Freud's Dilemma: On Writing Greek and Thinking Jewish
Edgar A. Levenson, M.D.
It Seems appropriate to begin with a quote from Roberta Held Weiss's 1985 paper “In Praise of Actuality,” which is very much in the spirit of my presentation.
[T]he truth we look for in psychoanalysis is not to be found while searching for historical events or causes, nor in recreating, restoring or repairing the past. Neither would I locate it in a hermeneutic exegesis, a coherent and logical narrative. Instead I would search for it in our patients' struggle to give shape and meaning to their experience, in their efforts, however fragmented, incoherent, desultory, erratic or formless these efforts may be. Psychoanalytic truth, I will maintain, emerges in the analysis of the immediate analytic experience, in the observation and analysis of the participation. That is, it is in a reflection on its own process, in a self-consciousness of the emerging experience between the analyst and the patient, continually being redefined, that psychoanalytic truth is found. [p. 237]
The major appeal of White, for me in the early 1950s, was not Sullivan per se, but the White Institute's slant toward cultural relativism and its accent on social context. Those were heady times. The South Pacific had been discovered, and there was a great burgeoning of enthusiasm for cultural anthropology and the perspectivism it engendered. To the best of my recollection, many of us were not primarily as invested in Sullivan in the 1950s as in Fromm, Mead, Benedict, Buber, Sapir, Whorf, Korzybski. Sullivan seemed more relevant for his outreach to linguistics, sociology, and ethnology than for his metapsychology, which was regrettably couched in very abstruse language. Of our two major theorists, Fromm, being a Marxist, had the clearest sense of the patient defined and directed by social and cultural forces.
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