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Putting Theory to Work

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This book contains a continuation and expansion of the topics covered in the author's previous book, Psychoanalysis: from Practice to Theory, about the use of theories in analytic practice. As a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) Conceptual Research Committee and Chair of the Working Party on Theoretical Issues, the author, who teaches at Nanterre University, has studied and taught on the subject for several years, as well as writing many articles on it. The book will be particularly useful for psychoanalytical and psychotherapeutic societies, as well as for research committees.

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CHAPTER ONE The use of public and of private implicit theories in the clinical situation

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CHAPTER TITLE

CHAPTER ONE

The use of public and of private implicit theories in the clinical situation

Werner Bohleber

Introduction n order to understand the role played by theory in psychoanalysis, its development, and specific formation, it is necessary to become aware of the particularities of the relationship between theory and praxis that distinguishes psychoanalysis from other scientific fields.

The naïve observer might assume that we have stored psychoanalytic theory in our memory, either according to particular schools or more comprehensively, and during analytical sessions we simply retrieve the proper concepts and part-theories that fit with the material as it unfolds, thereby allowing a fuller psychoanalytic understanding. But even the hermeneutic circle points out that we encounter what another person says with certain preconceptions, leading us to expand or change what we hear in the process of understanding. This also applies to the theories and concepts that, in advance, shape the analyst’s preliminary and thereby pre- or unconscious mode of perception and experience. We are all familiar with clinical discussions among colleagues in which the same material can be understood using different concepts. This indicates that analysts enter into an active and personal engagement with certain theories

 

CHAPTER TWO Do analysts do what they say they do? Clinical material

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CHAPTER TWO

Do analysts do what they say they do?

Clinical material

Dorothy E. Holmes

he three sessions of psychoanalytic case material presented below are from the four times a week (Monday to Thursday) analysis of a late forty-year-old female medical doctor in a field unrelated to mental health. She has been married for twenty-four years and is the mother of two young adult, unmarried daughters recently graduated from college, and a son who is a college-bound high school senior. The patient has been in analysis for two and a quarter years. Before analysis, she had had long-term individual, group, and marital therapy with another clinician who referred her to me. She wanted psychoanalysis because she felt she had reached a plateau in the earlier therapies and had not been able to achieve freedom from recurring feelings of emptiness, self-recrimination, and lack of vitality. In consultation with me she described a drab marriage with profound mutual isolation and suspicion, sparse sex, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt stemming from her husband’s low level of productivity in his health professional practice and bad business practices. Jointly incorporated, my patient is legally co-responsible for the debt and feels emotionally responsible for it as well.

 

Commentary on Dr Holmes’ clinical material

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Commentary on

Dr Holmes’ clinical material

Peter Fonagy

Introduction y task is far from easy. I am required to illustrate the EPF

Working Party’s framework for implicit theory outlined by

Jorge Canestri using the subtle, intriguing, and detailed clinical material presented by Dr Holmes. There is one important rule to this game. I have to avoid the temptation, ever-present for psychoanalytic clinicians, to offer reformulations of the case. We do this without thinking when we supervise publicly or privately. But then I would be illustrating my public and private theories rather than exploring those of Dr Holmes. My task here is not to listen to the patient and hear, or pretend to hear, experiences that the analyst indicated no awareness of. In this presentation I am illustrating something rather different, illustrating the act of listening to the analyst, showing understanding of the analytic understanding. I am trying to uncover the analyst’s hidden (implicit or preconscious) assumptions that help explain her understanding of the patient’s material. Thus I am forced to forgo the usual narcissistic gratification of demonstrating my superior understanding of the patient who just happens not to be here to deny my speculations. By contrast, Dr Holmes is very much here and

 

CHAPTER THREE Theoretical and clinical reflections on public and private theories

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CHAPTER THREE

Theoretical and clinical reflections on public and private theories

Charles Hanly

he idea of hidden implicit theorising in psychoanalysis is akin to Collingwood’s (1946) idea that contemporary historians implicitly express but do not state the latent assumptions of their own epoch when they write the histories of earlier epochs. Hegel

(1837) had already announced in his Lectures on the Philosophy of

History that the owl of Minerva only takes flight at the end of an era.

