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Stepansky, P.E. (2002). From Deep Penetration to Surgical Caress: Reply to Review Essay. Psychoanal. Dial., 12(3):499-503.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(3):499-503

From Deep Penetration to Surgical Caress: Reply to Review Essay Related Papers

Review by:
Paul E. Stepansky, Ph.D.

Let me begin by thanking Dr. Phillips for his Generous Reading of my book and his judiciously well-considered appraisal of its argument. It is a rare treat for any author to encounter a reviewer who is not only fully comprehending of the raison d'être of his book, but so thoughtful in his own surmises as to provide a further contribution to the topic at issue. The following comments are less a “reply” than a continuation of the dialogue in the form of reflections and afterthoughts stimulated by Dr. Phillips' fine essay. I begin with my reactions to several interesting speculations that Dr. Phillips makes in passing and then offer more substantive commentary on his concluding idea about the relationship between the surgical metaphor and ego psychology.

To associate Freud's choice of the Paré quotation with a self-corrective impulse to remedy what Dr. Phillips sees as “the greatest single defect of the surgical metaphor, that it implies an action done by the surgeon to the patient” strikes me as a rather generous form of presentism. I am skeptical of this claim for two reasons. On one hand, I find little warrant for assuming that Freud in 1912 understood the historical Paré and his attitude toward surgery in the manner that I suggest (Stepansky, 1999, p. 163). Paré was, for Freud, simply “a surgeon of earlier times” whose pithy aphorism cemented the requirement of emotional coldness. If Freud had known anything of the 16th-century Paré, who resisted applying boiling oil to gunshot wounds lest he torture his patients and was beloved by the French infantry for his compassionate ministrations during the Italian campaigns of the 1530s, he would not have invoked him to justify an attitude of emotional coldness in the first place.

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