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Enckell, M. (1996). The mystical element in psychoanalysis. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 19(2):196-208.

(1996). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 19(2):196-208

The mystical element in psychoanalysis

Mikael Enckell

Ever since its conception, psychoanalysis has been preoccupied, to a greater or less extent, with the question of its position as a field of study equivalent to other scientific disciplines. Maybe this preoccupation and the struggle for recognition have led to important clarifications; they have, however, not resulted in an unambiguous victory. Partly it is a matter of an understandable urge to achieve a desired status and prestige. Partly it originates with the psychoanalyst's profound insecurity in relation to his or her own professional identity as well as that of a discipline which hovers indefinitely somewhere between biology and psychology; between the universality of scientific law and the individual hermeneutic exegesis.

Most of us can probably sympathize with the tensions inherent in psychoanalysis and the identity-diffusion of the individual psychoanalyst. We may also be able to tolerate a certain amount of the universal desire for prestige. Nevertheless, it is frustrating that these discussions much too often seem unproductive and that they fail to bring out that which to us seems most interesting. The discussions have (in our view) only touched on the inessential facade, constructs that remain beyond the horizon of those most involved in the psychoanalytic process: the patient and the analyst.

The representations of the views on human spiritual life that psychoanalysis has to offer also often appear superficial and deceptive, e.g., in literary studies where they are used to present analytic perspectives on authors and their lives. Repeatedly, we are confronted by theoretical constructs with an indisputable origin in psychoanalysis; however, they are utterly static, deprived of all life and all immediate relevance in their context; they strike us as dump and dead concepts at the moment of our reading.

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