Whose Neighborhood is This?: Intersubjective Moments in Psychoanalytic Education

by Dawn Skorczewski

February 2, 2002


Critics of psychoanalytic education have argued that despite challenges to positivist versions of authority and knowledge in psychoanalytic theory in recent decades, psychoanalytic educators continue to assume positions of absolute authority in their classrooms. Drawing from a series of interactions in a technique course at a psychoanalytic institute, this author argues that teachers inevitably assume authoritative positions in any classroom. The real work of teaching in a post-positivist world begins when teachers recognize that they have assumed the position of the arbiter of truth in the classroom and figure out (with and in front of their students) what to do next.


    I want to open a conversation about approaches to teaching psychoanalysis in the wake of various challenges to positivist constructions of knowledge which have been raised by theorists across the disciplines in the past two decades. I come to this subject as a composition theorist and a teacher of writing teachers. Although educational theory has many ways of talking about teaching, academics in my field do not have concepts or language for talking about process between people, the moment-to-moment interactions that constitute that we call "a class." Having found this language in analytic writing, I write in part to celebrate its usefulness to me, and in part to discuss how recent developments in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis are reflected and interrogated in classrooms at psychoanalytic institutes.

     In the field of educational theory, Paulo Freire (1970, 1993) describes a shift from what he calls "the banking concept of education," in which knowledge is a set of concepts that are deposited into students, to what he calls the "problem-posing model," in which students act as critical thinkers, makers of knowledge themselves. For Freire, banking concept educators regard students as passive receptacles of information that they might then be permitted to use. Problem-posing educators, on the other hand, realize that "the teacher is no longer the one who teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach" (354). Freire's work has led to a proliferation of student-centered learning strategies, strategies designed to invite students to assume authoritative positions in classrooms. But it has also led cautious critics such as Kurt Spellmeyer (1993) to argue that "the theoretical debate about what to teach and how to teach it has not fundamentally changed teaching as a social practice-or rather, as a practice of socialization largely designed to reproduce our values and advance our objectives (239). Deborah Britzman (1999) adds a cautionary note from the realm of group education when she identifies "a reticence to investigate the difficulties groups have in making and encountering knowledge in ways that allow individuals new experiments in working creatively and ethically with each other" (332). Norman Holland and Murray Schwartz (1975) anticipated these difficulties decades ago, when they spoke of the need for teachers who combine "the inner experience of therapy or analysis with the theoretical study of a discipline" (1975, 792).

    So too, in the field of psychoanalytic education, writers voice concern that for all the emphasis on mutuality, dialogue, and relationality in the literature about the practice of psychoanalysis, those who teach about that practice might remain locked in what Kirsner calls a process of "miseducation," through which students are "moved into conformity with their teachers and analysts" (1996: 14). A number of these writers, including Otto Kernberg (1996), Randall Lehmann Sorensen (2000), and Dolan Power (2001) have argued that psychoanalytic education can stifle the creativity of candidates. Their strategies for reform range from changes in hierarchical arrangements at the institute, such as the way that one becomes a training analyst, to curricular changes, including, for example, the ratio of recent psychoanalytic literature read in seminars to texts by Freud, to changes in the way that the case seminar operates. With the notable exception of Dolan Power's piece, which talks about classroom procedures, these reformers do not make use of the theory that challenged positivist thinking about psychoanalysis to address moment-to-moment interactions of students and teachers in actual classrooms. That is what I would like to explore in the pages that follow.

     I will discuss my experiences as an affiliate scholar in a seminar in technique at a psychoanalytic institute in Boston to try to illustrate what it might look like when teachers seriously attend to challenges to positivist versions of authority and knowledge that have been raised in recent decades. Holland (1970) would say that these challenges raised questions about our attempts at "objectivity" in the classroom(336). One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is the mystery of what makes a class fail or succeed. In my exploration of moment-to-moment interactions in a particularly successful educational dialogue, I hope first to sketch some teaching strategies that work-strategies based on questions, open-ended inquiry, and analysis of the "here and now" of the group process in the classroom. Then, I will argue that even in an age of post-positivism it is entirely possible, perhaps inevitable, that teachers will assume the very positions of absolute authority that they are trying to resist in their classrooms. The real work of teaching in a post-positivist world begins, I will argue, when we recognize that we have assumed the position of the arbiter of truth in the classroom and figure out (with and in front of our students) what to do next.

