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Dunn, J. (2003). Have We Changed Our View of the Unconscious in Contemporary Clinical Work?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51:941-955.

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(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51(3):941-955

Panel Reports

Have We Changed Our View of the Unconscious in Contemporary Clinical Work?

Jonathan Dunn

Jane Kite introduced this two-day panel by outlining the confusing mix of theoretical perspectives confronting analysts today. She described how current models of mental life and clinical action, despite their differences, are all rooted in Freud's numerous, often contradictory conceptualizations of the unconscious. The bottom line, Kite noted, is that all psychoanalytic thought revolves around an assumption of unconscious mental life. Despite the centrality of this assumption, she observed, our theoretical debates and controversies typically proceed without any agreed-on understanding of how the competing analytic schools construe and analyze the unconscious. The panel was designed to address this problem.

Moreover, in the current theoretical pluralism in American psychoanalysis, different analytic concepts and sensibilities cross back and forth over theoretical borders. Most analytic approaches integrate aspects of different theoretical models, though with different emphases and concerns. Yet a model's incorporation of another competing model is rarely articulated or well understood, making dialogue between schools confusing and unproductive. For this reason also, an updated review of the ways analysts in this country actually theorize and clinically work with unconscious mental life is long overdue.

Kite referred to Henry Smith's observation that American psychoanalysis was criticized at the recent Amsterdam IPA congress for shunning the unconscious in favor of interpersonal and inter subjective


Panel held at the Fall Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, New York, December 18-19, 1998.

Panelists: Jane V. Kite (chair), Sander Abend, Ronald Britton, Ernest Wolf, Philip Bromberg, Owen Renik, Polly Young-Eisendrath. Discussant: Henry Smith.

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