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Gross, J. Hallerman, B. Engels, R. (1996). The Blood and Guts of Analysis at Five Years to the Millennium Presenter: Norman Kelman, M.D. Discussant: Stephanie Steinfield, Ph.D. January 18, 1996. Am. J. Psychoanal., 56(3):353-354.

(1996). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 56(3):353-354

Scientific Meetings of the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis

The Blood and Guts of Analysis at Five Years to the Millennium Presenter: Norman Kelman, M.D. Discussant: Stephanie Steinfield, Ph.D. January 18, 1996

Edited by:
Joans Gross, C.S.W., Betsy Hallerman, C.S.W.

Rhona Engels, C.S.W.

Norman Kelman, in a reflective mood, presents a thoughtful and personal examination of psychoanalytic values as the 20th century draws to a close. Departing from currently popular interpersonal and relational analytic trends, he emphasized the importance of focusing on “blood and guts”—the life and death issues with which Freud struggled—and wryly noted that with his belief in the kinetic self of force and energy, he might justifiably be called a “closet Freudian.” (He added that this identification with Freudian energic themes might have been prompted by his own experience as a combat veteran.)

Kelman underlined Freud's focus on the expansion of consciousness, and his embrace, not only of the “sunlight” but also of the “darkness” of the unconscious, prompted undoubtedly by his own internal struggles and the experience of living in a world decimated by war. He suggested that anti-Freud sentiment, surfacing most notably in the recent controversy over the Library of Congress Freud exhibit, marks a resistance to this focus on darkness, and an attempt to extinguish Freud as the voice of the unconscious.

Kelman's viewpoint, looking past the resistance, and fear of the darkness of the unconscious, was of Freud as a founder, a “beacon” rather than an opponent, one who experienced and interpreted conceptually man-made mass death and devastation. He observed that even today there is little evidence of this conceptualizing in the psychoanalytic literature, and this paucity, along with the controversy and eventual postponement of the Freud exhibit, as well as the Smithsonian's recent modification of its presentation involving U.S. bombing of Japan, constitute an avoidance and denial of evil and death. And just as Freud's theory of death became watered down into a milder theory of aggression, Kelman suggested that current literature on depression continues this tendency by focusing on chemistry and synapses, thus avoiding the depth and complexity of hopelessness and despair. He concluded by emphasizing the importance of complexity, and the necessity of keeping both the “light” and “darkness” always present in the narrative layer and context of analytic work.

Steinfeld

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