On 'Affirming "That's Not Psycho-analysis!"'/On: 'Affirming: "That's Not Psychoanalysis!"' by R. Blass

By Berman, Emanuel; Stern, Steven | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, October 2010 | Go to article overview
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On 'Affirming "That's Not Psycho-analysis!"'/On: 'Affirming: "That's Not Psychoanalysis!"' by R. Blass

Berman, Emanuel, Stern, Steven, International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Dear Editors,

Rachel Blass (2010) keeps emphasizing the value of truth. She calls for a "productive dialogue between opposing views" (p. 97), implying that the present climate of supposed 'political correctness' blocks such a dialogue, while her proposal for exclusive definitions will allow it. But the truth is the very opposite.

At present, within the IPA and on the pages of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis itself, such a dialogue indeed exists because analysts influenced by differing theoretical models co-exist within the same organizations and journals. If we accept Blass's wish for sharp definitions of what psychoanalysis is and what it is not, such a dialogue will come to an end because many points of view will be declared as 'not truly psychoanalytic' and therefore excluded and banished.

Blass's diagnosis of confusion "stifling thought" (p. 94) is unfounded. The fact that Kleinian psychoanalysis and Self Psychology (one of her prime examples; ibid.) differ considerably is well known and often thoroughly explored. The legitimacy of "overt expression of differences" (ibid.) is not at risk, as we all take it for granted. The question is whether such divergent schools could maintain their broader joint psychoanalytic identity and affiliation, as they do now, or should be forcefully broken apart, as Blass clearly wishes.

Blass says: "In this study I will not set forth my own views" (p. 84). Nevertheless, her views are quite explicit in this paper, and any informed reader will easily understand that she wishes to define psychoanalysis as "a practice based exclusively on the verbal interpretation of unconscious conflict" (p. 92) and therefore to exclude any "practice whose curative potential depends on the analyst fulfilling maternal needs which the patient consciously experiences to be absent" (ibid; the latter appears to be a gross caricature of Winnicott's views).

Her hostility to the views of Ferenczi, Balint, Winnicott, Kohut and Relational Psychoanalysis (with their condemned "emphasis on empathy rather than truth" [p. 82]) is quite transparent.

I find it hard to believe that Blass really cannot understand "the sense of insult" (p. 96) in being denied the right to be called an analyst, when she is speaking of colleagues (such as myself) whose whole professional career has been developed with a sense of psychoanalytic identity, which she now proposes to nullify. If I still may use the term, this appears to be a massive empathic failure.

Blass admits that, if her views prevail: "The number of analysts will be constricted as well" (p. 97). Let's be more explicit. The IPA will have to be split, or perhaps expel members who do not sign a 'loyalty oath' to the sharper definition decided. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis will have to get rid of many members of its editorial boards and many of its past and present contributors. The PEP project will have to be abandoned because it includes journals which will no longer be seen as 'truly' psychoanalytic.

Psychoanalysis has known numerous attempts of exclusion, many of them on theoretical grounds. While Blass with hindsight minimizes the conflict expressed in the Controversial Discussions, let us remember that they started following "resolutions [which] made it clear to Melanie Klein and her colleagues that some members of the [British Psychoanalytical] Society would like to remove her from it" (King and Steiner, 1991, p. 34); and Glover and other speakers portrayed Klein's theories as profoundly irreconcilable with Freudian psychoanalysis. It was Winnicott (ibid., p. 89) who rejected such claims, warning against "restricting our work to the study and application of psychoanalytic theory in the form in which it crystallized out at any one point in its history"; and Klein immediately expressed enthusiastic support ...

Another major example was the lengthy attempt in the US to exclude non-medical analysts (Wallerstein, 1998).

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