Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Madeline Baranger - The Intersubjective Analytic Field and Interpretation

"There is no such thing as perception without an object, or without another subject. It is only by an effort of abstraction that we can ask ourselves what passes through the mind of the analyst between listening and interpretation. The analyst's internal process which leads him to interpret belongs from the beginning to an intersubjective situation, however structurally asymmetrical it may be.

Similarly, analytic listening is directed in advance towards an eventual interpretation, whose content is not yet known at the time of listening but which gradually takes shape up to the moment when the interpretation has to be formulated to the analysand. The intersubjectivity of the analytic dialogue, while describing an essential aspect of the processes with which we are concerned (what happens in the analyst), conceals—and sometimes reveals—another intersubjective type of structure, just as the visible–audible is superimposed on the invisible–unheard of. This second structure, sometimes called the 'intersubjective field', underlies as something unsaid or unsayable both the analysand's material as presented and the analyst's formulations; in the latter, it determines both the content of the interpretation and the feeling-conviction that the interpretation must be formulated....

The conscious and unconscious work of the analyst is performed within an intersubjective relationship in which each participant is defined by the other. In speaking of the analytic field, we are referring to the formation of a structure which is a product of the two participants in the relationship but which in turn involves them in a dynamic and possibly creative process.

The psychology of the last part of the nineteenth century, whose concepts were broadly adopted by Freud, had an objectivising tendency. Freud's 'complementary series' (1910a) were descended directly from this tendency. However, in laying the foundations of analytic technique, he gave up the opposition between an observing eye and an observed object. Freud thus implicitly accepted a new conception of the intersubjective relationship, which was to be made explicit by phenomenological psychology in the concept of the field, particularly in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945).

Freud's discovery of the countertransference (1910b) was an advance compared with the objectivising approach. But even if we take account of the countertransference together with the transference, or regard the transference-countertransference as a unity, this is not the same as what we mean by the concept of field. Let us start with intersubjectivity as a self-evident basic datum. Freud described one aspect of this intersubjectivity in referring to communication from unconscious to unconscious (1912), which he stated to be bi-directional. The field is a structure different from the sum of its components, just as a melody is different from a sum of its notes.

The advantage of being able to think in terms of a field is that the dynamics of the analytic situation inevitably encounter many stumbling blocks which are not due to the patient's or the analyst's resistance but reveal the existence of a pathology specific to this structure. The work of the analyst in this case, whether or not he uses the field concept, undergoes a change of centre: a second look (Baranger et al., 1983) is directed at one and the same time to the patient and to oneself functioning as an analyst. It is not simply a matter of allowing for the analyst's countertransference experiences but of acknowledging that both the transference manifestations of the patient and the analyst's countertransference spring from one and the same source: a basic unconscious fantasy which, as a creation of the field, is rooted in the unconscious of each of the participants.

The concept of basic unconscious fantasy is derived from the Kleinian concept of unconscious fantasy, but also from the description given by Bion in his work on groups (1952). For instance, in discussing the basic hypothesis of 'struggle and flight' in a group, Bion is in our view referring to an unconscious fantasy which does not exist in any of the participants outside this group situation. This is what we mean by the basic unconscious fantasy in the field of the analytic situation.

The field is thus structured on three levels: (a) the functional framework of the analysis; (b) the analytic dialogue; and (c) the unconscious dynamic structure underlying this dialogue. Viewed as movement, the field manifests itself as the analytic process."
(pp. 15-16)


Madeline Baranger (1993). The Mind of the Analyst: From Listening to Interpretation. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 74, pp. 15-24

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