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Gillette, E. (1992). Psychoanalysis' Resistance to New Ideas. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:1232-1235.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:1232-1235

Psychoanalysis' Resistance to New Ideas

Eric Gillette, M.D.

January 8, 1992

I wish to call attention to what seems to me a significant obstacle to scientific progress in psychoanalysis—namely, the resistance to discussing new ideas that conflict with what are believed to be Freud's views. At the same time, I acknowledge that enormous progress has been made since Ralph Greenson wrote his classic paper "The Origin and Fate of New Ideas in Psychoanalysis" (1969). I am fully aware that much lively debate transpires at scientific meetings and appears at times in published articles. Because there is no objective way to measure what constitutes the appropriate level of debate in scientific journals, I can produce no rigorous proof for my thesis. However, I will try to share with you the basis of my impression.

Attitudes accounting for the deficiency of published debate in psychoanalytic journals may also explain the exceptional difficulty I have encountered in contacting analysts through personal correspondence, despite success with some of the most eminent figures in the field. A sociologist once told me that in his opinion about fifty percent of sociologists would be willing to engage in such correspondence. Moreover, such scholarly correspondence figures in tenure decisions. My initial efforts were aimed at finding analysts willing to discuss the concept of the unconscious and the nature of psychoanalysis as a science. Guided by the analytic precept of dealing with the presenting resistance, my current efforts focus on the resistance to discussion. If it can be overcome, my next goal will be to acquire an empathic understanding of how analysts are able to reconcile the institutional practices of psychoanalysis with what appears to be a sincere conviction that psychoanalysis is a science.


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