    Louis Aron (1999) recognizes that many psychoanalytic educators themselves learned in classrooms based on positivist models. These teachers might feel pulled between certainty and uncertainty as they shape their pedagogy:

    How can we say to a trainee that this is what the psychoanalytic response should be in a given situation, that this is the proper psychoanalytic intervention, based on the standard or model psychoanalytic technique, when we and the student know there are any number of other analysts and supervisors, often at the same institute, who would disagree and do things differently? (Aron, 1999, 3) In the technique courses that I have taken, the instructors indirectly answered Aron's question as they invited their class to think about and negotiate between multiple theories of technique, rather than recommending that students form allegiances to one or even several methods. Students tested theories of technique against one another and experimented with those theories as they analyzed their instructors' and each others' clinical vignettes. Perhaps most importantly, the class explored the ways in which the theories they read informed the subjective and intersubjective experiences of the students and teachers in the classroom. Another way to say this is that teachers and students reflected on how personal experiences and beliefs, "including those enshrined in [our] theories," (Stolorow and Atwood, 1979) impact the analytic process.

    From the start, the instructors in the Technique course I am focusing on practiced and encouraged awareness of context and negotiation as essential to the understanding of technique, on multiple levels. First, each week's readings included two, if not three, recent articles on technique. Often the authors of these articles entered into a dialogue on the topic for the day; they set a context of multiple opinions that the class might explore, debate, and make use of to situate themselves in relation to the topic. The topics were broad, controversial, and focused: "beginning an analysis," "neutrality," "interpretation," "resistance analysis." Second, the instructors regularly offered material from their own cases for the class to interpret; in this context, students and instructors were invited to act as experts together. Third, the students in some ways participated in setting the agenda for the course. Although instructors sometimes began the session with a question or comment, as the course progressed, the students started the discussion; they offered clinical vignettes or questions to direct the group to the day's texts. From the start, in other words, the course offered technique as a matter to be wrestled with in a lively and democratic fashion, and it invited the participants to help shape the ways in which they did so. Dolan Power (2001) imagines this kind of classroom in her critique of positivist residue in the case seminar, when she recommends that technique should be a matter for dialogue rather than mastery:

    If a case seminar is organized to include both instructors and candidates presenting material, and if discussion is based on the shared personal integrations of all the participants derived from the unique aspects of individual cases, there will be inevitable disagreement regarding technique. This would preclude the presence of a "correct" or "right" way. (637, my emphasis).

    The kind of "struggle" and "disagreement" that Power describes will be clearer in the vignette I am about to present, but I want to point out here that it was built into the course syllabus and into the organization of each session. Students asked tough questions and grappled with contradictory theories of technique. Power also recommends that instructors present their own cases, to "offer seminar participants a different perspective on the instructor's authority and knowledge by grounding it in the ability to expose one's work, to reflect on it, and to tolerate confusion and uncertainty" (629). From the first session of this course, when one or the other of the instructors offered clinical material and asked for the candidates' interpretations, candidates had the opportunity to debate the case, to identify the blindspots of a more powerful party, their teacher, and thereby to act as experts by offering their experientially-informed recommendations to the teaching analyst. The candidates' astute readings of their teachers' cases were lauded both during these conversations, when an instructor would say, for example, "oh, right, I never thought about that," and after, when it was common for one or the other instructors to thank the class for its contributions to a change in the patient/analyst relationship that the instructor attributed to the class's input.

