Search This Blog

Saturday, 19 January 2019


Freud: An Unwilling Structuralist:

Reviewers of history endeavour to show that historical events are determined by factors that when exposed put the events in a better perspective and reveal new implicit aspects significance. I intend to do something of that sort with a brief account of the Freudian theory of psychoanalysis. Freud’s strive to get a comprehensive theory of psychoanalysis has never succeeded. The reason- surprisingly-is his genius.  He was looking for a functional theory, which would have been a theory of cause\effect format. This is the nature of theoretical formulations in Nomothetic sciences because dealing with the physical world permits confining observations within causative relations. Functional theories were the only perspective of scientific endeavours in Freud’s time. There was no clear concept of human sciences as a different set of sciences, or that their theories would be different from the causative format.

It was not until the thirties of last century when structuralism began to take shape and get identified. Human phenomena emerged (the first one in that regard was language) as a different type phenomenon that necessitated different type of theories. De Saussure- a linguist (1906)- made a distinction between speech and language in which language was the underlying structure of the varied speeches, thus set up the varied rules of each speech. The human sciences were born as distinct sciences. Thinkers realized that human phenomena were not amenable to simplistic cause\effect explanation, because they are formed of interconnected complex parts and aspects that require to be interpreted not explained. Marriage, for insurance, is a complex social phenomenon that exists in all human society but has varied and different essential rules. Yet, with all those variations it serves one purpose: encoding incestuous prohibitions.

Every time Freud seemed to have reached a functional explanation of a phenomenon (like dreams), his genius did not let him get away with it. His theory of wish fulfillment in dreams gave him the insight about the working of the primary processes in the formation of dreams, which led him to reveal the secrets of Parapraxes and Jokes (two subsequent works). So, the wish fulfillment discovery was pushed aside and the primary processes- or an unconscious processes- became what was behind the structuring of psychological phenomena (the unconscious that was stipulated in the three early books did not have a content like sex). Something more important transpired from that change in direction. The theory of psychopathology was at that point still based on sexuality as the cause of symptoms, which were the effect of repressing it.  The five years between the Interpretation of Dreams and The Book on Jokes were spend in revising the aetiological theory of sexuality. He came up with the theory of infantile sexuality, and repression of sexuality was no longer the cause of the neuroses. On the contrary, infantile sexuality reversed the causal relationship between sexuality and the neuroses: psychoneuroses were causes of sexual difficulties and their repression.

In the humanities, the functional theories collapsed in the face of the structural nature of psychical phenomena. Psychical phenomena, natural and pathological, were structures that could be interpreted as manifestations of other dynamics.  The notion of drives behind psychological phenomena was not anymore acceptable because the contribution of ‘something unconscious’ in creating psychic phenomena obviated the notion of a direct connection between drive and reaction.  At that point Freud’s genius made him revive a concept that has mentioned in the Three Essays: TRIEB.  He identified it as a pressure put on the mind to respond to endosomatic pressure. The concept of Trieb removed any trace or confusion about the psychoanalytic concept of human phenomena: they are not the responses specific internal or external stimuli (Instinkt), but a response to the pressure put on the mind by those stimuli to act. Therefor, it is not accurate or correct to think functionally about human phenomena because they are always a structure created in the mind before being actualized. Since no two minds are alike, even no response is like a previous one because the concept of Trieb eliminated functionalism from psychoanalysis. The human subject has to change the pressure of a stimulus into a wish before responding to it.

Freeing himself from the narrow concepts of functionality and causality, Freud was able to reveal that psychical phenomena are made of dualities (sexual Trieb vs. ego Trieb, life and death, etc.). Without articulating this foundational insight or the contribution of any other known external input,  Freud wrote three papers (1915) called -wrongly-by Strachey “the metapsychological papers”. The three papers were on Repression, Trieb, and the Unconscious. He stipulated that our psychological life is structured as dualities and not entities. Repression is not a defence mechanism but two processes one deals with the preverbal and the other with the post verbal issues. He also added that unconsciousness is three states of dualities. The most important of those dualities is the duality of pre consciousness and unconsciousness, which is a systemic state in our thought processes and the function of the primary process.

In his search for the ultimate functional theory his genius made him discover several structural formulations of the psyche, which he called “metapsychologies”. Freud’s metapsychologies allowed talking about psychical processes and structures in qualitative and quantitative terms without turning those reprocess into entities. He said that if you could talk about a process from an economical, dynamic, and topographic terms then you are talking about it metpsychologically. In other terms: Freud (the closet structuralist) was aware that metapsychology could be distorted to become other functional theories.

