The psychiatric diagnostic system, as exemplified by the DSM, is a pseudo-scientific framework for diagnosing sick Cartesian isolated minds. As such, it completely overlooks the exquisite context sensitivity and radical context dependence of human emotional life and of all forms of emotional disturbance. In Descartes’s vision, the mind is a “thinking thing,” ontologically decontextualized, fundamentally separated from its world. Heidegger’s existential phenomenology mended this Cartesian subject-object split, unveiling our Being as always already contextualized, a Being-in-the-world. Here I offer a critique (...) of studies in “phenomenological psychopathology” that presuppose the validity of the psychiatric diagnostic system and leave it unchallenged. In this vein, I contend that all emotional disturbances are constituted in an indissoluble context of human interrelatedness. Specifically, I claim that all emotional disturbances, including those objectified by the DSM, take form in relational contexts of severe emotional trauma. There are no psychiatric entities, only devastating contexts. Additionally, I show that Heidegger’s analyses of Angst, world-collapse, uncanniness, and thrownness into Being-toward-death provide extraordinary philosophical tools for grasping the existential significance of such contexts of emotional trauma. Applying Heidegger’s concept of authenticity, I suggest that emotional health entails an ease of passage—i.e., an absence of dissociation—between the world of trauma and the world of everydayness. (shrink)
Stolorow and his collaborators' post-Cartesian psychoanalytic perspective – intersubjective-systems theory – is a phenomenological contextualism that illuminates worlds of emotional experience as they take form within relational contexts. After outlining the evolution and basic ideas of this framework, Stolorow shows both how post-Cartesian psychoanalysis finds enrichment and philosophical support in Heidegger's analysis of human existence, and how Heidegger's existential philosophy, in turn, can be enriched and expanded by an encounter with post-Cartesian psychoanalysis. In doing so, he creates an important psychological (...) bridge between post-Cartesian psychoanalysis and existential philosophy in the phenomenology of emotional trauma. (shrink)
Scharff’s study of Heidegger’s earlier lectures and their debt to Dilthey’s phenomenology allow one to recognize the Diltheyan influences that pervade Being and Time, undistracted by Husserl’s super-Cartesianism.
For more than four decades, George Atwood and I have been absorbed in rethinking psychoanalysis as a form of phenomenological inquiry. In the course of this work, I repeatedly made the claim that phenomenology led us inexorably to relationality, but until now I did not offer an explanation of this inexorability. In this article, I show that emotional phenomenology and relationality always already form an indissoluble unity, because relationality is constitutive of emotional experience.
Trauma and Human Existence effectively interweaves two themes central to emotional trauma--the first pertains to the contextuality of emotional life in general, and of the experience of emotional trauma in particular, and the second pertains to the recognition that the possibility of emotional trauma is built into the basic constitution of human existence. This volume traces how both themes interconnect, largely as they crystallize in the author’s personal experience of traumatic loss. As discussed in the book's final chapter, whether or (...) not this constitutive possibility will be brought lastingly into the foreground of our experiential world depends on the relational contexts in which we live. (shrink)
The author develops the claim that humans characteristically maintain a sense of protectedness by creating various forms of metaphysical illusion, replacing the tragic finitude and transience of human existence with a permanent and eternally changeless reality. One such illusion forms around planet earth itself, transformed into an indestructible metaphysical entity. It has become increasingly difficult, in the face of the ravages of climate change, to maintain the illusion of earth’s indestructibility, and with it, a sense of safety. The author refers (...) to the feelings evoked by the crumbling of metaphysical illusion as Apocalyptic anxiety¬—the dread of the end of human civilization. This Apocalyptic dread needs to be confronted (not evaded) in a comportment of dwelling—with our vulnerable planet and with our vulnerable fellow human beings. (shrink)
This essay joins Wilhelm Dilthey’s conception of the metaphysical impulse as a flight from the tragedy of human finitude with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s understanding of how language bewitches intelligence. We contend that there are features of the phenomenology of language that play a constitutive and pervasive role in the formation of metaphysical illusion.
This article examines the relationship between totalitarianism and the metaphysical illusions on which it rests. Phenomenological investigation is claimed to loosen the grip of totalitarian ideology by exposing its origins in the “resurrective” illusions that seek to overcome the impact of collective trauma. Phenomenology is thus shown to have emancipatory power.
