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first glance, the idea of dissidence in science seems impossible. The whole point
of rigorous scientific methodology makes it impossible to think in terms of
dissidence -- at least in those disciplines organized in accordance with the
principle of refutation. But, not so in psychoanalysis which has been haunted
by controversy since its very inception. And dissidence, as Otto Kernberg
emphasizes in this volume (p. 129), "implies an ideological or religious
quality of psychoanalytic convictions." One of the reasons for this is
that the psychoanalytic "method of inquiry is identical with the method of
therapy" (Bergmann, p. 58). While Freud proclaimed his affinity for
natural science methodology, he did not test his conclusions outside the
clinical setting. Worse still, in 1912 he formed the secret committee of seven
ringleaders, a kind of a headquarters devoted to protecting -- instead of
testing -- his doctrine (Bergmann, p. 5).
Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis, a
volume edited by Martin Bergman, and the conference transcripts it contains,
represent two of the rare efforts at better understanding this aspect of
psychoanalysis. They can be said to have attempted to answer four basic
- For what reason does one
become a psychoanalytic dissident?
- Can something be learnt
from the dissidents?
- How is dissidence to be
taught in the psychoanalytic curriculum?
- Is psychoanalysis
isolated from other disciplines? Is, for instance, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl
right in claiming that "it seems very obvious that since the Second
World War, nobody outside of the field of psychoanalysis could read its
journals or cared to? Psychoanalysis began to communicate in an internal
language" (p. 278)?
book consists of three parts: first, Bergmann's introductory essay, which
reviews explanations for and discusses the many instances of psychoanalytic
dissidence; then come eight essays written by participants as a preparation to
the conference; finally, the transcript of the conference proceedings, followed
by Robert Wallerstein's reaction to it (he was asked to write it since he had
been unable to participate).
stimulus for the conference was quite unique as well -- the occasion of Martin
Begmann's 90th birthday. This gives the book a special flavor, since
the reader can enjoy Bergmann's knowledgeable treatment of different
psychoanalytic theories, but also his reminiscences of Wilhelm Reich, Karen
Horney, and Erich Fromm, and the spirit of psychoanalysis from the years
following the World War II to the first years of the new millennium.
With its 111
pages, Bergmann's essay is of monographic length itself. Bergmann opens with
the plea "for a psychoanalytic attitude toward the history of
psychoanalysis and its dissidents" (p. 1). He also claims that he will try
to "… treat dissidence primarily as a battle of ideas, leaving aside the
social aspects of these controversies" (p. 1), which, as will become
obvious just several pages later, is impossible. He puts a lot of effort in
understanding the vehemence of psychoanalytic controversies (Wallerstein will
suggest the use of less controversial terms than vehemence, like passion or
conviction - p. 362). I shall give a short review of these explanations.
The first one is in fact taken from Freud and employs one
of his favorite concepts -- resistance. Faced with rejection from scientific
circles of the early twentieth century, Freud tried to explain that attitude by
pointing out to resistance to psychoanalytic discoveries. When Adler and Jung
decided to search for their own paths, he attributed their decision to
resistance stemming from insufficient analyses. Ironically, despite his
"belief that the insufficiently analyzed analyst is influenced by his
complexes, while the fully analyzed follows the dictates of science"
(Bergmann, p. 54), the master of self-analysis never applied this principle to
one step further than Freud when he claims that psychoanalytic dissidence is a
result of dissatisfaction with one's analysis and belief in the superiority of
a later self-analysis: "... it is not the differences with Freud that
determined dissidence. It is the basic attitude of gratitude or criticism ...
(p. 89) ... dissidence (occurs) only when the hostility toward one's own
analyst, projected on Freud, is greater than the gratitude ... " (p. 78).
Though this exploration seems to shed light on one part of the picture, it
misses the "political" and institutional contexts of such situations
when creative self-analyses turn into new psychoanalytic schools.
adds the importance of reaction formation for understanding vehemence (p.
268-9), but does not explain its possible role. He also offers a view that
regards psychoanalysis as "created and not discovered, and because it was
a creation and not a discovery, dissidents had to play a major role in its
history" (p. 98).
could prove to become more inspiring is a remark made during the discussion by
Anton Kris who claimed that the vehemence of psychoanalytic controversies often
originates from the difficulty to separate challenging analytic facts and
challenging one's analytic being (Kris, p. 272). Unfortunately, this idea was
not investigated any further.
