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Rawn, M.L. (1979). Schafer's 'Action Language': A Questionable Alternative to Metapsychology. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 60:455-465.

(1979). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 60:455-465

Schafer's 'Action Language': A Questionable Alternative to Metapsychology

Moss L. Rawn


Summing up my critique of Schafer, I find his system on balance essentially unfruitful. The immediate appeal of his system, mentioned by me at the beginning of my paper, unfortunately just doesn't bear up under closer examination. I do not believe we can abandon yet the metapsychological points of view, although there are many problems that require attention—especially is this so with the economic one. The other points of view are still quite serviceable clinically despite many pitfalls. Merely to pose the question to a student in supervision such as; 'and what is the structure of the dream fragment you just reported to me, ' can generate vital information. I can scarcely imagine doing without these points of view. His position on entities and on metaphors I find quite unconvincing. We need a notion of thingness and also of expression beyond a strictly literal one. His theory does not seem to have the explanatory power of the older metapsychology, even with all its drawbacks. But his call for clarity of expression, his challenge of overblown

metaphors is a real service to us all. Also his questioning of the need for psychic energy, for entities, for metaphors, can lead others to much fruitful contribution even though he may not be followed in the particulars of his approach. Schafer's preference for one theory and for that one theory being in a separate domain from physical process is intriguing and deserving of further study. His willingness to probe philosophy of science issues in psychoanalysis—an all too rare emphasis among psychoanalysts—is itself an important contribution. And finally, it is of great value to focus much needed attention on metapsychology for substantial improvements are needed, although it would seem that Schafer's radical surgery is a questionable alternative.

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