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Fenichel, O. (1943). The Facts of Observation in Psychoanalysis: Siegfried Bernfeld. J. of Psychology, XII, 1941, pp. 289–305.. Psychoanal Q., 12:305-306.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Facts of Observation in Psychoanalysis: Siegfried Bernfeld. J. of Psychology, XII, 1941, pp. 289–305.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:305-306

The Facts of Observation in Psychoanalysis: Siegfried Bernfeld. J. of Psychology, XII, 1941, pp. 289–305.

Otto Fenichel

The fact that many psychologists still doubt the scientific character of psychoanalysis induced Bernfeld to present the pure facts of observation in psychoanalysis apart from all theoretical accessories. Bernfeld is of the opinion that the aforesaid suspicion is probably rooted in the fact that Freud introduced certain everyday procedures into science which had not as yet been used for scientific purposes, such as the technique of conversation and especially one chapter of this technique, the removal of obstacles against certain communications. Freud introduced methods which influenced human beings to confess secrets or, rather, to overcome hindrances which made these confessions impossible. Bernfeld analyzes the procedure of the analyst in detecting and interpreting resistances by asking the question 'How are confessions verified as such?' It is not only a matter of physiognomic connections but also of 'certain relations with the whole actual situation, with the usual behavior of the person, with the attitude he showed after the confession, and with his personality'. In overcoming a resistance we have the following succession: the usual behavior of the patient, the interruption of this behavior by his 'hiding a secret' (resistance), the interference of the psychoanalyst, the 'confession' and the return of the usual behavior. The 'gestalt' of this succession is essential. 'Thus the differentiation between confession and non-confession, between the right confession

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and all the others, is made in exactly the same way as we decide whether a figure is a triangle or a circle. We see it; and should we have any doubt, then we remember the definitions of triangle and circle and make sure of the presence or absence of the defining signs.'

'Thus, very simply, the question above is answered. Considering confessions as observation facts, we need not worry about their verification. Observation facts are never verified or disproved—as the modern logicians of science have convincingly demonstrated. Contrary to an earlier belief observation facts are subject only to the quite different requirement of intersubjectivity.' What is this intersubjectivity? The above mentioned succession is repeated again and again and therefore is observable by everyone. The only difference is that 'in psychoanalysis it may take some undetermined time before a resistance or a confession appears'. The psychoanalyst is protected against the possibility that a good 'imitation' of the analysand betray him by stimulating a resistance-confession-succession by the fact that he knows the history and habits of the life of the analysand.

Bernfeld concludes his interesting article by stating a service experimental psychology might do for psychoanalysis. 'In the preceding study we isolated logically the removal of obstacles. For the purpose of improving this instrument, it ought to be taken out from the setting of the psychoanalytic interview. We must use it in the laboratory of experimental psychology. By making the microscope an object of specialized investigation, by uncovering the physical laws of its structure and function, we refine and perfect it for application to histology. Similarly our pattern—secret, interpretation, confession—must become the object of research which is not interested in the confessions as observed facts but in the procedure itself as a means of producting facts.'

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Article Citation

Fenichel, O. (1943). The Facts of Observation in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Q., 12:305-306

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