An Unassuming Rationale for the Creation of a Research Journal of Psychoanalytic Studies

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Length: 37 minutes

Burton N. Seitler, PhD

Why does psychoanalysis need a scientific research journal? It must seem counter-intuitive to found yet another psychoanalytic journal in view of a proliferation of publications over the last three decades and the pressures to increase readership levels and quality submissions, but (1) a journal which specifically addresses psychoanalytic empirical research does not exist. We also need one for the following reasons: (2) to demonstrate that-- psychoanalysis as a theory has validity with regard to the existence of the unconscious, transference, countertransference, resistance, dream-work, free association, attachment, separation-individuation, castration anxiety, and a number of other psychoanalytic hypothetical constructs; (3) psychoanalytic praxis has demonstrable efficacy; (4) and to respond to “naysayers” who claim that psychoanalysis has no research to back up its claims, and even if it did, such claims are neither testable nor measurable, that is, they are not “falsifiable” (the so-called Popper critique). Nothing is further from the truth.

While Freud utilized free association, Jung developed word association and astutely observed that individuals took longer amounts of time to respond to certain words than to other words that seemed to have less of an emotional charge. He named these response latency phenomena, “complexes.” In fact, these delays in response time are measurable. In these simple two approaches, free association and word association, we see the first attempts to quantify what goes on in the interior of an individual. But others from the ranks of psychoanalysis would also produce significant empirical data. The works of Rene Spitz on hospitalism and infantile marasmus, Bowlby’s studies of attachment and loss, and Mahler’s research and film documentation of separation-individuation issues are examples of this. These were the earliest systematic attempts to understand the inner workings of the mind, but they would certainly not be the last.

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