Skip to main content

On Difference and the “Beyond Psychotherapy” of Psychoanalytic Method: The Pivotal Issue of Free-associative Discourse as De-repressive Praxis

Abstract

It is argued that, in the course of the history of psychoanalysis since 1914 or thereabouts, the clinical and theoretical interests of psychotherapy have occluded our comprehension of the radicality of the free-associative method that is special to psychoanalysis. Setting aside the entirety of the range of endeavors that we might call “psychotherapy,” this essay defines critically the practices of “psychoanalytically-informed therapies” and distinguishes them from Sigmund Freud’s “analysis” that is tied to the unique method by which he discovered the inherent repressiveness of self-consciousness. This thesis implies that the human psyche can neither be properly understood nor healed by theory-driven techniques that prioritize epistemological considerations. Rather the liberatory potential of psychoanalytic praxis must be grasped as an “onto-ethical discipline,” by which the ideological commitments of therapy might be subverted.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Akhtar, S. (2020). Repression: A critical assessment and update of Freud’s 1915 paper. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80, 241–258.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Andreas-Salomé, L. (c. 1908–1939). In E. Pfeiffer (Ed.), Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé: Letters. W. Robson-Scott & E. Robson-Scott (Trans.). New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & Javanovich. 1972.

  • Andreas-Salomé, L. (1912–1913). The Freud journal of Lou Andreas-Salomé. S. A. Leavey (Trans.). New York, NY: Basic Books. 1964.

  • Auden, W. H. (1939). In memory of Sigmund Freud. Collected poems. (pp. 215–218). New York, NY: Random House. 1976. Also in, Horizon: A Review of Literature and Art, 1(3), 151–154.

  • Barratt, B. B. (1984). Psychic reality and psychoanalytic knowing (2nd ed). London, UK: Routledge. 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (1985). Psychoanalysis as critique of ideology. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 5(3), 437–470.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (1993). Psychoanalysis and the postmodern impulse: Knowing and being since Freud’s psychology (2nd ed). London, UK: Routledge. 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2010). The emergence of somatic psychology and bodymind therapy. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2013). Free-associating with the bodymind. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 22(3), 161–175.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2015a). Boundaries and intimacies: Ethics and the (re)performance of “The Law” in psychoanalysis. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 24(4), 204–215.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2015b). On the mythematic reality of libidinality as a subtle energy system: Notes on vitalism, mechanism, and emergence in psychoanalytic thinking. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 32(4), 626–644.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2016). Radical psychoanalysis: An essay on free-associative praxis. London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2017). Opening to the otherwise: The discipline of listening and the necessity of free-association for psychoanalytic praxis. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 98(1), 39–45.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2018). Psychoanalysis and the challenges of disciplinary exportation: Notes from the African “periphery” on the method/theory distinction. Psychoanalytic Review, 105(1), 31–50.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2019a). Beyond psychotherapy: On becoming a (radical) psychoanalyst. London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2019b). Oedipality and oedipal complexes reconsidered: On the incest taboo as a key to the universality of the human condition. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 100(1), 7–31.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barratt, B. B. (2019c). Sexuality, esoteric energies, and the subtleties of transmutation versus transformation. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 38(1), 166–184.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bion, W. R. (1962). Learning from experience. London, UK: William Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bion, W. R. (1963). Elements of psychoanalysis. London, UK: William Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bion, W. R. (1965). Transformations. London, UK: William Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blass, R. B. (2010). Affirming ‘That’s not Psychoanalysis!’ On the value of the politically incorrect of attempting to define the limits of our field. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 91(1), 81–99.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Busch, F. (2019). The analyst’s reveries: Explorations in Bion’s enigmatic concept. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bollas, C. (1992). On being a character: Psychoanalysis and self experience. New York, NY: Hill & Wang. 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edelman, G. M. (1990). The remembered present: A biological theory of consciousness. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edelman, G. M. (1992). Bright air, brilliant fire: On the matter of mind. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edelman, G. M. (2004). Wider than the sky: The phenomenal gift of consciousness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feyerabend, P. K. (1962). Realism, rationalism and scientific method in Philosophical Papers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fink, B. (1995). The Lacanian subject. Between language and jouissance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fink, B. (1997). A clinical introduction to Lacanian psychoanalysis: Theory and technique. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fink, B. (2007). Fundamentals of psychoanalytic technique: A Lacanian approach for practitioners. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fink, B. (2014). Against understanding. Cases and critique in a Lacanian key. Vols. 1–2. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foucault, M. (1966). The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences (translated by A. S. London). New York, NY: Pantheon. 1970.