Summary of claims: (1) One of the most important relationships between the ontical and the ontological in Heidegger’s thought is the central, ontologically revelatory role that he gives to moods. (2) Heidegger uses the word “mood” as a term of art to refer to the whole range of disclosive affectivity. (3) Because of the role that Heidegger grants to mood as a primordial way of disclosing Being-in-the-world, and because it is impossible to think mood without also thinking the lived body, (...) Heidegger has placed the latter at the center of Dasein’s disclosedness. (4) Heidegger’s account of mood thus entails and highlights, rather than neglects, the ontological significance of the body. (shrink)
If the task of a post-Cartesian psychoanalysis is understood as one of exploring the patterns of emotional experience that organize subjective life, one can recognize that this task is pursued within a framework of delimiting assumptions concerning the ontology of the person. In this paper, we discuss these assumptions as they have emerged in the thinking of four major philosophers on whom we have drawn: Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Martin Heidegger. Our purpose in what follows is to (...) describe essential ideas of these various thinkers and to identify the formative personal contexts within which their key insights into human life took form. By psychologically contextualizing philosophical assumptions, we hope to make progress toward discerning the particularization of scope that may be associated with these assumptions, and hence to begin a further opening up of the horizons of understanding that inevitably encircle psychoanalytic inquiry. (shrink)
In this review essay, the author commends Matthew Ratcliffe for his masterful and highly valuable account of the emotional phenomenology of existential change—of shifts in our experience of belonging to a shared world of possibilities—but criticizes him for his commitments to two frameworks that are actually extraneous and inimical to his project and that perpetuate remnants of Cartesian isolated-mind thinking—Husserlian ‘‘pure phenomenology’’ and traditional diagnostic psychiatry. The author contends that Ratcliffe’s devotion to a decontextualizing psychiatric language in particular conceals the (...) contexts of severe emotional trauma in which the existential feelings that he so beautifully elucidates take form. (shrink)
The as-structure provided by language, even in the sciences, is always constitutive of experience and never merely designative. “From Saying…it comes to pass that the World is made to appear” (Heidegger 1971 : 101).
This article elaborates a claim, first introduced by Wilhelm Dilthey, that metaphysics represents an illusory flight from the tragedy of human finitude. Metaphysics, of which psychoanalytic metapsychologies are a form, transforms the unbearable fragility and transience of all things human into an enduring, permanent, changeless reality, an illusory world of eternal truths. Three “clinical cases” illustrate this thesis in the work and lives of a philosopher and two psychoanalytic theorists: Friedrich Nietzsche and his metaphysical doctrine of the eternal return of (...) the same, Sigmund Freud and his dual instinct theory, and Heinz Kohut and his theoretical language of the self. It is contended that the best safeguard against the pitfalls of metaphysical illusion lies in a shared commitment to reflection on the constitutive contexts of all our theoretical ideas. (shrink)
Nietzsche’s doctrine of the eternal return of the same, seen through the lens of Heidegger’s interpretation, captures the groundlessness of existence in a technological world devoid of normative significance. The author contends that the temporality depicted poetically in the thought of eternal return is the traumatic temporality of human finitude, to which Nietzsche was exposed at the age of 4 when the death of his father shattered his world. Nietzsche’s metaphysical position is seen as a metaphorical window into the phenomenology (...) of finitude and of the struggle to overcome it. (shrink)
Presents the author's reflections on Derrida's philosophical insights concerning the interrelationships among friendship, fidelity, human finitude, and mourning, and the implications of these insights for "relationalizing" Heidegger's conception of finitude.
