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François Roustang

Socrates’ Secret: How to Change Your Life

A psychotherapist and critic of psychoanalysis, François Roustang has for many years undertaken a radical re-examination of the prerequisites for change. He has shown how hypnosis can trigger a profound modification in our self-image and in how we relate to the world. His trilogy — La Fin de la plainte, Il suffit d’un geste and Savoir attendre — has placed him among the most original writers working in his field in France.

Far from being the first philosopher, isn’t Socrates actually the first therapist? Wasn’t he the first to understand the conditions that had to be created in order to change our relation to ourselves and to the world? This is the hypothesis that François Roustang explores here, while questioning why there have been so many denials and rejections of Socrates’ originality.
Roustang argues that Socrates’ originality hinges on his use of dialogue and of the “lulling effects” of his “narcotic” discourse, whose goal is not to seek the truth but to experience not-knowing. Or, in other words: “Not to think in order to think; not to think in order to be able to act while thinking.” Not-knowing introduces a human being to what he or she is. And from that moment on, thinking lies in action itself.

• The rediscovery of the originality of Socratic speech through a number of revealing texts.
• The goal is to understand how to elicit a life change in our actions, and not just in our thoughts, so as to enhance our well-being and produce a new relationship to the self and to the world. Wasn’t this, after all, the experience that Socrates aimed to create?