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Busch, F. (2004). A missing link in psychoanalytic technique: Psychoanalytic consciousness. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(3):567-572.
(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(3):567-572
A missing link in psychoanalytic technique: Psychoanalytic consciousness
For much of our history we have suffered from a pedestrian view of consciousness, leading to discussions on this topic since Freud best characterized as a distant murmur within proliferating theories of technique. While many outside of psychoanalysis consider consciousness as one of the great mysteries of science (Kandel, 2000), within psychoanalysis, if we consider consciousness at all, it is as an epiphenomenon. Given this perspective it is not surprising that a majority of psychoanalysts seem to consider consciousness a distraction from the true interest of psychoanalysis, the unconscious. We have not come very far from what Anna Freud said over 65 years ago, ‘Somehow or other, many analysts conceived the idea that, in analysis, the value of the scientific and therapeutic work was in direct proportion to the depth of the psychic strata upon which attention was focused’ (1936, p. 3).
It is my position that inherent in every interpretation of the unconscious in clinical psychoanalysis is an implied definition of psychoanalytic consciousness. Whenever we interpret something unknown to a patient we express our belief it is knowable. Can we imagine taking a position that, for the majority of psychoanalytic patients, it is a good idea to leave unconscious fantasies that are causing major symptoms in a patient's life at the level of the unconscious? Every interpretation is an attempt to bring something from the unconscious closer to the surface of the mind. Yet it is my impression we haven't spent enough time considering the reasons for this, leading to interpretive methods with little consideration for surfaces in the mind.
Freud struggled with this same issue when discussing the method of free association. He rejected any attempt on the patient's part to exert conscious control of associations, but in an attempt to acknowledge another clinical finding he approvingly quotes Schiller:
Looked at in isolation a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but it may be important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with thoughts that seem equally absurd, it may turn out to form a most effective link. Reason cannot form any opinion upon all this unless it retains the thought long enough to look at it in conjunction with other
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