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Parsons, M. (1984). Psychoanalysis as Vocation and Martial Art. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:453-462.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:453-462

Psychoanalysis as Vocation and Martial Art

Michael Parsons

I start from my reading of two books, both critical of psychoanalysis. They are different sorts of book making different sorts of criticism but they aroused the same response in me. They are intelligent, sincere books, both showing knowledge of psychoanalysis and setting out views which have some force. However, each of them left me thinking 'This is all very well but what they are talking about isn't what analysis is actually like'. One is Lomas' The Case for a Personal Psychotherapy(1981) and the other Farrell's The Standing of Psychoanalysis(1981). Farrell's is a philosophical assessment of psychoanalysis, a piece of abstract reasoning remote from the man in the street while Lomas is trying to bring psychotherapy as close as he can to everyday life and ordinary modes of relating. They hardly belong on the same bookshelf so I was struck that they should arouse so similar a response. I felt that in some way they had both missed the point so that however well informed and well argued their critique it was not about the thing that is going on when analyst and patient are together.

Throughout Lomas' book he contrasts two distinct attitudes to psychotherapy, two beliefs about what it consists of and how it is done. On the one hand it can been seen as depending on a special kind of knowledge available to the therapist but not to the patient. This knowledge is the product of a professional training which turns the therapist into an expert. Therapy consists of applying this to the patient in accordance with certain rules of technique which again are part of the therapist's expert knowledge.

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