Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Glen Gabbard - One and Two Person Models of Analytic Understanding

"In this communication, I have sought to identify an integrative direction for contemporary psychoanalytic thinking. No sensible observer would dispute the idea that the analysand has pre-existing characteristics based on a lifetime of unique experiences that can be observed by others with some degree of consensus. On the other hand, the observations are inevitably filtered through the analyst's subjectivity. Similarly, the analyst's subjective impressions are influenced by the interpersonal pressure emanating from the patient to conform to various transference objects that the patient is re-creating in the analytic setting.

Hence one implication for technique is that I disagree with Renik's dictum that 'even an implicit pretence of objectivity on the analyst's part is to be avoided' (1993, p. 566). The presence of the analyst's subjectivity does not automatically eliminate the validity of that analyst's outside or object-based perception. In the case of Ms A, I was able to marshal evidence, from both my own countertransference reactions and the reactions of others as she described them, to reach a useful conclusion about the impact she had on others. I was then able to share my observation about the unconscious intent of her erotised transference by relying on a mixture of my own responses and data gathered from her experiences of other men. Hence I was 'objective' in the sense of being an object in her world as well as in the sense of gathering data to reach a plausible conclusion. Part of my subjectivity in the situation was a conviction that I had something useful to share with her based on reasonable evidence.

The integration I am advocating is not simply one involving objectivity and subjectivity. It is also a brief for an informed dialectic between modern and post-modern thinking and between a one-person and a two-person perspective. The fact that an analysis takes place in the context of a relationship cannot be ignored. Neither can we dismiss the fact that the composition of the patient's internal world and the nature of that patient's intrapsychic conflict ante date the beginning of the analysis. What is to be avoided is a conviction in the analyst that a specific a priori truth is already known at the outset of the treatment and that the task is simply to point the patient in the proper direction. An analyst who listens with an openness to surprise, a degree of patience and a measure of theoretical flexibility will usually find that a unique form of psychoanalytic truth emerges. Meaning is both constructed and discovered. In a totally different context nearly four centuries ago, Francis Bacon is alleged to have said, 'One who begins with certainties shall end in doubts; but one who is content to begin with doubts shall end in certainties'."

Glen Gabbard (1997). A Reconsideration Of Objectivity In The Analyst. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 78, pp. 15-26

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