The Italian philosopher Italo Valent is an inspiring author for mental health professionals. His dialectical, non linear approach, far from scientific dogmatism, offers an innovative perspective. This paper questions the nature of mental pain and underlines one of its key contradictions: any mental distress emphasizes the contradiction between finite and infinite, i.e. on the one hand it underlines the finiteness of the living organism and on the other the condensation in the body, the very place of finiteness and destination of the whole. The mad person lives this contradiction in a tragic way, as described by the authors in two clinical case studies. These narratives examine the language of mental pain in its maximum and minimum expression: scream and silence. Moreover, contradiction and mental pain, in care relationships, are too often perceived as communication barriers. Many mental health professionals, confronted with mental distress, manifest helplessness or rejection, though denial of mental distress, through repression of a compelling evidence, reinforces mental pain. Thus, the authors suggests the use of a dialectical approach, so as to recognise a contradiction and deal with it, acknowledge mental pain and work with it. Following Italo Valent’s perspective, a carer should comprehend - and take into account - the mad person’s mental pain with the distress embedded in his or her own destiny. As the centaur Chiron - a Greek mythical character and healer - the carer looks after his own incurable injuries, while healing the wounds of others. This paper emphasizes the condition of reciprocity between patient and carer, and the mutual transformation process in a relationship of care. Finally, the authors suggest that Valent’s dialectical approach could spur momentum into the ‘political’ renewal of psychiatry, i.e. encourage living and sharing difference in mental health practices.
Keywords: Mental pain, relationship, dialectics, contradiction, denial, understanding