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Parsons, M. (1985). Psychoanalysis as Vocation and Martial Art. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 12:363-364.

(1985). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 12:363-364

Psychoanalysis as Vocation and Martial Art

Michael Parsons


Thank you for the opportunity to reply to Peter Lomas' comments on my article. Leaving aside, as I agree with him we should do, the question of whether or not I have misread his book, he takes me up on two main issues.

I agree completely that we should not be 'Freudian technicians'. But that description does not correspond either to my experience of analysts as they generally are, or to my theoretical understanding of the role of technique in psychoanalysis. How I do understand that role is the first and central question raised for me by Lomas' letter. I do not mean anything which would correspond to the definition he quotes from Barrett. This takes technique to be the exact replication of the same correct steps to arrive at the same correct results each time. ('Mix 3 lb. flour with 1½ pts. water …' 'Press lightly on the trigger; hold the breath; then squeeze.') This view of technique as a 'recipe' is obviously not what it means in psychoanalysis. But this does not mean that analysis is, or should be, empty of technique. It is the definition of technique that is too narrow.

It is helpful to consider the use of technique in artistic pursuits. As Barrett himself would agree, a piano student does not practise scales with the idea that if he repeats them exactly right a sufficient number of times that will of itself make him replicate some great pianist's performance. That is not what technique is for. But Lomas implies that psychoanalysts do treat it as be all and end all in that way, so as to leave no room for how the analyst is with the patient.

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