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Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

Reacting to Jonathan Ames, 15th April 1996. He wrote:

"I don't think the "testability" of psychoanalysis is as much the core of the conflict as is the paradigm of validation. In my view Goldberg quite rightly disassociates psychoanalysis from the paradigm of empiricism, and then (with a "significant" degree of emphasis, from a psychoanalytic view) attacks it as a "religion". I quite agree with his view of psychoanalysis as an emanation of Gnosticism -- the difference being that I myself embrace it as such."


My sense is to agree (partly) with Jonathan Ames that the testability of psycho-analysis is crucial to all the Freud-bashing. I might disagree with him in polarising testable objectivity with gnosticism - and then deciding which side of that see-saw to sit upon. It is just possible to conceive that psycho-analysis is not either, but instead some interesting blend/integration of the two. I think he has it about right in describing psycho-analysis as 'a deep relationship contextualized in an industrial, modern culture which itself is changing'. Psycho-analysis exists both within the human heart, and also within the positivist triumph of industrial modern culture.

These thoughts were provoked by his comment on testability. Is it true that we do forego any tests of our work? When Grünbaum took Freud to task, he agreed that psycho-analysis was testable, but Freud's test was self-contradicting. Nevertheless I think that Grünbaum homed in on something of the right idea. He picked out Freud's comment that an interpretation has to 'tally with something in the patient'. Grünbaum thought that the test of this was if the patients got better at the end of treatment. He cited some of Freud's (earlier) views to justify this test. It is an empirical, objective test. Grünbaum showed it was wrong - but he did so for the wrong reason. The reason, in my view (and I think this agrees with Ames) that it is wrong, is that something IN the patient, is willy-nilly subjective, and not objective. Can we then think of a TEST as existing outside of positivist, objectivist science - and yet still being a test? In my view we can. It comes to a question: how do we get the sense that when we make an interpretation we experience it as true? Actually there are many answers to this truth claim that a psycho-analyst makes every time he formulates and utters an interpretation; I have set out some of my thoughts on the answer in a comment on 'Psycho-analysis, science and common-sense' by Sebastian Gardner. My comment was published with Gardner's paper, in Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology 2: 115-118 (1995).

However, one of the most crucial aspects of my own training as a psycho-analyst (in this respect) was the paradigm spelled out most succinctly by Ezriel. Henry Ezriel wrote a number of brief papers on the response to interpretation. This notion has however been a founding idea in the development of British psycho-analysis. The patient's response to the interpretation is the guiding principle for the psycho-analyst in testing whether his interpretation has been 'correct' - in other words, whether it tallies with something in the patient. The shift in the emotional atmosphere of the analyst/patient contact following an interpretation is now a crucial focus of the analytic microscope. Of course, it is not the patient's agreement or disagreement which I am referring to, it is the unconscious response to the interpretation which is crucial. Ezriel described this as a move, emotionally, towards the dreaded, repressed relationship in the transference - i.e. towards, for instance, experiencing the analyst as a castrating father.

The interesting thing (and it is what makes the practice of psycho-analysis so fascinating) is that if we are interested in the unconscious response, then this too has to be interpreted. We have therefore a peculiar kind of 'test' which becomes a sequence, which theoretically does not end - it is a sequence of associations followed by interpretation followed by further associations followed by interpretation of those further associations followed.... And so on. This sequence is fundamental to the practice (as opposed to the theory) of psycho-analysis. However it has a form that resembles objective testing, and yet it is a subjective experiencing (on both sides of the analyst/patient divide).

I write this as a practising analyst, and I am curious to know what people who have thought more deeply in a theoretical way make of this view of psycho-analysis as a 'subjective science'. I will be very interested if there are responses to this message (which may lead to further associations on my part... and so on)

Bob Hinshelwood
16th April 1996

 


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Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

Reacting to Jonathan Ames, 15th April 1996. He wrote:

"I don't think the "testability" of psychoanalysis is as much the core of the conflict as is the paradigm of validation. In my view Goldberg quite rightly disassociates psychoanalysis from the paradigm of empiricism, and then (with a "significant" degree of emphasis, from a psychoanalytic view) attacks it as a "religion". I quite agree with his view of psychoanalysis as an emanation of Gnosticism -- the difference being that I myself embrace it as such."


My sense is to agree (partly) with Jonathan Ames that the testability of psycho-analysis is crucial to all the Freud-bashing. I might disagree with him in polarising testable objectivity with gnosticism - and then deciding which side of that see-saw to sit upon. It is just possible to conceive that psycho-analysis is not either, but instead some interesting blend/integration of the two. I think he has it about right in describing psycho-analysis as 'a deep relationship contextualized in an industrial, modern culture which itself is changing'. Psycho-analysis exists both within the human heart, and also within the positivist triumph of industrial modern culture.

These thoughts were provoked by his comment on testability. Is it true that we do forego any tests of our work? When Grünbaum took Freud to task, he agreed that psycho-analysis was testable, but Freud's test was self-contradicting. Nevertheless I think that Grünbaum homed in on something of the right idea. He picked out Freud's comment that an interpretation has to 'tally with something in the patient'. Grünbaum thought that the test of this was if the patients got better at the end of treatment. He cited some of Freud's (earlier) views to justify this test. It is an empirical, objective test. Grünbaum showed it was wrong - but he did so for the wrong reason. The reason, in my view (and I think this agrees with Ames) that it is wrong, is that something IN the patient, is willy-nilly subjective, and not objective. Can we then think of a TEST as existing outside of positivist, objectivist science - and yet still being a test? In my view we can. It comes to a question: how do we get the sense that when we make an interpretation we experience it as true? Actually there are many answers to this truth claim that a psycho-analyst makes every time he formulates and utters an interpretation; I have set out some of my thoughts on the answer in a comment on 'Psycho-analysis, science and common-sense' by Sebastian Gardner. My comment was published with Gardner's paper, in Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology 2: 115-118 (1995).

However, one of the most crucial aspects of my own training as a psycho-analyst (in this respect) was the paradigm spelled out most succinctly by Ezriel. Henry Ezriel wrote a number of brief papers on the response to interpretation. This notion has however been a founding idea in the development of British psycho-analysis. The patient's response to the interpretation is the guiding principle for the psycho-analyst in testing whether his interpretation has been 'correct' - in other words, whether it tallies with something in the patient. The shift in the emotional atmosphere of the analyst/patient contact following an interpretation is now a crucial focus of the analytic microscope. Of course, it is not the patient's agreement or disagreement which I am referring to, it is the unconscious response to the interpretation which is crucial. Ezriel described this as a move, emotionally, towards the dreaded, repressed relationship in the transference - i.e. towards, for instance, experiencing the analyst as a castrating father.

The interesting thing (and it is what makes the practice of psycho-analysis so fascinating) is that if we are interested in the unconscious response, then this too has to be interpreted. We have therefore a peculiar kind of 'test' which becomes a sequence, which theoretically does not end - it is a sequence of associations followed by interpretation followed by further associations followed by interpretation of those further associations followed.... And so on. This sequence is fundamental to the practice (as opposed to the theory) of psycho-analysis. However it has a form that resembles objective testing, and yet it is a subjective experiencing (on both sides of the analyst/patient divide).

I write this as a practising analyst, and I am curious to know what people who have thought more deeply in a theoretical way make of this view of psycho-analysis as a 'subjective science'. I will be very interested if there are responses to this message (which may lead to further associations on my part... and so on)

Bob Hinshelwood
16th April 1996

 


human-nature.com
© Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

US -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.com logo

UK -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.co.uk logo

 | Human Nature | The Human Nature Daily Review | Psychiatry Research Online |