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Wilson, A. (2003). Ghosts of Paradigms past: The once and future evolution of psychoanalytic thought. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51(3):825-855.

(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51(3):825-855

Ghosts of Paradigms past: The once and future evolution of psychoanalytic thought

Arnold Wilson

An example of the psychoanalytic mode of thought is put forward concerning how psychoanalytic theories have historically been constituted and transformed. The model of world hypotheses, characterized by multiple irresolvable truth claims, captures the nature of most psychoanalytic theorizing until about 1970. Each of two world hypotheses—one grounded in intrapsychic conflict (seen when the analyst observes from outside the transference) and the other in interpersonal internalization (seen when the analyst observes from inside the bidirectional interactive processes)—is an autonomous and self-sufficient aggregate. The stance taken by the analyst-observer with respect to the analytic interaction is key to seeing how the two world hypotheses are made manifest in clinical work and in theory. By contrast, the model of competing programs captures the essential nature of most psychoanalytic theorizing since about 1970, and is characterized by the necessity of each progressively evolving through a particular kind of commerce with its neighbors. Such commerce is necessary when a program is in danger of degenerating. In this way of thinking, there is a fundamental tension between classical psychoanalysis adapting to the demands and exigencies of its particular and ever evolving historical niche and simultaneously retaining the core commitments that guarantee continuity. Honoring the forces of progression displaces the quest for truth as a paramount goal of psychoanalysis. A developmental lag in recognizing this transformation has hindered progress toward a comparative, process-centered psychoanalysis.

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