This article traces the changing relationship between psychoanalysis and religion by paralleling it with the author's own journey of faith and psychology. Contemporary psychoanalytic models (e.g. relational) have evolved, making psychoanalysis more accessible to psychotherapists as well as allowing more meaningful integration with religion. As Relational models have gained prominence, however, some of the gems from earlier models of analysis are in danger of being lost. A case is presented to demonstrate the challenge of not throwing out the "baby with the bathwater" as well as some of the particular difficulties religious therapists may have working with patients.
Prologue to Special Issue
This special volume of JPT is dedicated to the memory of Randall Lehmann Sorenson, Professor of Psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology, Training and Supervising analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, and private practitioner in Pasadena, California. Randy died suddenly in 2005, well before his time. His intellectual brilliance, deep Christian commitment, and warm welcoming spirit live on in his family and in the many students and colleagues that he touched. His influence is acutely present in the articles contained in this volume.
Randy was a leading thinker and writer in the integration of psychology and religion. He modeled the best of the Boulder model by publishing research that was both theoretical and empirical. His book Minding Spirituality (2004) was a tour de force in the conversation between psychoanalysis and religion and was critically acclaimed by both religious and secular clinicians. This volume focuses on one of Randy's greatest intellectual loves--the integration of Christian faith and psychoanalysis.
In spite of all his accomplishments, perhaps what people most remember about Randy was what it was like to be in his presence. When I think of how Randy interacted with people I am reminded of a quote from the psychoanalyst Hans Loewald in his famous paper, "On the Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalysis." Loewald compares the analytic relationship to a parent child relationship.
The parent ideally is in an empathic relationship of understanding the child's particular stage in development, yet ahead in his vision of the child's future and mediating this vision to the child in his dealing with him. This vision, informed by the parent's own experience and knowledge of growth and future, is, ideally, a more articulate and more integrated version of the core of being that the child presents to the parent. This "more" that the parent sees and knows, he mediates to the child so that the child in identification with it can grow. The child, by internalizing aspects of the parent, also internalizes the parent's image of the child--an image that is mediated to the child in a thousand different ways of being handled, bodily and emotionally. (1980, p. 229)
Randy had a unique way of envisioning what and who the other might become and communicating that in a myriad of ways. This was never coercive but a welcoming "transitional space" in which one could try on the vision and keep what fit and discard what didn't. We will all miss Randy's vision for others, vision for psychology and religion, and his commitment to Christ and the church. To borrow from Loewald (1980) again, Randy will live on as an ancestor to all who have interest in integration.
There may be readers who would not read an article like this one simply because the word psychoanalysis is in the title. They may preemptively decide that psychoanalysis is a dead school of thought that has essentially been abandoned. (In fact, if your source on what is happening in psychotherapy is undergraduate textbooks you would be justified in arriving at these conclusions). These skeptics may allow that some therapists utilize certain analytic concepts like transference and countertransference, but still believe that on the whole psychoanalysis has died a slow and painful death. They may further believe that the reason it has died is because it is unscientific, based on a faulty anthropology, and is impractical at best and just plain silly at worst. But if one looks closely there is evidence that psychoanalysis is very much alive and well.
Mitchell and Black (1995) have pointed out four myths surrounding psychoanalysis that have led to confusion and misleading understandings. Myth #1 is that "Psychoanalysis is largely the work of one man" (p. xvi). Current clinicians may believe that psychoanalysis died out with Freud himself, but Mitchell and Black outline at least five distinct and current schools of psychoanalysis since Freud (there probably are more). Some of these newer schools have only been around (in their complete form) in the last ten or fifteen years. Today there are even short-term models of psychoanalytic psychotherapy (see Mangis this volume).
Myth #2 is "Contemporary psychoanalysis, in both theory and clinical practice, is virtually the same as it was in Freud's day" (Mitchell & Black, 1995, p. xvii). Obviously each unique school of thought has emerged because of differences in both theory and technique from Freud. Some of these changes are the very things that have allowed psychoanalysis and religion to integrate in more profitable ways. They have also made the practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy less rigid, making it more attractive to psychotherapists not practicing classic psychoanalysis.
Myth #3 is "Psychoanalysis has gone out of fashion" (Mitchell & Black, 1995, p. xviii). Mitchell and Black concede that in part this is true especially when it comes to the classic formulation of psychoanalysis, but they point out that contemporary forms of analysis including object relations and self psychology are very influential both in contemporary social work and much of the psychotherapy practiced today. Psychoanalysis has also had a profound impact outside the therapy room. Psychoanalytic theories have made important contributions to child and adult development (e.g., Erikson, Mahler), as well as the attachment literature (e.g., Bowlby). Psychoanalysis has secured a profound place in the area of literary criticism (e.g., Lacan, Winnicott). And finally, psychoanalytic concepts such as slips of the tongue, dream interpretation, etc, have become so much a part of the zeitgeist of modern life that Mitchell and Black suggest that in some ways we are all Freudians!
Myth #4 is that "Psychoanalysis is an esoteric cult requiring both conversion and years of study" (Mitchell & Black, 1995, p. xx). Although there are many accredited psychoanalytic institutions around the world that offer lengthy training in order to be certified as a psychoanalyst (e.g., attending 4 years of courses, seeing a number of control cases multiple times per week, obtaining supervision on these cases from a senior analyst, and doing one's own personal analysis), many of these institutions have opened their doors to degrees ranging from psychologists and social workers to marriage and family therapists. Shorter term training programs are also being offered at these institutions (i.e., training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy) and user friendly texts are being published which present psychoanalytic psychotherapy in accessible formats (see especially the work of Nancy McWilliams, 1994, 1999, 2004).
If these myths were true we would indeed be at the funeral of psychoanalysis if not at the deathbed. But what would happen if the skeptic set aside his/her preconceived notions for a moment--what then? I would challenge the skeptical reader to attempt to bracket their preconceived notions as they read this article (and all contained within this special issue). One can never quite predict what one may find when one is open to the new. On the other hand, one is sure to know what one will find when one is not. In a wonderful introduction to his book The Primitive Edge of Experience (1989) Psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden writes:
A reader, like an analysand, dares to experience the disturbing feeling of not knowing each time he begins reading a new piece of writing. …