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Lichtenberg, J.D. (1998). Experience as a Guide to Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(1):17-36.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(1):17-36

Experience as a Guide to Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice

Joseph D. Lichtenberg

Psychoanalysis traverses the terrain from the most poignant personal moments to the broadest domain of theory. I shall cover this terrain starting with personal experience, in order to then pass through the concept of “lived experience” into other theoretical concepts and circle back again to the personal. The rationale for beginning with my personal experience is that the choices of concepts and techniques you will hear are inevitably influenced by it (Stolorow and Atwood 1979). After completing college and three years in the navy as a deck officer, I decided to go to medical school in order to become a psychoanalyst. By becoming a doctor, I was fulfilling my grandmother's ambitions for herself and me. With rebellious pleasure I knew that becoming a psychoanalyst was strictly my own idea. After the second year of medical school, I went to work in a state mental hospital and began a personal analysis. The analyst was a warm and attractive young woman, probably a candidate, with whom I developed a strong transference. The analysis proceeded with positive results for my emotional well-being. Having joined an institute as a candidate, however, I was required to switch from her to a training analyst. Then a terrible thing happened: she died suddenly of a rare complication of pregnancy. I began a training analysis with an esteemed analyst whose reputation was not that of a cold and silent nonresponder. At this time I was in a state of mourning for my beloved grandfather, who had recently died, and for my prior analyst. Unfortunately, the “training” analysis, rather than helping me, became a source of added psychic pain and ended in failure.

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