Psychoanalysis as Biological Science p.10

The popular imagination was captured by Freud’s reports of the conflictual mental contents he typically encountered in his clinical work. Because he was ever trying to find human universals, Freud’s necessarily limited clinical experience was seldom sufficient to yield universally applicable conclusions about intrapsychic conflicts; thus most of his hermeneutic claims have subsequently proved to be of limited applicability. In other words, in the infinitely variable territory of mental contents Freud’s overly ambitious efforts to generalize turned out to be based on sampling errors.

 

John E. Gedo – Psychoanalysis as Biological Science: A Comprehensive Theory p.10

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Psychoanalysis as Biological Science p.4

The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud still deserves careful study, for it contains important observational data and sophisticated thinking about them, but it is not a currently acceptable exposition of the valid knowledge that constitutes psychoanalysis. 

Readers unfamiliar with contemporary psychoanalysis – the current consensus as well as the ongoing controversies within the field – may have difficulty evaluating which of Freud’s propositions continue to have scientific validity, which have been invalidated although they attempted to answer important questions (and therefore possessed great heuristic value), and which of them turned out to be useless because the problems they were supposed to address were misconceived. In this respect, however, Freud’s contributions are no different from those of other authors in the biological sciences who wrote sixty to a hundred years ago.

 

John E. Gedo – Psychoanalysis as Biological Science: A Comprehensive Theory p.4

Love and Its Place in Nature p.7

Freud discovered archaic thinking in the concrete images and loose associations of dreams and in the physical symptoms of hysterics. But because he was a scientist of his day, he could not fully appreciate its significance. A scientist, for Freud, was a discoverer of an independently existing reality. Thus he took his interpretations of unconscious motivation to be discoveries of what was already there in the patient’s mind, causing the concrete images and the physical symptoms. This put Freud in a difficult conceptual position, and he clearly felt the strain. For if the archaic “thinking” is a remnant of infantile life, it seems odd that it should be cause by something so mature as a conceptual judgment of the type expressed in an analytic interpretation. A more compelling picture is to see the interpretation as growing naturally out of the archaic “thinking” it interprets. A good interpretation represents the end of a developmental process which begins with archaic attempts “to say the same thing.” The interpretation allows the mind to understand, at the level of a conceptualized judgment, what it has been trying to say all along, in more primitive ways. Insofar as there is a natural developmental thrust by which the mind moves from archaic to more sophisticated formulations, the mind must be striving to understand its own activities. Thanks to Freud, it is by now well known that this thrust towards self-understanding is blocked by myriad inhibiting forces which freeze much of the mind’s activity at archaic levels.

A good psychoanalytic interpretation, then, does more than uncover itself. For an unconscious thought is not a fully conceptualized judgment, needing to be pulled through the looking glass by its conscious image. At least one of the reasons an unconscious thought its unconscious is that conscious mind does not easily recognize this form of mental activity.  An interpretation takes up the dreams, bodily symptoms and symptomatic acts in which, say, a wish is archaically expressed, and offers the concepts with which that wish can be consciously understood. What we call an “unconscious thought” tends to be a conscious conceptualized judgment that stands in a developmental relation to a more archaic, preconceptualized form of mental activity that is genuinely unconscious. The unconscious needs to be developed to be recognized as such. Although Freud’s psychoanalytic practice embodies this developmental approach, this is not his theoretical self-understanding. Many, though not all, of his remarks suggest that he conceived of himself as simply uncovering a hidden thought. This, of course, fits with the image of science as discovering and independently existing reality.

 

Jonathan Lear – Love and Its Place in Nature p.7

The Crisis of Psychoanalysis p.37

Historically speaking, one can look at Freud’s theory as the fruitful synthesis of rationalism and romanticism; the creative power of this synthesis may be one of the reasons why Freud’s thinking became a dominating influence in the twentieth century. This influence was not due to the fact that Freud found a new therapy for neuroses, and probably also not primarily because of his role as a defender of repressed sexuality. There is a great deal to say in favor of the assumption that the most important reason for his general influence on culture is in this synthesis, whose fruitfulness can be clearly seen in the two most important defections from Freud, that of Adler and of Jung. Both exploded the Freudian synthesis and reverted to the two original oppositions. Adler, rooted in the short-lived optimism of the rising lower middle classes, constructed a one-sided rationalistic-optimistic theory. He believed that the innate disabilities are the very conditions of strength and that with intellectual understanding of a situation, man can liberate himself and make the tragedy of life disappear.

Jung, on the other hand, was a romantic who saw the sources of all human strength in the unconscious. He recognized the wealth and depth of symbols and myths much more profoundly than Freud, whose views were restricted by his sexual theory. Their aims, however, were contradictory. Freud wanted to understand the unconscious in order to weaken and control it; Jung, in order to gain an increased vitality from it. Their interest in the unconscious united the two men for some time without their being aware that they were moving in opposite directions. As they halted on their way in order to talk about the unconscious, they fell under the illusion that they were proceeding in the same direction.

 

Erich Fromm – The Crisis of Psychoanalysis p.37

The Crisis of Psychoanalysis p.4

It is not surprising that many people were attracted by the promise that there are faster and cheaper methods of “cure”. Psychoanalysis had opened up the possibility that one’s misery could be alleviated through professional help.With the change in style to greater “efficiency,” rapidity, and “group activity” and with the spread of the need for “therapy” for people whose income did not suffice for prolonged daily sessions, the new therapies necessarily became very attractive and drew away a good many potential patients form psychoanalysis.

