Psychoanalysis in Conflict: Orthodoxy and Heresy Part 2 by Elio Frattaroli

By Elio Frattaroli, MD.

Introduction: Nathan Szajnberg, MD, Managing Editor
Frattaroli argues that conflict in our discipline was inevitable: in part I, he shows that Freud’s ambivalent heresy and orthodoxy became played out in his disciples, who, however became either heretics (Reich, Fromm, Adler) or orthodox (Strachey, Jones, Hartmann).  Frattaroli studies our discipline as an organism with its own psychic dynamics: understanding these more clearly may permit us to master the conflicts, rather than perpetuate them in a repetition compulsion.
 Here, he discusses Freud’s second contribution to psychoanalytic conflict: his Weltanschauung, World View. Psychoanalysis has a tripartite identity: as a model of the mind, as a clinical practice and as a way of looking upon our human inner world, with its ambivalence, life and destructive “instincts,” the centrality of development, and so forth.
 Finally, Frattaroli brings some resolution.  Like physicists, psychoanalysts should look at our inner universe with complementarity: just as light can be “seen” as either wave or particle, so too, inner life can be seen in “tragic” or guilty manner: depends on our perspective and the analysand’s needs of the moment.  Frattaroli ushers out either-orness in our discipline.  Read this and make up your mind.

Controversy Origins in Conflicting Weltanschauungen Philosophies

The second factor causing controversy approaches the question from above, from the side of the superego (the “I that stands above”–das Überich); that is, the overarching Weltanschauungen that are at issue in the controversy#8.  The same conflicting philosophical premises  underlie every new edition of the ongoing debate between psychoanalytic orthodoxy and heresy.   Psychoanalytic heretics are condemned for discounting drives and exaggerating interpersonal factors: internal object relations, faulty parenting, cultural influences, the curative effects of the real relationship with the analyst, or some combination.  This has resisted resolution; we are not surprised that the controversy involves points of view, the intrapsychic (Guilty Man) and the interpersonal (Tragic Man) (see Overton, 1973).  How did psychoanalysis became embroiled in this philosophical debate? We return to Freud.
 Freud’s unresolved struggle at the level of the “It” between iconoclasm and authority had its counterpart at the level of the “I that stands above,” in an unresolved conflict between two different Weltanschauungen, the heretical nurture philosophy of the interpersonal frame of reference and the orthodox nature philosophy of the intrapsychic frame of reference.   Whether he was enacting the role of revolutionary or rabbi, these two conflicting philosophic currents, embodying the heretical Freud and the orthodox Freud, actually pervaded all his thought, leaving a subtle but profound inconsistency in even his greatest works.  Freud repudiates first the seduction theory (1906), and much later (1926) his first, It-centered theory of anxiety.  These two changes reflect the two sides of Freud’s ambivalence about the nature/nurture question: innate biological constitution or impact of his environment (how he is raised).
 The seduction theory held that psychoneurosis was due to the delayed impact of a traumatic sexual seduction in childhood, memory of which had been repressed.  Cure required the recovery of this repressed memory.  This was the original psychoanalytic theory.  It emphasized the nurture side in this form:  “psychopathology is caused by childhood trauma.”  Here, Tragic Man debuts.  Freud abandoned the seduction theory in favor of the view that the seductions that were eventually remembered by his patients were not actual events but rather childhood wishes stemming from the child’s innate sexuality.  This view continues to be that of orthodox psychoanalysis today.  It can be generalized in the form:  “psychopathology is caused by infantile sexuality, preserved in the unconscious fantasies of the oedipus complex.”  The emphasis here is on the nature side of the duality, man’s innate sexuality leading inexorably to the Oedipus complex.  Guilty Man debuts. 
 Garcia (1987) suggests that Freud’s views on the etiological importance of the seduction theory were more balanced than is generally thought; shifting statements he made about it over the years betrayed ambivalence.#9  However, Freud rejected seduction theory as incorrect, and decided that in the interplay between innate disposition and accidental experience, disposition was primary:
[A] mistaken idea had to be overcome which might have been almost fatal to the young science.  Influenced by Charcot’s view of the traumatic origin of hysteria, one was readily inclined to accept as true and aetiologically significant the statements made by patients in which they ascribed their symptoms to…seduction.  When this aetiology broke down under the weight of its own improbability and contradiction in definitely ascertainable circumstances, the result at first was helpless bewilderment.  Analysis had led back to these infantile sexual traumas by the right path, and yet they were not true.  The firm ground of reality was gone….At last came the reflection that….If hysterical subjects trace back their symptoms to traumas that are fictitious, then the new fact which emerges is precisely that they create such scenes in phantasy….This reflection was soon followed by the discovery that these phantasies were intended to cover up the autoerotic activity of the first years of childhood, to embellish it and raise it to a higher plane….
 With sexual activity of early childhood comes the inherited constitution of the individual…The last word on the subject of traumatic aetiology was spoken later by Abraham [1907], when he pointed out that the sexual constitution which is peculiar to children is precisely calculated to provoke sexual experiences of a particular kind–namely traumas. (1914, pp.17-18)

