Listening to a recording of Helen Vendler speaking about psychoanalysis and Robert Lowell's scepticism on that subject after learning that his own illness was not susceptible to the "talking cure" but could be treated with lithium carbonate, the great weakness of Freud became clearly apparent to me. He is an idolator of language.
It is one thing, and still an arrogant thing, to believe that the verbal utterance of a patient is a good symptom, but it is quite astonishing to think that more words may effect a cure. Assuming that he actually believed his own claims, was Freud justified in thinking this. Perhaps, since it seemed to work; and after we have found sign systems of great power in other parts of our lives, so there is good reason to suppose that they may help us in relation to mental health. But Lacan's once famous utterance – "The unconscious is structured like a language" – is a stage further, and crosses the border of stupidity, unless we take take the remark as being a slight, and modest metaphorical comparison, in which case it becomes negligible. Otherwise, it must presume, as Freud clearly does, that psychological disorders are, or can be treated as, faults in the auto-interpretation of a system of linguistic signs. These are no mere spelling and grammatical errors, they are major errors in reading and self-undertanding. But this to turn our thinking about minds into literary criticism, which is suspiciously convenient for analyst, and in any case absurd since it must presume that minds have not other aspects apart from their languages, a claim that we know is false.