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Strean, H.S. (1974). The Fallacy of Understanding. Edgar A. Levenson. New York: Basic Books, 1972. viii + 236 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(2):310-311.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(2):310-311

The Fallacy of Understanding. Edgar A. Levenson. New York: Basic Books, 1972. viii + 236 pp.

Review by:
Herbert S. Strean

During the past decade or so, Freudian psychoanalysis has been under heavy attack as a theory of personality and a psychotherapeutic modality. It has been alleged that Freud's view of man is too pessimistic, his notions of woman too chauvinistic, his concept of instincts too encompassing, his therapy too mechanical and didactic, and his appreciation of the role of the family and society too narrow and confining. Books and articles from therapists and analysts have been using systems, role, learning, and communication theories in order to understand the patient of the 1970's better, and techniques which permit the therapist to be an “authentic” and “real” person are coming more into vogue.

Levenson, a practicing psychoanalyst and Director of Clinical Services at the William Alanson White Institute in New York, is another of the many scholarly psychoanalysts who is convinced that classical Freudian analysis is not in step with the needs of contemporary patients. “Interpretation” as a procedure has limited efficacy, according to the author, because it emanates from the thoughts and fantasies of the analyst and frequently tells us more about him than about the patient. Levenson also discards much from his mentor, Harry Stack Sullivan, who, although he was on the right track in being more of a “participant-observer” rather than a “transference object” à la Freud, was too much of an “expert” and “authority” in the interpersonal psychoanalytic encounter.

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