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Goldberg, A. (2001). Me and Max: A Misalliance of Goals. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):117-130.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):117-130

Me and Max: A Misalliance of Goals

Arnold Goldberg, M.D.

Introduction

Max

One of the burned-in memories of my lengthy life as an analytic candidate is of an event that took place in a case conference chaired by Maxwell Gitelson. Gitelson was a sort of crotchety and imposing man who was fairly humorless and could easily and honestly be characterized as opinionated. This particular moment of meaning of mine occurred when, to the best of my memory, a student said something or other about either his and/or the patient's hope (and goal) that the patient would soon feel better. Gitelson proclaimed (rather than offered) his opinion that psychoanalysis was not meant to make people feel better or to relieve symptoms; rather, the goal of analysis was to allow patients to better understand themselves. Relief of symptoms was a sort of chance byproduct of such understanding, but it was definitely not the goal of analysis. Nor should any psychoanalyst pursue that essentially secondary effort.

My silent reaction to Gitelson's “Bah, Humbug” appraisal of symptom relief was my own “Bah, Humbug,” since I was convinced that almost everyone I knew in analysis wanted to feel better, and if self-understanding was what had to be swallowed, then that medicine could and would be endured, but it was hardly the goal that I personally would rank as number one. It seemed clear that one person's goal was just not properly or necessarily made for another.

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