  • Freud, S. (1895). Studies on hysteria (with Joseph Breuer) Standard Edition, Vol. 2 (pp. 1–323). London: Hogarth Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freud, S. (1896). Letter from Freud to Fliess December 6, 1896. In: J. M. Masson (Ed. & Trans.) The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887–1904. (pp. 207–214). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

  • Freud, S. (1900). Die Traumdeutung. Gesammelte Werke, 23, 1–642. [The interpretation of dreams. Standard Edition, Vol. 4–5, 1–627. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1901). Über den Traum. Gesammelte Werke, 23, 645–700. [On dreams. Standard Edition, Vol. 5, pp. 633–686. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1905). Drie Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Gesammelte Werke, 5, 29–145. [Three essays on the theory of sexuality. Standard Edition, Vol. 7, pp. 130–243. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1909). Letter from Sigmund Freud to C. G. Jung, April 16, 1909. In: W. McGuire (Ed.), The Freud/Jung letters: The correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung, 1906–1914. (R. F. C. Hull & R. Mannheim (Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1994.

  • Freud, S. (1913). Das Interesse an der Psychoanalyse. Gesammelte Werke, 8, 390–420. [The claims of psychoanalysis to scientific interest. Standard Edition, Vol. 13, pp. 165–190. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1915a). Trieb und Triebschicksale. Gesammelte Werke, 10, 210–232. [Instincts and their vicissitudes. Standard Edition, Vol. 14, pp. 109–140. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1915b). Die Verdrängung. Gesammelte Werke, 10, 248–261. [Repression. Standard Edition, Vol. 14, pp. 146–158. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1915c). Das Unbewusste. Gesammelte Werke, 10, 264–303.[The unconscious. Standard Edition, Vol. 14, pp. 166–204. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S, (1915/1916–1917). Vorlesungen zur Einfürung in die Psychoanalyse. Gesammelte Werke, 11. [Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. Standard Edition, Vols. 15 &16. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1917). Eine Schwierikeit der Psychoanalyse. Gesammelte Werke, 12, 3–12. [A difficulty in the path of psychoanalysis. Standard Edition, Vol. 17, pp. 135–144. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1919). Wege der Psychoanalytischen Therapie. Gesammelte Werke, 12, 183–194. [Lines of advance in psychoanalytic therapy. Standard Edition, Vol. 17, pp. 157–168. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1920). One of the difficulties of psychoanalysis. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1, 17–23.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freud, S. (1922). “Psychoanalyse” und “Libidotheorie”. Gesammelte Werke, 13, pp. 209-233. London: Imago Publishing Co. Ltd. [Two encyclopedia articles. In Standard Edition, Vol. 18, pp. 233–260. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1924). Kurzer Abriss der Psychoanalyse. Gesammelte Werke, 13, 403–427. [A short account of psychoanalysis. Standard Edition, Vol. 19, pp. 189–210. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1925a). Selbstdarstellung. Gesammelte Werke, 14, 33–96. [An autobiographical study. Standard Edition, Vol. 20, pp. 7–74. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1925b). Die Widerstände gegen die Psychoanalyse. Gesammelte Werke, 14, 99–110. [Resistances to psychoanalysis. Standard Edition, Vol. 19, pp. 211–224. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1927a). Fetischismus. Gesammelte Werke, 14, 311–317. [Fetishism. Standard Edition, Vol. 21, pp. 147–158. London: Hogarth.].

  • Freud, S. (1927b). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Oskar Pfister, October 22, 1927. International Psycho-Analytical Library, 59, 112–113.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freud, S. (1933). Neue Folge der Vorlesungen zur Einführung in di psychoanalyse. Gesammelte Werke, 15. [New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis, Standard Edition, Vol. 22, pp. 5–182. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1937). Konstruktionen in der Analyse. Gesammelte Werke, 16, 43–56. [Constructions in analysis. Standard Edition, Vol. 23, pp. 255–270. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. (1938). Die Ichspaltung im Abwehrvorgang. Gesammelte Werke, 17, 59–62. [Splitting of the ego in the process of defence. Standard Edition, Vol. 23, pp. 271–278. London: Hogarth.]

  • Freud, S. & Pfister, O. (1909–1939). In H. Meng & E. L. Freud (Eds.), Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis and faith: Dialogues with the Reverend Oskar Pfister. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1963.

  • Gentile, J. (2015). On having no thoughts: Freedom and feminine space. Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 12(3), 227–251.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gentile, J. (2016). On spatial metaphors and free association: Phallic fantasy and vaginal primacy. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 52(1), 21–50.

    Google Scholar 

  • Green, A. (1974). Surface analysis, deep analysis (The role of the preconscious in psychoanalytical technique). International Review of Psychoanalysis, 1, 415–423. [Reprinted in On private madness. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. 1986.]

  • Grosz, E. (2017). The incorporeal: Ontology, ethics, and the limits of materialism. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heaton, J. M. (2014). Wittgenstein and psychotherapy: From paradox to wonder. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heidegger, M. (1944–1945). Conversation on a country path about thinking. In: M. Heidegger, Discourse on thinking. J. M. Anderson & E. H. Freund (Trans.). (pp. 58–90). New York, NY: Harper & Row. 1966. First published in 1959 in German: Gelassenheit. Pfullingen: Verlag Günther Neske.

