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Hirsch, I. (1983). On Analysability. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 64:109-110.

(1983). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 64:109-110

On Analysability

Irwin Hirsch, Ph.D.


Early in Dr Arnold Rothstein's article (1982, 63: 177–188) he states that analysability means different things to different analysts and the question of analysability is dependent upon the personality of the analyst. As the article proceeds it becomes clear that the author believes that, to the contrary, analysability is virtually entirely a patient variable and indeed, has little to do with the analyst's personality. Further, he appears to have a very definite idea about who is and who is not analysable and that there is only one meaningful theoretical perspective on the matter. The humble and questioning doubt noted early in the paper turns into a variety of absolute certainties. Dr Rothstein is able to categorically state in relation to his two patients, Mr M and Mr Q, that they are 'unanalysable' and that 'analytic work is impossible'.

There is a growing literature within classical psychoanalysis (e.g., Gill, 1982); McLaughlin, 1981; (Lipton, 1977); (Schafer, 1976) emphasizing a more relativistic position with respect to theory and to analytic technique. It is part of a movement away from psychoanalysis as science and toward psychoanalysis as hermeneutics. This has, for some time, been the dominant position within interpersonal psychoanalysis (e.g., Thompson, 1964); (Singer, 1970); (Levenson, 1972); (Wolstein, 1975); (Searles, 1979) and amongst object relations theorists (e.g., Balint & Balint, 1939); (Winnicott, 1949); (Racker, 1968); (Guntrip, 1971). In my reading, all of the above cited authors view each individual analyst's personal theory, metaphor or mythology as having enormous influence over the way their patients view their lives from both the historical and current perspective. Further, each of these psychoanalytic writers view the analyst as subject to considerable personal transference experiences (countertransference) and any attempt at ascertaining 'objective reality' a futile pursuit. The analysis is a mutual search based on the subjective realities or psychic realities of both participants and the analyst is both, with credit to Sullivan (1953), a participant and observer.

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