Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Would Clinical Psychoanalysis Shy Away from Delving Further into the Unknown? on the Mystery of Telepathic Dreams

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Would Clinical Psychoanalysis Shy Away from Delving Further into the Unknown? on the Mystery of Telepathic Dreams

Article excerpt

I would like to refer to Sanchez-Medina's paper "Projective Identification and 'Telepathic Dreams'" (2018), which, as its very title indicates, focuses theoretically and clinically on projective identification and projective counter-identification as the basic explanation for the profound mystery of telepathic dreams.

It is with the deepest respect that I would challenge this explanation. Twelve years ago, when my paper on the enigma of telepathic dreams (Eshel 2006, to which Sanchez-Medina also refers in his paper) was accepted by the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, the editor asked me if I could link my explanation to projective identification. I replied that I could not, because in my view the mystery of telepathic dreams goes beyond projective identification, even when this powerful concept is stretched to extreme limits After the paper was published, a letter to the editors characterized my attitude as "daring." I strongly felt, and also related in my response, to the 'daring' of the appreciative anonymous reviewers, and especially that of the editor Paul Williams, to allow me to present a paper that truly described my analytic experiences and my own thoughts on this disturbing topic in psychoanalysis, which until then had rarely been addressed in the IJP.

I was therefore sorry that Sanchez-Medina's thought-provoking paper returns the topic of telepathic dreams to the domain of projective identification, a concept that has been widely accepted for decades. This seems to me a reductive explanation that shies away from fully embracing the most mysterious, unknowable and inexplicable aspect of the telepathic dream, where informational details, not merely experiential-emotional details, seem to be mysteriously transferred between patient and analyst (as in the dream of Sanchez-Medina's patient).

Let me explain this briefly. The subject of telepathic phenomena in psychoanalytic thinking has been highly controversial and disturbing ever since it was introduced into psychoanalysis by Freud in 1921. Telepathy-suffering (or intense feeling) at a distance (Greek: pathos + tele)- is the mysterious transfer or communication of thoughts, impressions and information over a distance between two people without the normal operation of the recognized sense organs. Even a cursory review of the psychoanalytic literature written over the years on this topic brings us directly and intriguingly into the controversy over and resistance to the idea of telepathy, that forced itself like "a foreign body" into psychoanalysis-"a crypt that threw psychoanalysis, Freud included, into confusion ever since the 1920s" (Torok 1986, 96).

In Laplanche and Pontalis's The Language of Psychoanalysis (1988) there is no mention of telepathy or related phenomena in psychoanalysis. But over the years, psychoanalytic writings on possibly telepathic experiences, and especially patients' telepathic dreams, have accumulated and amounted to a complex and thought-provoking body of theoretical-clinical observations, veering back and forth, from amazement and excitement over enigmatic telepathic experiences (especially telepathic dreams), to ignoring, avoiding, dismissing or silencing them. It can be said that telepathic phenomena have remained a most disturbing and challen- ging topic in psychoanalysis, related to extreme, enigmatic, striking experiences encountered in the analytic process.

In the 1940s and 1950s, especially in the decade after World War II, there was a resurgence of interest in the subject, followed by a wave of criticism and rejection.

But from the 1970s, the psychoanalytic thinking on the subject of telepathy largely disappeared. It seems that a major reason was the shift in psychoanalytic thinking towards feeling-transfer and emotional influence between patient and analyst in the analytic process. It began with Paula Heimann's new communicative approach to countertransference, Racker's concepts of concordant and complementary identifications in the countertransference, and Melanie Klein's concept of projective identification, with Bion's groundbreaking expansion of it to containing. …

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