The history of an era can only be written after it is over. The epistemological implication of these German idealist ideas is that when history moves beyond narrative to explanation, the ideas required for the construction of explanations will impose a selection from among the facts made available by the narration that will, unbeknownst to the historian, shape his account of the past into a mirror that will reflect the implicit, unacknowledged value and ideological premises of his own age, which he must inevitably bring to the explanatory task. Hegel’s history actually illustrates this epistemological predicament in the writing of history. Hegel was aware of his idealised version of the nineteenth century Prussian parliamentary monarchy that enabled him to “find” in history the hidden purpose of its dialectically inevitable realisation through the conflicts and travail of the eras that preceded it. What Hegel did not grasp was the implicit

 

CHAPTER FOUR The case of Albert

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CHAPTER FOUR

The case of Albert

Samuel Zysman

Introduction uring the IPA Congress in New Orleans in 2004, the EFP

Working Party on Implicit Theories organised a discussion panel where the “map” was introduced as a working tool in their ongoing research, meant to uncover and classify the contradictory unconscious theories acting in the analyst’s mind during the sessions. Thanks to their invitation I had then the opportunity to read a short paper with the title “Theories as objects”. In it I commented on the “map” (or “grid”) and its application to clinical material that was then presented, trying to enlarge the metapsychological approach to the problem of different theories coexisting simultaneously in the analyst’s mind. Shortly afterwards I was invited a second time to a similar panel to be held at the Rio de Janeiro IPA Congress in 2005, but this time it was not as a discussant but as the presenter of the clinical material that both the panel members and the audience were to discuss, upon which the “map” would be put to the test again.

 

Commentary on Samuel Zysman’s clinical case

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Commentary on

Samuel Zysman’s clinical case

Paul Denis1

he case presented by Samuel Zysman lends itself rather well to the study of the analyst’s explicit and implicit theoretical presuppositions because of the frequency and the clarity of his interventions.

Of course, much of what we can say based on a clinical history of this complexity, necessarily too briefly reported, and on the account of only two sessions, is entirely conjectural. We are well aware that this constitutes a stage in an analysis, a sort of snapshot, and that many fantasmatic configurations in the transference and resistances left aside in the two sessions in question will have been the object of the analyst’s interventions and interpretations at other times. What I am going to try to present is rather like a school exercise and cannot in any way constitute a valid clinical viewpoint on Albert’s case, less still an analysis of Samuel Zysman’s practice.

If we consider the fourteen interventions made by the analyst in the course of the two sessions that he has reported to us, the

 

CHAPTER FIVE Unconscious theories in the analyst’s mind at work: searching for them in clinical material

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CHAPTER FIVE

Unconscious theories in the analyst’s mind at work: searching for them in clinical material*

Werner Bohleber

n this work we want to arrive at a deeper understanding of how the analyst uses psychoanalytic theory in his clinical work. We want to offer greater theoretical illumination to the cognitive– affective space of the preconscious in which the public and the private implicit theories and their content and motives are established.

Listening to a patient perception, reflection, and communication of psychic states, motives, and tendencies are normally formulated in the language of a sophisticated common sense psychology (Reder, 2002).

With this language we are able to understand ourselves and the communicated material of the patient at first in a more or less naïve way. However, at the same time psychoanalytic concepts come to our mind. They are functioning as preconceptions that focus our attention on particular and very different aspects of the clinical material. This process has the structure of a hermeneutic circle, which can be traversed by various theory segments in generating new meaning. We thereby place the patient’s statements in a theoretically determined

 

The case of Floppy

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The case of Floppy

Lilia Bordone de Semeniuk

Case history. Floppy loppy is an attractive twenty-six-year-old woman who started her treatment with me three years ago. I have been seeing her three times a week, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Her former treatment, with a male analyst, was interrupted due to the analyst’s illness (supposedly a depressive syndrome). Then she asked her father what to do he advised her to look for a new analyst, a recommendation that she accepted without hesitation.

