Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Technique and Final Cause in Psychoanalysis: Four Ways of Looking at One Moment

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Technique and Final Cause in Psychoanalysis: Four Ways of Looking at One Moment

Article excerpt

This paper argues that if one considers just a single clinical moment there may be no principled way to choose among different approaches to psychoanalytic technique. One must in addition take into account what Aristotle called the final cause of psychoanalysis, which this paper argues is freedom. However, freedom is itself an open-ended concept with many aspects that need to be explored and developed from a psychoanalytic perspective. This paper considers one analytic moment from the perspectives of the techniques of Paul Gray, Hans Loewald, the contemporary Kleinians and Jacques Lacan. It argues that, if we are to evaluate these techniques, we must take into account the different conceptions of freedom they are trying to facilitate.

Keywords: applied analysis, ethics, freedom, interpretation, psychoanalytic education, research, technique, transference

Introduction

This paper is motivated by two questions which arise at opposite ends of a spectrum. At the experience-near end of a practicing psychoanalyst at work in the midst of an analytic hour, my question is: Why should I do one thing rather than another? What, if anything, grounds my choice about how to conceptualize and act in a significant moment in analysis? At the other end of the spectrum, my question is: What is psychoanalysis for? I do not have answers to either of these two questions. However, I have become convinced that these questions are interrelated: indeed, that one cannot answer one without answering the other. If one is to have a clear sense of why one is doing what one is doing in an analytic moment (as opposed to something else), one needs to have a sense of what psychoanalysis is for; conversely, one cannot have a textured sense of what psychoanalysis is all about unless one also understands how that overall conception of its value filters down and informs the analytic moment.

I want to argue for three claims that prima facie it might seem impossible that they could all be true together. First, if one considers a given clinical moment from different psychoanalytic perspectives one can find genuine differences about how to approach the moment. To that end, I shall consider a single clinical moment from the perspectives of four currently popular approaches: those of Paul Gray, Hans Loewald, the contemporary Kleinians and Jacques Lacan. I only intend to give an account that is in the spirit of each; no doubt other formulations could be offered from each perspective. (I am also not going to try to give a complete interpretation from any particular point of view, but rather to provide some salient markers by which one may begin to see the same moment from different perspectives.) I will argue that while there may be similarities and areas of overlap, there are also significant differences between these approaches.

Second, it is at least possible that, in trying to choose amongst these approaches, there might be nothing in the analysand's mind at that moment, nothing in the total transference situation, nothing in the intersubjective or interpersonal relations between analysand and analyst, nothing in the transitional space, nothing in the analysand's brain-state/in short, nothing in the present state of the analysand or the analytic situation/that could definitively settle which approach to use. It follows from this that we cannot look to the analysand's psychic history either: for if her past made a difference, it would somehow be making a difference in the present, and we have ruled that out.

Third, it is nevertheless true that there can be principled bases for making a choice amongst these different approaches.

But if, on the one hand, there are real differences amongst approaches yet, on the other hand, no basis in the analytic present for choosing, how could there be any principled basis for choice? The answer is: we have got to go back to the future. That is, we need to consider what the analysis is aiming towards. …

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