Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Psychoanalysis at the Millennium

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Psychoanalysis at the Millennium

Article excerpt

Psychoanalysis at the Millenium*

This article explains and discusses the immense complexity of the psychoanalytic process as it is becoming increasingly understood at the millennium, and offers the possibility that it can be viewed from at least five channels of psychoanalytic listening. The careful ongoing examination of the transference-- countertransference interactions or enactments, and their "analytic third" (32) location in the transitional space is extremely important in psychoanalytic practice. Wye must be careful in our interpretations of the clinical data not to stray any farther from the fundamental concepts of Freud than is necessary, lest we end up with a set of conflicting speculative metaphysical systems and become a marginalized esoteric cult. Freud's work remains our basic paradigm, the core of psychoanalysis, even though his papers on technique and his emphasis on the curative power of interpretation are from a one-person psychology standpoint and his view of psychoanalysis as just another empirical 19th-century science requires proper understanding and emendation in the light of accumulated clinical experience since his time.

I ask you what sense do these old quarrels make for us? The profound resentment of unbending partisans has kept the wounds of our congregations open for far too long, wounds whose deadened flesh has become insensate, so we feel no need for the doctor.

St. Augustine

The above quotation is from a letter written by St. Augustine (1, p. 77) about 395 A.D. in his effort to reach some kind of reconciliation with the Donatists. Both the Donatists and the Catholics shared a great many basic principles at the time but the Donatists, named after Donatus, a martyred hero of the resistance to any compromise, were known as stubbornly refusing to negotiate or yield even on the smallest details of their theological doctrines. As a result, Augustine's efforts failed and he ended up resorting to traditional Christian solutions-violence, restriction of civil liberties, and deportation-in an effort to stamp out this heresy (which nevertheless lasted until the 7th century A.D.).

So it is that plus Ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, the more things change, the more they remain the same: When I was a resident in psychiatry we had a series of seminars by one of my most influential and revered teachers, Franz Alexander, who could be counted on to discover in each and every case presentation, regardless of the material or diagnosis, that the nucleus of the disorder was an Oedipus complex.

With all this high-powered psychoanalytic training, information, and experience gathered in my residency, after spending two years doing military service in the United States Public Health Service working with drug addicts in a federal prison, I entered into the full time private practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy in 1960. At this point, I encountered a fascinating schizophrenic patient who was not so schizophrenic that I could not stand her, and who, after several years of intensive psychotherapy, made a very noticeable recovery and adaptation that enabled her to live a reasonably decent life in our lunatic culture. Bursting with pride near the end of the treatment as I had watched this woman evolve from a dilapidated human wreck into a very presentable and now married young lady, I could not refrain from asking her, near the end of the treatment, which of my interpretations had had the most significant impact on her improvement and development. Her response was, "You have kind eyes."

This took me down a considerable distance and set me thinking about what it is that actually brings about a cure in psychoanalytic treatment and about what sort of theoretical orientation is most suitable for what I (2) believe to be first and foremost a clinical medical discipline. I gradually began to think of my patients and their narratives as sort of Rorschach cards on which a variety of theories may be imposed. …

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