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Rycroft, C. (1956). The Nature and Function of the Analyst's Communication to the Patient. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 37:469-472.

(1956). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 37:469-472

The Nature and Function of the Analyst's Communication to the Patient

Charles Rycroft

Susanne Langer in her study of symbolism, Philosophy in a New Key, observes that 'the great contribution of Freud to the philosophy of mind has been the realization that human behaviour is not only a food-getting strategy, but is also a language; that every move is at the same time a gesture'. By this I understand her to mean two things. First, that psycho-analysis has shown that human behaviour is actuated not only by the need to satisfy instinctual impulses by using appropriate objects but also by a need to maintain a meaningful contact with these objects; and secondly, that human activity is intrinsically symbolic, and comprises an attempt to communicate something. An essential part of her thesis is that the various 'impractical', apparently unbiological activities of man, such as religion, magic, art, dreaming, and symptom-formation—i.e. just those aspects of human life which have become the peculiar domain of psycho-analytical research—arise from a basic human need to symbolize and communicate, and are really languages.

Although I think that Langer is right in this view of psycho-analysis, and would indeed be inclined to add that Freud initiated a revolution in our capacity to communicate by making us aware of previously unrecognized attempts at communication, it is, I believe, also true that theoretical formulations of psycho-analysis have a tendency not to do full justice to the communicative aspects of human behaviour. The reason for this lies in the nature and history of metapsychology.

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