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Silvan, M. (2005). Do We Do What We Think We Do? Implicit Theories in the Analyst's Mind. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 53(3):945-956.

(2005). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 53(3):945-956

Do We Do What We Think We Do? Implicit Theories in the Analyst's Mind

Matthew Silvan

Irene Cairo introduced the panel by noting that psychoanalysis has always been fundamentally interested in the process of self-knowledge, both our patients' and our own. However, the means of undertaking this process has always been our own minds, which are “admittedly imperfect and inevitably limited.” Thus, our instrument in this epistemological journey distorts and can even cripple the analytic endeavor. From this perspective it becomes essential to better understand what shapes and influences our observations. In the past century, numerous theories have been developed to help us study and explain this process. These theories themselves shape our observations, influence our technique, and inform our interpretations. Some are public, conscious, and more clearly at the forefront of our thinking. Others may exist in the back of our minds, to become explicit only when we look back at what we have actually thought or said. These other ideas, experiences, theories, models, and concepts, perhaps less articulated, and likely less conscious, exist in our minds and impact our work with no less power. Joseph Sandler has referred to them as “implicit theories.” This panel, Cairo noted, would address “the question of whether or not there is a correspondence between our ideas about the analytic theory on which we base our practice and the actual clinical practice that we apply.” It would not concern itself with trying to determine which if any theory is right.

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