Thursday, May 11, 2006

Follies of the Wise

"...Crews, who lives in Berkeley, is a rationalist who believes above all in empirical study and has no patience for what he sees as the question-begging conclusions of psychoanalysis. Freud's central notion that psychological problems are caused by the repression of childhood sexual fantasies (usually a boy's for his mother or a girl's for her father, but not to exclude a healthy dollop of homosexual, oral and anal fixations) has never, Crews reminds us, been proved through sound controlled experimentation. And the clinical thesis that psychoanalysts can detect and tease out these buried memories is, Crews argues, fatally contaminated by the therapists' own suggestive probing.

More plainly: In a psychoanalytic consultation, the analyst will ignore most explanations for the patient's troubles in favor of the bizarre and the perverted. Through pointed, suggestive questioning, he will uncover (make up?) some seedy memories and describe them to the patient. In addition to recoiling in disgust at the therapist's own apparent fixation on such prurience, she will reject remembering any such thing. Freud's advice to therapists at this point is to bludgeon their way through -- "to repeat the pressure and represent ourselves as infallible" -- and refuse to take no for an answer. The patient will eventually own up to the memories and the diagnosis will be confirmed. Voila. Science..."