Generativity Versus Stagnation

Troubled by the state of "stagnation" in psychoanalytic pedagogy, in Kernberg's (1986) ideal model, candidates would have to be exposed to and educated with a critical sense regarding all theories and techniques ... and would have to accept the uncertainty resulting from a critical examination of all knowledge, theories, and procedures in the light of all available evidence. (p. 827)

They "would have to absorb not only Freud's writings, but also those of psychoanalysts who reached theoretical and/or technical conclusions that differ from Freud's" (Kernberg, 1986, p. 811). A comparative-integrative curriculum meets these requirements. Students not only tolerate the uncertainty entailed but actually find the process challenging and satisfying.

Sharing Kernberg's concerns, Michels (1998) stated that

The dominant current institute structure is designed ideally to protect known truths, but not designed ideally to examine them, nor to modify and develop them. We may expect to see institute structures that are more attuned to these latter goals. (p. 5)

Enter the comparative-integrative structure. It fulfills all the new aims deemed essential by Michels. Through its dialectical method, it simultaneously preserves, negates, and transforms established "truths."

The comparative-integrative philosophy has a stimulating, beneficial impact not only on candidates but also on faculty. Teachers become familiar with perspectives other than those they have habitually favored. This encounter may be unsettling, but there is usually a positive attitude toward such growing pains. Faculty begin to look inside conceptual doors they had never opened and others that had been closed prematurely. Instructors who dialogued mostly with "their own kind" become open to and interested in new conversations. Crossing boundaries, they discover new possibilities. As one senior teacher expressed it after a lively, challenging seminar, "I now know what I do not know." His comment reflected an educational ambience coconstructed with candidates, evoking useful, Socratic humility and commitment to continuing learning.

Instructors study articles assigned by faculty leading the seminar before or after them. They consider how their readings, clinical data, theoretical formulations, and interventions might be similar or different, how they might be integrated, obstacles to such synthesis, and so forth. The curriculum thus fosters fertilization as opposed to what Kernberg (1986) described as the more common "cross-sterilization." This latter quality is manifest in the suspicious and envious way in which new ideas are received, faculty fearfulness of expressing new ideas that might challenge local dogma, and the general collusion in public applause of rehashed formulations, while privately many depreciate the monotonous repetition of concepts that, by the same token, also reassure the faculty that nothing new is threatening their present convictions. (p. 806)

Kernberg's concern with stagnation was taken in different directions and amplified ominously by Meehl (1993): "Increasing heterogeneity and the unanswered challenges to technique and doctrine suggest that psychoanalysis may be a degenerating program" (p. 299), he warned. Several years later, a psychoanalytic researcher, Bornstein (2001), proclaimed even more bluntly that "Psychoanalysis is dying, and maybe it should" (p. 3).

From our perspective, it is only the lack of creative dialogue between viewpoints that is ominous, degenerative, and moribund. A comparative-integrative curriculum fears neither heterogeneity nor challenges to technique and doctrine. In fact, it welcomes both to ensure fructifying discourse and generative synthesis. If psychoanalysis is or was dying, the comparative-integrative perspective predicts a rousing resurrection.

Institutes must see their task as the creation of knowledge rather than simply transmission, Kernberg (1993) asserted. Seminars should stimulate new ideas. Candidates and faculty should be encouraged and rewarded for contributing to the development of psychoanalytic science, he said. A comparative-integrative curriculum fosters—even forces—such creative thinking. It stirs fertile ground in the minds of candidates and teachers in which new ideas are likely to take root and grow. We expect our model will stimulate increasing contributions from candidates, graduates, and faculty. There is some evidence it is already having this effect on students. For example, in Society scientific meetings during one recent year, half the presentations were by senior candidates.

