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Kardiner, A. (1958). New Horizons and Responsibilities of Psychoanalysis. Am. J. Psychoanal., 18(2):115-126.

(1958). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18(2):115-126

New Horizons and Responsibilities of Psychoanalysis

Abram Kardiner, M.D.

KAREN HORNEY was one of those who was sensitive to the relation of her work to the world in which she lived. She remained one of the persistent forces that helped to move the powerful instrument of psychoanalysis out of the doldrums of stand-patism and to deploy its resources to the problems of the adaptation of our time. This required wisdom and courage. It is therefore fitting, in her honor, that I address myself to some of the problems of how and in what way psychoanalysis is relevant to the problems of our time. This is an area in which she made a signal contribution and her influence has left a permanent imprint even upon those who disagreed with her.

Before I begin, I would like to tell you my credo so that there will be no misunderstanding of my position on psychoanalysis. It is my conviction that psychoanalysis is the most powerful implement for self-knowledge and self-direction that has yet been devised by man. However, that does not mean I believe that we know very much. It is still a tool in the process of being created, one that has to be adapted to different needs, to new and varying conditions of human adaptation. These rapidly changing conditions call our attention to different problems of adaptation. This is just another way of saying that if psychoanalysis is a science it will constantly change; only revelations remain immutable.

Now, there are two ways of looking at psychoanalysis from the point of view of its inception: that it was the invention of a single mind that might as well have lived in the twelfth century as in the nineteenth; or, that it was an accidental discovery that took hold because the public needed it, because it met certain specific needs of the denizens of the nineteenth century. In other words, psychoanalysis had some social determinants and some medical antecedents, as well.

Let us consider the latter first. For a long time before Freud it was the prevailing fashion in Europe to use hypnosis as a therapeutic weapon. Jean Charcot performed a remarkable feat by convincing the learned men of Paris that hysteria was a natural phenomenon and not the work of the devil and, secondly, by convincing them that he could induce an artificial hysteria. Charcot's work in psychiatry was a landmark. Following him was Breuer, whose technical innovations in hypnosis—accidental ones—made it possible to explore the experiential context in which hypnosis took place.

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