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Renik, O. (2001). Editor's Introduction. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):1-2.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):1-2

Editor's Introduction

Owen Renik, M.D.

Some years ago, Wallerstein (1990) proposed that psychoanalysts occupy a common ground consisting of their shared effort to understand clinical events. This Special Issue of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly addresses Wallerstein's claim and shows that we must both agree and disagree with it. Yes, there is a common ground, inasmuch as psychoanalysts who in their work with patients pursue essentially the same goals can relatively easily understand one another's efforts, even if they operate with very different theoretical orientations. They can fruitfully compare and contrast their assumptions and conclusions, and constructively debate about their preferred methods.

At the same time, no, there is not a common ground, inasmuch as all psychoanalysts do not pursue essentially the same goals in their work with patients. There are decisive differences among psychoanalysts in this regard; and when psychoanalysts pursue different clinical goals, they do not stand on common ground, in any ordinary or useful sense of that term. Many of the most important and long-standing controversies in our field arise and continue unresolved precisely because the antagonists are arguing over the best path to take when they have very different destinations in mind. From each side, intelligent, thoughtful, and conscientious psychoanalysts report shrewd but contrasting observations and inferences; and they disagree about the optimal way to conduct a clinical analysis, because they are working toward entirely different goals. As in the famous rabbi joke, everybody is right. Or, to put it less optimistically, the disputants talk past each other, and can go on doing so indefinitely because they are not discussing the same endeavor.

Perhaps we do not need a consensus concerning the goals of clinical analysis. Our heterogeneity may be, at least for the present, useful to the development of psychoanalytic understanding.

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