Answer to comments by George Hogenson:
I am grateful for Dr. Hogenson's careful reading of my paper and his comments, which brings new challenges to the subject of controversies in psychoanalysis.
Dr. Hogenson is right when he says that in the core of my proposal is the double relationship between psychoanalysis and the natural sciences and humanities. I would like to pick up again from this double relationship the aspects that he later discusses, which seem to me extremely relevant and challenging.
I believe it is necessary to firstly say something about this double relationship with humanities and natural sciences. As I see it, this relationship exists because psychoanalysis must answer to multiple questions that reflect the complexity of human beings. Some of these questions may be better tackled with methods of natural sciences, others, however, lead us to the field of social sciences, humanities, and art. However, for this reason I would not say that psychoanalysis has a hybrid structure. I would rather say it has a complex structure. Psychoanalysis is more than what is present in this double relationship, because it has its own questions, which emerge from its practice and which it attempts to answer from its own method, not excluding its relationship with the other disciplines. In this sense, as Green says, it is essentially a clinical thought ("pensée clinique") and what psychoanalysis can more properly express is that which is based on its clinical method.
The neighbouring disciplines may provide knowledge of great value to psychoanalysis. For example, from the field of health sciences: research in the field of neurosciences, in the studies of development, empirical research of process and results of treatments, etc. From the field of humanities, to give only one example, we see that art sometimes achieves to capture the singularity of human experience in a way that results illuminating for psychoanalysis. But other times results from these disciplines do question affirmations from psychoanalysis, which opens the need for interdisciplinary controversies (but I will not deal with them now). However, the proximity of these other disciplines brings another problem to psychoanalysis too: the temptation to answer its questions as if psychoanalysis were only a natural science or one of the humanities.
Natural sciences bring the temptation, seduction, to base conclusions on more objective forms of knowledge and leave aside some of the complexities of the subjectivity world. At the same time, the humanities may tempt psychoanalysis to give answers as if psychoanalysis were a worldviews. Freud warned that psychoanalysis should not become a Weltanschaaung, but, in fact, it acquired many of its characteristics. I think that this is the central problem of the kind of controversies that have taken place inside our discipline. Many of the most passionate debates take place around undecidible premises because they are based in generalizations that go beyond what is supported by experience and, therefore, they must be proclaimed as self-evident truths or to resort to authority arguments.
Psychoanalysis needs to formulate hypotheses about the unconscious, but they cannot aspire to convince beyond what is enabled by the proofs which support them. The problem is not so much that these visions are reductionist, because every model must simplify reality, in the same way as a map cannot have the same extension that the land it describes. They become reductionist, paradoxically, when they pretend a generalization that converts them in carriers of a universal and absolute truth.
For all this I identify with Freud's affirmation in 1912 (A Note on the Unconscious in Psycho-Analysis) when he says, “Thus an unconscious conception is one of which we are not aware, but the existence of which we are nevertheless ready to admit on account of other proofs or signs”. Although we may formulate the most audacious and imaginative hypotheses, and they may have great heuristic value and raise passion, when we need to talk with a certain degree of certainty, we cannot go beyond what these proofs or signs allow us to.
The lack of evaluation of the degree of certainty in affirmations led to many hypotheses by Freud or by other psychoanalysts being converted into dogmas based on arguments of authority, and controversies, often in a latent way, revolve around which hypotheses or premises (therefore, those who defend them) possess more authority. Current pluralism multiplies the hypotheses and premises, but also dogmas. This had, however, a paradoxical effect, because its own multiplicity does question its character of absolute truth. In current Freudian psychoanalysis there are few -if any one remains at all- foundational ideas which have not been questioned or reformulated. The ideas of unconscious, libido, etc. substantially change from one author to the other. Many think that it is necessary to accept the multiplicity of human motivational systems. Even the principle of psychic determinism is questioned today for the idea of a causality of the type of dynamic, non-linear systems.
