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Guntrip, H. (1973). Science, Psychodynamic Reality and Autistic Thinking. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 1(1):3-22.

(1973). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 1(1):3-22

Science, Psychodynamic Reality and Autistic Thinking

Harry Guntrip

Developments in this post-Einstein era of the philosophy of science, associated with such names as Popper, Kuhn, Polyani, Lakatos and others and popularly expressed in Sir P. Medawar's Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought should compel us to rethink the nature of psychoanalysis as an area of investigation of certain phenomena, which no one else is investigating in what we feel to be terms appropriate to its proper nature. From time to time eminent thinkers including Popper and Medawar tell us that psychoanalysis is not science. Psychoanalysts rarely reply, partly because the evidence is confidential, the study of the very private, personal inner suffering of a human being often disturbed for years, dating back into childhood. Full length case histories cannot be published. Marion Milner's The Hands of the Living God (a D. H. Lawrence quotation by the patient), a successful 20-year treatment of a schizophrenic girl, told with her consent, was a tremendous exception, as was Hannah Green's autobiographical account of her treatment by Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. A University graduate wrote to ask me for some psychotherapeutic help: I am suffering from anxiety with a continually thumping heart and attacks of terror and paralyzing feelings of being a nonexistent person. My troubles go right back as far as I can remember. I believe you could help me. That represents word-for-word scores of such letters. Such people cannot submit themselves to investigation as objects of pure scientific research. They can only cooperate if they feel they will be understood and helped. So if psychoanalysis is a science at all, it can never be a pure science. The nature of its task compels it to be an “applied science.” Most analysts are hard-worked “general practitioners” with little time or training for research and writing, which may, unhappily, have fostered a type of theory which can seem esoteric, the dogma of a “closed in-group.” Few, if any, of its critics have first-hand experience of psychoanalysis in practice, in the nature of the case.

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