Lac-yawn? A Jacques-ular Exchange: From our Readers

September 16, 2020

Drs differ on the advisability of reading a certain famous French psychoanalyst.

I am writing to congratulate Drs Jerald Kay and Joel Yager for their article “How Reading Current Literature Stimulates Duh and Yawn Responses: An Analysis of Causes and Potential Interventions” in the August 2020 issue of Psychiatric Times. One of the stresses that psychiatrists experience today, and contributes to burnout among all physicians, is the knowledge that it is impossible to keep up with the medical literature. Most of us feel woefully and hopelessly behind in this regard.

I gave a chuckle, however, when I read that yawn responses are “activated by a variety of article types” including “turgid and obscure writing, a cross between legal-ese, technical engineering manuals, and Jacques Lacan” (p16).

As a psychodynamic psychiatrist with an interest in the work of Jacques Lacan for the past 10 years, I refer Drs Kay and Yager to my article published in the December 2019 issue of Psychiatric Times: “Jacques Lacan: The Least and Most Known Psychoanalyst in the World.” Interestingly, Lacan was particularly interested in the idea of “lack” (Lacan/ lack), and Kay and Yager’s article highlights the lack that most psychiatrists experience when attempting to read much of the psychiatric literature today.

Gerald P. Perman, MD is clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC.

In Response:

We thank Dr Perman for his kind words about our article in the August issue. Dr Perman takes exception, however, with our characterization of Jacques Lacan as “turgid and obscure.” He refers us to his 2018 article in Psychiatric Times, a heroic attempt to elucidate Lacan’s ideas.

The article begins his article with the comment “Lacan’s written work and transcribed lectures are often difficult, if not impossible, for most American (and other) mental health professionals to comprehend. His ideas are novel and complex and many seem obscure and enigmatic.” Indeed. Despite Perman’s admirable efforts, we remain in the large group of psychiatrists who still lack (ha!) a firm grasp on Lacan’s ideas. The reference to Lacan reflected our attempt to present a strongly provocative yet humorous report on the state of psychiatric literature.

Dr Kay is Professor Emeritus and Past Chair of Psychiatry Wright State University Dayton, OH. He is an Editorial Board member of Psychiatric Times. Dr Yager is Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colorado, Denver, CO. He is an Associate Editor of Journal Watch for Psychiatry, a Section Editor for UpToDate, and Senior Advisor for FOCUS.