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Int J Psychoanal. 1988;69 ( Pt 1):5-21.

One psychoanalysis or many?

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  • 1Langley-Porter Institute, San Francisco, California 94143.


This paper describes the historic development of psychoanalysis, the singular product of the genius of one man, Sigmund Freud, and which he made such strenuous efforts through his lifetime to maintain as a unified enterprise, defining out dissidents (like Adler, Jung, etc.), into what has become in the almost half-century since his death a science and a discipline characterized by an increasing diversity or pluralism, of theoretical perspectives, of linguistic and thought conventions, and of distinctive regional, cultural, and language emphases. I discuss both the understanding of this theoretical diversity and what, in the face of it, holds us together as common adherents of a shared psychoanalytic science and profession. My thesis is that what unites us is our shared focus on the clinical interactions in our consulting rooms, the phenomena encompassed by the 'present unconscious' (the Sandlers) or the 'clinical theory' (George Klein). When we look beyond that to an explanatory structure within which to conceptualize the genetic-developmental process, normal and abnormal mental functioning, psychopathology and its reversal (cure) i.e. the realm of the 'past unconscious' or the 'general theory', we posit our various theoretical, linguistic or thought perspectives, i.e.--at this stage of our historical development--our metaphors or our various explanatory symbolisms. Some implications of this viewing of our various theoretical perspectives in psychoanalysis (ego psychological, object-relational, self-psychological, Kleinian, Bionian, Lacanian, etc.) as but metaphoric expressions, are reviewed.

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