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Smith, H.F. (2003). Editor's Introduction: Theory and Practice: Intimate Partnership or False Connection?. Psychoanal Q., 72(1):1-12.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 72(1):1-12

Editor's Introduction: Theory and Practice: Intimate Partnership or False Connection?

Henry F. Smith, M.D.

Eugen Bleuler (1912), the Swiss psychiatrist who gave schizophrenia its name, once said of schizophrenic thought that “it thinks” in the patient (p. 23, quoted in Forrest 1965). So, too, does psychoanalytic theory “think” in the analyst.

Freud (1915) put it about as well as one can in discussing the origin of scientific theory. “Even at the stage of description,” he wrote, “it is not possible to avoid applying certain abstract ideas to the material in hand, ideas derived from somewhere or other but certainly not from the new observations alone.” He continued, “We come to an understanding of [the] meaning [of these ideas] by making repeated references to the material of observation from which they appear to have been derived, but upon which, in fact, they have been imposed” (p. 117, quoted in Smith 1992, 1999).

Nor is the patient immune from his or her own personal in-dwelling theory. As Cooper (1985) has said, Without a theory we are unable to select data from the massive jumble of impressions that constantly assail us. Neither psychoanalysts nor naive psychologiststhe man in the streetare able to function without a theory (p. 5). And Friedman (1988) puts it bluntly: “We cannot think without theory” (p. 137).

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