All this talk of “new beginnings” in America — what does it mean?

When a person plans to partake in a new beginning she is admitting only that what she truly wants is to know nothing at all about her past. Moreover, she wants to know nothing about the way the past tends without fail to repeat itself. The paradox is that it is precisely through innovation, through ‘pure breaks’ from what already happened and what has already been decided, that the past returns all the more forcefully.

Those who seek new beginnings, those who seek to innovate in their lives and in their religion, want to know nothing about their symptoms. The symptom is what repeats, and it is chained to an unconscious determination. Those who wish to subtract themselves from their symptom find out very quickly that they have in fact lost themselves.

And why?

It is because the symptom is what is most true about us. We find our truth in the decisions that we have already made and in the contracts we have already signed.

The lesson from psychoanalysis is this: a symptom expresses what is most true about us, what is most us about us, and, therefore, when we deny our symptoms we in effect deny ourselves. We can not break out of past traumas, past suffering, past contracts, simply by stepping out of them. In this way they will only determine us without our knowing it. We become all the more trapped by them.

Liberation consists of returning to the past — to the pure past, the formative years — and to recognize that the contracts we signed, the sufferings we endured, determine us completely. This is what #NewBeginnings mean to a psychoanalyst. This is also what #NewBeginnings mean to a truly religious person: there is a refusal to innovate and an insistence that we return to the past (salafiyyah): The person who innovates will, by definition, suffer even more.