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Oppenheim, L. (2009). Awakening the Dreamer: Clinical Journeys. By Philip M. Bromberg. Mahwah, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2006. 223 pp., $55.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(2):496-502.
(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(2):496-502
Awakening the Dreamer: Clinical Journeys. By Philip M. Bromberg. Mahwah, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2006. 223 pp., $55.00.
Review by: Lois Oppenheim
In “Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-Analysis,” Freud (1912) wrote that the analyst “must turn his own unconscious like a receptive organ towards the transmitting unconscious of the patient.” Illustrating metaphorically how the analyst is to do this, he likens the process to the adjustment of a telephone receiver to the transmitting microphone: “Just as the receiver converts back into sound-waves the electric oscillations in the telephone line which were set up by soundwaves, so the doctor's unconscious is able, from the derivatives of the unconscious which are communicated to him, to reconstruct that unconscious, which has determined the patient's free associations” (pp. 115-116). By all accounts, this would appear to be an odd point of departure for the discussion of a volume by an author at the forefront of interpersonal psychoanalysis. I have selected this passage from Freud, however, as my lead-in to Philip Bromberg's latest book because it allows us to discern the potential for bridging the gap between the classical and post-classical perspectives, which Bromberg himself astutely, if not explicitly, invites his reader to do. I have selected this passage from Freud, in other words, because it demonstrates, rather remarkably, precisely what clinical experience is all about for Bromberg, while also demonstrating precisely what it is not.
Freud's metaphor is relevant insofar as, for Bromberg as for Freud, it is through the willing reception by the analyst's own unconscious of transmissions from the unconscious of the patient that a field is opened wherein the two may reside together and therapeutic work take place. Adjustment of the analyst's unconscious to that of the patient is indeed akin to the adjustment of the telephone receiver to the transmitting microphone in that attunement is required for the immediacy of the interaction to turn to intimacy, a sine qua non of the movement or change that we call therapy.
Yet, at once, a caveat must be issued: For Bromberg unconsciouscommunication is necessarily a two-way event. While Freud deemed any influence by the patient on the analyst's unconscious feelings countertransferential and in need of being overcome (see, e.g., Freud 1910, pp. 144-145), for Bromberg when countertransferential moments, however subtle, appear (and for him they are exceedingly present) —i.e.,
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