Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

On the Immediacy of Unconscious Truth: Understanding Betty Joseph's 'Here and Now' through Comparison with Alternative Views of It outside of and within Kleinian Thinking

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

On the Immediacy of Unconscious Truth: Understanding Betty Joseph's 'Here and Now' through Comparison with Alternative Views of It outside of and within Kleinian Thinking

Article excerpt

Psychoanalysis emphasizes that in discovering psychic truth what is needed is not abstract or distant knowledge of this truth but rather an immediate encounter with it. In this paper the author examines the meaning of this immediacy through the study of Betty Joseph's notion of 'here and now,' which in recent years has been most directly associated with it. The author shows how Joseph's notion of 'here and now' continues a legacy beginning in Freud and taken up by Klein regarding the immediacy of unconscious truth that differs from other available analytic formulations of the term. To highlight the uniqueness of Joseph's contribution the author goes on to examine what distinguishes it within the Kleinian framework. She does this in part through comparison with the clinical approach of Hanna Segal, whose focus on unconscious phantasy adheres to the same foundational legacy. The author points to the differences between Joseph and Segal and their significance, which have not been sufficiently elaborated in the analytic literature. She argues that viewing these differences within the context of a shared perspective on the role of unconscious truth in the analytic process and task enriches our understanding of the complexity of Kleinian thinking and the meaning of truth in psychoanalysis. This understanding is also furthered by the recognition that many uses of the term 'here and now' in the analytic literature refer to something very different from what Joseph refers to and are based on a perspective that is fundamentally opposed to hers.

Keywords: Betty Joseph, common ground, enactment, Freud, Freudian legacy, Hanna Segal, here and now, Klein, reconstruction, unconscious truth.

Introduction

In this paper I will clarify the meaning of working in the 'here and now' in the sense of the term which is associated with the writings and practice of Betty Joseph, as well as the theoretical context and grounds of this approach. This clarification will be comprised of two steps. First, I will examine other psychoanalytic notions of 'here and now'. I will argue that one may find in Freud and Klein the view that unconscious psychic truth is immediate and present in the course of analytic work. While not explicitly referred to by this term, this view may be considered a broad perspective on the 'here and now,' that provides the foundations for Betty Joseph's more specific use of the term. By recognizing this basic perspective on the 'here and now' and then contrasting it with others that have evolved over the years, light is shed on the nature of Betty Joseph's contribution. This prevents it from being blurred with some contemporary uses of the term 'here and now' which are actually quite opposed to hers.

The second step is more of an internal move. It involves elucidating what defines Betty Joseph's specific sense of the 'here and now,' what constitutes her unique contribution within the context of the broad perspective that emphasizes the immediacy of unconscious psychic truth. To this end I will first present her approach and then compare it with that of Hanna Segal. While Hanna Segal's focus on the interpretation of phantasy may be seen to rest on the same foundational view of the immediacy of truth that grounds Betty Joseph's thinking (and in this respect she too is concerned with 'here and now'), the two differ in several important respects. These are not adequately described by prevalent distinctions between, for example, working in the transference and countertransference versus offering reconstructive interpretations, or focus on details versus explanation; nor can they be understood as mere personal differences. Further articulation and explanation are required. I will suggest that, while Betty Joseph and Hannah Segal share a view of unconscious truth which sharply separates their notions of the 'here and now' from other commonly-used notions of the term, underlying their differences are divergent views on how unconscious psychic truth manifests itself and therefore on how it is to be interpreted. …

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