The good example is his latest metapsychology of the tripartite agencies of ego id and superego. Once he established this tripartite model of the psyche, he immediately attached to it the first metapsychology of the conscious\ unconscious, and preconscious. Thus, it was not possible to use the agencies as entities because they differ based on their topographic state of functioning. Nevertheless, we still find   Hartmann and Rapaport ignore Freud explicit warning and build an ego psychology that had a detrimental and lasting effect on psychoanalysis, more so in the USA.
The result of misunderstanding, ignoring, or just the mirage of a functional theory of psychoanalysis has resulted in the kind of distortions that created its modern crisis. Exploring this point further would be a good way of ending this long posting. Therefore, I stop here and plan to visit the catastrophic theoretical condition of psychoanalysis. 

I have to emphasize that my views are product of the American field of psychoanalysis more than its condition in other parts of the world due to my limited contacts out of North America.

Monday, 14 January 2019


Addendum


I think I was misunderstood when I said that the IPA certifies us. I meant certifies us as psychoanalysts, because I know that IPA recognises and accepts to membership only the graduates of its accredited institutes. In Canada, one has to finish training successfully for the Training Committee to present him for election to the society. Getting elected is the only way to become member of the local society. This membership gets the new comer his membership in the IPA. Certification for the practice of psychoanalysis is an administrative issue and is based on the academic education of the practitioner, and if it meets the local and national standards of the mental health providers.
The reason I mention that distinction is that the surge of academic institutions that educate and train people in psychotherapy that is firmly based on psychoanalytic principles (mainly European) exceeded the standards of the IPA training system. Academia has more facilities, experience, potential, let alone the freedom to do what is necessary to bring their students the best of psychoanalysis and discard what is dated without the narcissistic adulation of everything ‘classical’. The IPA with its training system, concepts of what is psychoanalytic and what is not, lacks the cultural perspective of psychoanalysis. It only train in psychotherapy. It has a low level of tolerance to change. The academic expansion of psychoanalysis is inevitable and is enriching it. The coexistence of the IPA as an educational resource create harmful confusion.

Saturday, 12 January 2019




4. An Unhealthy Symbiosis
The crisis of psychoanalysis is intriguing: the IPA was the incubator that protected and strengthened psychoanalysis to survive, but it is now-inadvertently- causing its gradual demise. The reason for changing form the protector to the danger that threatens it is the analysts’ refusal to acknowledge that its function in Freud’s time is not what is expected of it now. 

Jones (1955, p 74), commenting on the early success of psychoanalysis said that it came with ‘sinister signs of growing tension between the adherents’, which made Freud think that the remedy is a wider organization not local societies that would eventually form an international organization. The IPA was then born. Although this move proved to work at that time, it left an indelible mark on the psychoanalytic organizations: growing from the top to bottom (the secret committee, the training analyst status, the centers of power in the local societies). Thus, a symbiotic link between psychoanalysis and its organization was established and with it something wrong happened without any attention paid to: instead of psychoanalysis giving the organization the justification to exist, the organization became the official authority and official representation of psychoanalysis. This reversed dependency affected psychoanalysis negatively. Psychoanalysis is knowledge that is living, evolving, and advancing while the organization is supposed follow that advancement and change to keep serving it. Instead, the organization of psychoanalysis has become the authority that decides all the issues of the community of psychoanalysts: training and practice, what is acceptable deviations from the standard the Freudian theory, accreditation of and certification. The result was changing the organization-IPA- from a membership organization of professionals into an educational training organization and licencing body of professionals.

The link between education (learning and training) and membership was beneficial at the beginning of the psychoanalytic movement. It contained the disruptive trends and even the individuals whose personal idiosyncrasies could have ended the movement early. It also adopted the developing and expanding theoretical aspects and improvised a system of to oversee learning and training. However, there should have been some awareness that the symbiotic relationship between the membership aspect and the educational aspect that were entwined in the structure of the IPA has to end when psychoanalysis reaches a level of stability and strength that allow each aspect to endure on its own. Maybe this was too much to expect early in the history of psychoanalysis when people were busy building to expect them to think of changes of that nature. Yet, it was obvious as early at that time that the entwined functions of education and membership was creating  damaging and unsustainable conditions within the movement. The continuation of the “sinister signs of tension between the members” proved that the symbiosis between analysis and its institution was detrimental.  It actually got worse; the tension between individual analysts- as was the case before the creation of the IPA- became wars between camps of leading figures in the movement.

