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Feldman, H. (1974). A Psychoanalytic Addition to Human Nature. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(1):133-139.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(1):133-139

A Psychoanalytic Addition to Human Nature

Harold Feldman

The patient and his circle are usually more impressed with the accomplishments of psychoanalysis than we are. Our theoretical training gives us more than enough reason to believe that the changes on life's surface, in matters of love, work, aggression, and self-control, even though they may bring about a life of more conscious satisfactions instead of a life of conscious torment and distress, are really only the great surface results of a small internal shift.

There is another reason why people are so impressed by our work besides the resulting shifts in life adaptation. It is the enormous difficulties they and we encountered in using resistances, in finding the timely leverages, in aligning the forces for our strategy of change. Anything that cost so much time, money, and effort, they imagine, must have rearranged things considerably “down there” in the unconscious.

But in terms of the economics, dynamics, and topography of unconscious mental life, the analytic changes on life's surface are small indeed. If we compare mental life to a circle, the extent of a patient's control and integration at the beginning of treatment could be represented by a tiny are determined by an extremely acute angle radiating from the unconscious center. What we do in analysis is, by working from the core and the surface at the same time, to pry this angle wider, and we find that simply expanding the central angle by even a very few degrees means that it cuts an arc of much greater magnitude than the original arc.

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