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Tuckett, D. (2006). Controversy: Understanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Martin S. Bergmann. New York: Other Press, 2004, 396 pp., £28.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 54(4):1393-1398.

(2006). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 54(4):1393-1398

Book Reviews

Controversy: Understanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Martin S. Bergmann. New York: Other Press, 2004, 396 pp., £28.00.

Review by:
David Tuckett

This book, the vision of its editor and primary contributor, Martin Bergmann, comprises a lengthy position paper, eight discussion papers authored by well-known psychoanalysts, and the transcript of the discussion that took place between them and three representatives of the sponsoring trust, at a specially invited conference on two days in February 2003.

For me the central contribution of the book is by Bergmann, who celebrated his ninetieth birthday on the conference's opening day. His cogent and original 110-page opening paper, supplemented by a later chapter on the British psychoanalyst Charles Rycroft, is perspicacious and lucid. Its aim is to use detailed understanding of controversies and instead of deploring them to search “for a way for them to deepen our understanding of the nature of psychoanalysis” (p. 87). Reading this volume did achieve that for me, although here I can give only a bald summary.

The minutes of the proceedings of the Vienna Society suggest that the first dissident, Adler, neither changed his own view nor took on any of Freud's thinking about the human mind at any stage. Close study suggests the difference between them was always there but took time to be realized. In fact, Adler always saw aggression as the origin of anxiety and never accepted (or perhaps never truly understood) the idea of unconscious repression. He learned from Freud the technique of listening to what patients say and letting them speak freely about their lives and thoughts, but what he did and thought with what he heard was very different. All this only became clear to Freud in 1911, when in response to an Adler paper he pronounced, “This is not psychoanalysis” (p. 10). “Instead of presenting,” says Bergmann, a “psychology of the unconscious, Adler advocated “surface ego psychology?” (p. 10).

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