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Blum, L.D. (2014). What is Psychoanalysis? 100 Years after Freud's Secret Committee; by Barnaby B. Barratt Routledge, London and New York, 2013; 240 pp; $43.95, £28.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(4):810-815.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(4):810-815

What is Psychoanalysis? 100 Years after Freud's Secret Committee; by Barnaby B. Barratt Routledge, London and New York, 2013; 240 pp; $43.95, £28.99

Review by:
Lawrence D. Blum

What is Psychoanalysis? 100 Years after Freud's Secret Committee, by Barnaby B. Barratt, describes and advocates a version of psychoanalysis that focuses on fundamental concepts of repression, the repetition compulsion, sexuality, and the Oedipus complex, and that preserves and elevates free-associative inquiry into intra-psychic conflict. Barratt forcefully criticizes later Freudian and post-Freudian “mistaken paths” that de-emphasize these fundamentals, and adds his own spiritualist perspective to his traditionalist approach. The book has little to do with Freud's Secret Committee or with psychoanalytic organizational politics; the reference to the Secret Committee serves mainly as a marker in time for the end of a preferred early period of Freudian technique, before the errant trends began. While the book's clinically vibrant penultimate chapter, ‘Notes on Psychoanalytic Treatment,’ is written with refreshing clarity, much of the book is filled with dense, abstract language drawing from a wide variety of Eastern and Western philosophical traditions. It is a work of substantial breadth and erudition, and one that places significant demands on the reader.

Barratt emphasizes that what is dynamically repressed constantly seeks expression and influences consciousness. Unconscious meanings and wishes are always concealed and revealed in conscious thought and comment, although consciousness can never recognize how it is being influenced. Psychoanalysis should thus focus on free-associative inquiry and the efforts of consciousness to avoid awareness of unconscious repressed meanings. The free-associative process has an inherent liberating quality that efforts at understanding and insight are as likely to impede as to facilitate. Working through the defensive struggle leads to insight more than insight propels a working-through process. Barratt draws on early Freud in preference to later Freud, regarding early Freud as a radical proponent of a new type of self-inquiry challenging internal and social order, and later Freud as more of a social conformist. The basic points with which Barratt begins his treatise are relatively straightforward.

Freud offers four coordinates that define the discipline of psychoanalysis. In my terminology, these are:

1.   The free-associative method that discovers the dynamically repressed unconscious, and our resistance to this discovery as it pertains to ourselves.

[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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