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Kris, A.O. (2013). Unlearning and Learning Psychoanalysis. Am. Imago, 70(3):341-355.

(2013). American Imago, 70(3):341-355

Unlearning and Learning Psychoanalysis

Anton O. Kris, M.D.

Learning creates an inevitable tension between what we have known or believe we have known and what we are coming to know. This applies equally to students of psychoanalysis, to established practitioners, and to those who attempt to advance the field. I want to consider the problem that unlearning poses to learning psychoanalysis—both the need to unlearn in the course of learning and the danger of unlearning too much.1

In a review of an exhibition of the art of Gustav Klimt at the Neue Galerie in New York, John Updike commented:

a dim chamber holds Klimt drawings from his student days on … They reveal Klimt's dark secret: he was a superb draftsman in the academic manner, a master of its most rigorous requirements. To become a modern, he had a great deal to unlearn. (2007, p. 27)

Whatever the processes of unlearning may be for a creative artist, when I speak of unlearning in psychoanalysis, I have in mind not only cognitive retraining but revision of identifications and processes of mourning. In our field, more than in other disciplines, the personal nature of the learning process, in training analysis and in supervision, attaches a powerful valence to our knowledge. Accordingly, the ordinary tension between innovation and conservation is vastly increased.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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