The task posed by this curriculum is as challenging to faculty as it is to students. Rather than simply being delivered and received, knowledge is cogener-ated by teachers and candidates. Struggling to master this perspective, faculty are perceived, and view themselves, not only as instructors but also as students and investigators. Faculty and candidates feel, like Modell (1985),

We are now ready to begin the task that will be completed by future generations; that is, to step outside our respective traditions, to find areas of common agreement and understanding that have been masked by the idiosyncratic language and concepts of a particular "school." (pp. 99-100)

Reverberations and Amplifications

Among contemporary critiques of psychoanalytic pedagogy, we devoted particular attention to Kernberg's because it was clear, strong, and by no means idiosyncratic. His reveille resonated with plaints from leading educators around the world. Summarizing the Fifth IPA Conference of Training Analysts, "Between Chaos and Petrifaction: Problems in the Integration of Different Theoretico-Clinical Frameworks in the Formation of the Psychoanalyst," Wallerstein (1993) reported, "What is shared by these seven quite disparate presentations from so many ideologically and geographically diverse quarters is a widespread dissatisfaction with so many aspects of, and so many consequences of, the operation of our extant tripartite training structure" (p. 177).

Although participants at that symposium favored introducing greater diversity into curricula, they were not very specific as to how this could or should be done. Believing pluralism enriched education, de Saussure felt models needed to be taught by people believing in them. If an institute lacked such individuals, it should invite visiting speakers. Points of disagreement could be debated in scientific meetings. Like Strachey so long ago, Kligerman espoused equal teaching of all perspectives. Apart from such general support for change, there was a dearth of detail as to how diversification might actually be accomplished. In contrast, the comparative-integrative approach provides a clear model of how one might redress these fundamental problems in ways that far exceed interest in, tolerance of, or even considerable appreciation of multiplicity.

Outside a comparative-integrative perspective, pluralism may have woefully little to do with integration. "In much of Latin America psychoanalytic pedagogy is directed toward the candidates learning several methods of practicing psychoanalysis in anticipation that the candidates, in time, will select a method that best matches the candidates' emotional and intellectual needs" (Calder, 1998, p. 71). In like manner, Bernardi and Nieto (1989, as cited in Calder, 1998) advocated "a pluralistic atmosphere which will allow each candidate to adopt his preferred theory" (p. 72). According to Rangell (2000),

Almost all institutes today ... appeal to potential candidates with the promise to represent all theories equally in their training. In the spirit of democracy, the students then gravitate to the theoretical system with which they feel the most personal kinship. (p. 452)

Although there may be diversity in such curricula—a major advance over repressive, monolithic structures—there is little emphasis on rigorous, critical thinking and especially, dialectical synthesis. In our program, we can live reasonably comfortably with the idea that some of our graduates may come to or continue to primarily embrace one particular paradigm, but that is not our ideal outcome.

At the previously referred to Training Conference, Infante (in Wallerstein, 1993) articulated some of the crucial questions:

How is it possible in the teaching of psychoanalysis to reconcile the need to maintain a solid common foundation with the necessary openness to new ideas, which is an essential condition for scientific progress? ... To achieve this goal, "It is necessary not only to reaffirm the spirit of pluralism and tolerance but to structure our institutions so as to ensure that this spirit prevails. (p. 172)

Infante did not specify how one might organize institutes to achieve these ends. I believe it necessary to spell out practical means for accomplishing these desiderata. Otherwise, they will remain lofty, but unrealized dreams. We must develop prototypes and then expose them to discussion, critique, evaluation, reality testing, refining, improving, and replacing as experience dictates. Otherwise, we may stay forever arrested at the point Anna Freud advocated over a half century ago, namely, that although an open forum might seem reasonable and tempting, it probably could not be carried out and might be dangerous to the existence of institutes. In contrast to A. Freud's conservative pessimism, we situate ourselves closer to Gedo's (1984) more optimistic, experimental outlook: "We are most likely to emerge from our time of troubles if a hundred flowers are indeed allowed to bloom and if the most viable alternatives are given an opportunity to prove themselves in action" (p. 170).

Moving far beyond generalities, I furnished a model balancing tradition and innovation. My concern with that very tension occupied the first half of this book. In the second half, I demonstrated one way institutes can not only affirm pluralism but actually enshrine it and something greater—that is, a challenging, comparative-integrative philosophy—at the core of their values, modus operandi, and being. I have also shown how one can create a curriculum to ensure that this vitalizing spirit prevails. Although there may be other ways of accomplishing these aims, they do not seem to have been detailed in the sparse literature devoted to this topic. This model may stimulate others to develop and share their seeds, their incipient ideas on these matters so that we may be privileged to witness the glorious spectacle of a hundred tall flowers sprouting up in the analytic garden.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment