The responses of both Dr. Luepnitz and Dr. Bernadi raise a variety of questions regarding the nature of controversy in psychoanalysis. I want to begin this reply by highlighting some of the issues raised in Dr. Luepnitz’s response, beginning with her reference to Adam Phillips’ comment that “The making of a theory is like the making of a phobia.”
My familiarity with Phillips’ work did not extend to this quotation, but it immediately resonated with me because, in the introduction to the paperback edition of my book on Jung and Freud (Hogenson, 1994) I remarked, after observing that the early analysts were working in the dark with regard to the phenomena they encountered in the clinical setting—such as Joseph Breuer’s panic at an erotic transference and likely counter-transference in the case of Anna O—that “Depth psychological theories are defense mechanisms” (p. xiii). Given this somewhat analogous formulation, I wonder whether we should not amend Phillips’ remark, in the interest of clarity and precision, to say, “The making of a psychoanalytic theory is like the making of a phobia.”
Dr. Luepnitz goes on to discuss the degree to which relational theory and Lacanian theory can be seen as artifacts of the cultural and political settings within which they originally developed. She correctly, as I see it, cautions against overloading the cultural dimension in the formation of theory, but it remains a factor that I also think is worth reflecting on. The critical point in her argument, however, is her call for self-reflection in our own theory formation, and even in the call for “true controversies” in psychoanalysis. Her review of possible stages in a true controversy, culminating in her apt, albeit perhaps a bit ironic, comment that the process becomes “positively parliamentarian” seems to put us directly on the edge of the phobic defense mechanism precipice that both Phillips and I remarked on, each in his own way—and I seriously doubt that we are alone in this view of the field.
Dr. Luepnitz goes on to draw what I take to be a singularly pertinent conclusion from her overview to this point, specifically that:
“. . . if our current practice of “false” or “untrue” controversy protects us psychically, so too can a desire for reform represent a search for protection from what we might call the primal scene of psychoanalytic debate. And at some point, an insistence on order and orderliness can give way to a cry for Dionysian excess—for the overheated, cacophonous, and ancestor-worshipping debates that drives us mad, but have also taken us this far.”
My reaction to this passage in Dr. Luepnitz’s response what that she has raised one of the most important issues we can address as analysts, which is what precisely characterizes the initiatory moment in the constitution of psychoanalysis. What, precisely, is “the primal scene of psychoanalytic debate”, and why is it so vital that we find ways to defend against it? Why also, and to what extent, does an effort to remain “scientifically” rigorous in our theorizing, and in our controversies, nevertheless lead to “Dionysian excess”?
The notion that there could be a “primal scene of psychoanalytic debate” orients us toward the deep history of psychoanalysis, and the construction of the basic elements of any possible controversy within its domain.
The standardization of investigative and interpretative methods as a moment in the formation of a scientific paradigm, in Thomas Kuhn’s sense, is intended to govern the judgments made by all parties to the scientific discussion. Change takes place, as Kuhn demonstrated, when the community of investigators recognize that the accepted methodology is no longer producing predicted results—precise measurements of the speed of light demonstrate that there is no aether as a medium for light, but also laid the groundwork for Einstein’s radical revision in physics. Changes of this sort, or even controversies such as the argument between Einstein and Bohr over the nature of quantum mechanics can be contentious, and even heated, but one feature that is rarely encountered in most scientific controversies but was pervasive in the early years of psychoanalytic controversies and, I would suggest, still defines many disputes in the field, is the accusation of clinical pathology in one’s opponents. The historian of psychoanalysis, Marina Leitner, has examined this phenomenon in some detail. She summarizes her argument as follows:
During the past years, both the history and the historiography of psychoanalysis have been subjected to a reassessment. Especially research about the so-called ‘dissidents’ and the strategy of ‘patho-logizing” [sic] has been playing an important part in this process. In the present paper, I am further investigating this particular strategy of dealing with deviating views and their proponents. With the help of dozens of examples it is shown that psychiatric diagnoses were often misused to discredit opponents. It becomes clear that this strategy was not only used in the well-known conflicts with, for example, Adler, Ferenczi, Jung, Rank or Reich, but was in fact customary and a pervasive way of dealing with all kinds of problems within the psychoanalytic movement. This is connected with another phenomenon we find in the history of psychoanalysis, and which I would like to call the ‘claim of truth’. This means that Freud and his followers were convinced not only that they were seeking the truth, but that they had already found it and possessed it. Thus, any deviating theory can only be viewed as the outcome of a resistance against the truth, an expression of a mechanism of defence, of a neurosis, or of a mental disturbance. Leitner (Leitner, 1999)(p479f)
In the body of her paper Leitner also points out the degree to which the early psychoanalysts, to the degree they wanted to remain affiliated with Freud, seem to have felt compelled to self-pathologize at any moment when they were making the slightest deviation from orthodoxy. In other words, they had to offer up a catalogue of their own neuroses that may have led to their deviation. Along similar lines, the philosopher, Hans Blumenberg, has commented that psychoanalytic theory is in part characterized by the construction of what he calls paratheories that incorporate objections or deviations into the central theory as proofs of the theory rather than as challenges—this is particularly the case with the notion of resistance wherein objections to an interpretation demonstrate the accuracy of the interpretation as in the case of Dora.
At the conclusion of my first response I quoted Lacan’s comments regarding Jung’s endorsement of the centrality of the image in his view of the unconscious. It seems to me that this passage from Écrits captures precisely the elements of pathologization and paratheory identified by Leitner and Blumenberg, and points us to one way of looking at the primal scene of psychoanalysis, which, to reiterate my position in my first commentary, involves the nature of the unconscious. Let me push this point a little further here, by suggesting that the primal scene of psychoanalysis is in fact the claims Freud made—or that were made for him, notably by Jones—regarding the unique status of his self-analysis which forms the basis for the claims to possess the truth, mention by Leitner. The primal scene is, let me suggest, Freud’s univocal right to define the nature of the unconscious—to possess the matrix or mother of the science of psychoanalysis itself. Deviation, in the sense of proposing any alternative view of the unconscious, then becomes by definition an Oedipal wish, engendering a neurotic response, with, to draw on Lacan’s characterization of Jung’s theories, narcissistic auto-eroticism. Theoretical objections or alternative points of view—true controversies—are transformed into masturbation. This is not exactly Dr. Bernardi’s frottage, but I believe it points to an issue in the construction of arguments in psychoanalysis to which we must pay greater attention.