    Freud’s repudiation of the seduction theory ushered in the long period of his It-psychology. Parallel with the shift in emphasis from sexual trauma to innate sexuality, Freud began to develop his libido theory as a way of describing this innate sexuality, its development and vicissitudes.  The cornerstone of the libido theory was Freud’s first theory of anxiety.  It held that anxiety was the toxic transformation of sexual excitement that could not be discharged normally.  The libido theory also held that motivation was the result of the physiological need to seek the state of lowest energy by discharging excess drive tensions.  But Freud’s mind did not come to rest here.  In the middle of an ambitious attempt to formalize and extend his libido theory in a series of metapsychological papers, he abruptly abandoned the enterprise and the libido theory itself.  Between 1920 and 1926 he launched into a series of revolutionary works which changed psychoanalysis dramatically from a reductionistic It-psychology to a much richer I-psychology.  In the culminating work of this period, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926), he brought nurture back onto center stage when he renounced his first anxiety theory.  Discarding the idea that anxiety was produced directly from the It, a toxic vicissitude of innate sexuality, Freud now proposed that anxiety was a response of the I to the anticipation of an external danger situation which had actually been experienced in childhood, either abandonment, loss of love, castration, or social ostracism. 
 The shift in emphasis from autonomously erupting It-forces to the unconscious memory of childhood danger was a move back toward the seduction theory and its unconscious memory of childhood trauma. But this kinship between Freud’s second anxiety theory and his seduction theory is not widely recognized.  For, the overall tone of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety is one of ambivalence about the relative importance of nature (internal, neurophysiologic danger) and nurture (external danger of physical or psychological trauma).  Freud reinstates external reality, but then mitigates its importance by saying that the danger situations were only dangerous because they threatened to provoke a buildup of unsatisfied drive tensions.  Freud declares that castration is feared because it would lead to “being helplessly exposed to an unpleasurable tension due to instinctual need” (p.139); external danger really represents an internal one.  Elsewhere, he says the opposite: “an instinctual demand often only becomes an (internal) danger because its satisfaction would bring on an external danger–that is because the internal danger represents an external one” (pp.167-68). 
This ambivalence may be an attempted integration: trying to bring together the nurture emphasis of his heretical period with the nature emphasis of his orthodox period.  But t these conflicting philosophies were also implicated in an unconscious conflict, with its fantasy  of ostracizing the heretic; this stood in the way of integration.  During both his heretical (seduction theory) period and his orthodox (libido theory) period, Freud had externalized the inner conflict and struggled against outward enemies; first the disapproving Breuer and the scientific establishment, then the disloyal Adler and Jung.  In Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety the struggle became internal.  Freud was a heretic to his own orthodoxy, which put him in the untenable unconscious position of needing to ostracize himself.  In the end he tried to be heretic and orthodox at the same time, claiming to have replaced his old “incorrect” anxiety theory with a new one, but at the same time holding on to the old theory in the form of the contradictory idea of “actual-neurosis.”   He remained caught up in either/or categories, vacillating between internal danger or external danger, deciding here (psycho-neurosis) and there (actual neurosis):
And….why should it not be possible for….traumatic moments to arise in mental life without reference to hypothetical situations of danger–traumatic moments, then, in which anxiety is not aroused as a signal but is generated anew for a fresh reason.  Clinical experience declares decidedly that such is in fact the case. It is only the later repressions that exhibit the mechanism we have described, in which anxiety is awakened as a signal of an earlier situation of danger. The first and original repressions arise directly from traumatic moments, when the ego meets with excessively great libidinal demand; they construct their anxiety afresh, although, it is true, on the model of birth.  The same may apply to the generation of anxiety in anxiety neurosis owing to somatic damage to the sexual function.  We shall no longer maintain that it is the libido itself that is turned into anxiety in such cases.  But I can see no objection to there being a twofold origin of anxiety–one as a direct consequence of the traumatic moment and the other as a signal threatening a repetition of such a moment. (1933b, pp.94-95)