The major part
of Bergmann's essay consists of several pages long accounts of the most
important psychoanalytic dissidents, ranging from the earliest ones -- Adler,
Jung, Rank, and Ferenczi -- to the dissidence that occurred after Freud's
that the dissidents who were Freud's contemporaries had a different character
from dissidents who appeared after his death. The former were personally close
to Freud, usually gave significant contributions to classical psychoanalysis,
than turned against Freud and sometimes founded their own schools. Bergmann
also reviews "controversial discussions" between Anna Freud and
Melanie Klein and wonders whether the world of psychoanalysis had to wait for
Freud to die to be able to open those controversial questions (p. 56). He
proceeds with the discussion of dissidence in the realm of postclassical
psychoanalysis, developed in the works of Erich Fromm, Lacan, Kohut, Fairbairn,
and Winnicott. His discussion is enriched later chapters such as Savege
Scharff's on the British object relations theorists (followed by a long
discussion of Bowlby's work and biography - pp. 340ff.), Young-Bruehl's chapter
on Ian Suttie, and Bergmann's own paper on Charles Rycroft, which all bring a
great deal of valuable information.
the second part of the book, seven conference participants -- Andre Green, Otto
F. Kernberg, Anton O. Kris, Harold P. Blum, Jill Savege Scharff, Robert S.
Wallerstein, and Elisabeth Young-Bruehl -- reveal their reactions to Bergmann's
essay, and Bergmann himself added a paper on Charles Rycroft. All these papers
were written as preparation for the conference. Therefore, I shall discuss only
the topics that had the greatest influence on the discussion that followed.
The first among
these topics is a controversy of "Drive Theory vs. Trauma Theory."
The topic opens with Andre Green's efforts to define "the Freudian core of
psychoanalysis," the defining features of psychoanalysis. Green thinks
this core consists of repression, resistance, primary process, transference,
psychic reality, the unconscious, and - most importantly - the concept of drive
(see esp. p. 265). It is his belief that "any psychoanalytic theory of any
kind has to show no disagreement with (this core's) value as the fundamental
principle of psychoanalytic thought, whatever adjunctions or corollaries are
called for. I will consider as real dissidence any theory, whatever it says,
that is in disagreement with this core, explicitly or not" (p. 118).
However, he then concludes that "a great portion of contemporary
psychoanalysis is in more or less permanent, more or less complete,
dissidence" (p. 119), and even writes about "...Freud's own
dissidence. From the minute he introduced the death instinct, Freud was a
dissident himself" (p. 317). This topic was also discussed in detail by
Otto Kernberg (pp. 321-323), and then occupied a large part of the final hours
of the conference discussion.
What could be
even more important is that Green introduces the topic of fragmentation of
psychoanalysis, listing several possible reasons for it, and other discussants
join him later (see Wallerstein pp. 212ff.). Kernberg (p. 144) described the alternative
development of what he termed the relational/intersubjective/self psychological
approach, but, sadly, no one represented these developments at the conference.
During the discussion, Otto Kernberg and Robert Wallerstein expressed hope that
consensus is possible -- especially in technique. Wallerstein also repeated his
conviction that no metapsychology is better than others (p. 365) and that
different metapsychologies "could fit comfortably enough within our
(common) core" (p. 364), a proposition that has previously been rejected
by some participants.
Kernberg was the only participant who raised the question of the pathology of
psychoanalytic institutions and authoritarian attitudes of their leaders (see
esp. pp. 140-142). Kernberg later (p. 279) proposed a list of the main reasons
for dissidence, which pays more attention to the constitution of psychoanalytic
pathology of psychoanalytic institutions
opposition to some of Freud's basic discoveries
itself becoming an ideology
between psychoanalysis as a science of man and psychoanalysis as a
can only hope that Kernberg's efforts will inspire more analysts to reconsider
the organization of psychoanalytic institutes and their most important purpose
-- training. Kernberg (p. 267) raised the question of influence of
psychoanalytic curriculum on candidates' creativity and related it to the issue
of dissidence. Particularly illustrating is his recounting of having been faced
with spies in some of the seminars he taught (p. 303). Kernberg (p. 143), like
Wallerstein in his final contribution to this volume (pp. 366-7), proposed
scientific research as a way out of various controversies. But in this same
volume the attachment theory (and, for that matter, neuropsychoanalysis) is
still treated as dissidence, its data ignored or considered irrelevant (see
esp. pp. 339ff), its relevance dismissed like Saul Rosenzweig's experimental
confirmation of Freud's concepts was dismissed as irrelevant by Freud himself
(Wallerstein, p. 369).
conference proceedings constitute the final third of the book. The text,
printed in quite a small font, comprises about 110 pages, and makes a very
exciting and dynamic reading. The ease with which the participants shift from
one subject to another, the depth of their knowledge, and the creativity of
their responses are quite impressive. But, apart from enjoying their erudition
and experience, the reader is quickly drawn into a heated debate where
disagreement is more frequent that consensus: the vehemence of psychoanalytic
controversy can be observed at firsthand. The most striking example comes from
Andre Green's statements that "Looking back at the history of dissidence,
I cannot say that I would wish to apologize to any of the dissenters ... Having
studied them, I do not regret the departure of H. S. Sullivan, Fromm, C.
