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Weisel-Barth, J. (2016). Thinking About Our Psychoanalytic Stories: Response to Steven Stern. Int. J. Psychoanal. Self Psychol., 11(2):136-141.

(2016). International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 11(2):136-141

Thinking About Our Psychoanalytic Stories: Response to Steven Stern

Joye Weisel-Barth, Ph.D., Psy.D.

It’s always a pleasure to have a dialogue with Steven Stern. A dialogue with him begins with the sense that I have a partner, who not only has the capacity, but genuinely wants to meet me on my wavelength and imagine my perspective. Therefore, as in this response, I usually end up feeling well understood. Then, because Steve pushes himself to think hard about things, I can trust him to push me also to think harder than I usually do and to open up new perspectives for me. That’s true of his review of my “Courting the ‘Real’” article. In his efforts to illuminate the complexity of the analyst’s tasks, he causes me to think more deeply both about the nature and creation of “analytic objects” and the many meanings of “going in close.” Both of these issues deserve full article responses. But here I want to write about some ways that Steve’s discussion has stimulated my own thoughts about the stories we psychoanalysts tell. I want to think out loud about my lingering puzzlement: why our analytic stories often feel too simple, static, reductive, or missing the strangeness and surprise of great literature, real life, and certainly the experience of working in analytic space.

The first thing that occurs to me is that in trying to illustrate our ideas about clinical action, dyadic processes, and the goals of therapeutic interaction, we usually overstate our positions. We adopt simple story lines that miss important complexities, particularly the complexities of interactive changes over time. Certainly as meaning-making creatures lusting for coherence, we adore good stories. For example, in psychoanalysis, we have a myriad of established, well-loved—and in my view oversimplified—stories.

[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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