     The factors I have just mentioned, I believe, led to a most remarkable thing. After about three sessions, awareness of context and a process of negotiation came to be a part of a conversation about the process of the class sessions as well. Students and teachers raised issues about what someone had said in a previous session, referred to an article or a patient presented in previous weeks, or made reference to a concept they'd discussed in a particular way in a past session. Candidates increasingly offered spontaneous examples from their own sessions with patients, and patients, in a way, entered the discussion, which now included a number of different texts from different contexts. When the candidates began to address what was going on between them in the here and now in terms of what they were learning together, I became fascinated by this aspect of the course; I had never seen this form of instruction discussed in either the pedagogical or psychoanalytic literature I'd read. In fact, whenever I described it to colleagues who are teachers of teachers, they found it a remarkable and exciting idea to reflect on the process of interactions in the classroom as a way to teach teachers to think about their technique.

     My narrative represents my own version of a series of moments from two consecutive class sessions: the third and fourth meetings. I asked the members of the class to read my version; they provided feedback, and I revised in response. This experience emphasized for me that every reading of these two classes is itself an act of interpretation. I've attempted to be fair to all of those who spoke to me about their versions as I drafted and redrafted this vignette, but I would nonetheless urge you to hear this as my story of what happened, and as such, it is one of any number of stories that might be told about what happened in these two class sessions. I would also like to urge you to listen less to the fact that something "went wrong" or got disrupted in this class than to how instructors and students "repaired" the group process, and even improved it, in response. They negotiated new ways of understanding the course material and each other from this experience, and this experience became, for them, a model of what it might mean to practice technique in a therapeutic context.

     I am borrowing the concept of "moments of interaction" and "disruption and repair" from an article entitled "Non-Interpretive Mechanisms in Psychoanalytic Theory: The Something More than Interpretation" (1998). Here, Daniel Stern and his co-authors address the production of knowledge in psychodynamic therapy, but I find their concepts enormously useful for thinking about the production of knowledge in classrooms like the one I am trying to describe to you. The authors distinguish between "two kinds of knowledge . . . .one is explicit (declarative) and the other is implicit (procedural)." The first kind, explicit knowledge, would, I think, include the "facts" I just offered about the technique classroom: the texts to be read, the topics to be discussed, and the case material offered. Far from neutral or objective forms of knowledge, all of these "facts come with a point of view" (Cooper 1996). The organization of the syllabus, the choice of articles to be discussed, the decisions about what sorts of case material to be presented, and by whom: all of these are forms of declarative knowledge.

     The second kind of knowledge, procedural, includes "knowing about interpersonal and intersubjective relations, i.e. how "to be with" someone (Stern et al., 1998, 904); the authors call this "implicit relational knowledge." This kind of knowledge would include the ways that students and teachers interact in classrooms, ways that, I believe, are rarely, if ever discussed in psychoanalytic literature. In the story I am about to tell, students and instructors entered into a dialogue about this form of knowledge, even as they continued to construct ways of being together. In other words they reflected on and continued to shape their classroom interactions by focusing on them as an object of study. This way of thinking about the learning process seems to me to be essential to the production of knowledge in post-positivist classrooms. If the content of a course focuses on mutuality in the patient/analyst dyad, for example, shouldn't the process of the class be similarly organized around students and teachers creating knowledge in dialogue together? And how can teachers and students do this without making this process a topic for discussion in the course? In the classroom I am describing it was.

     The topic for the session I would like to focus on was "Interpretation," and the class read three articles to prepare for it: Anton Kris's "Interpretation and the Method of Free Association" (1992), Fred Busch's "In the Neighborhood: Aspects of a Good Interpretation and a Developmental Lag in Ego Psychology " (1993), and the Stern et. al. article I just cited. The class began when a candidate I will call "Mike" spontaneously offered a clinical example from a session earlier in the day. Mike had seen a new patient for the second time. She told him that he reminded her of Mr. Rogers, the legendarily mild-mannered host of a famous children's television program, In the Neighborhood. "Tell me about Mr. Rogers," Mike said to the patient. The patient talked about her associations to Mr. Rogers, which were to playing sports. There are two kinds of players she said. Some are hard-hitting. Others just play for fun. She said she liked the ones who play for fun. "Like the mailman on Mr. Rogers," the patient said. "Mr. McFeeley!" exclaimed Mike. Both the patient and Mike laughed. The candidate provided a bit of background. This was the patient's second visit. In the previous session, the patient had revealed that she was bisexual.

