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Osofsky, J.D. (1996). Commentaries. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:422-429.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:422-429

Commentaries

Joy D. Osofsky

Peter Wolff in his introduction declares that “psychoanalytic theories should concern themselves with the phenomena subsumed under the concepts of unconscious ideas, hidden motives, and repression, and they should specify a method or methods for exploring the polysemous meaning of irrational fantasies, dreams, and actions that are presumed to be motivated by unconscious ideas.” His position is clear. If he subscribes to the idea that psychoanalysis should deal only with unconscious ideas and repression, then it follows, logically and necessarily, that infant observations are “irrelevant” for his understanding of psychoanalysis. As Fajardo (1993) emphasizes, the clinician who focuses on data of subjectivity in the psychoanalytic process will find research that focuses on manifest behavior observed by another to be irrelevant. A psychoanalyst with this orientation is directed not by a theory of development and reconstruction of a veridical past, but rather by subjective aspects of his or her present experience with the patient, in which inquiry involves mutual construction and interpretation. For such a position, infant research or any empirical research outside the psychoanalytic situation would not be considered useful.

Wolff illuminates his position further with the following statement: “I will limit the discussion to ‘Freudian’ psychoanalysis, as it has been the focus of nearly all the infant studies” (italics added). This perspective represents an extremely narrow view of infant studies and psychoanalysis.

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