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Künstlicher, R. (1999). What is psychoanalytic research?. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(1):102-107.

(1999). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 22(1):102-107

What is psychoanalytic research?

Rolf Künstlicher

The constantly recurring debates about what psychoanalytic research is reflects our lack of faith in the instruments of psychoanalytic inquiry and their usefulness as a source of new knowledge. This lack of confidence in our field of knowledge contributes, as I see it, to the identity crisis we are living with today.

For decades, we have been witness to the unparalleled success of psychoanalytic theory constructions in our cultural environment. This has helped to foster a cover-up of the profound uncertainty psychoanalysts harbor about what psychoanalysis really is, and is probably one reason for the singular lack of institutional criticism that further undermines our professional identity. The result of this has been that we respond to legitimate criticism in terms of projections and that we place the blame on patients and the outside world. Self-critical examination has all too often failed to materialize (Widlöcher, 1998).

This being so, our cardinal task ought to be the critical investigation of the foundations of psychoanalysis with the conditions of psychoanalysis as a starting point. If we proceed in this way, we may be able to define and take responsibility for the clinical practice we work with.

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