I am not well aware of what happens currently within the Jungian field, but it would not surprise me to find that also in its interior different points of view exist. For this reason I believe that it would be interesting to review the historical debates between Freud and Jung under the light of changes occurred in each of these traditions.
Comments by Dr. Hogenson led me to ask myself up to where I could be Jungian without knowing it. This is an interesting question. I would like to comment on this using a clinical example, taken from a discussion group in which the transformations of a patient were examined. She (the patient) consulted due to a depression and inhibitions in her mental and interpersonal functioning.
Soon after having started, the patient narrates: “I dreamed that I overslept … And I could not take the car out of the garage… “ The associations are scarce (“at present I'm keeping my car in my parents' garage”).
The patient has a complex relationship with her parents that is related with the feelings of self-criticism which limit her. In the discussion of the material most of the participants of the group agreed that the dream expressed her needs to wake up and recover herself, something she could still not express in another way in her (pre)conscious thoughts. It was considered useful that the analyst took an attitude which allowed her to display her imagination, giving greater expression to her affects, which were strictly controlled. If I remember well, I thought at some point about the usefulness of the analyst's interventions which stimulated in an active way the patient's imagination. Am I getting close here to what Dr. Hoegerson observes in points 3 and 4 about the symbol as vehicle of adaptative transformation and about the use of the active imagination (p.6)? I'll soon return to this.
We may ask ourselves if the image in the dream of the car in the garage is making allusion to repressed infantile sexual contents. I am sure that from a clinical point of view this interpretation would not be adequate at this moment. Although infantile sexuality will surely emerge in the analysis I am still not sure how it will do it and which is the relation with other factors that also have incidence in her depression.
I would like to add one comment. “Car” in Spanish is said “automóvil” and its short form is “auto”. “Auto” comes from a Greek root that could be translated as "self" and that appears in words such as “autonomía” (autonomy) “autocrítica” (selfcriticism) etc. We could also ask ourselves if these signifiers play a determinant role in the dream and in the difficulties that the patient finds in her life. I would again say that it is a hypothesis I cannot discard, although it doesn't seem convincing to me from the clinical point of view.
Now, I would like to return to points 1 and 2 of Dr. Hogenson's presentation regarding the contents of the unconscious and the nature of the symbol. In these subjects it is difficult to distinguish the clinical problems from those that emerge from the Weltanschaaung. From this clinical point of view I would say that as an analyst who works with unconscious aspects, that they have their own dynamics. They are built by multiple and sometimes contradictory procedural dynamic models, which are mostly “memories in feelings” (M. Klein), that sometimes stimulate and other times halt or disturb the development of the self and the relationship with others. Images play an essential role (especially if we take into account that in development, the right hemisphere, better linked to images, precedes the left brain and the centres of language). Metaphors, that are creations of sense composed at the same time by image and word, play an essential role in life and also in psychoanalytic treatments. They are often useful as a bridge in a chain that goes from the bodily self, fantasies and unconscious desires, and dreams, to the more abstract representations: playing and creativity. From these brief ideas it seems to me that the discussion may open in two directions. One of them leads to questions and answers that are typical of a Weltanschaaung and, subsequently to generalizations of doubtful clinical or extra-clinical verification. The other, that seems more interesting to me, leads to questions such as "What type of theoretical hypotheses help the analyst to obtain which benefits in the treatment of which kind of patients?" I believe that this last type of issues is the one that most interests me because it will tell in which way psychoanalysis will survive as therapy and as professional activity. But also the answer to these questions will have a cultural meaning and it will contribute to the Weltanschauung of our time, though this is an issue not exclusively ours as analysts.
Am I still a Freudian analyst? I think I am, but I would add – and I don't think I am the only one doing this – in my own way. I would especially like to remember here the Freud that wrote the following in "On Narcissism: An Introduction" in relation to the role of speculative theories in psychoanalysis:
"For these [speculative] ideas are not the foundation of science, upon which everything rests; that foundation is observation alone. They are not the bottom but the top of the whole structure, and they can be replaced and discarded without damaging it.”