Thompson, and K. Horney" (p. 124-5), or that he does not find any common
ground or agreement with the intersubjectivists (p. 320). For all these
reasons, I think this is a reading that everyone would enjoy. On the other
hand, there is a certain drawback to this: though there are numerous questions
that should have been answered -- at least tentatively -- the discussion did
not lead to any conclusions, or to a concluding/summarizing chapter.
I shall focus on one important problem of this otherwise exciting reading with
many important contributions to contemporary psychoanalysis and related
disciplines. Namely, this book seems to be equally blind to Freud's possible
responsibility for the dissidence as any previous hagiographic treatise of
Freud. Bergmann claims that "the accusation that Freud was intolerant was
refuted" (p. 96), as if these were "accusations," and as if such
statements could be refuted. One of Bergmann's proofs is that Freud was
changing his mind quite often. However, not only was Freud "strongly
assertive of (his views) at any particular point" (Kernberg, p. 131), but
he almost never changed his mind under the influence of any other mind but his
own: "he welcomed contributions from his adherents so long as they were
fully compatible with his own positions, and usually just extensions or
amplifications of them" (Wallerstein, p. 201).
will later (p. 261) claim that "during his lifetime no psychoanalyst but
Freud wrote papers that have survived as milestones in the history of
psychoanalysis … During Freud's lifetime he was psychoanalysis ... To disagree
with Freud was for psychoanalysts as well as for dissidents an act of
patricide." Amazingly, what he sees in this is only Freud's enormous
genius, not even for a moment Freud's effort to control the creativity of his
followers. Bergmann, of course, knows well that "what is striking is that
Rank's extensive work is entirely in Freud's shadow. Individuation came to him
only after the break" (p. 24). But when you would expect some kind of
conclusion or explanation, Bergmann simply moves to a new paragraph.
same goes for the discussion of developments that once had been a cause for
dissidence and/or expulsion from the psychoanalytic community and later formed
the basis for innovation. During the discussion, Mortimer Ostow remembered the
problems he encountered because of recommending drug therapy in the 1950s
alongside psychoanalysis (p. 273), which today is a regular practice. Bergmann
wrote that "Rank discovered preoedipal fixation on the mother" (p.
26). In his paper, Harold Blum discusses the case of Ferenczi (see esp. p.
164), and later labels him a predecessor of Winnicott (p. 287). Why, then, were
all these accomplishments once considered a cause for dissidence? Could it be
that this happened because Freud was unable to tolerate other people's
creativity? Could it be that Freud needed to break his relationship with Adler
because of his need to distance himself from the latter's early emphasis on
aggressive drive (see Wallerstein, pp. 205, 364) in order to claim it his
discovery less than ten years later?
instance of this blindness seems to be Blum's description of the nowadays
famous Palermo incident: "Ferenczi had rebelled against serving as what he
regarded as Freud's secretary in the Palermo incident in 1910, when they were
traveling together to Sicily. Although Ferenczi and Freud had been discussing the
psychodynamics of paranoia, Freud then proceeded to write the Schreber case
during their Sicily vacation in his own hotel room and Ferenczi missed the
opportunity to be a coauthor" (Blum, p. 166). What Ferenczi described in a
letter to Georg Groddeck (who is not even mentioned in this book) is how Freud
started dictating him the paper, so I cannot see any other way but to regard it
as Freud's attempt to turn a colleague into a secretary. Furthermore, Blum's
phrasing is very unusual: "Ferenczi missed the opportunity to be a
coauthor." Couldn't he, instead, have said that Freud decided to punish
Ferenczi's disobedience by excluding him from the final phase of writing the
paper they jointly prepared? If we look at it this way, we might give a more
adequate significance to Jill Scharff's definition of dissident: "Someone
who was hurt by Freud and had to avenge himself" (p. 319).
To conclude, Understanding
Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis could prove to
be a very important point in the history of psychoanalysis. Despite more than a
hundred years of psychoanalytic theory, this volume opens a debate about two
disturbing topics: first, what one can learn from the dissidents; second, how
one could improve psychoanalytic education. Contributors to the volume, a
fantastic group of internationally renowned authors, open many provocative
questions and controversies, sometimes in an engagingly personal manner. They
also offer many answers packed with erudition, eloquence and creativity. Some questions,
some viewpoints, some dethronings are missing. But one book, or one conference,
cannot solve it all. It is difficult to believe that this book will change
psychoanalytic institutions and their tolerance for difference. But it is upon
us to take Martin Bergmann's torch and try to bring it farther in the years to
Aleksandar Dimitrijevic, Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Psychology, Belgrade, Yugoslavia.