The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process

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9780823616664: The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process

The Emergent Ego offers a new scientific approach to the psychoanalytic process based on revolutionary new findings in complexity theory and modern evolutionary theory. Its primary thesis is that adaptive change in the patient results from the coevolution of the therapeutic dyad in the analytic ecosystem. The application of complexity theory to the psychoanalytic process extends the power of psychoanalytic theory to account for the full range of events that characterize the therapeutic relationship.

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A rule of thumb for most psychoanalysts is that "activity" by the analyst should be minimized except for the quintessential analytic function of "interpretation." I hope The Emergent Ego leads to some important expansions of this heuristic. The act of interpretation is not limited to explanation by the analyst of possible unconscious meanings behind what the patient tells him; this function of interpretation is not its most important. Interpretation, or, more broadly, intervention by the analyst, is the analyst's way of fulfilling his role as a coevolutionary partner in the analytic process. It is essential to the progress of the analysis. A major part of the analyst's job is to track the progress of the analysis and to organize and update the analytic discourse. These tasks are as much a part of the analytic enterprise as the identification of unconscious fantasy. They require a kind of activity on the part of the analyst that has not been traditionally conceptualized as interpretation.

Any activity by the analyst is a potential intrusion on the patient's own thoughts. This is a serious issue, since many patients have had difficulty in separating their own thoughts from those of their primary caretakers. Analysts are rightly wary of activity that is not interpretive. The problem has been that their definition of interpretation was so narrow that it excluded activity of the analyst needed to make the analytic process succeed. Freud and other traditional analysts reacted vehemently to Ferenczi's misappropriation of the term active as a description of the analyst's role. In doing so they closed off the investigation of their own activity as traditional analysts.

Complexity theory and modern evolutionary theory are useful because they demonstrate that the analyst cannot help being active if the analysis is to work. The real question is not whether he should be active, or how active he should be, it is how he should be active. Is he active in the constructive way necessary to facilitate the analytic process or is he active in a way that opposes and diminishes it? The theory helps to answer this question by mapping out the process and locating many of the points at which the analyst's constructive intervention is essential to the unfolding of the process.

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Stanley R. Palombo, Stuart A. Kauffman (Foreword)
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