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Epstein, L. (1975). Reminiscences of Supervision with Erich Fromm. Contemp. Psychoanal., 11:457-460.

(1975). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 11:457-460

Reminiscences of Supervision with Erich Fromm

Lawrence Epstein, Ph.D.

FIVE YEARS AGO I SUMMARIZED my supervisory experience with Erich Fromm as follows:

I was in supervision with Erich Fromm in 1965, my last year as a candidate in the Institute. For months afterward, his influence pervaded my work. With time, his teachings have fallen into perspective.

Dr. Fromm's conception of the psychoanalytic encounter is that for both analyst and patient it must be absolutely real and free of all sham and hypocrisy. The analyst should realize with the patient that the patient's one and only life is at stake. The communication offered to the patient must be deep and intense. As the analyst speaks to the patient, he should be able to experience the impact of his own words as the patient experiences it. Fromm stresses the fact that the analyst does not cure the patient: the patient cures himself. He remarked that once, when a patient asked him if he would be cured, he replied, "I can't promise you that, but I can promise you some of the most interesting hours you have ever spent in your life." Thus the analyst's task is to waken the patient, to illuminate his internal reality, to bring to awareness the unconscious conflicts which cripple his life. He does this by actively confronting the patient with what the patient does not want to see.

The aim of psychoanalytic treatment is not to achieve the (preconceived) goal of the productive, genital character. Fromm's goal is the achievment of maximal authenticity and aliveness. He once said, "If you are a thief, at least be the best possible thief that you can be."

Fromm believes that nothing can happen in analysis except through the patient's experiencing conflict and crisis. If the analyst lacks the courage to face himself and to live fully and authentically himself, he may project this onto the patient, thus over-protecting him, and reinforcing his need to cling to primary ties.

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