If we think we’re here to stand back in admiration of the Freudian texts and marvel at them, we won’t be disappointed.
These are Freud’s freshest texts. They are his most attractive, alive, and animated. At times his personality is so unmistakeably clear in these texts; his frankness and tone itself an education for many of us.
In these texts Freud handles the concern with observing practical rules with such ease that we see how for him, the concern with the rules of orthodox practice was not the real issue. It was rather an instrument, a tool- as in the way one holds a hammer in hand. So he writes, Firmly held by this hand of mine… and this is how I am accustomed to holding it. Others may possibly prefer a marginally different instrument, which sits better in their hand. You’ll find him saying as much far more clearly than I, with my metaphorical way of communicating.
So in these papers, Freud handles the codification of the rules of technique. And he handles it with such a freedom tht we are in a sense liberated from the concerns of codifying rules and technique. This is obvious even on reading this text for the first time. So Freud’s real concern must lie elsewhere.
If we pay attention to the way Freud communicates the truths of his thought, we begin noticing passages that at first seem secondary and unimportant. And when those passages have our attention, one senses the long- suffering side of Freud’s personality, his patience despite troubles caused by others, his experience of being an authority and having to put up with the stupidity of his followers. Some passages even display his profound depreciation, contempt even, for his followers and the ways they’ve have understood and appropriated his work. I’ll show you that he even seemed to find those who surrounded him as more or less worthless. He thereby became protective of his work, mobilizing the full force of his authority lest the future of psychoanalysis be lost. Set against doctrinal dissenters, he was quite domineering and authoritative – sometimes without justification -, determining and organising how his teachings would be transmitted and by whom.
This is only a glimpse of the historical aspects of Freud’s activity and presence offered in this text. Yet, we won’t restrict ourselves to this kind of reading. For even if such a reading were interesting or stimulating, amusing or relaxing, such a reading ineffective.
Whenever I comment or read Freud, I always comment and read toward answering, What do we do when we do analysis? And I’ll be trying to answer that question as we read his Papers on Technique, reading to answer that question. For this reason, I’m starting with the current state of technique- what is said, written, and done today concerning analytic technique.
I’m not sure if you are aware of the following fact, though I hope you are. The only phrase that appropriately describes the way today’s analysts (in 1954) think, express, and conceive their technique is radical confusion. I can tell you right now that among analysts, and those who think – which already limits the field -, not a single one is in agreement with any other in terms of what one does, what one aims to do, what one achieves, or what is actually going on in analysis.
Today’s analysts are so radically confused that we could actually humor ourselves were we to sit back and compare their conceptions, and we’d find their conceptualizations embarassingly contradictory. And this without identifying those who cherish paradoxes – which, by the way, there are very few who do…
The question of technique is considered so important that today’s analysts and theorists tackle it with no inclination to whimsicality. Humor is not allowed for those who laboriously pontificate about therapeutic results, or for the forms and procedures and means and techniques by which they obtain those results. Lacking whimsicality and humor they cling and clamor for some guard rail, some small edge or corner in Freud’s theoretical system. And having found and holding tightly onto methods or techniques, they feel assured and guaranteed that they are in fact communicating with fellow analysts and colleagues. In this way Freudian language comes to function as a go-between, a channel, a point of connection for analysts with totally different conceptions of their theraputic activity. Along these lines Freudian language also allows them a common way of talking about this interhuman relation called psychoanalysis.
Notice the words, interhuman relation, and you’ll notice a reference to the work of today’s analysts, who have been focusing on and elaborating the relationship between the analyst and the analysand. Why? They’re looking for a secure basis on which they can make sense of the analytic experience. It’s certainly the best attempt we’ve had since Freud. Balint calls it a two-body psychology – a term he borrowed from Rickman, who was one of the only creative theoreticians since Freud. The formula interhuman relation allows all the research on object relations, counter-transference, and a whole series of other terms, fantasy being one of the most popular, to be organized. So we’ll have to address this imaginary inter-reaction between the analyst and the analysand.
Have we precisely located our problem? On the one hand, yes; on the other, no.
This two-body research is important in how it differs from the conventional construct known as the one-body psychology. But is pointing out that we’re dealing with two individuals sufficient? This is the impasse we’re led to by focusing on technique.
At the moment, I’m not in a position to say more, though those who have been attending my seminars know that no two-body psychology is without a third element. They are aware that the third element is speech, and speech rather than interhuman relation is the central feature of our perspective. For this reason we formuate the totality of the analytic experience not as a relation between two-terms, but three-terms.
This doesn’t mean we can’t express fragments or peices of the analytic experience in other registers. Yet we can all recognize a number of theoretical obstacles, which are quite easy to understand: if the totality of the analytic experience is triadic, there are a number of different ways to represent two of the terms. You can put the accent on the analyst, the analysand, or both. And as you’ll see, doing so makes it easy to classify a number of the competing conceptualizations concerning what happens in analysis.