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Ireland, M.S. (2000). Considering Psychoanalytic Learning and Legitimacy: Another Perspective. Fort Da, 6(1):33-47.

(2000). Fort Da, 6(1):33-47

Considering Psychoanalytic Learning and Legitimacy: Another Perspective

Mardy S. Ireland, Ph.D.

“More than most forms of authority, analytic authority is mediated and influenced by individual consciousness.” [and unconsciousness]

Kenneth Eisold (1998, p. 874)


Early analysts erected and sustained their analytic authority in some measure on the basis of their idealization of analytic knowledge. The actual presence of Freud's paternal shoulders of course provided additional support. But from our current vista—the uneven landscape of postmodernism and the multiplicity of subjectivity—prescient claims to “know” the objectively formulated, correct, and timely interpretation appear inflated. Such inflations reflect an identification with an Ideal ego of an imaginary certainty rather than with an Ego ideal situated in a symbolic netting (which always has holes).

In narrations of early psychoanalytic institutions' travails we find intense conflicts and actual psychic destruction—wrought from the “too soldered” linkage of an Ideal egoism of analytic knowledge on the one hand, and analytic authority and the exercise of power on the other (Eisold, 1998; Wallerstein, 1998b). Even now we experience the less than desirable psychic consequences of this linkage in residue form when individual analysts' public statements regarding what he or she presumes to be the prevailing psychoanalytic knowledge are, in fact, discontinuous with his or her actual clinical practice (Mayer, 1996).

Generations since Freud have had to analyze the previously un-analyzed transference of “knowledge as power”—not only within and between psychoanalytic institutions, but also within the psychoanalytic dyad itself (Benjamin, 1997). This analysis—an interminable one, no doubt—has been evident in the concerted and continuing efforts to understand (from multiple analytic perspectives) what is the knowledge gained and how countertransference experience can be used in the treatment. (For example, see Boyer, 1999; Gerson, 1996; Hoffman, 1991; Lacan, 1954; Ogden, 1994; Renik, 1995).

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