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Spruiell, V. (1989). The Future of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal Q., 58:1-28.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:1-28

The Future of Psychoanalysis

Vann Spruiell, M.D.

Ideas without facts are empty; facts without ideas are blind.
ROBERT WAELDER (1967p. 26)


It is known that what will happen within complex systems cannot be predicted far in advance. Psychoanalysis is such a complex system. But thinking about the future of psychoanalysis can be a useful game. There are times for speculation. We need our imaginations about the future, if only because they add to our sense of vigor and life in the present.

When we examine our field in terms of its coherence, its existence as an entity, we can compare it to other entities. For example, a house has an "inner identity," composed of all its interior structure and all the human happenings that have occurred within it—constancy in the midst of change. And a house has an "exterior identity," its street address and all the things that have taken place in relation to other buildings and the larger surround and its history (Greenacre, 1958, p 613). Only after we have examined every one of its components, keeping in mind that each influences and is influenced by every other, should we go on to think about not one, but a number—a range—of possible futures, whether of a house or of an entity like psychoanalysis. Some futures are more possible than others. Some are beyond our capacities to affect. Others can be influenced one way or another.

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