Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Phenomenology, Psychotherapy and the Quest for Intersubjectivity

Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Phenomenology, Psychotherapy and the Quest for Intersubjectivity

Article excerpt

Phenomenology and Psychotherapy

Freud's innovations in the field of psychiatry remain not only influential but fundamental in the areas of both theory and practice in the broad mental health field, with the terminology in which his theoretical constructs, explanatory concepts and therapeutic techniques are embedded by now an established part of the cultural vocabulary. As a comprehensive model of psychic functioning, Freud's personality theory offers explanatory concepts for understanding human development, motivation and behaviour. In the field of clinical practice, it both roots and frames the process of psychoanalysis as a method focused on capturing "the genesis of otherness" in order to achieve its aim "to help individuals negotiate psychic difficulties - such as neuroses and psychoses - that arise from the dynamical conflicts between the instinctual forces" (Cutrofello, 2005, p. 122).

Despite the fact that the reliance of Freud's "meta- psychology" on the mechanistic, reductionist, and thereby positivist, model of natural science has been challenged by critics from various schools of thought, there is nevertheless consensus among contemporary psychoanalytic theoreticians that this is not the only philosophical framework within which psycho- analysis functions, but that two distinct and rival models of psychoanalysis are in fact operative. Nissim-Sabat (1995) asserts that, "from its inception psychoanalysis has embodied two conflicting traditional models for theoretical work: 1) Freud's mechanistic and reductionist, that is, positivist, natural science framework, his "meta-psychology", and 2) his interpretive, or hermeneutic, framework" (p. 163). This accords with Ricoeur's assessment that, "on the one hand, [psychoanalysis] aims to expose the sense of psychic phenomena and therefore proceeds hermeneutically or phenomenologically, respectively. Yet, on the other hand, it strives to explain these phenomena through recourse to the economics of psychic forces and their conflicts, following the ideal of the natural sciences" (Ricoeur, 1965; in Lohmar & Brudzinska, 2012, p. x).

Since psychoanalysis inevitably retains this ambiguity, one may wonder with which particular version of the Freudian model one can begin in attempting to assess the possibility of meaningful dialogue between Freud and phenomenology. The problems one faces are not only diverse, but pivotal. The natural science model of psychoanalysis dichotomises the positions of psychoanalysis and phenomenology in their understanding not only of what is truly scientific in science as such, but of the reality of human being. From this perspective, the Freudian psyche is reduced to the "thingness" of the solipsistic Cartesian mind, and psychoanalysis hence trapped in the dualism that phenomenology rejects. If science is taken as naturalism and reductionism in psychoanalysis, then phenomenology stands opposed to psychoanalysis. As Owen (2003) elucidates, "Natural accounts ... devalue meaning, consciousness, the sense of the other and the intersubjective relationship. ... Natural interpretation ignores the observable phenomena in favour of what is naturally causative of conscious phenomena. ... When taking the natural route, consciousness is bypassed and the meaningful intersubjective world is lost" (p. 247). Thus, it would seem that, as Nissim-Sabat (1991) concludes, "With a concept of science that is broader than natural science, phenomenology is incompatible with both the hermeneutic and natural science models currently espoused by psychoanalytic theoreticians" (p. 44).

However, approached from another perspective, psychoanalysis is neither a science nor philosophy. "[T]he object of psychoanalysis is the zone where the two realms overlap, that is, where the biological or somatic is already mental or cultural and where, at the same time, culture springs from the very impasses of the somatic functions which it tries to resolve" (Zupancic, 2007, p. …

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