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Spence, D.P. (1993). Discussion: New Understandings Of Psychoanalytic Process. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41S(Supplement):131-141.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41S(Supplement):131-141

Discussion: New Understandings Of Psychoanalytic Process

Donald P. Spence, Ph.D.

As psychoanalysis prepares to enter its second century, our biggest task, it would seem, is to turn our clinical wisdom-largely stored in the soft tissue of living analysts-into accessible knowledge. As Teller and Dahl make clear, we have no fundamental knowledge of underlying patterns and structures. We are at the same point as the medical establishment found itself at the turn of the century: we need to develop a basic science of psychoanalysis that can be used as a foundation for our clinical wisdom. When wisdom is turned into knowledge in this manner, it stands apart from the clinical moment and carries a truth that is not conditioned by the specific needs of the patient and analyst in the midst of a particular clinical encounter. Just as medicine now rests on hundreds of chemical and biological facts that apply equally to all forms of life, so we need to ground psychoanalysis on a set of principles that go beyond the specific clinical happening. We need to build bridges between the analtic "conversation" and other kinds of two-person discourse; put another way, we need to study the characteristics of this conversation as a particular genre, and learn the details of its landscape and the particular properties of speech that obtain when one of the speakers is largely out of sight, relatively silent, and does not seem to conform to conventional conversational rules. Moving to more clinical issues, we need to translate the many properties of the analytic surface into more usable language so that we can identify which features of the patient's speech cause the analyst to respond; which feature of an interpretation can bring about structural change; what kinds of hours seem to implement good analytic work, and what kinds of hours stand in the way.

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