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Torsti, M. (1999). Quo vadis psychoanalysis?. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(1):108-113.

(1999). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 22(1):108-113

Quo vadis psychoanalysis?

Marita Torsti

What is happening to psychoanalysis, now that it is striving to become a science, and with the IPA giving financial support to ‘scientific’ research? Are we sure that we are not throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Are we paying the price of the loss of psychoanalysis as such and the giving up of the art of analytic thinking?

I agree with Green that psychoanalysis is neither a causally-based theory, nor a theory of development, nor a picture of the total personality; rather, it contains the knowledge of the unconscious mind that we gain access to at the side of the couch (Green, 1997). The unconscious can be studied only by means of the appropriate instrument: the psychoanalyst's ability to make use of free association, and dream interpretation. It is from this that we see a rise of empathy, interpretation and understanding. It is the same instrument, however, that also serves as the foundation for the individual analyst's theoretical understanding and theory creation; there is no other way to truly comprehend psychoanalysis. In the process of theoretical thinking, the analyst strives to objectify his or her personal observations. The way in which we, as analysts, capture this subjectivity and the unconscious, is part of our analytic activity. Thus, psychoanalysis, as an intellectual, ‘scientific’ pursuit, is a quite different kind of thing, compared to linear theories of development or scientific theories based on concepts of causality. It is a constantly self-renewing intellectual activity, whose sphere is one of symbolization and free association.

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