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Snell, R. (2014). Independent Psychoanalysis Today edited by Paul Williams, John Keene and Sira Dermen. Published by Karnac, London, 2012; 448 pp; £29.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 30(1):117-120.

(2014). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 30(1):117-120

Book Reviews

Independent Psychoanalysis Today edited by Paul Williams, John Keene and Sira Dermen. Published by Karnac, London, 2012; 448 pp; £29.99 paperback

Review by:
Robert Snell

This is a remarkable collection of essays, each closely argued and quietly sceptical of orthodoxies. It aims to be a ‘staging post’ (p. xiv) in the development of Independent thinking and technique, alongside Gregorio Kohon's The British School of Psychoanalysis: The Independent Tradition (1986) and Eric Rayner's The Independent Mind in British Psychoanalysis (1991). A sense of history and the importance of history taking indeed characterizes the Independents' approach. In a detailed and masterly opening chapter, John Keene traces the multiple strands of contemporary Independent thinking to a common source: Freud's over-estimation of the capacity of average maternal care. For Ferenczi and the Hungarians, this could not be taken for granted. Their observation that the infant is the dynamic product of an interrelationship opened the way from one- to two-person psychology; mother and baby, analyst and patient, like conscious and unconscious, internal and external, are in constant interaction. In a later chapter, ‘The Inter-Subjective Matrix’, Joan Raphael-Leff brings this line of thought to a new ‘staging post’: long overdue acknowledgement that the mother is a fully experiencing subject in her own right effects a further paradigm shift. Both parties in the relationship change, baby and mother, patient and analyst; and there are as many models for inter-subjective relating as there are subjectivities.

Theorizing, Keene emphasizes, always takes its emotional colouring from the social and political context: in Freud's case, a late 19th century idealization of motherhood; in the case of the Controversial Discussions in the 1940s, a struggle for orthodoxy and succession following Freud's death which, as Keene writes, led to examples of institutional pathological thinking ‘as convincing as one could wish for’.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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