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The Truth About Freud's Technique: The Encounter With the Real

M. Guy Thompson
with a Preface by Stanley A. Leavy
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    The Truth About Freud's Technique
    Book Description:

    In this unusual and much-needed reappraisal of Freud's clinical technique, M. Guy Thompson challenges the conventional notion that psychoanalysis promotes relief from suffering and replaces it with a more radical assertion, that psychoanalysis seeks to mend our relationship with the real that has been fractured by our avoidance of the same. Thompson suggests that, while avoiding reality may help to relieve our experience of suffering, this short-term solution inevitably leads to a split in our existence. M. Guy Thompson forcefully disagrees with the recent trend that dismisses Freud as an historical figure who is out of step with the times. He argues, instead, for a return to the forgotten Freud, a man inherently philosophical and rooted in a Greek preoccupation with the nature of truth, ethics, the purpose of life and our relationship with reality. Thompson's argument is situated in a stunning re-reading of Freud's technical papers, including a new evaluation of his analyses of Dora and the Rat Man in the context of Heidegger's understanding of truth. In this remarkable examination of Freud's technical recommendations, M. Guy Thompson explains how psychoanalysis was originally designed to re-acquaint us with realities we had abandoned by encountering them in the contest of the analytic experience. This provocative examination of Freud's conception of psychoanalysis reveals a more personal Freud than we had previously supposed, one that is more humanistic and real.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8448-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Leo Goldberger

    ThePsychoanalytic Crosscurrentsseries presents selected books and monographs that reveal the growing intellectual ferment within and across the boundaries of psychoanalysis.

    Freud’s theories and grand-scale speculative leaps have been found wanting, if not disturbing, from the very beginning and have led to a succession of derisive attacks, shifts in emphasis, revisions, modifications, and extensions. Despite the chronic and, at times, fierce debate that has characterized psychoanalysis, not only as a movement but also as a science, Freud’s genius and transformational impact on the twentieth century have never been seriously questioned. Recent psychoanalytic thought has been subjected to dramatic reassessments...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Stanley A. Leavy
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-xxviii)

    We speak of psychoanalytic “schools” in a rough and ready way. In the early days its schools were identified with the cities where they were located. Over time, some of Freud’s followers introduced ideas that competed with his (Adler, Jung, Rank, Klein). Subsequendy, analytic schools became identified with the work of specific analysts and only vaguely with the city where they resided. Yet, even now psychoanalysis is essentially identified with Freud. How far can analysts stray from the Master and still call themselves a “psychoanalyst”?

    Increasingly, analytic schools are recognizable in the ways that they disagree with Freud. Some schools...

  6. I. The True and the Real in Freud

    • [I. Introduction]
      (pp. 1-6)

      Despite Freud’s insistence about his relationship with truth, confessed at an old age on reflection of his life, nowhere in his writings about psychoanalysis is the concept of truth discussed. It isn’t even a basic term in his theory. When Freud admitted his “single motive was the love of truth” and that during his whole life he only “endeavored to uncover truths,” was he talking about his personal relationship with truth, or his professional one? If the search for truth encompassed the entirety of his life, why is its nature neglected in his analytic theories? Why did Freud never talk...

    • 1 Psychical and External Reality
      (pp. 7-11)

      Freud rather reluctantly reached the conclusion that neurosis could neither be explained by nor limited to traumatic events. It wasn’t until his “On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement,” published in 1914, that he confessed his despair over the discovery that his seduction theory (that hysteria was the consequence of having been seduced by one’s parent) could not explain, in every case, the genesis of hysterical neurosis:

      The firm ground of reality was gone. … If hysterical subjects trace back their symptoms to traumas that are fictitious, then the new fact which emerges is precisely that they create such scenes...

    • 2 Realistic and Neurotic Anxiety
      (pp. 12-20)

      In a paper read before the Baltimore Psychoanalytic Society in 1949, Hans Loewald addressed a central aspect of Freud’s conception of reality, focusing on Freud’s insistence that “external” reality—that is, the world—is essentially hostile and antagonistic.

      In psychoanalytic theory we are accustomed to think of the relationship between ego and reality as one of adjustment or adaptation. The so-called mature ego has renounced the pleasure principle and has substituted for it the reality principle. It does not follow the direct path of instinctual gratification, without regard to consequences, to the demands of reality, does not indulge in hallucinatory...