In this paper I offer some existential-phenomenological reflections on the interrelationships among the forms of love, loss, and human finitude. I claim that authentic Being-toward-death entails owning up not only to one’s own finitude, but also to the finitude of all those we love. Hence, authentic Being-toward-death always includes Being-toward-loss as a central constituent. Just as, existentially, we are “always dying already,” so too are we always already grieving. Death and loss are existentially equiprimordial. I extend these claims to a (...) discussion of the four forms of love identified by the ancient Greeks, contending that the nature of a loss experience will depend complexly on the forms or dimensions of love that had constituted the lost relationship. I argue that authentic solicitude can be shown to entail one of the constitutive dimensions of deep human bonding, in which we value the alterity of the other as it is manifested in his or her own distinctive affectivity, in particular, in those painful emotional states disclosive of authentic existing. Lastly, I explore the ethical implications of these claims. (shrink)
This paper describes the important role of our deep immersions in philosophy in the development of our phenomenological-contextualist approach to psychoanalysis. Influenced most particularly by the phenomenological movement, our collaborative dialogue over more than four decades has led us to a shared commitment to reflection upon the philosophical underpinnings and constitutive contexts of origin of all our theoretical ideas. The growth of our thinking follows an endlessly recurring phenomenological circle joining theoretical perspectives with the inquirers from whose emotional worlds they (...) arise. (shrink)
After a brief overview of the author's phenomenological-contextualist psychoanalytic perspective, the paper traces the evolution of the author’s conception of emotional trauma over the course of three decades, as it developed in concert with his efforts to grasp his own traumatized states and his studies of existential philosophy. The author illuminates two of trauma’s essential features: (1) its context-embeddedness—painful or frightening affect becomes traumatic when it cannot find a context of emotional understanding in which it can be held and integrated, (...) and (2) its existential significance—emotional trauma shatters our illusions of safety and plunges us into an authentic Being-toward-death, wherein we must face up to our finitude and the finitude of all those we love. The paper also describes the impact of trauma on the phenomenology of time and the sense of alienation from others that accompanies traumatic temporality. The author contends that the proper therapeutic comportment toward trauma is a form of emotional dwelling. He concludes with a discussion of the implications of all these formulations for the development of an ethics of finitude. (shrink)
This article explores the philosophies of Heidegger and Wittgenstein to illustrate the thesis that philosophy is a human activity exhibiting a unity of investigative and therapeutic aims. For both philosophers, the purpose of philosophical concepts is to point toward a path of transformation rather than to explain. For both, a first step on this path is the recognition of constraining illusions, whether conventional or metaphysical. For both, such illusions are sedimented in linguistic practices, and for both, philosophical investigation is a (...) way of emancipating thought and life from illusion by bringing what is already prereflectively understood into the light of thematic explicitness. And what both philosophers bring into thematic explicitness are aspects of the context-embeddedness and finitude of human existence. It is hoped that comparing the works of these two philosophers will unveil features of each that are more difficult to discern in the works of either considered in isolation. (shrink)
The process of bringing the visceral, bodily aspect of emotional experience into language plays a vital role in the working through of painful emotional states. Such visceral-linguistic unities are achieved in a dialogue of emotional understanding, and it is in such dialogue that experiences of emotional trauma can be held and transformed into endurable and namable painful feelings. The blues is a wonderful example of such dialogue. In the unifying experience of the blues, songwriter, performers, and listeners are joined in (...) a visceral-linguistic conversation in which universally traumatizing aspects of human existence can be communally held and borne. (shrink)
In this article I draw on some personal experiences of my own as a springboard for a theoretical discussion of the contextuality of the several varieties of unconsciousness and, in particular, of a form of unconsciousness that I propose to call the ontological unconscious.
The author's phenomenological-contextualist psychoanalytic perspective, characterized as a form of applied philosophy, investigates and illuminates worlds of emotional experience and the constitutive intersubjective contexts in which they take form.
