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Casement is prominent British psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. Before this
recent book, he had published two more books: On Learning from the patient
and Further learning from the patient.
thesis is that the potential of psychoanalysis is paradoxical. It can either
free mind or bind it.
These two simple sentences, written by Casement himself, could be the best introduction
to his recent book. Being psychoanalyst, or even being psychotherapist, is far
from being self-understanding. The theoretical knowledge is not enough. Even
pure technique is not enough. Being psychoanalyst (or being psychotherapist)
necessary implies a special kind of (critical) self-consciousness. You simply
cannot deal with somebody other's (split or repressed) unconscious parts of
personality if you are not able somehow to apprehend uncertainties in your own
an analyst, you cannot escape from being human. It is impossible to think about
the transference without serious considering of the countertransference. If
not, therapeutic process itself could be (more or less) potentially harmful for
both sides, for the patient and (even) for the therapist himself. I have
heard it said by some senior analysts that 'the analyst should never admit to a
mistake' Why not?
are Casement's words: ...there is one thing that psychoanalysis appears to
do almost best of all: it can turn ordinary people into something
extra-ordinary. It can turn them into psychoanalysts. And there is problem.
For, it does not always follow that psychoanalysis (at last within a training
context) necessary releases people to develop their own minds and thinking.
There is a great danger for psychoanalysis in becoming entrapped in some kind
of ideology. Ideological discourse is one of the worst enemies of the modern
psychoanalysis. The question of training and of education of the further
analysts is something that is rather delicate.
Psychoanalysis today is highly institutionalized and
symbolically determined. It has its own rituals of initiation, traditions and
routines. Being a psychoanalyst implies being trained as a psychoanalyst. Any
reasonable psychoanalytic training presupposes some order of values, some (we
could say) ideals. The question of transmission of these ideals is (in the same
time) the question of the future of psychoanalysis. Because of that we must be
really careful. This could be one of the basic messages of Casement's book.
There are some serious deviations in our actual training practices. There is
too much ideology in psychoanalytic institutes. There is too much (false) certainty
in their curriculums. There is too much false-selfs in psychoanalytic
candidates and their teachers. Why? There is a serious problem in the core of
the idea of psychoanalytic institution.
Casement is rather brave and open critic of this (always
potentially harmful) sterility of institutionalized psychoanalysis.† When
students in psychoanalytic training are caught in a system of too much
sureness, it can become extremely difficult for them to remain authentic. Psychoanalytic
trainers frequently function as the priesthood of the institute to which they
belong. And the priestly function, traditionally, had been to uphold status quo
and to keep it pure from whatever may threaten to dilute or undermine it. So,
it is not unusual for trainers to teach from a position that can become
dogmatic: sometimes with a degree of sureness that can begin to sound like certainty. Although psychoanalysis does have the potential for
providing an opportunity for creative change, and fresh aliveness, it has also
continued to develop the non-creative (even non-analytic) practice of using
pressure: in particular the pressures of authority. One possible result of these pressures could be
that some training analyses can only bring about false-self change in the
student. And nothing else...
practitioners sometimes slip into a position of arrogance, that of thinking
they know best. Thus, when something goes wrong in an analysis, it is often the
patient who is held accountable for this, the analyst assuming it to be an
expression of the patient's pathology rather then perhaps (or least partly) due
to some fault of the analyst's. It is unfortunate that analysts can always
defend themselves by claiming special knowledge of the ways of the unconsciousness.
But analysts can become blind to their own mistakes. And even more importantly,
they can fail to recognize when it is sometimes the style of their clinical
work itself that may have become a problem for the patient.
are serious words. The analyst could be arrogant. The arrogance ot the analyst
could be harmful for his patient. Being analyst doesn't mean being perfect. We
all make mistakes. Casement's message is clear: possibility for making mistakes
as always present in the transference situation. Analytic insight is usually a
complicated mixture... We therefore often interpret in terms of part-truths, to
be explored between patient and analyst, rather than make statements about the
patient that can sound as if we see them as timelessly true. There is always
some contingency in the analytic situation.† The most important thing here
is not that we should make no mistakes (an impossibility) but that we remain
sufficiently thoughtful about the issues in question, both before and after the
event. Speaking in the terms of Casement's book: there are two kinds of countertransference.
One is called diagnostic and other personal. Diagnostic countertransference
could give us useful clues about the patient and our responses to patient.
Personal countertransference has to do with our own internal world and
This book will be of great interest for beginners and
for mature and highly experienced analyst. Its value is (or it could be)
practical and theoretical. The main importance of this book, I believe, lays in
its author's courage to see things from rather different perspectives. It is
not necessary to agree with him in all of his ideas and to accept all of his
theses. On the contrary, priority is on questions not on answers. And the
questions that are posed here represents the best richness of this book.
© 2004 Petar Jevremovic
Petar Jevremovic: Clinical
psychologist and practicing psychotherapist, author of two books (Psychoanalysis
and Ontology, Lacan and Psychoanalysis), translator of Aristotle and
Maximus the Confessor, editor of the Serbian editions of selected works of Heintz
Kohut, Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein, author of various texts that are
concerned with psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature and theology. He lives in