    • 3 Realistic and Wishful Thinking
      (pp. 21-26)

      Once Freud formulated his theory of the structural model in 1923, his earlier allusions to the unconscious as a “second subject,” depicted by “counter-will,” gradually disappeared. The precedent for this revision was probably determined earlier still, however, by Freud’s distinction between “primary” and “secondary” thought processes. In fact, the publication in 1911 of “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning” (1958b) roughly coincided with his final reference to the unconscious as “counter-will” in 1912.

      Freud believed that the primary thought processes were essentially unconscious. They were presumed to account for displacement, condensation, and the ability to symbolize. This type...

    • 4 The Neurotic and the Psychotic Experience of Reality
      (pp. 27-36)

      Perhaps nowhere did Freud demonstrate more persuasively his conception of reality than when he sought to distinguish between the neurotic and psychotic experience of it. After having introduced the structural model in 1923 inThe Ego and the Id(1961d), Freud wrote two papers in 1924 on the nature of neurosis and psychosis from this new perspective. The first paper, simply tided, “Neurosis and Psychosis” (1961g), contained a formula for “the most important genetic difference between a neurosis and a psychosis:neurosis is the result of a conflict between the ego and its id, whereas psychosis is the analogous outcome...

    • 5 Real Love and Transference-Love
      (pp. 37-50)

      One of Freud’s most valuable insights was the discovery that falling in love frequently occasions a peculiarly pathological reaction. The phenomenon of falling in love with one’s analyst, though initially perceived as a hindrance to the progress of therapy, soon became an essential and anticipated aspect of the treatment. Freud mused over the mystery of love in a variety of contexts and the question of its nature has become a cornerstone of analytic theory in general. My present concern, however, is more limited. I would like to examine Freud’s efforts to differentiate between “transference-love” on the one hand and real,...

  7. II. The True and the Real in Heidegger

    • [II. Introduction]
      (pp. 51-56)

      The road from psychoanalysis to existential thought—or, more specifically, the road from Freud to Heidegger—has never been easy, nor one well traveled. It has always been occasioned by hesitance, misunderstanding, suspicion. Why do these doubts persist when Freud’s own search for truth and his efforts to understand the human condition is obviously existential in nature? Freud condemned philosophers, but he read them seriously. Nietzsche and Spinoza were important influences, as were Kant, the Greeks, and Brentano. Freud was well educated, yet his mind was more speculative than scientific. In his condemnation of philosophers—few of whom paid Freud...

    • 6 Heidegger’s Conception of Truth
      (pp. 57-63)

      Heidegger’s concept of truth is alluded to throughout his writings, but the ones that occasion his most extensive arguments are his classic,Being and Time(1962, 225–73), and a shorter essay, “On the Essence of Truth” (1977a, 113–42). The question of truth isn’t merely a preliminary to Heidegger’s philosophy; this question is his philosophy in its entirety. His approach to this question startled and even dismayed many members of the European academic community. With the publication ofBeing and Time(Sein und Zeit) in 1927, Heidegger abandoned the conventional approach to this question that had been preoccupied with...

    • 7 Heidegger’s Conception of Un-truth
      (pp. 64-68)

      If truth becomes known by revealing what is hidden, then untruth must be the concealment of truth, a reversal ofalēthēia. Because we use words to reveal and conceal things about ourselves, everything I say converges this way or that. My speech is always directed toward either disclosing truths or concealing them. There is no neutral position. Freud believed that every thought, emotion, and behavior employed a purpose even if that purpose was unconscious. His theory of the unconscious allowed him to account for those truths that are most hidden. In his “Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-analysis,” he advised his...

    • 8 Truth and Science
      (pp. 69-77)

      Humans, by their nature, are always revealing themselves and showing themselves off. We wonder who it is that we are and what we’re after. We’re obsessed with the truth, especially the truth about ourselves. Who are we? What kind of truth can answer this question? Whatever it is, we know it can’t be measured, weighed, or calculated. How does this type of truth—personal, to be sure—differ from the truth of science? Science, which claims to know so much, models its truth on the precision of mathematics. Its exactness, however, doesn’t necessarily coincide with what is true. Measurements of...

