|At a number of key points in its development, psychoanalysis has encountered instances of rethinking, assimilation of new observations, and challenges from analysts with alternative views from those of the then dominant paradigm. At each of these points, some features of the then current view were modified and others were retained. In this presentation Dr. Wachtel will examine these critical choice points and explore what theoretical choices were compelled by the clinical data or the requirement of remaining consistent with the fundamental features of psychoanalytic thought and which choices skewed the psychoanalytic mainstream in directions that were viable but not essential. Put differently, he will examine what alternative constructions and reconstructions of psychoanalytic theory and practice were possible at each of these choice points and how psychoanalysis would look today if these alternative theoretical choices had been thoroughly pursued.
Among the choice points Dr. Wachtel will focus on are those represented by: (1) Freud’s 1897 letter to Fliess concluding that some of the reports of seductions by his patients were actually fantasies rather than veridical memories; (2) Freud’s reworking of his theory of anxiety in 1926; (3) Alexander & French’s introduction of the concept of the corrective emotional experience; (4) Bowlby’s development of attachment theory. He will discuss as well such more recent alternative theoretical formulations as Stern’s concept of unformulated experience and Bromberg’s focus on dissociated self-states. In considering each of these, he will examine where and how these alternative formulations have been incorporated in mainstream psychoanalytic thought, where they have been rejected but reintroduced under different names, and where the potential for deep reexamination of psychoanalytic assumptions and practices has still not been sufficiently pursued.
After attending this session, participants should be able to better understand:
1. The logic of the psychoanalytic emphasis on the past and early development and the ways in which psychoanalytic observations can be formulated in terms of forces operating in the present.
2. The relation between influences on behavior and experience that derive from “inner” sources and influences that derive from “external” influences.
3. The relative therapeutic contribution of insight, new relational experience, and mastery of conflict and anxiety through direct experiential exposure to what has been defended against.
1. Wachtel, P. L. (2008). Relational theory and the practice of psychotherapy. New York:
Guilford [available in the library, 4.51 Wac].
2. Wachtel, P. L. (2011). Therapeutic communication: Knowing what to say when, Second
Edition. New York: Guilford [available in the library, 6.8 Wa].
3. Wachtel, P. L. (2014). Cyclical psychodynamics and the contextual self: The inner world, the
intimate world, and the world of culture and society. New York: Routledge.