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(2000). Correspondence. Brit. J. Psychother., 17(1):128-130.

(2000). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 17(1):128-130


Dear Editor

I was concerned to read Susannah Izzard's article ‘Oedipus - baby or bathwater?’ in the Autumn number of 1999 (BJP 16(1)). I understand her to view psychoanalysis as including explanations of the cause of homosexuality, as attributing homosexuality as pathological and as having failed to update the Oedipus complex in the light of the variety of family and social systems now recognized. I would like to touch on some concerns I have about each of these points as much as space allows.

Psychoanalytic attributions of cause seem to me to be no longer a part of metapsychological thought. The causal explanations which she quotes have a quaintness which makes it difficult for me to take them seriously as the basis of a heuristic endeavour. I think it is tactful to ignore such formulations. Were psychoanalysis a predictive science its status would be quite different. Sadly, we can only try to help patients to understand their difficulties in bearing the pain of reality. We cannot tell them how such difficulties arose.

So far has psychoanalysis gone from historical explanation that accounts of psychodynamics today tend to be accounts of psychic reality. We may speculate as to how parental handling contributed to the organization of that psychic reality, but such speculations have little part in modern technique. Psychoanalysis now deals with the situation as it is without regard for how it arose, just as the fire service might attend an incident according to the type of fire and not at all according to whether or not it was set deliberately.

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