Kohut’s lasting and most important contribution to psychoanalytic clinical theory was his recognition that the experiencing of selfhood is always constituted, both developmentally and in psychoanalytic treatment, in a context of emotional interrelatedness. The experiencing of selfhood, he realized, or of its collapse, is context-embedded through and through. The theoretical language of self psychology with its noun, “the self,” reifies the experiencing of selfhood and transforms it into a metaphysical entity with thing-like properties, in effect undoing Kohut’s hard-won clinical contextualizations. (...) The language of such decontextualizing objectifications bewitches intelligence in order to evade the tragic dimension of finite human existing. (shrink)
In A Question of Time , Joel Pearl offers a new reading of the foundations of psychoanalytic thought, indicating the presence of an essential lacuna that has been integral to psychoanalysis since its inception. Pearl returns to the moment in which psychoanalysis was born, demonstrating how Freud had overlooked one of the most principal issues pertinent to his method: the question of time. The book shows that it is no coincidence that Freud had never methodically and thoroughly discussed time and (...) that the metaphysical assumption of linear time lies at the very heart of Freudian psychoanalysis. Pearl’s critical reading of Freud develops through an original dialogue that he creates with the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and, specifically, with the German philosopher’s notion of temporality. Pearl traces the encounter between Freud and Heidegger by observing the common inspiration shaping their thinking: philosopher Franz Brentano, who taught both Freud and Edmund Husserl, Heidegger’s mentor. The book travels down an alternate path, one overlooked by Freudian thought – a path leading from Brentano, through Husserl and onto Heidegger’s notion of time, which is founded on the ecstatic’ interrelation of past, present and future. (shrink)
The dual aim of this article is to show both how Heidegger’s existential philosophy enriches post-Cartesian psychoanalysis and how post-Cartesian psychoanalysis enriches Heidegger’s existential philosophy. Characterized as a phenomenological contextualism, post-Cartesian psychoanalysis finds philosophical grounding in Heidegger’s ontological contextualism, condensed in his term for the human kind of Being, Being-in-the-world. Specifically, Heidegger provides philosophical support (a) for a theoretical and clinical shift from mind to world, from the intrapsychic to the intersubjective; (b) for a shift from the motivational primacy of (...) drives originating in the interior of a Cartesian isolated mind to the motivational primacy of relationally constituted affective experience; and (c) for contextualizing and grasping the existential significance of emotional trauma, which plunges us into a form of Being-toward-death. Post-Cartesian psychoanalysis, in turn, (a) relationalizes Heidegger’s conception of finitude, (b) expands Heidegger’s conception of relationality, and (c) explores some ethical implications of our kinship-in-finitude. (shrink)
In an article in JAPA 64/3, Lawrence Friedman addresses a question he takes as his title: “Is There a Usable Heidegger for Psychoanalysts?” I am happy to report that this question has already been answered in my own work with a resounding “Yes”!
Structures of Subjectivity: Explorations in Psychoanalytic Phenomenology and Contextualism, is a revised and expanded second edition of a work first published in 1984, which was the first systematic presentation of the intersubjective viewpoint – what George Atwood and Robert Stolorow called psychoanalytic phenomenology – in psychoanalysis. This edition contains new chapters tracing the further development of their thinking over the ensuing decades and explores the personal origins of their most essential ideas. In this new edition, Atwood and Stolorow cover the (...) philosophical and theoretical assumptions of psychoanalysis and present a broad approach that they have designated phenomenological contextualism. This approach addresses personal subjective worlds in all their richness and idiosyncrasy and focuses on their relational contexts of origin and therapeutic transformation. (shrink)
In this essay, I extend my conception of emotional trauma as a shattering of the tranquilizing “absolutisms of everyday life” that shield us from our finitude and our existential vulnerability, to a consideration of collective trauma. Using the collective trauma of 9/11 and its aftermath as my prime example, I illustrate how traumatized people fall prey to “resurrective ideologies” that promise to restore the sheltering illusions that have been lost. I suggest that an alternative to these grandiose illusions can be (...) found in our “kinship-in-finitude.”. (shrink)
In this article I chronicle the emergence of two interrelated themes that crystallized in my investigations of emotional trauma during the more than 16 years that followed my own experience of traumatic loss. One pertains to the context-embeddedness of emotional trauma and the other to the claim that the possibility of emotional trauma is built into our existential constitution. I find a reconciliation and synthesis of these two themes—trauma’s contextuality and its existentiality—in the recognition of the bonds of deep emotional (...) attunement we can form with one another in virtue of our common finitude. (shrink)
This book demonstrates how the authors have experienced the power of phenomenology in their therapeutic work with patients, especially those struggling with horrific trauma; in their encounters with psychological and philosophical theories; and in their efforts to comprehend destructive ideologies and the collective traumas that give rise to them. The Power of Phenomenology presents the trajectory of this work. Each chapter begins with a contribution written by one or both authors, extending the power of phenomenological inquiry to one or more (...) of these diverse contexts. The contributions are followed, one or two at a time, by a dialogue between the authors, illustrating the dialectical process of their long collaboration. The unusual format seeks to bring the phenomenology of their collaborative efforts to life for the reader. (shrink)