53 Chapters
Medium 9781780491455

CHAPTER SEVEN. Listening in non-clinical situations

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

“For as soon as anyone deliberately concentrates his attention to a certain degree, he begins to select from the material before him; one point will be fixed in his mind with particular clearness and some other will be correspondingly disregarded”

—Sigmund Freud (1912e, p. 112)

Like a cardiologist’s stethoscope or a surgeon’s scalpel, psychoanalytic listening is our prime ally and instrument. We use it, depend upon it, and seek to sharpen it all the time. However, the respect we accord it must go further; it should involve measures to protect the sanctity of this important function. One measure to safeguard the functional astuteness and moral integrity of psychoanalytic listening paradoxically comes from limiting its use. While this statement might appear curious, more strange is the fact that textbooks of psychoanalysis (Moore & Fine, 1995; Nersessian & Kopf, 1996; Person, Cooper & Gabbard, 2005) and monographs on psychoanalytic technique (Etchegoyen, 1999; Fenichel, 1941; Greenson, 1967; Volkan, 2010) make no mention of the limits and bounds of analytic listening. This might be due to their focusing exclusively on the clinical encounter and not upon the analyst’s listening, thinking, and speaking functions in non-clinical situations. The latter are left unaddressed and it is taken for granted that the psychoanalyst would know when to use his analytic mind and when to put it aside. However, many analysts continue to listen and talk in an analytic manner outside the clinical situation. They even take pride in being an analyst “all the time”.

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Medium 9781855758018

Chapter One: Goodness

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

“In youth and health, in summer, in the woods or on the mountains, there come days when the weather seems all whispering with peace, hours when the goodness and beauty of all existence enfolds us like a dry, warm climate, or chime through us as if our inner ears were subtly ringing with the world's security”

(James, 1902, p. 269)

Freud's (1915b) wry observation that “most of our sentimentalists, friends of humanity, and protectors of animals have been evolved from little sadists and animal tormentors” (p. 282) is but one illustration of his pessimistic view of human nature. With a stoic ethic and sceptical intellect as his chief allies, Freud suspected that instinctual and pleasure–based motives underlay most, if not all, human endeavour. Vast swathes of humanity, in his eyes, were “good for nothing in life” (1905a, p. 263) besides being “lazy and unintelligent” (1927c, p. 7). Indeed, he went so far as to declare that “belief in the goodness of human nature is one of those evil illusions by which mankind expect their lives to be beautified and made easier while in reality they only cause damage” (1933a, p. 104). Freud's (1933b) discourse on why nations go to war also underscored his view that human beings were basically destructive and violent.

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Chapter Three: Playfulness

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

“The sunlight playing on the waves qualifies for the attribute ‘playful' because it faithfully remains within the rules of the game. It does not really interfere with the chemical world of the waves. It insists only on an intermingling of appearances. These patterns change with effortless rapidity and with a repetitiveness which promises pleasing phenomena within a predictable range without ever creating the same configuration twice”

(Erikson, 1950, p. 212)

Allow me to begin this contribution on the notion of playfulness by talking about a revolver. Yes, you read it right: a revolver. The story goes like this. Donald Winnicott was to present a paper to the British Psychoanalytic Society. After being introduced, he walked up to the podium, opened his briefcase, took out his paper and also a revolver, which he carefully placed on the lectern. A hush fell over the audience. Winnicott began reading his paper and, after a few minutes, stopped and said something like this, “In case you are wondering what this revolver is doing here, let me tell you. It is intended for the person who, instead of discussing my ideas, would begin his remarks by declaring that what I am presenting is not psychoanalysis.” The audience laughed, a bit awkwardly to be sure. Winnicott then went on with reading his paper.

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Medium 9781780490649

Elise Sanders

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

For Elise Sanders writing poems has been an organic outgrowth of her work as a psychoanalyst. Through poetry she is able to extend language and imagery to access the unconscious and facilitate transformation. She lives in Minnesota where she has had the opportunity to study writing at the Loft Literary Center, and work privately with poet Juliet Patterson. Elise has a private practice in Minneapolis, and is actively involved with the Minnesota Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Walking her dogs, gardening, and knitting give her a break from all her verbal pursuits!

Bellied in

tender luscious baby green

tiny crocus heads nod

neighborly daffodils skirt

lamppost legs


sidewalks ebb and flow

around the boat basin pooling

at the feet of Alice

wondering in the rabbit hole

about the faint young sun

a pinch of breeze

just warm enough to embrace

and hold with anticipation

in strawberry fields forever.

holder of my delicate dreams, the rooms emptied,

except for echoes of memories in the chambers

a continuous round of families and friends

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Medium 9781782200697

Chapter Two: Greed

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

It is to the gifted Greek storyteller of ancient times, Aesop (circa 620 BC), that we owe the eternally impressive tale of greed. Among the numerous fables told by him is this story of the farmer who found a goose that laid a golden egg each day. Initially jubilant at his good fortune, the farmer soon felt unable to wait twenty-four hours for the next egg to arrive. He imagined that the goose had hundreds of eggs inside her but was stingy in doling out the wealth. The farmer grew restless and wanted all the gold immediately. He cut the goose open but found no gold inside it. All that happened was that the goose died and the farmer lost the daily nugget of riches that was assured to him.

In this brief tale, Aesop elegantly addressed the coexistence of enormous hunger, impatience, inconsolability, a defective sense of empathy, and ingratitude towards one's benefactors. It is this constellation of descriptive and dynamic features that are subsumed under the rubric of greed. Since greed—along with narcissism, paranoia, and discontent—constitutes an important feature of severe personality disorders and has an unmistakable impact upon their treatment, it is surprising that psychoanalytic literature has given inadequate attention to it.

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