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Hanly, M.F. (1996). ‘Narrative’, Now And Then: A Critical Realist Approach. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:445-457.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:445-457

‘Narrative’, Now And Then: A Critical Realist Approach

Margaret Fitzpatrick Hanly

The author argues that the idea of a ‘narrative approach’ in psychoanalysis has come to imply that the history of the psyche of a patient is inaccessible and that what the analyst should aim to achieve is the co-construction of a ‘story’ agreed to by both analyst and patient. She examines some critical realist views on narrative that engage with the problem of how the past determines story-telling in the present. The narrative-hermeneutic perspective has emphasised how much a telling is shaped by the transference, in order, it seems, to urge analysts to forgo a ‘naïve realism’, an attempt to get at some ‘bare facts’ of the past, which would lose the bearing of much the patient is communicating in the present. This, as a technical reminder, is excellent. However, critical realism in psychoanalysis has always been sophisticated as opposed to naïve, because of our concern with the workings of oedipal and post-oedipal transformations, and with the workings of the transference. It is the thesis of this paper, written from the perspective of critical realism, that every interpretation, in so far as it contains a narrative truth, that is, speaks adequately of coherence and transference issues, will also refer to a significant aspect of the history of the patient's psyche.

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