Mysteries of the Psychoanalytic Process: Reflections on Chaos, Complexity, and Emergence

Abstract

Psychoanalysis is inherently messy and mysterious. The mysteries of the psychoanalytic process are viewed through the lens of chaos and complexity theory. The analyst–analysand relationship is an example of a nonlinear dynamic system, meaning that it is continuously changing, adapting and coevolving; deterministic predictability is lost in the process of continuous adaptation. The fractal nature of the psychoanalytic relationship and the emerging qualities that arise from its self-organizing system and from bottom-up therapeutic approaches are explored and examined in relationship to the nature of healing. The analyst must tolerate chaos, uncertainty, and messiness for the healing process to naturally emerge. In addition, the age-old question of free will versus determinism is examined from the perspective of complexity theory.

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Correspondence to John S. Turtz.

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John Turtz, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Manhattan and Larchmont, NY. He is teaching and supervising faculty, as well as the former Co-director at the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis. He is also teaching and supervising faculty and the current Co-director of the Foundations and Advanced Psychoanalytic Training Programs at the Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. He is a faculty member at New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA.

Address correspondence to: John Turtz, Ph.D., 28 Mountain Ave., Larchmont, NY 10538, USA. Email: turtzjohn@gmail.com

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Turtz, J.S. Mysteries of the Psychoanalytic Process: Reflections on Chaos, Complexity, and Emergence. Am J Psychoanal 80, 176–195 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-020-09246-y

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Keywords

  • psychoanalysis
  • chaos
  • complexity
  • emergence
  • nonlinear
  • fractal
  • implicit