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Berman, E. (2001). Psychoanalysis and Life. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):35-65.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):35-65

Psychoanalysis and Life

Emanuel Berman, Ph.D.

Every New Beginning has to take place in an object-relation.

—M. Balint (1936, p. 213)

Not long ago, a world-renowned analyst presented a case in an analytic institute. The presentation was eloquent, the explanations of the analysand's psychopathology and transference patterns were fascinating, and the audience was intrigued. Most of the lively and sophisticated discussion following the lecture focused on conceptual issues. Only one participant, somewhat hesitantly, asked a banal question: Did the analysand's problems get any better?

The lecturer appeared a bit embarrassed by the unexpected inquiry, and gave a tortuous answer, which most listeners translated to themselves as indicating that so far—after several years of analysis—the analysand had not improved. In later, informal conversations, one observation was prominent: if not for this one irreverent question, the topic might not have come up at all.

Another world-renowned analyst, in a recent Internet discussion of a paper he had published in a major journal, responded to similar challenges with the following: to make people feel better? Isn't that what the pharmaceutical companies promise?

Indeed they do. And to my mind, the challenge they present to us—as well as those posed by various shorter and cheaper psychotherapy methods—should be met head on, not scornfully dismissed. In a reality in which clinical psychoanalysis repeatedly comes under attack as dated and ineffective, as self-absorbed and cultish, we analysts cannot afford to disregard the issue of the relevance of our work to people's lives.

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