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Sidesinger, T. (2018). Psychoanalysis Beyond the End of Metaphysics: Thinking Towards the Post-Relational. By Robin S. Brown. New York: Routledge, 2017, 132 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 105(4):439-450.
(2018). Psychoanalytic Review, 105(4):439-450
Psychoanalysis Beyond the End of Metaphysics: Thinking Towards the Post-Relational. By Robin S. Brown. New York: Routledge, 2017, 132 pp.
Review by: Tracy Sidesinger, PsyD
Brown's book is a philosophical plea to clinicians, asking us to consider the theoretical grounds of our work. Starting from the point of view that classical psychoanalytic theory inhibited subjective knowledge through its neutral authoritarian stance, Brown applauds the relational turn for opening up the pluralism of multiple subjectivities in attempts to understand truth. However, he argues that, by and large, relational thinking is only pluralistic by explicit sentiment. He argues further that relational thinking often opposes the pluralism it seeks by avoiding any claims to objectivity. What is suggested is a post-relational return to metaphysics, utilizing the gains of relational subjectivity to reify—not abandon—our understanding of psychic objectivity. In doing so, Brown adds to the growing dialogue within psychoanalysis about the paradoxical relationships between subjectivity and objectivity, particularity and universality, agency and surrender, and relational and analytical psychologies. These are not easy paradoxes to navigate, and Brown's method is a critical one, highlighting the problems inherent in a stand-alone interpersonal/relational psychology.
I cannot help but hear his concerns in terms of agency and surrender. Agency is valorized on both sides of the split between subjectivity and objectivity, as the development of an autonomous ego when one has learned not to conform to unconscious repetitions. However, the question of surrender is more complicated. Even in a classical analysis where one focuses on conscious resolution of unconscious conflicts, whereby surrender to the father or father-substitute is overcome, there is implicit surrender to social order and to the analyst who is an intermediary of this order. Similarly, in relational analysis, to the extent that objectivity is denied, there is nothing to surrender to, lest it be a delusion. So much of psychotherapy operates as if surrendering means to give up one's agency.
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