This is not the comfortable shifting back and forth between complementary frames of reference that I have described in the thinking of Bettelheim.  It was ambivalent compromise formation.  It fell short of the integration of complementarity, in which both points of view would be understood to apply to every case.  
 But it was not only fixation at the level of unconscious fantasy, a phenomenon of the It, that stood in the way of the integration of intrapsychic and interpersonal perspectives.  There is something incendiary in its own right at the level of the Weltanschauung, something about the spiritual-moral assumptions (a phenomenon of the “I that stands above”) underlying the nature/nurture question, that seems inherently controversial.  Ultimately, the debate revolves around the question of the origin of evil in the world, and whether human nature is fundamentally good or evil.  Those who argue for the primacy of nature claim, explicitly or implicitly, that evil originates in man, in his innate original sinfulness, or in his innate instinctual drives, and that human nature imposes unavoidable limits on the perfectibility of society.  Those who argue for the primacy of nurture claim that evil originates in a corrupt society, that man is originally innocent until corrupted by that society, and ultimately that evil can be eradicated by improving society. People become so violently invested in this debate because of the subject.  We have strong feelings about evil and who is responsible for it, feelings which cannot adequately be explained as a function of the strength of unconscious conflict.  It may make more sense to explain the strength of unconscious conflict as a function of the participation of these feelings in it.  There is something irreducible about evil and our reaction to it. 
 But the psychoanalytic controversy is even more complicated; resolution made even more difficult because the orthodoxy/heresy split involves not only the nature/nurture question, but also the mind-body problem and its  strong polarized feelings.  In fact, it has frequently been Freud’s materialism, more than his emphasis on the intrapsychic, that dissident analysts have objected to.  Alexander alludes to this in his description of Horney’s attempt “to expel (the) Satan”  of the libido theory and its “vague and mystical biological substance.”  We see this in Kohut’s (1977) distinction between his “Self Psychology” and Freud’s “Mental-Apparatus Psychology,” a distinction which disparages and repudiates Freud.
 Freud’s materialism may have prevented him from appreciating the complementarity of the intrapsychic and the interpersonal and achieving a balance in his theory.  The tripartite model of his structural theory (1933a) would otherwise have been open to such an integration.  The major structures of the Freudian personality, the It and the I (including the “I that stands above”) can be viewed as complementary, with the It representing the intrapsychic (Instinct), and the I representing the interpersonal (Culture).   The equation of the It and the intrapsychic is essentially definitional.  That between the I and the interpersonal is in accord with Freud’s own emphasis, on the I as “earmarked for representing the demands of the external world” (1933a, pp.77-78), and on the “I that stands above” as the internalization of parental authority (pp.61-62) and ultimately of culture (pp. 66-67).  But for an interpersonal-cultural I to stand in a truly complementary relation to an intrapsychic It, the I would need equal and independent status; this is at odds with Freud’s materialist Weltanschauung.  Even with his strong emphasis on the I in the 1920’s, Freud could never admit it as an equal partner to the It, which he continued to view as the foundation and most important part of the psyche.  Freud, allied with the epistemology of 19th century physical science, viewed the I as reducible to the It.  To conceptualize the I and its world of interpersonal experience, he needed mentalistic concepts, which he could not accept as having scientific status equal to that of the physicalistic concepts of the libido theory and the constancy principle.  The fact that he could conceptualize the It in such physicalistic terms meant to him that it was closer to the bottom line, the “real scientific” explanation of psychic phenomena.  
 But linking the intrapsychic It with materialism is not inevitable; it constrained Freud in the same way as his first anxiety theory.  In conflict with his Weltanschauung-based need to describe the It in terms of the (unobservable) biophysical energies of “instinctual cathexes seeking discharge” (1933a), he also wanted to include in it the peremptory unconscious wishes of clinical observation, which can be described mentally not physically.  Unlike “instinctual cathexes seeking discharge,”  such wishes in the It contain elements of mind as well as body, and indeed Freud took account of their irreducibly mentalistic character by calling them the mental representations of instinct.  This was the more progressive, heretical, current in Freud’s thinking, to give mentalistic and physicalistic concepts equal status in explaining both the drives of the It and the interpersonal influences of the I.  But to do so inevitably entailed understanding the mind as more than an epiphenomenon: this put Freud at odds with himself and his own orthodox 19th-century-science materialist Weltanschauung. 
 Had he pursued the heretical implications of his notion of unconscious wishes, Freud would have had to face the internal contradictions in his conception of the It, and ultimately the irreducibly mentalistic character of the I.   This in turn might have made more plausible the idea of human needs not reducible to tension discharge, so that “drives” (in the sense of peremptory unconscious fantasy-based motives) could be seen as complex blendings of biological needs (from the It), spiritual needs (from the “I that stands above”) and interpersonal influences (from the I).  If the drives are understood in this way, love, for instance, could be conceived of as including elements of both body and mind: libido, describable in physicalistic terms, and agape, not reducible to a biological description.  But the orthodox position, wedded to materialism, has never admitted this kind of dualism, and is forced to sneak the mental-spiritual dimension in the back door by describing agape as a “sublimated” derivative of libido.  Freud’s reductionistic explanation of religion as a vicissitude of man’s instinctual cathexis of the father (1933c) is in the same vein.  His unwillingness to accept the notion that a religious Weltanschauung might address a spiritual reality not encompassable by scientific description is typical of the orthodox point of view that phenomena of the I are secondary to and derivative of processes in the It.                 
 Freud’s major theoretical revisions of the 1920’s express a resurgence of his heresy.  Eros (1920), the “I” and the “I that stands above” (1923), reassert the interpersonal.  But they also imply a new Weltanschauung which Freud was not ready to acknowledge.  He was constrained by three factors:  1) the close (definitional) association of the intrapsychic with the It; 2) his not so inevitable (Weltanschauung-based) need to construe the It in physicalistic terms; and 3) his view of the I as derivative and his assignment of “ontological primacy” to the It because it was more amenable to a physicalistic explanation. 
 In summary, Freud originated both the heretical interpersonal and the orthodox intrapsychic points of view in psychoanalysis, and developed a structural theory which had the potential to integrate them.  He fell short of integration because his concept of psychic structures remained mired in philosophical inconsistencies (related to the mind-body problem) that he could neither recognize nor resolve. These inconsistencies became evident in his confused definition of the It (1933a) and especially in his ambivalence about how to understand the origin of anxiety.  Had Freud been able to follow out the more radical implications of the interpersonal emphasis of his I-psychology, as he started to do in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, he might have discovered the complementarity that was nascent in his structural theory and taken psychoanalysis beyond the Weltanschauung of 19th-century physics to that of 20th century physics.  He began, but could not complete this. 

Robert Waelder’s Unrecognized Synthesis of Freud’s Conflicts 
  The unconscious fantasy, Freud’s unresolved conflict, became the unconscious fantasy of psychoanalysis.   Freud initially externalized his struggles with the orthodoxy of the “compact majority” and with the heresies of Adler and Jung, then internalized this ambivalent struggle in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety  This struggle has become re-externalized and repeatedly re-enacted in schisms between the orthodox group, adhering to nature, the instinctual drives and the inevitable Oedipus, versus various heretical groups espousing nurture, motives not reducible to animal instinct, and some form of the seduction theory.  This is a group regression in response to the anxiety-laden ambivalence of Freud’s 1926 theory.  The two warring factions have in effect defused the tension–alleviated Freud’s anxiety–by each taking half of Freud’s ambivalence, with the ostracism of the heretic serving as a kind of group repression:
If the ego [read orthodoxy] succeeds in protecting itself from a dangerous instinctual impulse [read Eros, synthesis, complement- arity], through, for instance, repression, it has certainly inhibited and damaged the particular part [read heresy] of the id concerned; but it has at the same time given it some independence and has renounced some of its own sovereignty.  This is inevitable from the nature of repression, which is, fundamentally, an attempt at flight.  The repressed is now, as it were, an outlaw; it is excluded from the great organization of the ego (emphasis added#10) and is subject only to the laws which govern the realm of the unconscious.  If, now, the danger-situation changes so that the ego has no reason for fending off a new instinctual impulse analogous to the repressed one, the consequence of the restriction of the ego which has taken place will become manifest.  The new impulse will run its course under an automatic influence–or, as I should prefer to say, under the influence of the compulsion to repeat. (1926, p.153)

Thus, whenever a new impulse towards synthesis arises from the collective id of psychoanalysis, it runs its course under the “automatic’ influence of our group repetition compulsion to ostracize the heretic.
 It is a mistake to call this pathological.  It has been a problem, but it has also been a solution.  There is a tantalizing anomaly of psychoanalytic history that argues for the inevitability, perhaps the cultural-evolutionary necessity of this orthodoxy/heresy struggle.  Yet, Waelder, one of Freud’s own disciples, synthesized the two anxiety theories, of the intrapsychic and the interpersonal points of view, and of the It and the I, in 1930:
The immediate occasion of the following exposition is the new concept of the theory of anxiety which Freud has given us in his book Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety (1926a).  In his earlier concept, Freud assumed that anxiety erupted from the id as the immediate result of the tensions of excessive, unsatisfied needs, and that the ego was, as it were, a defenseless victim.  The new concept modifies this; Freud states that in a situation of danger, of threat of future excessive, unsatisfied tension, the ego’s anticipation of this state may result in the experience of anxiety.  This anxiety is at the same time a signal which causes a readjustment of the organism for the purpose of avoiding the danger by flight or defense measures, thus fulfilling a biological function.  This new concept naturally was not intended to set aside or replace the earlier concept, nor did Freud mean that anxiety might come about at one time in this way and at the next time in the other way.  Undoubtedly it meant that in each concrete case both theories–anxiety sweeping over the ego, and anxiety formed as a danger signal by the ego–represent two sides of one actual phenomenon, described one time from the side of the id and the other time from the side of the ego.  This twofold method of observation gives rise to the conjecture that this method might be applicable to all psychic phenomena, and that a twofold or perhaps, generally speaking, a manifold approach to each psychic act would be not only admissible but even required by psychoanalysis. [italics added]
 In the id, according to psychoanalysis, there is gathered together everything by which a person is driven, all inner tendencies which influence him, every vis a tergo.  In the ego, on the other hand, reside all man’s purposeful actions, his direction….In its division between a person’s ego and id, psychoanalysis recognizes the two aspects of his being driven and his being directed.

