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Blass, R.B. (2016). Introduction to ‘Is the Nature of Psychoanalytic Thinking and Practice (e.g., in Regard to Sexuality) Determined by Extra-Analytic, Social and Cultural Developments?’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(3):811-821.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(3):811-821

Psychoanalytic Controversy

Introduction to ‘Is the Nature of Psychoanalytic Thinking and Practice (e.g., in Regard to Sexuality) Determined by Extra-Analytic, Social and Cultural Developments?’ Related Papers

Rachel B. Blass

In the past 20 years psychoanalysis’ approach to what is considered acceptable and normal in regard to sexuality and gender has drastically changed. For example, homosexuality tends no longer to be considered to be a perversion that analysts would conceal from their colleagues or would expect to change in their patients in the course of analysis. And more recently gender has come to be regarded not as something primarily determined by bodily givens, but something that each individual has to decide on him/herself - changing one's body to fit the decision now regarded by many in the analytic world as an acceptable course of action.

The fact that the changes that have taken place in the psychoanalytic approach to these matters very notably parallel the changes that have taken place in society at large forces us to wonder whether psychoanalysis has not merely adopted social norms. Is, then, psychoanalysis an agent of social conformity and adaptation? Does it, or should it, not have a view of its own on sexuality based on insights from its clinical inquiry? Should psychoanalysis follow social trends or should it not offer a critique of such trends through its study of the depths of human nature? And if psychoanalysis is socially shaped, how far does this extend: To its views of the family? Of incest? Childhood? Childrearing? Body image? Femininity and masculinity? The value of life? Pathology in general? To the notion of the unconscious too? These questions have direct implications for the practicing analyst dealing with tensions between analytic stances he/she was trained with in regard to sexuality, cultural norms, and contemporary analytic stances that seem to have taken the cultural norms on board. How can and should the analyst negotiate the tensions? This is the topic of the present controversy.

While it is often the case that organizing and conducting controversies is not an easy matter, as it requires of participants to take a stance, defend it and pose objections to alternatives, the present topic raises special difficulties.

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