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Gullestad, S.E. (1992). Autonomy and Analytic Attitude. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 15(2):122-130.

(1992). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 15(2):122-130

Autonomy and Analytic Attitude

Siri Erika Gullestad, Dr. philos.

Psychoanalytic treatment conveys a vision of the autonomous individual. It depicts a person with the right and the ability to decide for himself. Admittedly Freud came to the revolutionary realisation, that the ego was not master in its own house. Nevertheless the goal of treatment was to make conscious the unconscious patterns that rule the individual's life, thereby breaking the repetition compulsion: an idea, therefore, about the individual as a responsible strategist of his own life.

Analytic therapy (…) does not seek to add or to introduce anything new, but to take away something, to bring out something” (Freud, 1905p. 261). The analyst contributes to the release of something inherent. Thus, analytic treatment is a form of Socratic maieutics—the art of mid-wifery. Also, the work of the analyst is like that of the text interpreter. However, it is not one of ordinary interpretation but of in-depth interpretation (Habermas, 1968), deciphering the unconscious meaning behind the text, behind the symptoms and the dreams. Using a term coined by Ricoeur (1965), analytic work may be described as a hermeneutics of suspicion. The attention of the analyst is directed towards the patient's distortion of inner and outer reality. Within the classical conception, autonomy is linked to the admission and integration of hidden intentions. Today, we are faced with an extended theoretical scenario. This does not imply a change in the objective of psychoanalytic treatment, which is still one of autonomy. But it does imply a widening foundation for the concept of autonomy as well as changes in the therapeutic means for promoting autonomous self-representation (Gullestad, 1992).

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