Shibboleth or Albatross?
Routledge – 2001 – 272 pages
The theory of transference and the centrality of transference interpretation have been hallmarks of psychoanalysis since its inception. But the time has come to subject traditional theory and practice to careful, critical scrutiny in the light of contemporary science. So holds Joseph Schachter, whose Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? undertakes this timely and thought-provoking task.
After identifying the weaknesses and inconsistencies in Freud's original premises about transference, Schachter demonstrates how contemporary developmental research across a variety of domains effectively overturns any theory that posits a linear deterministic relationship between early childhood and adult psychic functioning, including the adult patient's treatment behavior toward the analyst. No less trenchantly, he shows how contemporary chaos theory complements developmental research by making the very endeavor of historical reconstruction - of backward prediction - suspect on logical grounds. Nor, Schacter continues, does the clinical evidence normally adduced in support of transference theory provide the firm bedrock of data that most analysts suppose to exist. What one finds, he holds, are endlessly reiterated claims of identifying determining historical antecedents sustained only by descriptions of current behaviors through a gloss of theory.
Less a polemic than a call to order, Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? is cogently argued and straightforwardly written. It is destined to be a thorn in the side of analysts who resist change and a spur to those who seek to bring analytic theory into closer alignment with contemporary science in the interest of improves treatment efficacy.
"Schachter provides us with a searching and provocative exploration of the classical conceptualization of the transference as a 'transfer' of past experience and disposition into present relationships, along with a plea to replace this construct with the notion of Habitual Relationship Patterns as they operate in the present. Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? represents a fully logical extension of the ongoing shift in contemporary analytic discourse from the precepts of a one-person psychology to the relational turn into the precepts of a two-person psychology. It has significant implications for our conception of transference and our understanding of psychoanalytic technique and is important reading for all those concerned - pro and con - with what is happening to traditional psychoanalytic theory today."
- Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D., Past President, American Psychoanalytic Association
“This book by a distinguished psychoanalyst eloquently advocates a major transformation of the psychoanalytic enterprise. It is a very important contribution to a rational dialogue between psychoanalysis and its unsparing critics. Highlights of the book are the disavowal of the received etiologic theory of transference, and a challenge to the venerable tenet that durably effective treatment of a psychiatric disorder requires the therapist’s knowledge of its etiology. Indeed, it is a very timely work."
- Adolf Gruenbalm, Ph.D., Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science
"Schachter shows us the direction that must be taken if psychoanalysis is to have a future as an effective clinical method and a serious intellectual discipline. He has the courage and independence of mind to call into question fundamental components of received wisdom, unsupported assumptions that have long hobbled free inquiry in our field."
- Owen Renik, M.D., San Fracisco Psychoanalytic Institute
1. Transference and the Psychoanalytic Identity
2. Causation in "Transference" Theory: Historical Origins
3. Origins of Sexual Etiology
4. Problems with the Theory of "Transference"
5. Infant Determinism: Trauma, Temperament, and Attachment
6. "Transference" Theory and Chaos Theory
7. Problems with the Clinical Application of "Transference" Theory
9. Habitual . . . What? An Alternative to "Transference"
10. A Theory of Technique
11. A Psychoanalytic Treatment Without "Transference"
12. "Transference" and the Posttermination Relationship
Joseph Schachter, M.D., Ph.D., was trained as a clinical psychologist in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University, obtained his medical degree from New York University - Bellevue Medical School, and received his psychoanalytic training at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. In mid-career he spent a number of years in full-time physiological research with infants and children. He subsequently returned to psychoanalytic practice, and was a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Institute. Recently retired, Dr. Schachter now resides in New York City.