 These opening paragraphs (pp.68-69) of Waelder’s The Principle of Multiple Function resolve the ambivalence that had plagued Freud for 40 years, recasting ambivalence in the framework of complementarity.  No one noticed, least of all Freud.  Indeed, three years after Waelder’s paper appeared, Freud continued to maintain that anxiety arises “at one time in this way and at the next time in the other way” (see above, p34).   Presumably out of deference to Freud, Waelder gave Freud credit for Waelder’s own integration.  In fact, Freud was trying to replace the old concept with the new, and nowhere does he suggest that both concepts apply to every case of anxiety.
 Waelder was very likely aware of Bohr’s 1927 principle of complementarity (Bohr, 1934).#11  The principle of multiple function is a psychoanalytic version of Bohr’s epistemological principle.  Multiple function, means that every psychic phenomenon must be looked at from two mutually exclusive and apparently incompatible points of view.  This is what Waelder means by the “twofold method of observation” in psychoanalysis.  The question whether the It or the I is primary, or is the source of anxiety, is based on a misunderstanding.  We can make either one appear to be primary simply by changing our observational focus.  Anxiety is not produced by the It or by the I.  Rather, the It and the I offer two equally valid conceptual frameworks for talking about the (unitary) production of anxiety.  Danger does not arise from instinct or experience.  Instinct and experience are the two epistemic faces of one danger. 
Waelder corrects the imbalance in Freud’s structural theory by adding to Freud’s picture of the ego as “loyal servant of the id” (1933a) a picture of the ego as an independent center of (purposive) initiative:
But this passive role does not exhaust the work of the ego.  The ego does not simply accept orders and carry them out.  Rather, it generates an activity of its own toward the outer world as well as toward the other forces in the individual himself.  This activity of the eo is characterized by an attempt to assert itself, to succeed, and to assimilate in its organic development the outer world as well as the ego-alien forces in the individual….it seems that, from the beginning, the ego also makes efforts to bring its instinctive life under its central guidance….The ego evidently takes an active stand toward its instinctive life; it has a tendency to master it, or rather to assimilate it into its organization. (p.70)

Applying the principle of complementarity to biology, Bohr argued that a full biologic description required  teleological as well as mechanistic explanations.  This may have inspired Waelder’s distinction between purposive (ego) and instinctual (id) processes, a distinction on which he elaborated in 1967:
the ego was well-recognized in the mid-20’s as an equal partner in the adventure of life–on the clinical level of discourse at any rate.  Whether it can be recognized as an equally fundamental element in a general theory of the mind, however, is a different question because the “ego” is a concept of a different kind from, say, “instinct,” “drive,” or “id.”  A drive is a force like, say, gravity; it pushes things in a particular direction with a certain intensity.  It is what the medieval philosophers called a vis a tergo, a force pushing from behind.  But the ego can be so described only on the lowest level of its activities, viz., that of reflex action; in its higher operations it is a problem-solving agent and thus a teleological concept. It explains psychic activities in terms of the purposes they serve.  It is a close relative of Aristotle’s entelechy, the preexisting form which guides the development of plant or animal according to nature; or a relative of the medieval physician’s vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power of nature. (1967, p.340)

Waelder’s problem-solving ego is an ego of adaptation, which he called “the center of the personality” (1929, p.387) ten years before Hartmann’s Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation.  But Waelder understated his own radical revision of ego psychology.  This is ironic (but consistent with Hartmann’s status as “pope” of the orthodox camp) given that Hartmann’s ego psychology in the 1940’s and 1950’s became even more constricted by Freud’s materialism than Freud’s was (Apfelbaum, 1965, 1966).  Waelder on the other hand was explicit that his teleologic view of the ego as problem-solving agent was incompatible with Freud’s materialism, though characteristically he avoided directly challenging Freud’s view:
(Freud) always tried to find explanations in terms of forces, tensions, conditioning by past experience, and the like. It is characteristic that in earlier times he speaks less of the “ego” than of “ego instincts”–a term suggestive of forces, vectors.  Basically, it has probably always remained his view though….he grew progressively more tolerant of teleological concepts in later years….Freud’s hesitation to admit the “ego” as an equal to the drives, not only on the level of clinical theory but also as one of the fundamental facts of nature, reflects his reluctance to accept teleological explanations as the last word; it reflects the ethos of modern science. It can be criticized on that level by those who are either prepared to challenge the whole modern approach to nature–the exclusive alloplastic orientation, the constant striving for domination–or are willing to resign themselves to definite limits of predictability and accessibility to influence in matters of life; but within the orientation of modern science, Freud’s hesitation is justified.(1967, pp.342-43 and 346)

    Waelder’s synthesis was never recognized as such by Freud and remains unrecognized today, although the paper is a psychoanalytic classic.  The principle of multiple function is often referred to in passing as an elaboration on Freud’s idea of compromise formation.  George Klein (1976) and Pine (1985) take it much more seriously, but they too fall short of recognizing its full epistemological and ontological significance.  This idea “hides in plain sight” because of Waelder’s conscious decision to avoid direct or open disagreement with Freud.  He knowingly chose the path of evolution rather than revolution. To the extent that he wanted to support and strengthen psychoanalysis as a humanizing force in twentieth-century culture, he succeeded.  To the extent that he wanted to resolve Freud’s “problem of anxiety,” he failed, but it was a qualified failure.  The principle of multiple function acted like a good if somewhat premature interpretation: a lengthy process of working through would be necessary before it could be heard and used.  This working-through process has occurred, I believe, in the agon of the orthodoxy/heresy dialectic, whose compulsive repetition is the expression of Freud’s still-unresolved ambivalence on the one hand and the attempt to master it on the other.  It is as if the two sides have agreed, “We’re going to keep doing this until we get it right.”  As the dialectic has progressed, voices like Waelder’s, Bettelheim’s, Alexander’s (before he succumbed to heresy’s lure) and, increasingly, the object-relations theorists’, have sounded the tone of integration to the point where it is now clearly audible as the basso continuo of the psychoanalysis Waelder described as “a kind of polyphonic theory of psychic life.”

