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Psychoanalysis and Virtual Space: Benjamin and Breton's Connection

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Contributions from Clinical Psychologists and Social Workers Vol. 2

When trying to make sense of contemporary virtual reality from the standpoint of clinical psychology, I believe that psychoanalysis has a particularly strong affinity with clinical psychology.


Freud believed that there is an unconscious area underneath our consciousness that is usually not easily revealed due to various suppressions and restrictions, and he created a unique framework to bring it to the surface and analyzed what emerged as the basis of his therapy.

The framework of Freud's therapeutic space is a virtual world that exists in reality, but is different from everyday life, in which the analyst is asked to "say whatever comes to mind," that is, to make free associations. One of his therapeutic models was that the analyst would gradually let go of his defenses, and spontaneous, impromptu expressions would emerge from within, and as the analyst continued to analyze them, the analyst's neurotic inhibitions or symptoms would be alleviated or reduced.

In contrast to the method of asking, "What is your problem?" or "What do you think is the cause? Freud created a framework for free-association, where anything can pop up. I believe that the technology of modern virtual space allows us to create frameworks that allow us to express what we normally suppress in our minds, in other words, frameworks that are analogous to psychoanalysis. I think it would be wonderful if there were such a virtual reality world where people could relax their minds, expand their minds, and alleviate or reduce their mental problems if they have any, instead of using psychoanalytic therapy.

In the realm of art and thought, there has been a historical connection between psychoanalysis and virtual reality.

André Breton, a French poet and one of the founders of Surrealism, who published the Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, had studied Freudian theory as a medical student and called for the Surrealist art movement to create works using the method of automatic description, similar to the free association of psychoanalysis. In the Surrealist art movement, he called for the creation of works using a method of automatic description similar to the free association of psychoanalysis. Antonin Artaud, a French avant-garde theater artist who was also a Surrealist, coined the term "virtual reality" as a theatrical term. Artaud said, "A true theatrical experience shakes the serenity of the senses, opens the repressed unconscious, and invites potential rejection. In a November 2017 interview with Wired, he said, "The most important technology that doesn't exist yet is the means to improvise while you're in virtual reality. In an interview with Wired in November 2017, he said, "The most important technology that doesn't exist yet is the means to improvise while you're in virtual reality.

The Jewish-German thinker Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), who studied Freud independently and was interested in the "behavior of the unconscious," wrote in his Surrealism that "the image the world of total and comprehensive actuality". In his article "Art in the Age of Reproduction Technology" in the 1930s, Benjamin is now attracting renewed attention for his accurate prediction of the age of mass reproduction of art.

It is interesting to note that Benjamin and Breton, two of the major figures in art and philosophy in the first half of the 20th century, played a role in connecting psychoanalytic theory and virtual reality.

A multifaceted approach may be possible to examine the significance of virtual spaces from the perspective of clinical psychology.

December 8, 2021 Fusako Takahashi, Clinical Psychologist and Social Worker


Benjamin: Destruction, Collection, Memory, Iwanami Gendai Bunko

The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Thought, Kodansha Gendai Shinsho

The Encyclopedia of Modern Thought, Heibonsha Publishing Co.

The Rite of Spring: The First World War and the Birth of the Modern Age, TBS Britannica


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