Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Leo Rangell on the Neurosciences, Psychoanalysis, and Unification of the Field

This entry is a brief tribute to Leo Rangell who died May 28, 2011 in Los Angeles at 97. He was the author of 9 books and 450 articles. During his long psychoanalytic career he served as the President of the American Psychoanalytic Association and the International Psychoanalytic Association. Well known as a psychoanalytic theoretician, his focus during his last years was on the integration of findings from the neurosciences with psychoanalysis and the need for a unified theory of psychoanalysis (i.e. the composite theory). Both themes are articulated in the selections provided below:

"All parts are necessary for the whole. While neuroscience should not now leave the mind behind, for a retrospective look to be complete, the inclusion of psychoanalysis as a discipline into the social sciences, which was Freud’s wish, should also not be followed by an exclusion or minimizing of its root in medicine. This would be an error in the opposite direction which, in this pendular history, would not be unexpected. While the mind moves out into the wider world of intellect and society, it should not thereby leave the brain or the body behind. In the long neglect of the social sciences, it is what was omitted that was at fault, not what was laboriously built. And again the rational path is to add, not replace. As the brain and neurological science were not sufficient to explainthe mind and its contents, the mind does not exist without the brain. The human being, with the unique combined action of both, represents the highest development on the planet. To aim to sit astride the whole, the mental product and now the brain from which it derives, is an awesome goal. The complete psychoanalyst is a humanistic scientist, a scientific humanist."

"What is included in total composite theory? Every viable contribution made by alternative theories is to be added to the body of preceding theory that remains enduring. Looking at many dichotomies, total theory includes drives and objects; oedipal and preoedipal; constitutional givens and environmental inputs; the past and the present; the transference neurosis and the infantile neurosis; conflict and deficit; the cognitive and affective; the self and the ego; the intrapsychic and the interpersonal; the internal and external worlds, nature and nurture, fantasies and seduction traumata. Historical truth and narrative truths all have their place. The entire human developmental life cycle is included, from infancy, childhood, latency, puberty, adolescence, adulthood, maturity, geriatrics. Each phase leaves its imprint, from the prenatal genetics, the gestation period,the birth process, to all that follows in the outer world. The theory of technique that accompanies composite theory also contains all dichotomies, such as neutrality and empathy, the objective and subjective, reconstruction and the here-and-now, insight and a new relationship, intersubjectivity and an equidistant analytic position, a non-judgmental stance and judging where necessary, passive and active roles of both participants. What are not included in total theory are idiosyncratic constructions that have served to separate split-off advocacy groups that are either not new or not a significant addition."

Leo Rangell (April, 2006).  The Irrational Path of a Rational Theory: The Road to Unity. Paper presented to the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Society.

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