8I use superego in the broad sense, as defined by Waelder (1930, 1934, 1960, 1965).  See also Frattaroli (in press) for a detailed discussion of Waelder’s conceptualization and its advantages.  I will for the most part use the terms “the It,” “the I” and “the I that stands above” for id, ego and superego because they convey better the progressive, integrative sense of Freud’s structural theory.
9It may have been because of this ambivalence nine years elapsed between the time (1897) he first wrote Fliess about abandoning the seduction theory and the time he first announced the change in a published paper (1906).  His letter to Fliess shows the inner turmoil that the change entailed:
Now I do not know where I am, as I have failed to reach theoretical understanding of repression and its play of forces.  It again seems arguable that it is later experiences which give rise to phantasies which throw back to childhood; and with that the factor of hereditary predisposition regains a sphere of influence from which I had made it my business to oust it [emphasis added]–in the interests of fully explaining neurosis.
 Were I depressed, jaded, unclear in my mind, such doubts might be taken for signs of weakness.  But as I am in just the opposite state, I must acknowledge them to be the result of honest and effective intellectual labour, and I am proud that after penetrating so far I am still capable of such criticism.  Can these doubts be only an episode on the way to further knowledge?
 It is curious that I feel not in the least disgraced, though the occasion might seem to require it.  Certainly I shall not tell it in Gath, or publish it in the streets of Askalon, in the land of the Philistines–but between ourselves I have a feeling more of triumph than of defeat (which cannot be right). (pp.216-217)
10I  suggest that the structural theory may be viewed as a derivative of Freud’s unconscious fantasy of ostracizing the iconoclast-scapegoat-hero.  Abend (1979) despite his disclaimer that such linkages with unconscious fantasy “do not of necessity invalidate the theories or the clinical judgments derived from them,” suggests that we should be cautiously mistrustful of theories so linked.  I disagree: there is no theory, including Freud’s and Abend’s, that is free of such linkages.  The principle of multiple function applies.
11Although he did not explicitly refer to Bohr in his writing until the year after Bohr’s death in 1962, the theme of complementarity, not identified as such, is present in Waelder’s work from 1930 on.  Waelder had received his Ph.D. in physics in 1920, when Bohr’s model of the atom had center stage, and just before the major theoretical breakthroughs which led to a more or less finished quantum theory by 1927.  Although he had left physics for psychoanalysis in the early 1920’s, it seems likely that Waelder kept up with developments during this epoch-making period. He would have learned of Bohr’s principle and its epistemological import.

(For References, see the Chapter in Educating the Emotions.)


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12 Comments on “Psychoanalysis in Conflict: Orthodoxy and Heresy Part 2 by Elio Frattaroli”

  1. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    From Arnold Richards

    I want to thank Elio for his brilliant exegesis However i think Freud deserves more credit for his awareness of the essential dualities in psychoanalysis Bob Holt has written that Freud has survived
    for such a long time because he never in the end came down on one side of a dichotomy – nature nurture, instinct environment, biology society. I am not sure that I agree that Waelder has been give short shrift in our literature I know that I and my coauthor have cited him often.

    In regard to heretics I think it is the anti Freudians today that see Freud and modern Freudians as heretics. For example the relationalists argue for dichotomies drive vs object which I see as false I think the Koutians are also stuck on false dichotomies – Guilty Man and tragic man The concept of complemantarianism is inherent in the approaches of Wallerstein (both.and) and Rangell (total composite theory) Also Zwi Lothane has written about how Freudian theory is inherently relational. Wishes always involve the other Also the calamities of childhood (Brenner)

  2. nathan szajnberg, MD Says:

    Dr .Frattaroli’s work gives substance and thinks of our community as alive and struggling with critical thinking (we hope towards clarity).

    Dr Richards provides what makes this blog meaningful: direct, thoughtful, informed responses to get our community thinking critically and as an intellectual discipline.