    • 9 Truth and Technology
      (pp. 78-87)

      Freud and Heidegger, as different as two men could be, were ironically aligned in die same purpose: the pursuit of truth as a singular aim. For Heidegger, this aim was his philosophy; for Freud it was his life. If the purpose of psychoanalysis is to obtain truth, its technique must be such that it accomplishes this goal. Freud’s “technical papers” were devoted to no other task. But from where does the very notion of technique derive? What does it mean? Does it imply one thing to one person, and something else to another? Heidegger devoted an entire paper to this...

    • 10 Truth and Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 88-92)

      How has the transformation that technology enjoys in our culture affected psychology and, more specifically, psychoanalysis? Freud embraced science and couched psychoanalysis in scientific terms. He even insisted that psychoanalysis—a quest for truth—conform to the empirical rules of validation that science employs. He compared the observability of psychoanalysis to astronomy, which bases its findings on the observation of the heavens. But there was nothing scientific about Freud’s conception of the unconscious, or his theories about psychopathology. Freud once boasted that psychoanalysis had demolished, once and for all, Descartes’s claim of certitude because he discovered the existence of an...

  8. III. The Truth about Dora

    • [III. Introduction]
      (pp. 93-96)

      Never has a case history provoked as much attention, examination, criticism and praise, controversy, disgust, or appreciation as Freud’s treatment of Ida Bauer, known to us pseudonomyously as simply “Dora.” Why does this case continue to arouse so much passion and debate when Freud himself freely acknowledged that the treatment was a failure? One might suspect a lengthier analysis, more ambiguous in its outcome or misguided in its execution to elicit the measure of debate that has surrounded this all-too-brief psychoanalysis. Yet, Dora was one of only five major cases that Freud published, and of the five (the others were...

    • 11 The Paradox of Neurosis
      (pp. 97-100)

      Freud’s preface to the published account of his treatment of Dora reads less like an introduction than a warning; more like a battlecry than an invitation. Peter Gay, in his biography of Freud, calls its tone “combative” (1988, 247). Freud waited five years to publish the case and it was only then that the preface was finally composed. He had a long time to think about it. It’s fair to assume his remarks were carefully considered. They comprise as forceful a statement as the text that follows.

      There is no mistaking that Freud assumed this book would be rejected by...

    • 12 A Case of Secrecy
      (pp. 101-109)

      When Dora’s father took her to Freud’s office for treatment, an association had already started between Freud and the young girl two years earlier, when she was sixteen. At that time she had been suffering from a cough that was tied to other conversion symptoms that would follow. Freud tried to enlist her into analysis even then, but was rebuffed, apparendy because the symptoms spontaneously disappeared on their own. But that wasn’t the first contact Freud had with Dora’s family. Four years earlier still, when Dora was twelve, her father had visited Freud with a problem of his own, a...

    • 13 Dreams of Vengeance and Farewell
      (pp. 110-114)

      The rest of Dora’s analysis revolves around Freud’s interpretation of two dreams that were pivotal to the outcome of her treatment. His account of the dreams seems less intended to demonstrate how dream interpretation plays a part in the potential cure of a neurosis than to simply show how they may be useful in supporting discoveries already made or anticipated. Freud said in the preface that he had decided to abandon his original tide,Dreams and Hysteria, because the analysis turned out to be only a “fragment.” It is remarkable, nevertheless, that he chose to discuss only two of Dora’s...

    • 14 Freud’s Last Word
      (pp. 115-121)

      Freud’s handling of Dora’s termination aroused no less controversy than his interpretation of her dreams. What might he have done to save the analysis? What was Freud’s actual goal in her treatment: to further science or help Dora get over her illness? These questions are hinted at in the postscript, which had to have been written at least fifteen months after their final session, though the date of its composition is unknown. Its final edition might even have been drafted just prior to publication, about four years after the analysis was terminated. Even at that late date there’s no denying...

    • 15 Love and Reality
      (pp. 122-132)

      Innumerable criticisms have been raised about Dora’s analysis, and newer ones are added to the list of the old with each successive generation of psychoanalysts. Most of them concern Freud’s technique, that he failed to recognize, analyze, and appreciate the nature of Dora’s transference reactions. Others question his understanding of women and accuse Freud of a paternalistic bias that was out of date even at the turn of the century. Perhaps the most disconcerting criticisms concern Freud’s alleged countertransference feelings about Dora. This is probably the most unsettling accusation because Freud never acknowledged that they existed. Because this criticism persists,...

