Feeling, Relating, Existing

On emotion and the human dimension

Ode to a Besserwisser

Therapeutic neutrality and objectivity are scientistic illusions.

          There was a young analyst so fair,

          With clear and distinct ideas most rare.

          In objectivist zeal,

          He knows the real Real,

          Being wrapped in a cordon sanitaire.

Freud’s psychoanalysis expanded the Cartesian mind, Descartes’s “thinking thing,” to include a vast unconscious realm. Nonetheless, the Freudian mind remained a Cartesian mind, a self-enclosed worldless subject or mental apparatus containing and working over mental contents and radically separated from its surround. Corresponding to its Cartesianism is traditional psychoanalysis’s objectivist epistemology. One isolated mind, the analyst, is claimed to make objective observations and interpretations of another isolated mind, the patient.

By contrast, a framework like mine that takes organizations or worlds of emotional experiencing as its principal focus (see my blog post on character: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-relating existing/201203/what-is-character-and-how-does-it-change) eschews reified mind entities and reunites the Cartesian isolated mind with its world, its context. Correspondingly, such a framework embraces a perspectivalist epistemology, insisting that analytic understanding is always from a standpoint shaped by the presuppositions of the inquirer. Accordingly, there are no objective or neutral analysts, no immaculate perceptions (Nietzsche), no God’s-eye views of anyone or anything. We are thereby moved from a stance of epistemological arrogance to one of epistemological humility.

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Copyright Robert Stolorow

Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D. is one of the original members of the International Council for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, which stems from the work of Heinz Kohut.

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