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Luyten, P. (2015). Unholy Questions About Five Central Tenets of Psychoanalysis That Need to be Empirically Verified. Psychoanal. Inq., 35S(Supplement):5-23.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 35S(Supplement):5-23

Setting the Stage

Unholy Questions About Five Central Tenets of Psychoanalysis That Need to be Empirically Verified

Patrick Luyten, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis is about asking the hard questions. This article applies this basic assumption of the clinical practice of psychoanalysis to the science of psychoanalysis. I focus on a number of key assumptions of psychoanalytic approaches and their epistemological status: (a) the theoretical language of psychoanalysis, (b) psychoanalytic technique and training, (c) psychoanalytic developmental theories, (d) object relational and attachment approaches within psychoanalysis, and (e) the nature of general explanatory models in psychoanalysis. These examples are far from exhaustive, but cover a broad set of historical and contemporary theoretical approaches within psychoanalysis. In asking “hard” questions about the epistemological status of these key assumptions, I emphasize the importance of the re-introduction of playfulness and the cherishment of novelty and innovation, so important for psychological development, in psychoanalytic thinking. Psychoanalysis, as any other scientific discipline, should not shy away from asking these hard questions. It should do so with frank openness and a playful attitude. If not, orthodoxy and rigidity, already widespread in some quarters within psychoanalysis, will lead to a degenerative program of research that will herald the downfall of psychoanalysis as an intellectual and clinical movement.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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