Thus far I have only touched upon the more obvious and superficial reasons for the present crisis of psychoanalysis: the wrong use of psychoanalysis by a large number of practitioners and patients. To solve the crisis, at least on this level, would only require making a stricter selection of analysis and patients.

It is, however, necessary to ask: How could the misuse occur? I have tried to give some very limited answers to this question, but it can be answered fully only if we turn from superficial manifestations to the deeper crisis in which psychoanalysis finds itself.

What are the reasons for the deeper crisis?

I believe that the main reason lies in the change of psychoanalysis from a radical to a conformist theory. Psychoanalysis was originally a radical, penetrating, liberating theory. It slowly lost this character and stagnated, failing to develop its theory in response to the changed human salutation after the First World War; instead it retreated into conformism and the search for respectability.

 

Erich Fromm – The Crisis of Psychoanalysis p.4

The Essential Loewald: On Motivation and Instinct Theory p.125

Triebe were, however, for Freud not just abstract constructs or concepts in a theory of motivation or personality, to be sorted out from other forces of motivation, to be classified and distinguished from affects, perceptual and cognitive processes, and somatic needs. Triebe, instincts, were – much more than scientists, doctors, ministers, judges (“the educated circles”) wanted to admit or know – what made the human world go around, what drove people to act and think and feel the way they do, in excess as well as in self-constriction, inhibition, and fear, in their daily lives in the family and with others, and in their civilized and professional occupations and preoccupations as well. They dominated their love life and influenced their behavior with children and authorities. They made people sick and made them mad. They drove people to perversion and crimes, made them into hypocrites and liars as well as into fanatics for truth and other virtues, or into prissy, bigoted, prejudiced, or anxious creatures. And their sexual needs, preoccupations, and inhibitions turned out to be at the root of much of all this. Rational, civilized, measured, “good” behavior, the noble and kind deeds and thoughts and feelings so highly valued were much of the time postures and gestures, self-denials, rationalizations, distortions, and hideouts – a thin surface mask covering and embellishing the true life and the real power of the instincts.

The life of the body, of bodily needs and habits and functions, kisses and excrements and intercourse, tastes and smells and sights, body noises and sensations, caresses and punishments, tics and gait and movements, facial expression, the penis and the vagina and the tongue and arms and hands and feet and legs and hair, pain and pleasure, physical excitement and lassitude, violence and bliss – all this is the body in the context of human life. The body is not primarily the organism with its organs and physiological functions, anatomical structures, nerve pathways, and chemical processes.

If Freud had not had all this in view, and the vagaries and foibles of people, his own and those of his patients, he would never have been able to write his case histories and to create a scientific psychoanalysis as distinct from both neurology and academic psychiatry and psychology. He would not have been able to understand dreams and jokes and neurosis and the psychopathology of everyday life. He created, partly in spite of his inclinations and not without grave misgivings, an entirely new method and standard of scientific investigation which went counter to scientific principles and methods derived from or devised for a different realm of reality – principles and methods that stultified an appropriate approach to and grasp of psychic life. He could do this because he was unwilling to accept the narrow limitations imposed on science by the science of his day, whose child he remained nevertheless. He broke out of those limits and widened the field of scientific action, while loath to accept the consequences of such a venture in all its implications. But had he not in such a way brought science and life as it is lived together again, psychoanalysis would never have had the impact on modern life and scientific thought that we see today.

Instincts and the life of the body, seen in the perspective sketched above, are one and the same. They become separate only when we begin to distinguish between soma and psyche. But once this is done – and without this distinction there is neither physiology–anatomy nor psychology – instinct in psychoanalysis must be understood as a psychological concept. I believe it means reintroducing the psyche into biology and physics if one speaks of Eros and Thanatos as universal cosmic tendencies. Whether this is legitimate or not remains, in my opinion, an open question; this psyche, however, would in any event not be psyche or mind in terms of human psychology. Within the framework of psychoanalysis as a science of the human mind we must, if we accept the Eros-Thanatos conception (or its less “metaphysical” form, the duality of libido and aggression), speak of instincts as psychic representatives, and of life and death instincts as such representatives.

 

Hans Loewald – The Essential Loewald: On Motivation and Instinct Theory p.125

Freud p.203

Freud argued that religious belief is an illusion. And he meant this in a precise sense: a belief is an illusion if it is derived from human wishes. Illusions are by their very nature misleading. For people take their beliefs to be responsive to the way things are. So if a belief is held in place by wishes, people are misled about their orientation to the world. Beliefs can be true or false; the same holds for illusions. It is not out of the question for an illusion to be true. The essential problem for an illusion, then, is that we are mistaken about the basis of our commitment to it. We take it to be a belief based on the responsiveness to the world; in fact, it is held in place by primordial wishes of which we are unconscious.

Freud’s argument is oblique. He does not address religion directly; and ostensibly he makes no claims about whether religious beliefs are illusions. That is, whatever the truth of religious claims, the fact that we believe them is not based on that truth, but rather on infantile wishes. His expectations seems to be that once we recognize these beliefs as illusions, and come to see the kind of wishes they gratify, the temptation towards religious belief will fall away. At the very least, we will see that we ought to give up religious belief.

 

Jonathan Lear – Freud p.203