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Goldberg, A. (2006). A Lament About Lack: Commentary on Wilson. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 54(2):429-433.

(2006). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 54(2):429-433

A Lament About Lack: Commentary on Wilson Related Papers

Arnold Goldberg

Most of the significant additions to Freudian psychoanalysis have come about when an impasse is reached with one's patients, and so a new set of ideas is called for and fortuitously discovered. Melanie Klein developed her fundamental changes from Freud in order to facilitate her work with children. Heinz Kohut felt that classical analytic technique was of insufficient help in the treatment of narcissistic personality disorders, and so he launched his concepts of self psychology. Much the same could be said of a host of other innovators in psychoanalysis, such as Winnicott, Bion, and Lacan. Alas, we are also familiar with those who may claim originality but essentially offer only a new vocabulary, and so it is only in the crucible of clinical practice that a theoretical promise can earn its place in psychoanalytic history. All new theories aim to solve problems and arise from a shared state of dissatisfaction and discontent, inasmuch as their birth is always instigated by the sense that something is missing.

Mitchell Wilson turns a lament about what may be said to be missing in the practice of psychoanalysis into a virtue. This is not quite the same as what has been described in the literature on the “logic of discovery” (Kuhn 1993), which takes the missing ingredient as a launching pad for creativity. Rather, Wilson embraces what he calls the “lack” as an “essential working condition” for the very activity of psychoanalysis. In pursuit of this ideal condition he forms something of a collection, one that seems to strain the credibility of the entire endeavor. For him the “lack” includes mistakes and misunderstandings, losses and negation, the unknown and unknowables—along with a host of other terms that for this reader can only be termed unfathomable, both singly and in the collection seen as a whole.

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