  3. Elio Frattaroli Says:

    I suppose it makes sense that the comments on a paper about orthodoxy and heresy would reflect the conflictual dynamics that have created orthodox and heretical camps in psychoanalysis for the last 100 years. Arnie Richards’s response typifies the way orthodox analysts have always responded to any new and threatening idea. First he argues that Freud already covered my first new idea — that there are two unresolved philosophies within Freudian theory that have given rise to the repetitive splits between orthodoxy and heresy –because Freud was plentifully aware of the inherent dualities of human nature. Second, he simply dismisses my second new idea — that Waelder in 1930 (with the help of Niels Bohr) achieved an integration of Freud’s unresolved philosophical conflict that still eludes most psychoanalysts today. The dismissal is on the basis that lots of people cite Waelder and lots of analysts (long after Waelder) have written about the importance of both-and as opposed to either-or thinking.
    But although he usesI don’t think Arnie is really a one-sidedly orthodox analyst. As he rightly says, many analyst

  4. Elio Frattaroli Says:

    Although Arnie uses orthodox techniques of arguing, I know he is not a one-sidedly orthodox analyst. He is right that many analysts since Waelder have argued for the necessity of both-and thinking with regard to the nature/nurture, drive/object and mind/body dualities. Arnie is an integrator. So am I. So are most of his friends and most of mine.
    But the fact remains that the bitterness, animosity and even contempt that have always marked the conflict between orthodox and heretical schools of thought in psychoanalysis are still alive and well today between so-called modern classical analysis and the relational/intersubjectivist school, and even within APsaA between the pro-BOPS camp (largely drive/conflict oriented) and the anti-BOPS camp(largely relationally oriented). By the way, in terms of who is orthodox and who is heretical, I agree with Arnie that in terms of attitudes it is impossible to tell because both sides have betterness, animosity and contempt toward each other. But historically, it is silly to call Kohut or the relational school orthodox. They clearly belong in a long line of heretical schools of thought emphsizing the interpersonal as opposed to the intrapsychic, trauma as opposed to drive. My point is that this bitterness, animosity and contempt BEGAN WITH FREUD and are plentifully obvious in in numerous quotes from Freud in Part One of my article. Freud may have been aware of dualities but he never achieved anything remotely resembling both-and thinking himself (see George Klein’s brilliant “Freud’s two theories of sexuality”) and neither has psychoanalysis as a whole (notwithstanding Arnie and me and our many integrative olleagues). Moreover, there is more to Bohr’s principle of complementarity and Waelder’s principle of multiple function than both-and thinking. Very few analysts understand complementarity as Bohr and Waelder wrote about it. My contention is that Waelder in his principle of multiple function laid out what is really a Self Psychology — his multiply functioning ego is much larger than the ego of traditional ego psychology — that has ample room for the importance of relationships and trauma while leaving intrapsychic conflict in its traditionally central role. It is this that Waelder has never been credited for.

  5. arnold richards Says:


    My sense it that the field right now has become many sided and some former designations just dont hold up. Kohutians have evolved from Kohut. Not sure who is an ego psychologist Certainly not Charlie Brenner and his conflict theory He removed ego from his lexicon Drives became wishes and the super ego was a compromise formation Jack Arlow said that the ego only existed in textbooks not in the mind I think the relationalists have developed an orthodoxy of their own and their heretics include John Mills and Jay Greenberg Jay wrote a paper on what he called relational excesses It was rejected by dialogues because it was in disagreement with “their founders” I published it in JAPA Waelders papers were read in several courses at NYPSI but may not have been understood I think I did understand Waelder but I always had a problem jumping from Bohr and physics particle and wave to psychoanalysis I have a similar problem with neuropsychoanalysis.

  6. nathan szajnberg, MD Says:

    “Bettelheim is someone Elio and I shared as a teacher. Perhaps that is
    why I understand Elio’s explanation of Bettelheim’s teaching
    complementarity (without using physics).
    That is, Bettelheim listened to the stance of the analyst, the level
    of the analyst’s inner work, in addition to the patient’s appeal for help.

    If the analyst, in Bettelheim’s ears, needs to remove internal
    impediments to better understand the patient, Bettelheim spoke to this: the stance Elio calls orthodoxy, that speaks to the patient feeling
    ‘wronged’ or wounded, of “guilty” man,”, the intrapsychic stance.

    If the analyst seemed sufficiently available to this patient, then
    Bettelheim spoke to the patient trying to recreate a dilemma, a
    conflict, or a need-fulfilling experience with the analyst, then
    Bettelheim spoke about how the patient is trying to evoke something in
    the analyst, something that cannot be articulated for the moment. This
    is closer to Elio’s model of heresy, the “tragic” man, the interpersonal approach.

    Elio’s point is that both interpersonal and intrapsychic are valid, although seen differently in different situations (just as light is both particle and wave, but “seen” differently in different situations). Bettelheim offered a stance of flexibility depending on the patient’s need of the moment and the analyst’s state of mind.

