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Re: 20 questions for Fred, Adam, Erin, Noa, Tom, Siri

Posted by Adam on December 13, 1999, at 15:45:37

In reply to Re: 20 questions for Fred, Adam, Erin, Noa, Tom, Siri, posted by Morose on December 13, 1999, at 14:24:19


Again, I think you have some very good points. Freud's concept of the subconscious was a construct,
one that he rather lamely tried to explain as a logical necessity of intelligence and Darwinian
theory, with, of course, no evidence to support such a theory but his own subjective observations.
Freud was not a scientist, and I imagine psychoanalytical theory fails where it clings to Freudian
theory most tightly.

Be that as it may, the concept of an unconscious mind was a revolutionary deduction, and is something
that can and is under scientific scrutiny. We may very well be able to dispense with id and super-ego,
but we might find it more diffucult, given the evidence, to dispense with the notion that there are
forces that operate at a level below (or perhaps one should say parallel to) what we are cognizant of,
and that these forces can have a basis in biology and environment. The fact that medications can
effectively treat affective disorders does not preclude the existance of the"subconscious".

I offer a couple abstracts below, to demonstrate the point. One was published in the journal Nature,
which is arguably the most respected and prestigious scientific publication on the planet. I could
provide many more ad nauseum, but you get the point: people do real science to probe unconscious
which have a basis in biology. The second is an example, I think, that psychoanalysts are very much
aware of the concerns you have mentioned, recognize the deficits of psychoanalytic theory, and are
attempting to evolve to keep pace with the progress of other disciplines and remain relevant. They do
get it.

Suggestions you are an asshole are unfortunate. I might point out that your questions were posed in a
distincly rhetorical manner, and in a couple places you seem to be commanding people to "do their
homework," which is a bit pugilistic. I'm guilty of this at times too, as are many here. It's an
unfortunate symptom of the lack of face-to-face contact that simultaneously disinhibits us and leaves
us vulnerable to projections and misinterpretations. I don't wish to chide, but to inform.

Nature 1998 Oct 8;395(6702):597-600

Imaging unconscious semantic priming.

Dehaene S, Naccache L, Le Clec'H G, Koechlin E, Mueller M, Dehaene-Lambertz G, van de Moortele PF, Le Bihan D

INSERM U.334, Service Hospitalier Frederic Joliot, CEA/DRM/DSV, Orsay, France.

Visual words that are masked and presented so briefly that they cannot be seen may nevertheless facilitate the subsequent processing of related words, a phenomenon
called masked priming. It has been debated whether masked primes can activate cognitive processes without gaining access to consciousness. Here we use a
combination of behavioural and brain-imaging techniques to estimate the depth of processing of masked numerical primes. Our results indicate that masked stimuli have a
measurable influence on electrical and haemodynamic measures of brain activity. When subjects engage in an overt semantic comparison task with a clearly visible target
numeral, measures of covert motor activity indicate that they also unconsciously apply the task instructions to an unseen masked numeral. A stream of perceptual,
semantic and motor processes can therefore occur without awareness.

Am J Psychother 1999 Winter;53(1):52-9

The fate of the unconscious in future psychotherapy.

Grotstein JS

Department of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine, USA.

It is important in these changing times to reconsider the psychoanalytic conception of the unconscious and the phantasmal mental life that occupies it--so that we can
recalibrate our clinical work with it. It is the foundation of all our endeavors. Recent developments in neurobiology, combined with a more pragmatic intersubjective
approach in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, have marginalized the status of the unconscious in the eyes of many mental health professionals. Moreover,
considerations of realistic childhood traumata and neglect are being more and more counterposed to the traditional concept of the infantile neurosis. What is at stake is a
dismissal of a concept that is still of enormous importance, yet one that has been too little understood. What is required is a dual-track conception in which an interplay
can be seen to be taking place between the unconscious, neurobiology, and trauma in the intrasubjective as well as in the intersubjective matrix.

> Tom,
> Thank you for your response.
> A couple of commentators viewed my questions as being condescending and argumentative, and I apologize for that. I had meant for them to illustrate the oddness of the notion of a psychodynamic unconscious and of the psychiatrist/patient relationship. I also realize that viewing psychotherapy as an intellectual adventure can seem very glib to someone in acute pain. At the risk of flogging a dead duck, I will recap the issues that interest me.
> 1. I believe the very notion of a psychodynamic unconscious mind is what the French pointy-heads call a construct, invented by Sigmund Freud about 100 years ago, which construct has pervaded culture to such an extent that it is nearly universally taken for granted. A psychodynamic unconscious is necessary to most talk therapy, but is unnecessary to neurobiology, behavioral genetics, evolutionary psychology, psychopharmacology and as I understand it, types of cognitive therapy. I suggest that if one had never been taught the concept of a psychodynamic unconscious, there would be nothing either in oneís experience or in science absent Freud to suggest the existence of one. I believe a psychodynamic unconscious simply does not exist, and we would do well to dispense with the concept. Furthermore, the world I am conscious of is so thoroughly scary that resort to a frightened unconscious is superfluous. On a personal level, my childhood was utterly unremarkable and, to me, unrelated to my adult mental problems; even so, the psychiatrists I consulted pressed psychotherapy on all their patients (not just me), moreover, as a condition to a prescription for drugs that completely eliminated my mental problems without psychotherapy (I realize I am lucky that my ailments are alleviated solely by medicine). I believe those psychiatrists have an economic interest in the existence of a psychodynamic unconscious.
> 2. A shared belief in the existence of the unconscious mind dictates a very peculiar relationship between a psychiatrist and patient. Only the fortune-teller can see into the crystal ball, and only the shrink can see into the patientís unconscious. In any ordinary adult discourse, one brings to the party sovereignty over oneís intellect, good-faith skepticism, a consideration of alternatives, a willingness to explain oneself when asked and an expectation that others do likewise, good manners, common sense, and a reciprocal exchange ideas and confidences. None of those qualities necessarily pertain to a psychiatrist/patient discourse. For example, roughly half the responses to my postings here are words to the effect that I am a trivial, bad-mannered asshole, and thatís okay! Thatís the way people communicate; but I wonder, would those so quick to call bullshit on me be just as quick to call bullshit on their shrinks. I hope so.
> Regards,
> Morose




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