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Jacobs, T.J. (2001). Reflections on the Goals of Psychoanalysis, the Psychoanalytic Process, and the Process of Change. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):149-181.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):149-181

Reflections on the Goals of Psychoanalysis, the Psychoanalytic Process, and the Process of Change

Theodore J. Jacobs, M.D.

As I began to reflect on the goals of clinical psychoanalysis and how I have thought about this topic over the years, a memory came to mind. It related to an incident that took place some years ago at the dawn of the Women's Movement, when most male analysts wore their chauvinism like a comfortable old cardigan.

At that time, a young and determinedly militant feminist came to see me. (Why, given her none-too-friendly attitude toward men, she chose to consult an older man—and according to my wife and daughters, an inadequately liberated one at that—was a puzzle that became the subject of much analytic investigation.) In the initial interview, Ms. N, a large, heavyset woman, sat on the edge of her chair, her back straight and taut and her feet planted squarely in front of her. Leaning forward and fixing me with a distinctly menacing stare, she launched an interrogation worthy of the best-trained counterintelligence operative.

What were my political beliefs, she wanted to know. Whom had I voted for in the last election? What feminist authors had I read recently? Was I a hard-core (i.e., politically incorrect) Freudian, or did I embrace Modernist thinkers like Horney, Foucault, and Friedan?

In my most tactful analytic style, I tried to parry these questions, but Ms. N brushed aside such efforts at evasion. She demanded to know what I actually believed in. What were my ideas about the inequities in our society and what was I doing about them, she asked in a tone that, moment-by-moment, grew increasingly insistent.

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