Separating education from membership could have kept psychoanalysis, as the evolving knowledge, away from the political, hierarchical, personal and status revelries, and made membership an expression of devotion to the profession. That separation should have been regarded the wise thing to do at a future point, since it was too early to think of it before Freud’s passing. Now when we have the history of the movement spread in front of us, we ask: at what point this separation should have taken place? A reasonable point was at the time of the conflicts in Great Britain between the Kleinian and the A. Freudians (the controversies), and in France at the time of the splits of Nacht\ Lagacht then Lagacht\ Lacan. My vague and limited knowledge of the history of psychoanalysis in the US, before the late sixties, makes me think that the environment at the Menninger’s clinic could have made that separation successfully happen with less pain; if it was not for the dominance of the psychiatrists at the scene, who were also academics. At those points in the history of psychoanalysis the separation would have solved several problems then, and many of our current problems.

Those three points in the history of psychoanalysis are significantly indicative of what happens to demand change. They were points that came when psychoanalysis was turning the corner from a simplistic understanding of  Freud’s functional theorizing of the psyche to a more structural attitude toward more advanced psychoanalysis and newer understanding of the blind spots in Freud's theory.  Kleinian psychoanalysis was moving towards exploring the processes that structure the infant’s intrapsychic core, instead of the psychologies of defence mechanisms and adaptation which were simplistic expansion of ego psychology.  As I will discuss in the next section of this posting, analysts ‘revolted’ (sometimes unsuccessfully) against functional analytic theories because their analytic insights went further and beyond the last of Freud's insights. Psychoanalysis was evolving and gaining new perspective of the human subject. Missing this feature made the IPA miss the chance to understand the nature of the changes in psychoanalysis and the chance to change accordingly. For us now, we should look back on the lost chances to know what we could do  to save psychoanalysis from the decaying IPA. The IPA’s function is no longer the same of Freud’s IPA.  
In the next part of this posting I will concentrate on the changes in psychoanalysis that occurred and were not given the proper attention to consider making the appropriate changes in the functions of the IPA, particularly in the leaning and training in psychoanalysis.  
 

Tuesday, 8 January 2019




3. Evading Facing the Crisis of Psychoanalysis.
It is not a bad assumption that the IPA’s recent interest in research is a reaction to a new situation that requires making decision about it, in a scientific way, based on research. The obvious interest of the membership in that assumption also reflects a certain dissatisfaction with aspect in our “craft” of psychoanalysis. But what is it? Up till now the enthusiasm about research was not supported by any definitive identification of what will be researched. Research should not be an objective; it is only the means to reach an objective.

It is also not a bad assumption to think that the declining interest in psychoanalysis by the public and the lack of its appeal to the new professionals is creating a crisis for the IPA, and the local societies. The crisis is not only the gradual loss of the credibility of the institutions of psychoanalysis; it also divests those institutions of the absolute right to accredit anything “psychoanalytic”. However, the different attempts to dealing with the crisis in psychoanalysis look like efforts to evade dealing with it. I am not talking here about unconscious motives but flaws in the approaches taken to face the crisis. Research, as one of those approaches, implies that the crisis is caused by lack of having  the right image of the effectiveness of psychoanalysis and providing the public with it.
The IPA, from its beginning has adopted the attitude of not taking ownership of its role in the decline of psychoanalysis, except in the final report on The Actual Crisis of Psychoanalysis (1995). In that reports there were the usual blaming the crisis on social and political reasons, but most of the opinions dealt with issues of theoretical confusion, training and the formation of the psychoanalyst, the lack of rigor in articulating the standards of psychoanalysis. Presently, the IPA and most psychoanalysts stipulate different reasons for the crisis mostly related to problems with the traditional classical theory, though show complete loyalty to its method of training.  This too is not matter of unconscious motivation but a result of separating ourselves from the crisis and placing the blame on anything else but us. The crisis is the crisis of the psychoanalysts: aren’t we the ones who are failing t solve the crisis, if not possibly being its cause!

