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Mayer, D.L. (1970). From Anxiety to Method in the Behavioral Sciences: By George Devereux. Paris: École Pratique des Hautes Études, 1967. 376 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 39:131-133.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 39:131-133

From Anxiety to Method in the Behavioral Sciences: By George Devereux. Paris: École Pratique des Hautes Études, 1967. 376 pp.

Review by:
David L. Mayer

This is an ambitious and personal work by a brilliant and creative contributor to anthropology and psychoanalysis. It includes a systematic examination of the effect of countertransference phenomena on behavioral science observation; a complex and well-reasoned theory about the focal importance of countertransference disturbances in such observation; theoretical and practical suggestions for exploiting these disturbances rather than regarding them as foreign. Thus it is a logical and systematic extension for behavioral science in general of an important part of the analyst's working method—the evaluation of the disturbances induced in the analyst himself (during the state of free-floating attention) by the patient's associations and other behavior.

In an admiring preface, Weston La Barre notes how unwelcome Devereux's demand for self-scrutiny may be; it will attract contumely, and mobilize denial, carping criticism, ad hominem arguments, and pseudo-scientific disdain. But he regards Devereux as the first to have apprehended the problem of countertransference phenomena in its full scope and intellectual presence, and therefore as having contributed a basic and genuinely revolutionary insight.

The book begins with a detailed elaboration of the anxiety-producing effects of behavioral science data, and progresses through detailed specification of the disturbances engendered by the anxiety in the observer to a last section, titled, Distortion as the Road to Objectivity, in which the author attempts to show 'how to use as bridges precisely those situations which are usually treated as barriers' (p. xx). Throughout, the basic theoretical treatise is enriched in two ways. First, there is systematic amplification and discussion of what might have been dryly listed as cases of a principle. Detail and complexity are not spared—separate chapters usefully examine such matters as 'professional defenses', 'sublimatory vs. defensive uses of methodology', 'age as a countertransference factor', and 'elicited countertransference'. Second, there are four hundred forty interspersed numbered 'cases'. These are brief clinical anecdotes of various sorts, many brilliantly selected, a few injudicious.

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