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Hanly, C. Hanly, M.A. (2001). Critical Realism: Distinguishing the Psychological Subjectivity of the Analyst from Epistemological Subjectivism. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 49(2):515-532.

(2001). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49(2):515-532

Critical Realism: Distinguishing the Psychological Subjectivity of the Analyst from Epistemological Subjectivism

Charles Hanly and Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Hanly

To clarify the concepts of critical realism, subjectivity, and subjectivism, distinctions are drawn among ontological subjectivism, moral subjectivity, psychological subjectivity, and epistemological subjectivism. Psychological subjectivity, including the ongoing affective life of the analyst, is an essential aspect of the analyst's response to the patient, and may either facilitate or distort an adequate observation of transference and counter-transference dynamics and of the psychic reality of the patient. Subjectivism in current psychoanalytic literature involves an argument that there is an “irreducible” subjectivity in the analyst, who is bound to see things from an incorrigibly personal point of view, such that there is no substantial subject-object differentiation between analyst and patient. Issues of authoritarianism in the analyst, or of pathological certainty, should not be confused with the issues of epistemological objectivism. The concept of critical realism or scientific objectivism includes the essential idea that there is no pure knowledge, no complete knowledge, that often evidence is insufficient for knowledge of some aspect of nature, and that care must be to taken understand what is sufficient knowledge in a given area, in this case clinical psychoanalysis. The question is raised whether “projective identification” makes the sorting out of “what comes from whom” impossible. It is argued that when free association is sufficiently facilitated, when there are enough corrections of the distortions wrought by transference and counter-transference, when defenses are analyzed, and when sufficient subject-object differentiation is recovered, the analyst can get to know enough of the patient's psychic reality for the therapeutic and scientific purposes of psychoanalysis.

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