The most upsetting thing about the attitude the IPA, and the analysts are taking is the blatant ‘narcissistic’ nature of that attitude. Narcissism is identifying with an image, as Narcissus did, and not identifying ourselves first then looking for our image next. We have an image of ourselves as professional of a special status (not just psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers). But the trend is that if we pass the IPA training therefore, we could claim to being different (better). Learning and being trained in psychoanalysis  does not make us better psychologists, psychiatrist or social workers. It makes us just psychoanalysts,Then we are on our own: some will be good analysts and some will not. 


Identifying one’s self as that improved professional that we were before our training in psychoanalysis is putting the makeup on one’s reflection in a mirror instead of on one’s face. Even the psychoanalytic organizations fall in the trap of narcissism in the same manner: the IPA sees itself as an organization of a special status because it teaches, trains and graduates its breed of professionals, i.e., an organization that engenders its own reason d’etre by having the right to ordain its members.  Moreover, having been the only organization that has the right to train analysts added a complication to its narcissism: it has the right to make from some professionals a superior class of practitioners, thus it’s a step above their academic education without any proof of that distinction.
The point to make is that the narcissistic core of the IPA and of the psychoanalysts allows disowning failure and encourages denial and self deception. I honestly believe that many psychoanalysts are honest enough to allow themselves those aberrations. Refusing to wear the psychoanalytic uniform of narcissism puts the analyst in conflict with his organization.

This prologue is to explain the reason and the objective of this posting, which is a call for looking closely and seriously into the IPA system of training and the formation of the psychoanalysts of today. To do that the proper way, we have to look for the point when we were still part of a new movement in the field of the humanities and at what point we seized to be part of those pioneers. Research will not respond to those questions but sensible educated points of view could.

I intend to do that by posting my point view in my blog and just mention that on the open line. The jest of my point of view is not the popular of view amongst psychoanalysts; more so in the USA but is that crisis in psychoanalysis is that we still use the IPA system of training that has been improvised and applied over a hundred years ago. Psychoanalysis is an evolving unique body of knowledge which should always review and revise itself; naturally its way of forming the psychoanalyst too.

Borrowing from open line's daly saying:
"To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly."
Henri Bergson

Wednesday, 2 January 2019


2. Research and psychoanalysis.
The discussion about research and psychoanalysis would die in the womb if it is not put in its proper context: Who and What initiated it lately? I am saying that because the outcome of this discussion and two previous ones with a small group of colleagues- whether “it stops at that” or continues beyond ‘that’- does not seem to related to any defined purpose. We just air some frustration we did not even articulate…the frustration with the state of psychoanalysis at the present time.  This year we got from the IPA the notion that the organization is going to sponsor research in psychoanalysis as an attempt to rejuvenate its “dormant” potential.
The problem - point blank- is the crisis of psychoanalysis in regard to the falling interest in it from patients and the young professionals who are less interested in faltering profession. In 1995, the IPA (the House of Delegates) formed a group of senior analysts to study (The Actual Crisis of Psychanalysis: Challenges and Perspectives). The outcome was reflective of the state of psychoanalysis itself, not the circumstances around it (See Cesio’s report on the findings in the IPA publication). Neither there was an agreement on anything in that report nor was a follow up on the subject. In my opinion, the thing that is keeping psychoanalysis alive till now is that we believe that it is still there and also the presence of our organizations, weak and disorganized as they are.In other terms, the issue that research is going to prove that psychoanalysis is still a viable psychotherapy, and if we publish those results, we will convince patients to seek it as a superior psychotherapy.
The IPA’s first report has several intelligent a revealing remarks about training and the loosing of our identity as psychoanalysts. There was no mention of solutions. I mention that to bring to attention that the IPA and We, as devoted members, are looking for what is wrong with people who are not paying attention to what is best for themselves (them !!).
Going back to the issue of research. A group of psychologists and three psychologist-psychoanalysts discussed (twice) the notion of investigating and comparing the changes resulting from psychoanalysis and ordinary psychotherapies. We thought of applying psychological tests (MMPI) before and after two years of psychotherapy. Although we were aware of the problems of sampling and discussed the issue of matching the therapists, two difficult problems remained unresolvable: giving the psychological test before the start of the therapy will influence the outcome of the therapy, and psychoanalysts are unable to be definitive enough about what they consider “change due to psychoanalysis”. This is the reason I could say with confidence that research in the human sciences is either impossible or will not lead to the certainty we expect from research.
W. Windelband (1894) clacified sciences into two groups: Nomothetic sciences, which generally pertain to the physical world. They search (and research) for the laws and the causal factors in physical phenomena.  The most imposing feature in this group of sciences is the deductive method of reaching its theories, which allow explaining matters. The other group the idiographic sciences which pertain to the human subject in all his attributes. They investigate human phenomena inductively (the intrapsychical) to discover their structural nature, thus could be interpret, Psychoanalysis, despite all Freud’s efforts and his disciples (like us) to objectify its findings is a human science and we cannot prove the correctness of our interpretations by any external evidence.
Therefore, we should be careful what we wish for: the wish to research psychoanalysis either will prove nothing, or if it proves something it will be a laughing matter to the serious researchers. 

