Interface of Psychoanalysis and Psychology

By James W. Barron; Morris N. Eagle et al. | Go to book overview

27
A NEW PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY AND
ITS TESTING IN RESEARCH

HAROLD SAMPSON

I present an overview of the research program of the Mt. Zion Psychotherapy Research Group 1 and of the new psychoanalytic theory, developed by Weiss, on which that research is based (Weiss, Sampson, & the Mt. Zion Psychotherapy Research Group, 1986). This work is relevant to the unifying theme of this book—the relation between psychoanalysis and the rest of psychology—in two ways.

First, my colleagues and I have demonstrated that rigorous empirical research using ordinary scientific methods may be carried out systematically on broad, fundamental psychoanalytic hypotheses about unconscious mental functioning, psychopathology, and the treatment process. It can be carried out using the data of the psychoanalytic situation as well as of other psychotherapies. It can yield findings that disclose lawful relationships, challenge some long-established beliefs, and have implications for both theory and practice. In these ways, the work I report helps to make psychoanalysis less of a separate discipline based exclusively on a unique methodology.

Second, my and my colleagues' work suggests that unconscious mental life is much more similar to conscious mental life than has been generally recognized. Unconscious mental life is guided by adaptive considerations, including continuous appraisals of danger and safety, and it is regulated by higher mental functions such as thoughts, anticipations, beliefs, judgments, decisions, and plans. These characteristics of unconscious mental life apply not only to a conflict‐ free sphere (Hartmann, 1939/1958) but to central domains of psychoanalytic interest: repressed strivings, unconscious conflicts, psychopathology, and the treatment process. In these ways, also, this work provides a bridge linking psychoanalysis to the rest of psychology

____________________
1
Now known as the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group.

-586-

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