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Esman, A.H. (1998). What is ‘Applied’ in ‘Applied’ Psychoanalysis?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:741-752.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:741-752

What is ‘Applied’ in ‘Applied’ Psychoanalysis?

Aaron H. Esman

The ‘application’ of psychoanalytic concepts and methods to the products of culture has occupied a somewhat ambiguous position, seen by some as a secondary, derivative, even dubious procedure, by others as a valuable and legitimate extrapolation of the basic principles. This paper argues that such ‘applications’ were integral to the early development of the field and that, indeed, many of Freud's basic ideas were derived from non-clinical (i.e. cultural) sources. The continuing impact of cultural forces on clinical concepts can be seen in the recent reformulations of our views on the psychology of women. Psychoanalysis is to be seen, therefore, as a constantly evolving system of propositions and hypotheses that are capable of ‘application’ and study in both clinical and extra-clinical settings. It is further argued that the continued development—even survival—of psychoanalysis requires the integration of its institutions and training facilities into the university system, permitting the free exchange of ideas across disciplines and a flexible educational structure that will encourage much-needed training in research as well as clinical methods. A brief illustration of the value of a psychoanalytic approach to the understanding of a specific work of art (Man Ray's painting ‘Les Amoureux’) is provided.

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