     One of the teachers, whom I will call "Joe," said "she was flirting with you." A student in the class said she was not sure why it had to be flirting. The other teacher, "Ed," said "she was being aggressive. Mr. Rogers is a wimp." Several students shook their heads; others nodded. One replied that she thought that many people had maternal associations to Mr. Rogers. We began to discuss our interpretations of Mr. Rogers. The class was wrestling with whether or not the patient was being aggressive as they explored their own associations to Mr. Rogers. Instructor Ed brought up the day's reading, "In the Neighborhood," by Fred Busch, in relation to the question about how to interpret the patient's analogy. What did it mean to be "in the neighborhood" in this case, he wondered? Whose neighborhood were they talking about?

     The class proceeded from a discussion of who Mr. Rogers is, to what the patient was trying to say to her analyst when she made the distinction between rough play and playing for fun, to whether Mike's response to her really addressed what she was trying to evoke in him, to what was actually represented in the reading by Busch. In this fast-paced conversation about the patient's message to her analyst, one of the students in the seminar, a student I will call "Nick," said "let's just say, for the sake of argument, that we say to the patient, 'You are being hostile.'" A couple of people in the class laughed, as if this were a ridiculous thing to say to a patient. It was implied in the tone of the laughter, I think, that Nick was not aware of the consequences of such an interpretation, that he was naïve, or unconscious, even, not to have realized the damaging effects of such an accusation. (Tone, as we know, is very hard to describe, but it is an essential aspect of the implicit relationships in any classroom.) At the very least, it appeared that if indeed the patient were to voice aggression towards her therapist, Nick's comments did not take the patient's need for defensive protection against the acknowledgement of that aggression into account (Instructor Ed, personal correspondence, May 2001).

    During the next half hour, as the class continued its inquiry into whether the patient's comment could be interpreted as aggressive, Nick somehow came to represent the position of the aggressive reader in the room. At one point, Teacher Ed, who had initially interpreted the patient's analogy as aggressive, turned to Nick and jokingly suggested that he was the kind of analyst who would confront a patient and "tell it like it is." The accusation was repeated at least twice, and at least one of Nick's other classmates participated. A few minutes later, when Nick's corner of the seminar table was gestured toward in relation to addressing a patient's hostile feelings, it became clear that Nick was having a strong reaction. He indicated his discontent by miming that he was being crucified by the class. Nobody took up his gesture for discussion, and it appeared that all assumed that they were sharing a joke together.

     After the class, Instructor Ed approached Nick and asked "if the play about his technique was okay." Nick said yes, he took it as a sign of collegiality. But at least three of the seminar members worried that Nick was not really feeling okay about the way the class had proceeded. They separately called him that evening to discuss the situation. All three felt that the class had perhaps become over-stimulated in its discussion, and that in the midst of it Nick came to symbolize a position rather than a person with many ways of thinking about the issues. After he had thought about it some more, Nick decided that he was not settled about what had taken place in class, and he decided to raise the topic for discussion in the next class. I think it is important to note here that this student felt comfortable to bring an out-of-class discussion back into the classroom. It suggests to me that the dynamics in the classroom supported such a move. It also suggests (and I think this is important), a fluidity between Nick's professional identity as a psychiatrist in private practice outside the classroom and his simultaneous identity as a student at a psychoanalytic institute. Nick did not, in other words, need to check his expertise at the door of the classroom and assume the position of a less knowledgeable or experienced clinician in relation to either his instructors or the other students.

     The following class (the topic for this class was "Resistance Analysis") began with Nick asking if they could discuss the process of the previous session. He said that, in retrospect, he felt uncomfortable with the way he'd been responded to in the class. The air in the classroom became unusually tense. Instructor Ed said "let's talk about this. Maybe we could think about the role of aggression in our process last week?" Some members of the seminar said that they felt that the class had had an edge to it, and several suggested that they'd participated. Instructor Joe said that he agreed; he believed that this tone, in fact, had been a part of the group's process since the term began. Instructor Joe suggested that the class seemed to be evading and resisting its own aggression in some of the ways that we talked about the texts we were reading, particularly in relation to one theorist toward whom a number of the seminar members had negative feelings. Both instructors waited for a moment for someone else to speak. Then Instructor Ed noted that more attention could be paid to the role of aggression as an everyday part of every interaction, including group process in classrooms. He pointed out that this might relate to the reading for the day; the topic for the session was "Resistance."

