Psychoanalysis as a Two-Person Meditation: Free Association, Meditation, and Bion
by Axel Hoffer, MD
This paper is based on the commonality between free association and the practice of Buddhist meditation in light of the surprising fact that both great traditions devoted to healing human suffering rely on the same fundamental method. After reviewing some aspects of free association and evenly-suspended attention, relevant aspects of Buddhist meditation and Buddhism as a psychology, including thinking and emotion, are compared and contrasted with psychoanalysis. The Buddhist insight of impermanence is highlighted. Freud’s telephone metaphor becomes the basis for a discussion of psychoanalysis as a two-person meditation. Bion’s proposal for the analyst to eschew memory and desire to be in the moment with his patients serves as an introduction to a case by Thomas Ogden which illustrates both Bion’s points and provides an example of a two-person meditation.
The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80(3): 331–341, Aug 2020.
About the Author
Axel Hoffer, MD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst in Boston and Former Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of Freud and the Buddha: The Couch and the Cushion (2015) and the winner of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association prize for his paper Toward a Definition of Psychoanalytic Neutrality. He has also written the Foreword to Freud’s monograph A Phylogenetic Fantasy, and the Introduction to the second volume of the Freud-Ferenczi Correspondence. He has lectured and supervised in the United States, Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia and Israel.
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