Thursday, 29 May 2014

Shrink to fit

I have been looking again at Ritchie Robertson’s hatchet job on Freud, thinly disguised as an introduction to the new edition of the ‘Dora’ case history.

Robertson points out with acerbity some of Freud’s many shortcomings as a psychoanalyst, and concludes that ‘The vast edifice of psychoanalysis rests on the flimsiest of foundations.’ Maybe; so does Winchester Cathedral. But here he has, like many others, confused psychoanalysis as a therapeutic technique with psychoanalysis as a psychological theory. The fact (if it is one) that the really rather strange and insecure Doctor Freud of Vienna was not a good analyst does not have any bearing on the genius Freud’s brilliant invention or discovery of psychoanalysis. And the metaphor, no doubt carefully chosen, of a building with foundations is inappropriate.

Some time in the 1950s a Velocette Venom Clubman 500 cc overhead valve single-cylinder motorcycle broke the 24 hour record at the Monthlery track in France. That is to say, it completed 2,400 miles and a bit in 24 hours. This magnificent machine — I once had an identical model — could be considered the ultimate development to date of the funny little Daimler-Benz motorised hobby-horse of 1885. Nobody talked of flimsy foundations.

Psychoanalysis too developed. An important part — indeed always regarded as essential — of every psychoanalyst’s training is being himself psychoanalysed. Every psychoanalyst has had a training analysis with a senior colleague. Every psychoanalyst except one. One has to start somewhere.

If you prefer a more organic analogy, does anyone sneer at an oak tree because it grew from an acorn?

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