    Nick asked if the class could wait before turning to the reading. He said that he felt that the class was not adequately responding to what had happened the previous week. Here again I would like to note that Nick felt that there was enough space in the seminar room for him to direct the class's attention to an issue that he felt was critical to their work together. In response to Nick's request, the members of the seminar contributed more of their experiences of the previous discussion. One student remarked that it was interesting that Instructor Joe's interpretation of the patient's comment about Mr. Rogers as flirtatious had completely fallen away once the "aggressive" reading became the topic of discussion. The class explored how it had happened that aggression, both in interpreting the patient and in the style of discussion, had become such a focus the previous week. What might the conversation might have been like if they'd pursued the idea that the patient was flirting with the analyst, rather than voicing aggression towards him? Why hadn't they? Was it related to this dynamic that Instructor Joe, who had suggested this reading of the situation, had become uncharacteristically silent in the previous class? And finally, why was it that sex and aggression, perhaps the most prominent words in a classical analytic vocabulary, had become the key words in a classroom in which multiple theories of technique, including, for example, relational theories, were read and discussed each week?

     Together, the class developed a thought about the place of aggression in class the previous week. Perhaps the class had become uncomfortable with its aggression, and, as a way to manage it, had chosen Nick as a scapegoat? When Nick offered a hypothetical question about hostility, in other words, the class became organized around him as the hostile figure: his ideas became identified with him. And the class's aggression towards a particular theorist found its place in Nick as well. Ed and the class reacted to Nick's comment in the just the way that some members of the class had suggested Nick's comment would affect the patient. In short, the group was in parallel process to the content of its session. This is what Instructor Joe had in mind when he said that aggression had been a part of the process of the class session. There were, in other words, at least three levels of unrecognized aggression in this class: toward Mike's patient, who might have been wounded by Nick's comment, toward Nick, who was scapegoated by his classmates and teacher, and toward the theorist about whom many of the class had negative feelings.

    Instructor Ed added another level of reflection to the group process. He volunteered that perhaps the class was responding to his personal style; he had in the past been experienced as blunt or too forthright in a classroom. Another student, Sara, felt she might have a too-blunt style of participating in discussion; she disagreed, in other words, that it was only the instructor's affect that had directed the conversation. After some more discussion, and after Instructor Ed asked Nick and the class if they felt the issue had been fully discussed, the conversation moved easily to the topic for the day's session. Both instructors and Nick thanked the group for attending to what had happened between them. Nick noted that this discussion had been useful to him on many levels, including a very personal one. He'd often been accused of "making much ado about nothing" when he raised issues for discussion in his family of origin, and he was happy that this was not the class's interpretation of what he'd been doing this evening. Indeed, the class seemed grateful to Nick for bravely raising the issue, and for addressing an aspect of their process that might otherwise have become an "elephant in the seminar room."

     I think there are many ways of understanding this session, just as there are many ways of understanding what the patient might have been trying to convey to her analyst when she compared him to Mr. Rogers, and I'd like to explore. But first I would like to try to illuminate what the interactions in and outside of this classroom suggest about teaching and learning at psychoanalytic institutes. We might say about the classroom situation, that when Nick got targeted as the aggressive reader, he became the figurative student of both the other students and his instructor. Nick came to represent an inept and naive reader in the classroom. In the next session, when Nick expressed his frustration at having been misinterpreted, he asked for a different understanding of his role in the discussion. Nick was suggesting that seeing him as aggressive was over-determined. The class had only been able to hear Nick's comments in the context of his first contribution to the discussion; everything he said after that was deemed insensitive to the patient's defenses. By raising the issue in the following session, Nick gave everyone an opportunity for a wider interpretation. This wider view, which included Nick's experience of what had been happening in the room, changed the group's understanding of what had occurred during the previous session. His comments called attention to blindnesses in the original discussion, blindnesses that were in part produced by Instructor Ed's tone of absolute certainty. In the power relations in a classroom, Nick was a student in the class, no matter how much it felt like a democratic and open atmosphere. Given this power dynamic, it was a risk for him to ask the class to consider its process the previous week.

