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Grey, A.L. (1993). The Dialectics of Psychoanalysis—A New Synthesis of Fromm's Theory and Practice. Contemp. Psychoanal., 29:645-672.

(1993). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 29:645-672

The Dialectics of Psychoanalysis—A New Synthesis of Fromm's Theory and Practice

Alan L. Grey, Ph.D.

DURING THOSE FIRST SESSIONS OF SUPERVISION with Erich Fromm, I began to wonder if I might do better as a necktie salesman. Because my color sense is unreliable, there was no recourse but to persevere at clinical endeavors. The source of my despair was confusion evoked by Fromm's assessment of the case under consideration. As I perceived the patient, a journalist, he was compulsive, acerbic, and unremittingly dissatisfied with everything—his marriage, his parents, his boss, and most certainly his treatment results. That characterization brought an impatient response from Fromm. "Isn't it obvious?", he insisted, "He regards himself as a package, a commodity. He wraps himself attractively to induce a sale. But he offers no inner substance. Characterologically, he has a typical marketing orientation."

To picture this bitter and cynical patient as trying to recommend himself to me was absolutely bewildering. His every communication echoed with disparagement of my professional contribution or of my person. On the other hand, it was impossible to dismiss a firm opinion offered by Fromm, whose ideas were opening new vistas in psychoanalysis. After a few more sessions of existential turmoil for me, somehow we shifted to another case. It may have been a deliberate mutual decision. In any event, subsequent meetings came closer to my initial hopes for understandable challenges. No longer was there cause to agonize over an impasse so foreign to my comprehension as to shake trust in my own immediate experience.

Looking back brings with it a question about what deterred my customary argumentativeness in defense of my own views. In answer, Fromm's image rises once again to my mind's eye.

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