  • Heller, M. C. (2012). Body psychotherapy: History, concepts, and methods. M. Duclos (Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

  • House, J. (2017). The ongoing discovery of après-coup as a central Freudian concept. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 65(5), 773–798.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • House, J., & Slotnick, J. (2015). Après-coup In French psychoanalysis: The long afterlife of Nachträglichkeit—The first hundred years, 1893 to 1993. Psychoanalytic Review, 102(5), 683–708.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Husserl, E. (1904–1911). The phenomenology of internal time consciousness. J. S. Churchill (Trans.). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 1964.

  • Irigaray, L. (1974). Speculum of the other woman. G. C. Gill (Trans.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1985.

  • Irigaray, L. (1977). This sex which is not one. C. Porter (Trans.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1985.

  • Irigaray, L. (1984). An ethics of sexual difference. C. Burke and G. C. Gill (Trans.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1993.

  • Isaacs, S. (1948). The nature of function and phantasy. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 29, 73–97.

    Google Scholar 

  • Karlsson, G. (2004). Psychoanalysis in a new light. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2010.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kirkland, R. (2004). Taoism: The enduring tradition. London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kohon, G. (1999). The greening of psychoanalysis: André Green in dialogues with Gregorio Kohon. In G. Kohon (Ed.), The dead mother: The work of André Green (pp. 10–58). Hove, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laplanche, J. (1987). New foundations for psychoanalysis. D. Macey (Trans.). Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell. 1989.

  • Laplanche, J. (1992–1993). In J. Fletcher (Ed.), Essays on otherness. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. 1999.

  • Laplanche, J. (2000–2006). Freud and the ‘Sexual’—Essays 2000–2006. J. Fletcher, J. House & N. Ray (Trans.). New York, NY: International Psychoanalytic Books. 2011.

  • Laplanche, J., & Stanton, M. (1991). Jean Laplanche talks to Martin Stanton. Free Associations, 2(3), 323–341.

    Google Scholar 

  • Layton, L., Hollander, N. C., & Gutwill, S. (Eds.). (2006). Psychoanalysis, class, and politics: Encounters in the clinical setting. London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leichsenring, F., Luyten, P., Hilsenroth, M. J., Abbass, A., Barber, J. P., Keefe, J. R., Leweke, F., Rabun, S., & Steinert, C. (2015). Psychodynamic therapy meets evidence-based medicine: A systematic review using updated criteria. Lancet Psychiatry, 2(7), 648–660.

  • Messer, S. B. (2013). Three mechanisms of change in psychodynamic therapy: Insight, affect, and alliance. Psychotherapy, 50(3), 408–412.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Nagel, T. (1986). The view from nowhere. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Quindeau, I. (2013). Seduction and desire: The psychoanalytic theory of sexuality since Freud. J. Bendix (Trans.). London, UK: Karnac.

  • Raju, P. T. (1985). Structural depths of Indian thought. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reiss, T. J. (1988). The uncertainty of analysis: Problems in truth, meaning, and culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sartre, J. P. (1943). Being and nothingness: An essay on phenomenological ontology. H. E. Barnes (Trans.). New York, NY: Washington Square Press. 1993.

  • Scarfone, D. (2015). The unpast: The actual unconscious. D. Bonnigal-Katz (Trans.). New York, NY: The Unconscious in Translation. 2017.

  • Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65(2), 98–109.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thompson, M. G. (2004). The ethic of honesty: The fundamental rule of psychoanalysis. New York, NY: Rodopi (Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies).

  • Vasco, G. (1978). Diderot and Goethe: A study in science and humanism. Paris: Libraire Champion.

    Google Scholar 

  • Verhaeghe, P. (2004). On being normal and other disorders: A manual for clinical psychodiagnostics. S. Jottkandt (Trans.). New York, NY: Other Press.

  • Wittgenstein, L. (1953). In G.E.M. Anscombe and R. Rhees (Eds. & Trans.). Philosophical investigations. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

  • Wittgenstein, L. (1958). The blue and brown books: Preliminary studies for the ‘philosophical investigations’. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

Dr. Barratt would like to thank Erik Gann and Julia June von Trebitsch for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper and to express his appreciation for conversations he had on these topics with Jill Gentile, Anton Kris and Dominique Scarfone at the 2020 Annual Conference of the American Psychoanalytic Association, where some of these ideas were presented.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Barnaby B. Barratt.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Barnaby B. Barratt, PhD, DHS ABPP, Senior Researcher, WITS Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Witwatersrand; Full-time psychoanalytic practice, Johannesburg. He was previously a Training Analyst with the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute and now serves as a Training Analyst with the South African Psychoanalytic Association as well as a Supervising Analyst with the Indian Psychoanalytic Society. Director of Studies at the Parkmore Institute, where he oversees the Doctorate in Psychoanalytic Studies.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Barratt, B.B. On Difference and the “Beyond Psychotherapy” of Psychoanalytic Method: The Pivotal Issue of Free-associative Discourse as De-repressive Praxis. Am J Psychoanal 81, 27–50 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-021-09283-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-021-09283-1

Keywords

  • free-association
  • de-repressive praxis
  • psychotherapy
  • psychoanalysis