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Westen, D. (2002). The Language of Psychoanalytic Discourse. Psychoanal. Dial., 12(6):857-898.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(6):857-898

The Language of Psychoanalytic Discourse Related Papers

Drew Westen, Ph.D.

Much contemporary analytic writing is focused on the intersubjective “space” between analyst and analysand. This article focuses on a different area of analytic subjectivity and intersubjectivity—on the implicit rules that guide psychoanalytic thought and discourse, which have not received the kind of critical scrutiny as our explicit theories. The paper describes five problematic aspects of this implicit grammar and corresponding ways of refining it: articulating conceptual multiplicity where we often use unitary constructs (such as the unconscious or the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis); specifying mechanisms rather than causally ambiguous descriptions (such as two unconsciouses talking to one another) and conditional rather than blanket statements; avoiding using terms in overdetermined ways that lead to theoretical imprecision and confusion of theory and metaphor; exercising greater caution in the use of developmental constructs and analogies, particularly from infancy; and rethinking the nature and presentation of evidence in psychoanalytic discourse.

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