support People Affected by Mental Ill Health’ many people enter the centre as passive recipients or victims of the psychiatric services seeking help. For some, the self-image of victim is so captivating that he or she is unable, at that particular time, to relinquish this position. For others, the wish to speak allows the subject to enter the analytic space: for example, one such subject is David (35), who presented himself as a victim of many people and institutions. Born to a single mother who due to her alcoholism was unable to care for him, he spent many years in ‘care homes’ until aged twelve he was returned to her. His teenage years were experienced as unrelenting misery dominated by his mother’s addiction and her constant punishments: at eighteen he left home involuntarily – he was ejected.
In the early stages of the treatment, he presents as very aggrieved: he wants to punish the Other for his subjective misery, for existing in a world in which there is no place for him and where things happen to him, but are not experienced, punctuated or assimilated. However, as an effect of his speech, he finds himself anguished– he is an object of exclusion, expulsion and rejection.
David makes use of the analytic space to create possibilities: he pursues via study his interest in art, thus allowing himself to be included in the social bond- one among others. He nominates himself an ‘artist’ and says he paints at two levels, at one level to meet the course requirements and at the second level, he paints what is both traumatic and most intimate to him. In choosing this path, David is deciding to be a subject of his history and not its victim.