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Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Need for liberating Psychoanalysis

This post is a slightly modified version of an exchange between a well-versed colleague and me, regarding training, and the need for a serious revision of what needs correction, change, and maybe additions, to the IPA system of training, to catch up with the status of psychoanalysis nowadays. I will start with stating my views about contemporary psychoanalysis, to save the reader the trouble of guessing where I am coming from. 

In 1995, the IPA asked a number of distinguished psychoanalysts from around the world to give their opinion regarding the decline of interest in psychoanalysis.Their response was not- in my opinion- satisfactory but it confirmed that the crisis is real and threatening. I believe-though I haven't got confirmed results yet- the crisis is even worse now than it was more than two decades ago. My view is that all the desperate 'justifications' the IPA and the Regional Associations are coming up with are avoiding the REAL reason. Psychoanalysis as knowledge and practice has deteriorated badly over the years. The deterioration, if not just because of the self-deception of some advocates of new schools of psychoanalysis; it is because the IPA training system is by now archaic and not in touch with the changes that happened in the field since 1926. It was originally flawed because of the circumstances of psychoanalysis then, deteriorated further with the deterioration of the Training Analysts' status, and got even worse with the resistance to look at the problem directly as one issue, and the insistence on patchy solutions to its many dysfunctions. Any plea to save psychoanalysis from deteriorating and the very real possibility of its demise hits a stone wall made from denying some obvious facts about training and the practice under the guise of the new schools. 

My learned Colleague is calling for freeing ourselves from an arcane devotion to certain unsupported ideas about psychoanalysis and its practice, which were inherited blindly. She also advocates questioning what has become of the theory of analysis. I agree with what she is advocating but I wanted to add that it is a duty of experienced analysts to protect psychoanalysis from irresponsible attempts at replacing it with very scanty theories and provide it with better revisions of the basic conceptions of the classical theory.

My colleague calls for freeing ourselves from defining psychoanalysis rigidly by what was established for its practice eighty years ago. That practice of psychoanalysis is outlined for us in a haphazard way. The result is that any deviating from that model would not be considered psychoanalysis. Example, if I do psychoanalysis with a patient twice a weak that would not be psychoanalysis. My colleague argues, and I concur that it is not right to judge what is psychoanalytic by the standards of practice that were established in Berlin ninety years ago. When I expressed my ideas about the practice of analysis (in my book on the Classical Theory) I received -let us say- discouraging remarks from here and from some other parts of the world. This is a very strange situation: we are expected to practice psychoanalysis according to a model (Eitengon) that never had a theoretical basis to explain it nor does it have any current justification. Eitengon's model specifies the number of sessions for practice but does not underline the importance of adhering to Freud's clinical protocol. Even worse, Eitengonh model was established at a time when the theory of psychoanalysis-let alone its practice- was not fully developed to be taken as the ultimate in guiding training. At the same time, many analysts practice some sort of psychotherapy based on their school of thought, but four times a week and call that psychoanalysis. Furthermore, there is no defined link between theory and practice in psychoanalysis except Freud's tripartite reservations that we should stick to.  Yet, the most maligned part of the classical theory is that particular well-defined aspect in practice. We have not agreed yet on the relationship that should be between what we call theory and what we designate as the right way to practice.

The reason I am posting this post is a common misuse of the term psychoanalysis. Most analysts-nowadays-take the term to mean what they practice. They have been using the Eitingon model as the criterion of psychoanalysis whatever was their theoretical stance, which could be very far from the classical theory. My colleague raised the flag: psychoanalysis is the dog and Eitngon is the tail. The tail doe does not wag the dog...period. Therefore, it is imperative, necessary, unnegotiable to have a theory of psychoanalysis, that is not a modification, an update, a version of the original. Once that theory is established it could provide a practice protocol that belongs to it and there will be no confusion: what is a psychoanalytic practice.