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Levin, F.M. (1996). British Journal of Medical Psychology. LXVII, 1994: Commentary on Priel & Schreiber, ‘On Psychoanalysis and Non-Linear Dynamics.’ Sebastian Gardner. Pp. 223-225.. Psychoanal Q., 65:845-846.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: British Journal of Medical Psychology. LXVII, 1994: Commentary on Priel & Schreiber, ‘On Psychoanalysis and Non-Linear Dynamics.’ Sebastian Gardner. Pp. 223-225.
Gardner's approach is that of a philosopher and, understandably, he is more cautious about criticizing Priel and Schreiber except in the area of his own expertise. Thus, he holds the authors' work to be “methodologically sound” regarding their claim of “the pervasiveness of a certain basic (mathematical) form in nature” but wonders still if the level of psychoanalytic discourse and that of chaos theory are “logically on a par.” He continues: “there is a powerful reason … for thinking that
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Priel and Schreiber are mistaken in supposing that the absence of predictability- securing lawful causal connections in psychoanalytic explanation is logically on a par with the non-predictability of non-linear systems. Psychoanalytic explanation, although it is indeed causal, does not employ causal laws. It operates in a different way which hinges on the identification of connections of representational content between mental states … Interpretation, and not inductively grounded cause laws, provides the lens through which mental causation is discerned in psychoanalysis.” He concludes that the similarity between the unconscious mind's activity and nonlinear systems “is an illusion” and that, consequently, Priel and Schreiber's contribution is reduced to providing naught but an interesting metaphor.
What is unfortunate here is Gardner's misperception of psychoanalysis as exclusively based upon inference from an “interpretative framework” of associations or “representational content between mental states.” If psychoanalysis were reduced to this and nothing more, then Gardner would be correct; however, clinical psychoanalysis is dynamic, and as such, it has developed considerably over time from the methodology Gardner associates with psychoanalysis. Current practice is based upon multiple methods, models, and strategies. We combine empathy (vicarious introspection) and observations (as in any scientific field, say physics or mathematics); we think equally important the patient's words, thoughts, affects, actions, and the referential contact between these variables. Our theories are becoming more complex, and we shall need interdisciplinary input to advance our theory and practice.