When I asked her about the reasons for seeking psychological help, she described them in the following order:

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1.

2.

3.

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Problems in her work: she is currently devoting her time to making women’s clothing, in association with her brother and a friend of his. She feels she is disorganised and not efficient enough in her work as well as in other activities.

Vocational doubts: she started studying to become a journalist, but after a while she was not sufficiently convinced whether she liked it or not.

 

Commentary on Lilia Bordone de Semeniuk’s clinical case

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Commentary on

Lilia Bordone de Semeniuk’s clinical case

Dieter Bürgin

irst of all, I want to express my gratitude to Lilia Bordone for having offered us such interesting material to work on. It is a strange thing to have three people looking at one’s clinical work in search of unconscious theories.

Reading the material of this session about a twenty-six-year-old woman who seems to be a traumatised child (loss of the mother at the age of two), a traumatised adolescent (interruption at the age of nineteen; isolated emotions), and a traumatised young woman (loss of the former analyst—a man—because of a depression), who has a psychotherapist as father (burden or chance?) on whom she seems to be quite dependent (she again and again asks him what to do), and who is not settled in her professional identity, I first followed the steps of the analyst who had the “impression that I was not going deep enough and by the fact that Floppy used to respond to transferential interpretations saying something of this sort: ‘It is like my boyfriend says; analysis is OK, except when the analysts begin with that story of what is going on between you and them’.”

 

CHAPTER SIX Supervision in psychoanalytical training: the analysis and the use of implicit theories in psychoanalytical practice

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CHAPTER SIX

Supervision in psychoanalytical training: the analysis and the use of implicit theories in psychoanalytical practice

Jorge Canestri

he objective of this work is to propose a comprehensive reflection on the concept of supervision and on its function in psychoanalytical training. Particular attention will be given to the use of the analyst’s implicit theories in clinical practice. An example of a supervision will be analysed using a conceptual instrument that is the result of qualitative research carried out within the European Psychoanalytical Federation.

Studying the history of a concept, following its progress and its transformations, and critically analysing its links to theory, are useful exercises in any discipline. But in psychoanalysis, characterised as it is by a growing theoretical pluralism and affected by an insidious terminological Babelisation, the application of the critical-historical method is absolutely essential. This is also the case when considering supervision.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN Theories as objects: a psychoanalytic inquiry into minds and theories

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Theories as objects: a psychoanalytic inquiry into minds and theories*

Samuel Zysman

Introduction n the quest for gaining self-knowledge and to understand its place in the universe, mankind has been making momentous steps forwards since its origins. Even before modern neurobiological studies started to appear in the second half of the past century, the amazing ability of human consciousness to focus research activities on itself was already at work: in the beginning, as one of the great human philosophical concerns. Then, during the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud made two outstanding contributions from the scientific field to this endeavour.

We owe Darwin not only for his revolutionary formulation of the general laws that govern living nature. Also, and no less important, we owe him both the humbling recognitions of our being part of the

I

* This chapter was first presented as a discussion paper in the Panel on “Mapping implicit (private) theories in clinical practice”, at the 43rd IPAC, New Orleans, March

 

CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusions

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Conclusions

Jorge Canestri

en years after beginning our research it is now perhaps possible to outline the various observations we have made as well as what we have learned from them. In this chapter I will also try to suggest how this work could be continued and I will mention some of the problems that still remain unsolved.

T

Initial questions

First of all, I think we should ask ourselves whether the initial questions that we formulated ten years ago have been answered.

Perhaps the first question in order of importance—and that provides the title for one of the chapters of this book as well as for our participation in the ApsaA Congress, “Do analysts do what they say they do?”—can easily be answered. No, as Joseph Sandler said in his work (Sandler & Sandler, 1983) on which our research is based, analysts do not do what they say (and believe) they do. In a chapter of the previous book, Psychoanalysis: From Practice to Theory (Canestri,

 

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