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Kaplan, D.M. (1964). Introduction: Language and Communication. Psychoanal. Rev., 51A(1):3-4.

(1964). Psychoanalytic Review, 51A(1):3-4

Introduction: Language and Communication

Donald M. Kaplan, Ph.D.

If the purpose of a psychoanalysis is to make the unconscious conscious, then the implementation of a psychoanalysis must rely on words—not as the arbitrary auxiliary to an otherwise ineffable occurrence, as some would have it, but as an essential medium. Capable of mediating the primary and secondary processes, words are the ultimate instrumentality in the re-fashioning of the cathectic complex which maintains and characterizes the division between the conscious and unconscious systems. As such, a fortuitous development or subsequent rehabilitation of the verbal apparatus in its broadest sense is prerequisite not only for thought but also for passion. The quality of our personal rhetoric —our vocabulary, phrases, silences—is a reflection of our affectual characteristics and capacities.

But we live in a time of the degradation of words, a time of hostility to distinction and complexity, a time of empty intellection about “feelings” and “contact.” And it is not surprising that psychoanalysis should now find itself sharply resisted on grounds that it is too much involved in a mere dialogue of words, as if words do not foster but rather obstruct growth, insight and vitality. Our current critics, the Existentialists and Orientalists, impatient for creativity and passion, pursue merely disorder and titillation in direct proportion to their miseducation about words. In elevating to philosophy an inability to respect words and to work with them, our critics have codified what in former years was the ignorance of those “uninstructed relatives” of Freud's famous passage on words:

Nothing takes place in a psycho-analytic treatment but an interchange of words between patient and analyst….

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