What is (Das) Unbehagen?!

The Thing

(Das) Unbehagen is a collective for those who love psychoanalysis including clinicians, academics, artists and intellectuals. It is an association formed for the investigation of psychoanalysis free from the constraints of theoretical allegiance, institutes and other authorizing bodies, including local and national organizations. Unbehagen is dedicated to the creation of a space where members can learn to be practitioners of the unconscious. As a group of peers, we are creating a series of lateral relationships with those who likewise seek to revitalize psychoanalytic practice in an ethical manner. Through clinical study days, reading groups, peer supervision, and working groups investigating topics from support structures for those taking on analytic work independently, to the investigation of systematized violence in mental health services in America, to the possibility of forming a clinic to bring psychoanalysis to an underserved population, Unbehagen hopes to give new impetus to Freud’s discoveries.

The Word

Syllabification: Un-be-ha-gen
Pronunciation: http://forvo.com/word/unbehagen/
English definition: discontents, discomfort, malaise, unease, uneasiness, anxiety, discontent, discomfiture, bother

  • Brazilian Portuguese: desconforto
  • Chinese: 不安
  • European Spanish: malestar
  • French: malaise
  • German: Unbehagen
  • Italian: disagio
  • Japanese: 不安
  • Korean: 불안
  • Portuguese: desconforto
  • Spanish: malestar

The Letter

D is for Das Unbehagen. What is an Unbehagen and what is an acephale and what is one when there are two? Das Unbehagen began as a name under which to organize critical discussion surrounding psychoanalytic training, the discontent of candidates, and the contradictions between the rigidity of psychoanalytic institutions and the vitality of the psychoanalytic spirit. Das Unbehagen registered a hankering for a different atmosphere outside of the confines of institutions, training procedures, and theoretical allegiances, and, correspondingly, for different kinds of events and associations. The overall situation of the group is marked by the paradox of psychoanalysis and free association: we both do and don’t have agency; we both do and don’t believe in it. The same goes for authority and leadership. Das Unbehagen has attempted with varying degrees of success to avoid becoming just another institution in which the struggle for survival and the division of laborturns the corner from vitality to something deadly. The effort to live up to the spontaneity and openness that the acephalic discontent desires has led Das Unbehagen to think about how to create paths toward the courage and creativity that would continue to ensure that the community is able to create whatever they want associated with the signifier Das Unbehagen — a signifier that belongs to no-one. Das Unbehagen represents a case study in acephalic community, insofar as such questions are salutary not only for the future of psychoanalysis, but are valid for most fields of social life where discontent demands more than the stunted rhythms of reproduction offered by administration and the culture industry. However, it is not only coincidence that acephalic discontents and experiments toward acephalic community might hatch from the science and situation of psychoanalysis. What is one when there are two? — perhaps the unconscious: “If there is an image which could represent for us the Freudian notion of the unconscious, it is indeed that of the acephalic subject, a subject who no longer has an ego, who doesn’t belong to the ego. And yet he is the subject who speaks…” (Lacan, Seminar II, p. 167)


“Das Unbehagen?”

“Yeah, it’s from the original German title of the book we know as Civilization and its Discontents. Das Unbehagen in der Kultur.”

“Oh ok, so you are the discontents? What are you discontent with? How discontent are you? Who is the most discontent? Who is the leader of the discontents?

Um well…”

“Ok ok I get it. I heard about this group. You are against institutes and training and like everything, right?”

No not right.

Das Unbehagen is not a group formed to be in any kind of habitual or perpetual opposition. What would be the point of forming yet another psychoanalytic group for such a small aim? Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, far from some kind of perpetual adolescence, signifies the persistent malaise or even nausea surrounding culture. Unbehagen is the result of culture and at the same time culture is nothing but Unbehagen.

With typical understatement, Freud put us on notice that the project of modern history, the achievement of happiness, is flailing. He lists a series of proud achievements in medicine and technology only to conclude: “It seems certain that we do not feel comfortable in our present-day civilization.” The list of achievements could continue to our time and its iphones and ipads, objects that far surpass Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad. But still, his conclusion would if anything, be more dire today. We have not felt comfortable and we do not feel comfortable.

This group is not discontent and is not the discontents. The discontent, which may be malaise or nausea, comes down to us as a legacy, a challenge to the ongoing stakes of psychoanalysis.

Finally, Das Unbehagen was not formed to be in negation or opposition but rather to be up against the impossible or rather the pursuit of what today, might nevertheless be possible for a group of unaffiliated analysts, pursuing their own questions outside of curriculum or promotion or ideological affiliation.

The Cut

Cut-up from Civ&Dis

  • Escaping unpleasure is happiness
  • Unhappiness is much less difficult to experience
  • Restrictions of civilization
  • Frustrations of sexual life
  • Hostility to civilization
  • Discomfort in civilization
  • Disappointment
  • Rebellion against demands of civilization
  • Long standing dissatisfaction with existing state
  • Restrictions on liberty by the will of the group
  • Liberty is no gift of civilization
  • Unhappiness at cheap satisfactions on offer
  • The consideration of people’s distress
  • Claims of the individual
  • Claims to love
  • Irreconcilable
  • Give up illusions
  • Adjust expectations
  • Ameliorate bad conscience
  • No enmity is not possible
  • Current unrest and a mood of anxiety
  • Everyone must find out in what fashion he can be saved
  • Find our way through tormenting uncertainty and with restless groping

Our Partners

Das Unbehagen in Der Kultur - Civilization and its Discontents, Freud 1930

“The fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent their cultural development will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction. It may be that in this respect precisely the present time deserves a special interest. Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty in exterminating one another to the last man. They know this, and hence comes a large part of their current unrest, their unhappiness and their mood of anxiety. And now it is to be expected that the other of the two ‘Heavenly Powers’, eternal Eros, will make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with his equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and with what result?”

Lost Password


Skip to toolbar