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Harris, A. (1996). The Anxiety in Ambiguity: Reply to Brenneis, Crews, and Stern. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(2):267-279.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(2):267-279

The Anxiety in Ambiguity: Reply to Brenneis, Crews, and Stern Related Papers

Adrienne Harris, Ph.D.

This journal has built its reputation, in part, on the value of airing differences. This commitment is based on a belief in the potential for discussion in which the presuppositions and conditions of argument are carefully and clearly exposed to offer the optimal opportunity for advancing understanding. My own particular theoretical predilection is for the pragmatist approach developed by Richard Rorty, in which privileged claims to knowing are abandoned in favor of emergent understandings through dialogue. The problems under consideration here—the source and status of traumatic memory and the appropriate therapeutic response—demand such an approach.

My faith in our capacity to advance understanding and consensus has certainly been sorely tested in the experience of this exchange, particularly with the commentary written by Frederick Crews. Any reader of his critique will be struck, I believe, by the menace and scale of his attack and by an avowed indifference to dialogue; “there is nothing necessarily unbalanced about discarding a piece of rotten fruit.” As he says, without the claim of cure—and, I would say, without the responsibility to patients—destructive polemic need know no limits.

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