The Scope of Psychoanalysis, 1921-1961: Selected Papers

By Franz Alexander | Go to book overview

Unexplored Areas in Psychoanalytic Theory and Treatment--Part II
1958

Treatment

In recent years there is increasing awareness of the fact that the therapeutic process, the main source of all our dynamic knowledge of personality, has not yet been adequately observed in its totality. Hence we do not yet understand precisely the psychodynamics of the treatment procedure. To understand a process, it must be observed. This simple dogma which is the credo of science in the last 300 years has sufficiently proved its validity. It appears, indeed, a banal statement, and yet physics began as a science with the actual systematic observation of motion. Before Galileo, philosophers such as Parmenides, Heraklites and Aristotle talked about stability, motion and change, but never subjected to a methodical observation the things of which they were talking. The same is true for anatomy, which began when the dissection of the human body replaced idle speculations about its construction. And what is for us of greatest interest, the knowledge of personality, began with the banal, yet most significant, historical fact that Freud decided to listen patiently to his patients' complaints, something which strangely enough never was done before in a methodical fashion. All this shows that people seem to have a deep aversion to observe the phenomena they are curious about; they prefer to speculate, or what is worse, to talk about them.

One cannot, however, accuse psychoanalysts of neglecting observation. True, we too talk a great deal about things we did not observe directly--instincts, for example--but certainly the theory of the therapeutic process is based on a most extensive accumulation of observational data. We never really observed, however, the therapeutic process itself in its entirety. We have observed the patient over and over

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