  7. Elio Frattaroli Says:

    I agree with you that the field today is many-sided in terms of the ways people write about what they do and certainly in terms of how they actually practice. And the paper was written in 1986 so in that sense it’s pretty dated. However the ideological divisiveness that I refer to as orthodoxy vs heresy is very much alive in psychoanalysis today. It is painfully evident on our listserves for example, where there is no question (in my mind at least) that underneath the politics, the dissension is driven by ideological passions that are enacted rather than analyzed– one side fighting to preserve the essence of Freud’s vision, the privileged focus on intrapsychic conflict, the other fighting for the priority and inescapability of what Freud missed (or underestimated), the pathogenic and healing power of relationship. Let’s not call it orthodoxy/heresy. Let’s call it “intolerance for the other.” Or let’s call it “unanalyzed Oedipal murderousness.” It doesn’t matter what you call it. The passionate intensity of our divisiveness is ugly and it’s persistent in human nature, apparently even in analyzed human nature. (Emotionally, it’s the same as the mutual intolerance of democrats and republicans) So here’s my revised point about Waelder: He put a non-divisive resolution of Freud’s intrapsychic and philosophical conflict into print in 1930 and that resolution was never recognized because psychoanalysists’ need to engage in pitched ideological battles has influenced our reading of Waelder’s paper so that we can only appreciate what fits comfortably into our own ideology. Our attachment to our own ideology blinds us to the inherent value and validity of the Other’s ideology (much the way the physicist’s experimental measurement of the particle nature of light blinds him to its wave nature). It is here that Bohr’s complementarity comes into play. It is not a principle of physics. It is a principle of epistemology that Bohr explicitly applied to psychology and sociology. He said “There are two kinds of truth, the trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainlyl false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.”

  8. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    Response frmo Arnold Ruchards:

    I think our man disagreement particularly in regard to APsaA and our list serves is that I believe what drives divisiveness is not ideology It is politics and power. For some as long as they are in charge and can decide who to include and who to exclude who gets the perks they couldnt care less about theoretical issues or intellectual matters This may seem cynical but I have seen it operate on local as well as national levels An example at the NYPSI is the way Arlow Brenner Beres and Calder (ABsquaredC) were marginalized there when they were alive. I would like to see more pitched ideological battles but they are from my view too few and far between.

  9. Elio Frattaroli Says:

    I agree that the lust for power (and the desire to steamroll anyone who threatens our power) is a dominant motive in the debates on our listserves, our Institutes and in APsaA as a whole. Indeed, this very lust for power is also at the heart of the Oedipus Complex, which instead of enacting we are supposed to have some self-awareness about. Recall the fateful confrontation of Oedipus and Laius on the road to Thebes. Laius in the chariot said, “Get off the road dirtbag.” Oedipus responded, “Try and make me you motherf***er”, jumped up on the chariot and killed Laius on the spot. This kind of unreflective road rage typifies our attitudes of completing psychoanalytic camps toward each other. More important, our utter lack of self-awareness about it — among analysts in particular — cries out for some explanation. Power motive by itself is not an adequate explanation.
    We have to have some good rationalization for our power motive in order to be in such denial about it. That rationalization comes from ideology. All the most vicious and self-interested power struggles in human history have been in the service of an important ideology (explicit or an implicit) which the two sides are defending or attacking.
    But this is actually good news. Because all ideologies have values and ideals and with rare exceptions there is some merit to the values and ideals of every ideology. This is what we fail to recognize in our group power struggles. The BOPS supporters actually believe in something that they consider vitally important. So do the anti-BOPS people. Both sets of beliefs are valid when seen from the perspective of the person who believes them. If each side could empathically appreciate what the other side is fighting for and why it is so important to them as well as what they are fighting against and why it is so threatening to them, I believe we would be taking a giant step toward resolving our power struggles.
    If on the other hand, each side thinks the other is motivated by nothing but the lust for political power, then we are lost, and psychoanalysis has obviously failed because, as a group supposedly dedicated to self-awareness, we have no self-awareness about what it is within ourselves that keeps us at odds with each other.

  10. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    Comment from Arnold Richards:

    My experience is from my own institute and national politics

    At my institute liberals have no voice at all and dialogue doesnt exist

    BoPS chairs rarely if ever engage in dialogue

    I dont think my psychoanalysis is any different from the psychoanalysis of any of the conservative memebers of NYPSI or IPE at NYU

    I think our differences are pragmatic rather than idealogic

    I think that the problem is not that 4 x s per week analysis will disappear but that we will disappear

    In New York candidates are having 4x/week analysis at IPTAR NYFS AIP and WAWI

    It is hard for us to accept that psychoanalysis is not us


  11. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    Comment from Wynn Jackson:

    I agree with Charlie Gardner that the article gives an excellent historical review of the schisms in the early psychoanalytic community, and I I think Elio’s idea that the process of rejecting and then incorporating new ideas is both dialectical and “Niels Bohr-influenced” is interesting. I think that the current synthesis/antithesis or wave/particle duality is between mind and brain, and that this struggle is being won by the “brain” camp. In fact, I think that this camp is working to dispense with the kind of humanities thinking that Elio is using in his paper. I think that this “brain” camp is advocating the intellectual standard of the scientific method, a method which is probably less applicable to questions of “mind.” Because this “brain” way of thinking is in ascendancy, the psychoanalytic community and the way of thinking Elio is outlining is becoming more marginalized. Is this a positive direction? I’m not sure. Should it be discussed? Definitely yes. Should a dialectical method be used to examine the tension between the “mind” and “brain” views of mental processes?

    Wynn Jackson MD

  12. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    I am not sure that the brain camp will be successful to dispense with the humanities camp. One interesting development is the robust studies that show placebos do as well as anti depressants for depression Seymour Kety said may have a neurobiology of dreaming but not of dreams

    arnold richards

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