Over at the BANewcomers list has been a discussion about whether a lot of the locals in Buenos Aires go to psychologists, as is stated in one of the guidebooks. I was surprised to see people on this list who hadn’t encountered the psychological fixation that drive so many Porteños.

Here’s what I posted to the list:

Almost every Porteño I know goes to a therapist and there seems to be no stigma about it as there is in the U.S. But it does seem to be a phenomenon particular to Buenos Aires and not to the rest of Argentina.

I asked my Argentine girlfriend about her perspective on therapy and Porteños and she replied, “It’s what we are.”

I got rather interested in this topic a couple of years ago and found a detailed book titled “Freud in the Pampas: The Emergence and Development of Pyschoanalytic Culture in Argentina” by Mariano Ben Plotkin. It’s a rather dry, academic text but does trace the history and background of the topic quite well. Most psychoanalysts here are followers of Freud and Lacan, which is very different from the U.S.

One theory for the prominence of psychoanalysis here is the rootless nature of the immigrant society that has built Buenos Aires yet so often looks back to Europe for its identity. Of course that gets into the squishy nature of the subconscious but it seems that pscyhoanalysis here is seen as a process for understanding life itself as much as for coping with a specific problem.