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Bobrow, J. (2007). The Disavowal of the Personal in Psychoanalytic Training. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(2):263-276.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(2):263-276

The Disavowal of the Personal in Psychoanalytic Training

Joseph Bobrow, Ph.D.

Many years ago at a psychoanalytic conference, after some discussion the presenter asked if there were any more questions. Up to that point the exchanges had been highly theoretical. “Do you have your hand up?” he asked someone sitting in front of me. The person said timidly, “Well, I had a question, but ….” She hesitatingly and apologetically continued, “… it's personal.” There was dead silence in the hall. Then the presenter replied, “Are there any other kind?” I breathed a sigh of relief; maybe I too could pipe up.

Why examine this subject at all? Isn't the personal much ado about nothing? Psychoanalysis after all is the method par excellence of exploring internal experience. Won't inviting the personal into seminars and case conferences cause analytic training to devolve into group therapy or an encounter group? Doesn't it risk candidates' using the setting to trumpet and impose their unresolved personal issues and obstruct group process and “real” learning? Doesn't the personal jeopardize privacy and confidentiality? Isn't allowing in the personal just another sign of our individualistic culture? After all, there's a natural trajectory in any apprenticeship: First you learn the basics thoroughly, then you practice them, then they become second nature.

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