The understanding

Notes on the psychoanalytical listening

  • Fabio Galimberti
Keywords: listening, understanding, misunderstanding, communication, speech act, psychoanalysis


What is real listening? There is no real listening. The question can only have a subjective answer and the subject who can answer is the one who speaks. It is the speaker himself who decides whether he is really heard or not. The author finds in the Diatribes of Epictetus, cited by Michel Foucault, an exemplary case of evaluation of listening by the speaker. In this specific case, Epictetus refuses to teach a pupil because he believes that he will not make philosophical use of his teaching. The case allows the author to state that listening depends on how the speaker consents or not the use of the words heard by the listener. This is also the case in a cure in which the analyst offers the patient a certain way of interpreting his own communications and behaviour, on which there may or may not be understanding. It follows that in analytic listening understanding is the consent that a patient grants to the analyst on the way of understanding his own acts, linguistic and otherwise. Starting from this understanding, a new listening speaking can be realised in the patient himself.