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Young-Eisendrath, P. (2003). Common and Uncommon Ground: Panelist's Response. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51(4):1344-1348.

(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51(4):1344-1348

Common and Uncommon Ground: Panelist's Response Related Papers

Polly Young-Eisendrath

First I would like to thank Jonathan Dunn for his lucid and accurate summary of my presentation, and Harry Smith for his cogent comments and questions. Before I respond in greater detail to Smith's comments, I would like to mention one general point about both commentaries: the explicit contrast that was drawn between my Jungian model of unconscious complexes and Philip Bromberg's interpersonal model of dissociated self-states is misleading. Bromberg and I come from very similar theoretical and clinical assumptions. We both embrace the belief that human subjectivity has multiple centers with conflicting and disparate motivations, images, and impulses that are only loosely related— if at all—to ego consciousness. For us, the clinical problem is not what keeps these things unconscious, but how they can become associated with consciousness at all, so that the patient can experience them as conflicting states of subjectivity, rather than as aspects of objective reality.

Smith asked in his commentary why “making the unconscious conscious makes a difference.” My response is that it permits a person more subjective freedom to live intentionally rather than reactively. Smith says that “some things are kept unconscious because of the degree to which the person would suffer were it not so.” By contrast, I would say that many emotional habits are unconscious because we develop in such a way as to respond to certain important cues and stimuli automatically, without conscious awareness. Smith repeatedly asks each of the panelists one question: What keeps the unconscious unconscious? I believe this is a wrong question because it makes an a priori assumption that something keeps something else out of awareness. Freud's model of the dynamic unconscious—repressed conflicts kept out of awareness by a censor and then defended against by the ego—is not, in my view, comprehensive or clinically useful enough to be our primary model for the role played by the unconscious workings of emotional memories in everyday life and psychopathology.

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