Monday, 31 December 2018


Analyst are getting elated if not excited about the IPA's push toward encouraging research  in psychoanalysis.

Dr. Lear, who has a good position to examine  psychoanalysts' conception of research, gave some valuable comments that he and his team require to support research in Chicago University. I believe most analysts should think of those comments to balance out their excited enthusiasm  about research.

Dr. Jonathan Lear's remarks about research in psychoanalysis are important in putting us in a true perspective of what research is and in psychoanalysis in particular.

To start,: there are three questions that we should begin with answering: Why do we need research in psychoanalysis? What do we need to research in psychoanalysis? Who will be doing the research?

The first question: Psychoanalysis reached its peak in the seventies of last century without any thoughts regarding research, because what it offered (discovering the intrapsychic core of the subject) was remarkably evident and palpable to everyone. It was not an issue of whether it existed or not. Discovering the intrapsychic stimulated other human sciences to conduct researches in their own  fields of interest. child and social psychology are examples. We should keep in mind that those were investigations and not research. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do research in the humanities more so in psychoanalysis.

The second question: Most of what has been expressed till  now was about proving the effectiveness of psychoanalysis (as therapy). This issue (is psychoanalysis effective or more effective than other therapies) requires research of the "experimental type" to come up with answers of yes or no.  The experimental type of research is based on comparing two axact  samples of the research material, change only one aspect in one of the two samples to find out if that experimental change gives an answer of yes or no.  We cannot select two axat groups of patients (age, education, intelligence, etc., and degree of neuroses) plus two similar  groups of psychoanalysts (especially that we do not have one psychoanalysis or system of training) to conduct a scientific research.

The third question is of  who will do the research. It does not need too much fidgeting about that. Nothing in our training qualifies us to do research or investigations. The reasons are boring to mention and would be of no interest to people who think that they know the results of the  research and the investigation beforehand.

 Dr. Lear's description of some of the misunderstandings of the ethics of research are waking up calls to the analysts who think that research in psychoanalysis will solve the problem of its loss of its credibility. The loss of the credibility of psychoanalysis is not going to be managed by some ill guided or unrealistic research conceptions. It will be regained when we produce credible psychoanalysis, as was he case fifty years ago.   

Thursday, 20 December 2018



The Trump's sense of omnipotence.

I am writing a long post on the issue of diagnosis to be posted in few days, if in those days it is still  of value. However, the responses I received suggest that my purpose of getting involved in the issue of diagnosis was missed. Arnie Richards is the one who got the gist of it and reminded us twice about it: We are trying to help the senators to know what they are blindly.supporting.

Yet the resignation of the secretary of defense few hours ago obliges me to open the subject of the danger of withdrawing the American troops from Syria one more time.

The withdrawal will create a vacuum that has to be filled immediately or it will be occupied by Iran or Turkey. Israel will find itself dragged into the conflict forcibly. Knowing some things about the middle east Arab would accept  Iran or Turkey over Israel including the anti iran and Turkey. There will a possibility of a limited war but war all the same. More dead, maimed, children in misery on all sides of battlefield.   

My layman understanding of the Trump personality ( not a diagnosis) is a spoiled teenage brat with law IQ. He responds to fear with stupid bravado.  Lately the noose is getting tighter around his neck regarding his future. He is ( as he says) not a coward, rat, or scared. He will show them...us. He is reckless and self destructive (6 Bankruptcies) and now he is going into one of those situations. As a slightly retarded adolescent he thinks this bankruptcy will be like the previous ones; and he will be bailed out by someone.
It might happen by the stupidity of the senates but it could also take the party down with him.