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Blass, R.B. (2014). Introduction to “How and Why Unconscious Phantasy and Transference are the Defining Features of Psychoanalytic Practice”. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(6):e1-e7.
(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(6):e1-e7
Introduction to “How and Why Unconscious Phantasy and Transference are the
Defining Features of Psychoanalytic Practice”
Rachel B. Blass
(Received 27 October 2014, Accepted for publication 27 October 2014)
The notion of unconsciousness in its simple descriptive sense is little disputed by analyst and non-analyst alike. Clearly, we know and can recall things that are not at the momentconscious to us, in the sense of their not being in our immediate awareness. Because a conception present to consciousness can become absent, and after an interval present once again without its return being a result of perception, we tend, as Freud explained over a century ago, to speak of such a conception as unconsciously present in our mind during the interval—and it seems reasonable to do so (Freud, 1912, p. 262).
As is well-known, Freud's notion of the unconscious goes far beyond this descriptive sense of the term and refers to something much more substantive and specific. It has come to describe certain kinds of motivational forces which for dynamic reasons are barred from consciousness and ideas which are inherently latent from earliest times, but which shape our experience and the way we perceive the world. The unconscious is regarded as the grounds of psychic reality, the location of pathology, and the object of analytic action, especially through interpretation of its manifestations in the transference. Its centrality in Freud's thinking is such that Laplanche and Pontalis affirm that “If Freud's discovery had to be summed up in a single word, that word would without doubt have to be ‘unconscious’” (1973, p. 474).
While today, too, many would consider the concern with the unconscious in this Freudian sense to be the defining feature of psychoanalysis, in recent years this has come into question. For example, it has been suggested that the focus of North American Relational Psychoanalysis on interpersonal and intersubjective dimensions has come at the expense of a concern with the unconscious and it would seem that with the “expanding scope of psychoanalysis” the notion of the unconscious has expanded too, and is often used in its non-specific descriptive sense (see Dunn, 2003; Rangell, 2002).
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