     Nick might never have raised the issue if a number of things had not happened. First, Instructor Ed asked Nick if he was okay with the first class. Then, although he had initially felt okay with it, Nick reevaluated, and returned to initiate a discussion of the previous week's conversation. That Nick felt able to initiate, even to direct, this discussion strikes me as significant; clearly, he felt that such a challenge to his instructor, and to his classmates, would be tolerated, or even welcomed. In other words, there was already room in the seminar for a kind of negotiation that reformers of psychoanalytic education such as Kernberg and Power have in mind when they try to work against hierarchical arrangements that they have observed in classrooms at psychoanalytic institutes. There was also room in the seminar room for students to assume positions of authority in their proceedings, and to directly challenge the interpretations of their instructors.

     Now let's think about how the two teachers and the seminar members responded to Nick's request to process the previous session. We might call this interaction a process of negotiation. Instructor Ed contributed to the process when he attempted to understand the content of the previous session aloud. This was most particularly the case when Instructor Ed offered his personal teaching style as an object of discussion. When Nick offered his own childhood experiences at the end of the discussion, he too explained how his past experiences made what happened in the room resonate for him on another level. Here, the hierarchical order of a traditional, positivist classroom did not shape the interactions in this classroom. Instead, there was a give and take in which both the instructors and the students assumed positions of authority in the conversation, and in which both instructors and students drew the class's attention to how their personal histories shaped their interactions there. It was therefore a classroom in which both students and teachers participated in creating what they called a "class." In such a classroom, what might be called an "interactive error" offered opportunities for students and teachers to discover and explore "new ways of being together" in the classroom, ways that expanded their understanding of each other, the course material, and what was possible for them to do together (Tronick, 2002 2).

    If we think about what I am trying to describe in terms of the material that the class read for the first session, we can learn even more about this interaction. Fred Busch's "In the Neighborhood," for example, might attribute part of what was happening in the room to the fact that "Universal trends from childhood … tend to pull the analysand [or in this case, the student,] toward a regressive relationship where the analysand [or student] 'associates' and the analyst [in this case the teacher] interprets" (174). In the first class session, at least for a moment, Nick became the object of his instructor's interpretation. I believe that both teachers and students experience regressive pulls in this direction in classrooms at any institution. Busch suggests that there is a "letting go" when the analysand enters such a regressive relationship. I am not at all certain that this is the case when an analytic candidate is the figurative analysand (in fact, I am not convinced it should always be the case in an intersubjectively-informed analytic treatment either). If Nick had "let go" and remained the "regressed" party in the room, it would have been an example of a positivist model of instruction. His experience might have been invalidated or even unnoticed by him. In the words of linguist Mary Louise Pratt, "If a classroom is analyzed as a social world unified and homogenized with respect to the teacher, whatever students do other than what the teacher specifies is invisible to the analysis" (1990, 592).

     And if we think about this vignette in relation to Stern et. al.'s concept of "implicit relational knowing" it adds another dimension to our understanding of what happened. Both the instructors and students were learning other ways for teachers and students to "be with" one another than positivist models of teacher/student relationships allow. Paulo Freire notes that in such a model of education, "the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority (350). He refers to the ways that an instructor's ideas can become the truths, or even the "gods" in his classroom. Irwin Hoffman talks about a similar phenomenon in psychoanalysis, when he argues that "the whole ritual of psychoanalysis is designed, in part, to cultivate and protect a certain aura or mystique that accompanies the role of the analyst" (1998, 151-152). Freire and Hoffman might have similar ways of understanding the mystique of the senior analyst as truthsayer in the psychoanalytic classroom. The classroom I described, with its atmosphere of negotiation, mutuality, disruption, and repair, contrasts to this idealization. The "Something More" article would suggest that the interaction I described contained "special 'moments' of authentic person-to-person connection . . . that altered the relationship" [in this case, between teachers and students] in this classroom (Stern 1998, 904).

