Theory Psychoanalysis in Context

Psychoanalysis is often approached critically by those who are not involved with it. This is partly because it is perceived as an exclusive, precious club whose membership consists of people who regard themselves as having access to truths about human nature and the process of psychotherapy that are lost on the average non-psychoanalytic clinician. There is some truth in this perception but it is not altogether accurate as the psychoanalytic membership includes a broad range of people with different values and attitudes. Its membership is in some respects incontrovertibly privileged: it consists mostly of people who are sufficiently socio-economically advantaged to undertake a lengthy training that requires a second mortgage. There is little doubt too that psychoanalysis has all too often adopted a dismissive - even arrogant - attitude to related fields of enquiry and to other therapeutic modalities. Nowadays, psychoanalytic training institutions are acutely aware of the dwindling numbers in the applications to train psychoanalytically. Keenness to recruit more students into the analytic fold has contributed to a much-needed review of admission procedures and the content and process of training.

Psychoanalysis is currently negotiating a transitional phase. Entrenched theoretical positions, perhaps owing more to political agendas than anything else, are gradually being challenged and opened up for evaluation. Cross-fertilisation of ideas between different schools and between different disciplines is gaining momentum. This change is exciting and unsettling: some practitioners are reaching out for the new while others remain fiercely attached to cherished assumptions, seemingly impervious to what other fields of enquiry might have to offer psychoanalysis.

Despite these efforts, psychoanalytic institutions remain more inaccessible, and more inward looking than is desirable for the growth of the profession. Understanding this predicament requires some appreciation of the inauspicious beginnings of psychoanalysis. From the outset, Freud provoked dissent and criticism. His views were indeed challenging and provocative. They were considered to be all the more so because he was Jewish. Freud was acutely aware of the effect of his Jewish roots on the acclaim of his ideas. When his friend and colleague, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung - the only non-Jew then affiliated to the psychoanalytic movement - left Freud's following in 1914, Freud was concerned that psychoanalysis would be considered as no more than a ''Jewish national affair''.

Freud may well have wanted to play down the Jewish connection, but this fact was at the forefront of other peoples' minds. In the 1930s, with the rise of the Nazis, psychoanalysis was attacked: Freud's writings, together with those of Einstein, H.G. Wells, Thomas Mann and Proust, were burnt in public bonfires for their ''soul disintegrating exaggeration of the instinctual life'' (Ferris, 1997). Along with Darwin, Freud was vilified for subverting the high values of the fair-skinned races. His position in Vienna became untenable. On March 12, 1938, German troops moved into Austria. On March 13, 1938, the Board of the Psychoanalytic Society met for the last time. Freud likened their predicament to that of Rabbi Johannan ben Zakkai who fled Jerusalem after the Romans destroyed the temple and he began a religious school in his place of refuge. Freud urged his colleagues to follow this example. In a strong vote of confidence, the Board, before dissolving, agreed that the Society should reconstitute wherever Freud settled.

Freud was reluctant to leave Vienna, but a week later, when the Gestapo took away his daughter, Anna Freud, for questioning, he no longer needed persuading. By the time Anna was released the following day, plans were afoot for Freud to go into exile. Travelling via Paris, Freud fled to London. Many of his colleagues were also forced into exile. They moved to America, Britain, Palestine, Australia and South America. Those analysts who remained in Germany practised but only under strict Nazi requirements: classical Freudian analysis itself was deemed unacceptable.

The very real persecution suffered by the psychoanalytic movement in its infancy left a deep scar. From the outset, Freud saw psychoanalysis as a cause to be defended against attack and the analytic institutes that emerged could be seen to be the "bastions" of this defence (Kirsner, 1990). This had the unfortunate effect of also keeping at bay other perspectives and related fields of enquiry, fearing their evaluation, criticism and attack.

The movement's paranoia has not just been a feature of its relationship with the outside, non-analytic world. It has also been a striking quality of the relationships within the psychoanalytic establishment itself amongst its own rival theoretical offspring. The history of psychoanalysis is one of schisms. Indeed, psychoanalysis is an umbrella term covering a number of theoretical schools which, whilst all originating from and honouring some of Freud's ideas, have since evolved very different theories about personality development and different techniques for achieving the goals of psychoanalysis as a treatment for psychological problems.

The development of psychoanalysis in Britain is a very good example of the difficulties of living in a pluralistic society (Hamilton, 1996). The British Psychoanalytic Society was established by Ernest Jones. Since its inception, three distinct groups - the Contemporary Freudians, the Kleinians and the Independents1 - have had to live together within one society with the unavoidable tensions associated with living in close proximity to neighbours who do not necessarily share the same point of view. It is to their credit that they have managed to co-exist within one society.

Each group represents a heterogeneous mix of practitioners most of whom have been influenced both by relational and developmental perspectives within psychoanalysis, as well as including those who lean more specifically towards contemporary Kleinian thinking. There are only a small number of older Freudians who were trained by, and remain loyal to, Anna Freud and who would be more appropriately referred to as ''Classical Freudians''. In North America, ego psychology and self psychology have a stronger presence, whilst Kleinian ideas have been slower on the uptake, though recent publications suggest a greater espousal of these ideas (e.g. Caper, 2000). Overall, heterogeneity dominates psychoanalytic theory, where within-group differences are sometimes as striking as between-group differences. This adds to the richness of analytic thinking

JTo regard oneself as belonging to any one of the three groups usually reflects the training therapist's allegiance, that is, a training therapy with a Freudian makes one, usually, also a Freudian.

but raises the thorny question of which theory, if any, reflects back to us the most valid model of the mind and of development.

The aim of this chapter is to provide an all too brief overview of the development of psychoanalytic ideas from Freud onwards to the present day. Of necessity, only the ideas of a few of the key players in the history of psychoanalysis are presented. To simplify this overview, the two most influential theories have been grouped as Freudian and Kleinian, respectively, with the focus on only a few of the most salient concepts propounded by these two dominant figures. Unfortunately, this is at the cost of glossing over the many Freudian and Kleinian theories that exist and those approaches that have grown out of these early beginnings. We will therefore only be covering, in broad terms, some of the most common assumptions of these two main theories and, only cursorily, some of the post-Freudian and Kleinian developments. This overview, by virtue of its attempt to synthesise, glosses over the subtler differences that do exist between the various schools and veers towards simplifying complex concepts. For those interested in metapsychology, it is therefore not a substitute for a careful reading of both Freud's and Klein's original texts.

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