Narration in the Psychoanalytic Dialogue

Critical Inquiry 7 (1):29-53 (1980)
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The primary narrative problem of the analyst is, then, not how to tell a normative chronological life history; rather, it is how to tell the several histories of each analysis. From this vantage point, the event with which to start the model analytic narration is not the first occasion of thought—Freud's wish-fulfilling hallucination of the absent breast; instead, one should start from a narrative account of the psychoanalyst's retelling of something told by an analysand and the analysand's response to that narrative transformation. In the narration of this moment of dialogue lies the structure of the analytic past, present, and future. It is from this beginning that the accounts of early infantile development are constructed. Those traditional developmental accounts, over which analysts labored so hard, may now be seen in a new light: less as positivistic sets of factual findings about mental development and more as hermeneutically filled-in narrative structures. The narrative structures that have been adopted control the telling of the events of the analysis, including the many tellings and retellings of the analysand's life history. The time is always present. The event is always an outgoing dialogue. Roy Schafer is clinical professor of psychology and psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College, adjunct professor of psychology at New York University, and a supervising and training analyst at Columbia University's Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He is the author of A New Language for Psychoanalysis, Language and Insight, and Narrative Actions in Psychoanalysis: Narratives of Space and Narratives of Time



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