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Spence, D.P. (1994). The Special Nature of Psychoanalytic Facts. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:915-925.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:915-925

The Special Nature of Psychoanalytic Facts

Donald P. Spence


Psychoanalytic facts are almost always capable of being put into words and they include things the patient tells us, things we tell the patient, and things we tell our colleagues. They include various combinations of observation and theory, evidence and hearsay, dream and reality. In contrast to the more usual facts of the everyday world, a psychoanalytic fact is almost never based on pure observation and it is partly for this reason that a dispute over facts frequently conceals a dispute over theory. It also follows that bare facts are almost never presented by themselves; when they are presented (as in a publication), they are almost never quite the same as when experienced in the session. Some meanings are lost in publication; others are inadvertently added by the reader, as he tries to fill in the gaps of a vague report. 'Clinical' facts (which have just been described) should be distinguished from 'contextual' facts, which colour the way we hear the patient's reports, and from 'latent' facts, which cannot be detected by the analyst in the session but must be measured by other techniques. Because the proportion of theory to observation is probably greater in clinical facts than in latent facts, the latter may provide more reliable measures of a clinical happening. Greater reliance on latent facts may also reduce our dependence on metaphor and smooth the transition from clinical moment to published account.

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