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Letter from the editor | 117

The polysemy of resistance

Hysteria is at the foundations of psychoanalysis. Freud’s sensitive looking at and listening to hysterical personages – and not just their symptoms and discourses – led him little by little to unveil the unconscious, later on to perceive the patients’ resistance to treatment, and then gave him powerful indications about the effectiveness of the flow of free associations, which opened up the road to the analysis of dreams – the inaugural act and touchstone of psychoanalysis. But there is a more or less generalized impression that hysteria hardly survived Fräulein Anna O., a patient of Breuer, and Freud’s patients Frau Emmy von N., Miss Lucy R., Kataharina and Fräulein Elisabeth von R., all of them women whose stories we made acquaintance with in the report of fine literary labor Clinical Cases, which are a part of the Studies on Hysteria, published in May 1895, about two years after Preliminary communication, the first scientific report by Freud and Breuer on the theme. Hysteria, showing historically in its body the marks of a heavy sexual repression that was hardly realized, was apparently a personage of the 19th century, which would be undone in the time that psychoanalysis advanced through the following century. The path of the 20th century between wars of every kind, death of the great utopias, noteworthy technical-scientific advances, that were to change human society and sociability profoundly, seemed to lead to other ills of the mind and of the spirit of these times, like the panic syndrome, bulimia and anorexia.

Well, what the fine cover story of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP advises is something totally different: no, hysteria has not died, it is just concealed by incorrect diagnoses of epilepsy. As the science editor, Carlos Fioravanti, reports, beginning on page 42, based on surveys from the São Paulo Hospital and Clinics and from other specialized medical centers in Goiás, Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul, besides São Paulo, one in every four cases diagnosed as epilepsy in Brazil is, actually, hysteria. Moreover, in spite of its name, which goes back to the word uterus, hysteria is not a psychic disorder that attacks only women, but affects men as well. It really is worth checking it out.

But this issue throws light on other occult elements. It exposes other shadow zones. Generally speaking, we imagine that we are tranquil and all at peace when, after an agitated, fatiguing day, we can finally relax in bed between snug sheets, with sweet-smelling blankets, a soft pillow, and wait for sleep to arrive. Sweet illusion: an unbelievable battalion of tiny relatives of spiders and ticks, so ugly in appearance that, if we could see them, would justify the most terrible nightmares, is nesting right there in bed, next to our bodies. I am talking of human dust mites, the contemporary terror of the allergic all over the world, of course, because they are an extremely efficient trigger of crises of rhinitis, asthma, conjunctivitis and other ills. The article by the assistant science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, tells, from page 52 onwards, how these little animals have found their private paradises in houses and in bedrooms in particular. But there are no real reasons for despair: the article also explains how to get rid of the monstrous arachnids.

More light, or rather, refraction of light. A new white pigment, whose development Pesquisa FAPESP has followed up since the first steps, eight years ago, within a few months should be present in the formulation of paints all over the world. Biphor – that is its name – results from a partnership between Unicamp and Bunge, and is produced using nanoparticles of aluminum phosphate, as the technology editor, Marcos de Oliveira, reports on pages 80 and 81. This pigment is going to compete with titanium dioxide, the current raw material of white paints.

To close off by completing a circle, which is always a seductive movement, it is worth the trouble to read this month’s story, by Ana Elisa Ribeiro, which tells a bit more about women. Those that write and those that read, do you know where they learnt that? “In the involvement of the soul with the world, in the most beautiful resistance of the texts they produced.”