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Imbasciati, A. (2010). Toward New Metapsychologies. Psychoanal. Rev., 97(1):73-90.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Review, 97(1):73-90

Toward New Metapsychologies

Antonio Imbasciati

Why Metapsychology?

Freud gave the title “metapsychology” to his 1915 work to indicate that he intended to explain what the psychoanalytic method had permitted him to discover, that is, unconscious events. The term “meta” (= “beyond”) meant a psychology beyond what was apparent, that is, beyond the conscious mind. In fact, in Freud's time, by “psychology” one referred to the study of psychic events (thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc.) in reference to the subject's conscious reports; no one imagined that unconscious psychic processes could exist—the mind was identified as consciousness. Freud's great discovery—that totally unknown psychic events existed, and that these were even more important and furthermore different, indeed often opposed, to what the subject believed in good faith to occur—and, indeed, the discovery of the unconscious revolutionized the entire panorama of psychology, and also of all the human sciences, to the point of changing the meaning of the term “psychology.” Today in fact it is understood as the study of all the mental processes and not simply of those rendered observable by the subject, or noticed by him or her, that is, conscious. But in Freud's time it was not like that, and therefore in light of the discovery of a psychology of the unconscious, it was appropriate to permit the use of the term “meta”; furthermore, it was necessary to explain this discovery that appeared surprising at the time, that is, to find (or hypothesize) the reason why these unconscious psychic processes might exist.

The first paragraph of the third essay of Freud's Metapsychology, “The Unconscious,” is titled “Justification of the Unconscious.”

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