  9. IV. The Truth about Freud’s Technique

    • [IV. Introduction]
      (pp. 133-140)

      Freud published approximately fifteen papers during his lifetime devoted to psychoanalytic technique, a remarkably small output when contrasted with the voluminous material devoted to theoretical subjects. Even the case histories—again, only a handful were ever published—as we saw with Dora, contain only a scant amount of material that is devoted to specifically “technical” considerations. In addition to the fifteen-odd papers, Freud turned to the topic of technique in only nine of his many other published works, including, for example, a section of the Dora case, a chapter inThe Interpretation of Dreams, a section ofStudies in Hysteria,...

    • 16 The Employment of Dream Interpretation (“The Handling of Dream-Interpretation in Psycho-analysis” 1911)
      (pp. 141-144)

      When is one called on to interpret? When you think about it, there is always something mysterious that prompts us to think of interpretations in the first place. Mysteries “cause” us to interpret. This is how interpretations differ from explanations. Explanations make plain (or “flatten,” in their literal meaning) the question that prompts them. The tire is flat because it has a hole in it. What could be plainer than that? There’s nothing plain or straightforward about interpretations. Because they belong to the mysterious, something that—in its essence—defies explanation, interpretations are intrinsically ambiguous. There are no “flat” or...

    • 17 Freud’s “Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-analysis” (1912)
      (pp. 145-154)

      Freud’s “Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-analysis” (1958c) is the third of the six papers devoted to his technical recommendations. Practically speaking, however, it should probably be considered the first for two important reasons: (a) This and the following three papers bear the same general title and comprise a set piece that separates them from the first and second papers; (b) the style and subject matter of this paper and the following one form a series of “cautionary statements” that explicitly advise analysts how they should prepare themselves for this peculiar form of treatment.

      Freud divided the paper into nine sections,...

    • 18 On Beginning the Treatment (1913)
      (pp. 155-174)

      This is undoubtedly the most important and by far comprehensive paper that Freud devoted to technical questions. It is the heart of the current series of six and outpaces any of the other papers Freud ever wrote on technique. It contains the most specific set of instructions Freud was to make on his method of treatment. Apparently he was never certain he should have written it at all. Perhaps reflecting this hesitation, Freud suggested that rules shouldn’t be taken too literally or interpreted too narrowly. In fact, they should be regarded as simply “recommendations.” We shouldn’t assume that he wanted...

    • 19 The Concept of Transference (“The Dynamics of Transference,” 1912, and “Observations on Transference-Love,” 1915)
      (pp. 175-191)

      Transference is the sine qua non of psychoanalysis, is it not? In his brief introductory remarks to the second of Freud’s papers on technique, “The Dynamics of Transference” (1958a), Strachey notes that, despite its inclusion in the series, this paper is more theoretical in its tone than, strictly speaking, “technical.” Why, then, did Freud include it? Perhaps he was simply preparing us for the papers that follow, before plowing into the specifically technical aspects of analytic treatment. Or perhaps its inclusion says something about the way Freud conceived the nature of technique, that it’s more “theoretical” than we suppose.


    • 20 Working-Through (“Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through,” 1914)
      (pp. 192-204)

      Freud’s paper on “working-through”—Durcharbeitungin German—is arguably the most subtle of his technical papers. It’s remarkable that this pivotal concept should have been treated with such economy. In fact, the term is mentioned only twice in Strachey’s index to theStandard Edition. It appears once in the paper we are now examining and again in an addenda toInhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety(1959a), published some twelve years later. The term crops up now and then in other papers, but this is the only publication in which Freud attempted to define what it means. Yet, he devotes a scant...

  10. V. The Rat Mystery

    • [V. Introduction]
      (pp. 205-212)

      When you hear of Freud’s influence today it’s almost always in association with his treatment of hysterics. Nearly all his early patients were diagnosed as suffering from hysterical symptoms. When he inaugurated his medical career Freud hoped to achieve notoriety by breaking new ground in the treatment of this heretofore “incurable” illness. We sometimes forget, however, that Freud’s theoretical formulations about obsessional neurosis represented an even more original contribution to psychiatry than his work with hysterics. While the phenomenon of, and the actual term for, hysteria has been around since the Greeks, Freud was the first to demarcate obsessional neurosis...

