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Barratt, B.B. (2014). A practitioner's notes on the free-associative method as existential praxis. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 23(4):195-208.

(2014). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 23(4):195-208

ORIGINAL ARTICLES

A practitioner's notes on the free-associative method as existential praxis

Barnaby B. Barratt

Freud's pre-1914 texts demonstrate why he consistently asserted that his free-associative method was the sine qua non of his discipline. Prior to 1914, Freud's theorizing was intimately and inextricably connected to his lived experience with the discovery of this method. After 1914, he became more speculative in this thinking and writing; his models of the “mental apparatus” and its functioning drew increasingly on conceptual sources other than his experience with free association. The four fundamental coordinates of his discipline (the methodical disclosure that self-consciousness is repressive, the nonlinear “time of the mind,” the significance of our sensual embodiment or libidinality, and the formation of the repression barrier by the incest taboo) are all closely tied to free-associative experience. By contrast, post-1914 theoretical preoccupations (from object relations to the structural-functional model, and other formulations generated after Freud's life) are comparatively divorced from such experience. These conceptual edifices imply a conventional depiction of the theory–practice relationship, which is radically challenged by free-associative discourse. The notion of praxis is introduced as contesting the prevailing depiction of practice as an application of theory, and as serving to rescue psychoanalysis from the somewhat “sterile debates” over its scientific status and over the relevance of metapsychological speculation to clinical treatment. Against the normative ideology of theory and practice, the lived experience of free-associative discourse, with its potential for change and healing, can only be understood in terms of this notion of praxis, and this justifies Freud's claim to have initiated “a critical new direction in science.”

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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