Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross?

Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross?

by Joseph Schachter


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Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? by Joseph Schachter

The theory of transference and the centrality of its interpretation have been hallmarks of psychoanalysis since its inception. But the time has come to subject traditional theory and practice to careful, critical scrutiny in the light of contemporary science. So holds Joseph Schachter, whose Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? undertakes this timely and thought-provoking task.

Schachter begins by surveying the nonclinical grounds of Freud's belief that his theories of neurotic development could be demonstrated through historical reconstruction based on the patient's participation in the treatment relationship. By identifying the weaknesses and inconsistencies in Freud's premises, Schachter sets the stage for reviewing the potentially devastating findings of contemporary developmental research. He demonstrates how this research across a variety of domains effectively overturns any theory that posits a linear deterministic relationship between early children and adult psychic functioning, including the adult patient's treatment behavior toward the analyst. No less trenchantly, he shows how contemporary chaos theory complements developmental research by making the very endeavor of historical reconstruction - of backward prediction - intellectually suspect on purely logical grounds. Nor, Schachter continues, has the clinical evidence normally adduced in support of transference theory provided the firm bedrock of data that most analysts suppose to exist. What one finds, he holds, are endlessly reiterated claims of identifying determining historical antecedents sustained only by descriptions of current behaviors through a gloss of theory.

In short, the traditional theory of transference, once a valuable heuristic aid, now entangles the modern analyst in scientifically insupportable and therapeutically irrelevant assumptions that cloud our understanding of treatment. As an alternative, Schachter proffers a view of psychoanalytic treatment characterized by an openness to investigate unconscious factors in the context of what he terms Habitual Relationship Patterns as they emerge in the present interaction. He concludes by showing how this revised appreciation of the past can be applied clinically without sacrificing the broadened scope of inquiry provided by a psychoanalytic understanding of unconscious dynamics.

Less a polemic than a call to order, Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? is cogently argued and straightforwardly written. It is destined to be a thorn in the side of analysts who resist change and a spur to those who seek to bring analytic theory into closer alignment with contemporary science in the interest of improved treatment efficacy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781138009776
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 02/05/2015
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Joseph Schachter, M.D., Ph.D., was trained as a clinical psychologist in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University, obtained his medical degree from New York University - Bellevue Medical School, and received his psychoanalytic training at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. In mid-career he spent a number of years in full-time physiological research with infants and children. He subsequently returned to psychoanalytic practice, and was a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Institute. Recently retired, Dr. Schachter now resides in New York City.

Table of Contents

1. Transference and the Psychoanalytic Identity
2. Causation in "Transference" Theory: Historical Origins
3. Origins of Sexual Etiology
4. Problems with the Theory of "Transference"
5. Infant Determinism: Trauma, Temperament, and Attachment
6. "Transference" Theory and Chaos Theory
7. Problems with the Clinical Application of "Transference" Theory
8. Nachtraglichkeit
9. Habitual . . . What? An Alternative to "Transference"
10. A Theory of Technique
11. A Psychoanalytic Treatment Without "Transference"
12. "Transference" and the Posttermination Relationship

What People are Saying About This

Adolf Grünbaum

Adolf Grünbaum, Ph.D., Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science and Research Profession of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh
This book by a distinguished psychoanalyst eloquently advocates a major transformation of the psychoanalytic enterprise. It is a very important contribution to a rational dialogue between psychoanalysis and its unsparing critics. Highlights of the book are the disavowal of the received etiologic theory of transference, and a challenge to the venerable tenet that durably effective treatment of a psychiatric disorder requires the therapist's knowledge of its etiology. Indeed, it is a very timely work.

Owen Renik

Owen Renik, M.D., San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute
Schachter shows us the direction that must be taken if psychoanalysis is to have a future as an effective clinical method and a serious intellectual discipline. He has the courage and independence of mind to call into question fundamental components of received wisdom, unsupported assumptions that have long hobbled free inquiry in our field. Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? is a must for anyone interested in the development of a sensible and humane psychoanalysis.

Robert S. Wallerstein

Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D. Past President, American Psychoanalytic Association and International Psychoanalytical Association
Schachter provides us with a searching and provocative exploration of the classical conceptualization of the transference as a 'transfer' of past experience and disposition into present relationships, along with a plea to replace this construct with the notion of Habitual Relationship Patterns as they operate in the present. Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? represents a fully logical extension of the ongoing shift in contemporary analytic discourse from the precepts of a one-person psychology to the relational turn into the precepts of a two-person psychology. It has significant implications for our conception of transference and our understanding of psychoanalytic technique and is important reading for all those concerned - pro and con - with what is happening to traditional psychoanalytic theory today.

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