    • 21 The Cruel Captain
      (pp. 213-218)

      As he did with Dora, Freud reminds us in a brief introduction to his 1909Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosisabout the need for absolute confidentiality between analysts and their patients. Many details about patients’ lives must be omitted to protect their anonymity. On the other hand, analysts shouldn’t stoop to deliberate distortion of the patient’s life, for analysts will run the risk of reducing their report to a fiction. It’s better to omit material and live with the gaps created than to deliberately mislead and, therefore, deceive one’s readers. Honesty always weighed heavily in Freud’s conception of...

    • 22 The Rat Mystery
      (pp. 219-223)

      Freud categorized Lanzer’s obsessions into several groups, most of which referred to the chronic ambivalence he felt about his girlfriend: (a) He was obsessed with the idea that something would happen to her and felt compelled to protect her from harm; (b) he was compelled to count the time between a flash of lightning and its subsequent thunder; (c) he told Freud he had removed rocks from the road that he was certain his girlfriend’s carriage would run over—then he felt obliged to replace the rocks, because removing them in the first place had been so absurd; (d) finally,...

    • 23 Guilt and Truth
      (pp. 224-229)

      Freud’s solution to the rat torture led to the disappearance of Lanzer’s rat fixation and its accompanying obsessional symptoms. Yet, Freud was reluctant to conclude that the spanking incident, in and of itself, had “caused” his neurotic condition in the first place. There are other elements of the case that hint at possible explanations, though Freud himself doesn’t appear to have taken them into account. For example, he failed to exploit the theme of the naked buttocks that proliferated throughout Lanzer’s accounts of his childhood, culminating in his encounter with the “Cruel Captain.” Freud concurred that the spanking incident had...

    • 24 “Classical” Technique—and Freud’s
      (pp. 230-240)

      After terminating his analysis with Freud, Ernst Lanzer became engaged to and finally married the woman he had courted for so many years. They settled into a life of domestic contentment and he resumed his professional career. With his incessant worry, procrastination, and self-doubt behind him, he embraced a way of life that had previously seemed inconceivable. He was happy. We can’t say whether his contentment would have lasted. We don’t know if, in time, he would have suffered relapse. As tragedy would have it, a few years later he was dead, a victim of the Great War that indifferently...

  11. VI. The End of Analysis

    • [VI. Introduction]
      (pp. 241-246)

      What is the relationship between the termination of analysis and its cure? Does the termination of a psychoanalytic treatment presuppose the cessation—the “cure”—of a pathological condition, or does termination determine the cessation of treatment simply because it’s time to end it? Psychoanalysis arose out of Freud’s efforts to discover a cure for hysterical symptoms. Over a period of time, he gradually developed a method of treatment whose original purpose markedly changed. His treatment of hysterics taught Freud some surprising things about human nature, particularly a variety of so-called pathological conditions that derive from our innate propensity to “forget”...

    • 25 Psychoanalysis, Terminable—or Impossible?
      (pp. 247-263)

      Freud’s “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” (1964a) represents his final effort to review the efficacy of analytic treatment and its limitations. Though it is frequendy characterized as his last paper (actually next to last; “Constructions in Analysis,” 1964b, was published a few months later) on the subject of technique, it is essentially a theoretical effort. Those who turn to this paper seeking practical advice on the art of termination are invariably disappointed. Freud says very little about termination itself. Instead, he seeks to review the aims of psychoanalysis and the obstacles that lie in their path. In choosing this manner of...

    • 26 The End of Analysis
      (pp. 264-274)

      Is the near-universal rejection of Freud’s conception of a “death drive” due to its inherent biologism, or because of the profoundly existential dimension to the questions it compels us to ponder? This remarkable paper—wide-ranging in its scope and free-wheeling in its excesses—is essentially a reappraisal of his views about the nature of suffering. Freud emphasized the limits imposed on one’s efforts to even understand what suffering is about, much less relieve it. If the aim of analytic treatment is the relief of suffering, how does one reconcile this aim with the notion of a death drive whose purpose...

  12. References
    (pp. 275-280)
  13. Index
    (pp. 281-290)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)