     I would also like to think about these interactions in terms of what Steven Cooper (2000) calls the "return-of the repressed positivistic." Cooper uses this term to explain what happens in social-constructivist theories of analysis, "when we try to analyze as much as possible the authority of the analyst as it plays out in the analytic relationship." He explains that this is an ambitious enterprise, and inevitably a failed one. For no analyst can recognize "and analyze away all authority" (Cooper 2000, 273). If we think about this return in the class sessions I described, we might note that even when a class is designed to encourage the discussion of multiple viewpoints, an instructor's tone of certainty and the use of remarks that have a dismissing tone can constrain a discussion so that the initially invited multiple points of view are not really welcomed. Nick, Instructor Ed, and the class worked toward a fuller understanding of "how it happens in analysis and in classrooms that when we think we are doing one thing--for instance, encouraging multiple points of view--we may be doing just the opposite" (Walton 2001).

     You may have noticed that I did not ask you to explore other readings of what the patient said to her analyst. There are multiple readings of this interaction, and I would speculate that not one of them can be determined as the correct reading without the presence of the patient, her analyst, and their interpretations of what happened between them in the first session. In fact, you might know of situations in which discussions of what happened in the first two sessions of an analysis, or any two sessions, go on for years. It is not that I am not interested in such discussions, or that the technique course I took did not attempt to address the multiple meanings that might be generated in them, but that the fact that I can entertain so many ways to think about this interaction is a credit to the people who taught and participated in the class I took. In other words, I learned that it is as important to understand the ways in which an analyst and patient develop interpretations together, to consider what they use to think with as they think about these interactions, as it is to determine a "correct interpretation." This is not to say that our class created a relativistic world in which all interpretations are valid, or one in which one interpretation is as useful as another, but instead, that our classroom world made the act of making interpretations as much a focus as the interpretations themselves. And the interaction between Ed, Nick, and the rest of the class drew our attention to the function of authority in the making of interpretations: how some interpretations can erase, obfuscate, or even prevent the creation of others.

     By way of conclusion I would like to return to the title of this presentation, which I borrowed from Fred Busch's "In the Neighborhood" and from the patient's comparison of her analyst to Mr. Rogers. Busch urges analysts to work to stay in the patient's neighborhood as they interpret the material. But whose neighborhood are we in when we say that the patient was flirting with her analyst in the above vignette? And whose are we in if we say she is being aggressive? Whose neighborhood is the classroom at the analytic institute? Anthropologist Unni Wikan, in Managing Turbulent Hearts, remarks that "everyone's [living] room is feared by someone" (1990, 55). Wikan points to the fact that no space, including a classroom space, is uniformly experienced as safe or dangerous by any group of people. Instead, I would suggest, people in a classroom work to create safety and take risks together, and the instructors lead the way. When the instructors discover through their students, as Instructor Ed did, that they have somehow disregarded or closed down the possibilities for creative exploration in the room, it is their job to call attention to it and decide, with their students, what to do next. What happened next in the class I am describing is a more fruitful, open, and risk-taking environment than had existed. This was the work of a brave student and an equally brave instructor, and by the efforts of the other instructor and members of the seminar.

     In some way, this story is about how we produce versions of the truth in the service of a profession: truths which become so much like common sense to us that we no longer recognize them as "versions" at all. In the words of Owen Renik, "we become most religious in our approach …when we pretend … that we are able to remain neutral and that our interventions describe revealed truth" (1996, 515). In my own experience as an authority in the classroom, I have observed that difficult moments offer me opportunities to identify my own versions of the truth as they are reflected back to me in my students' unexpected responses. The next step of the dialogue--extending a hand to my students to facilitate further understanding-can be lost, if I wrongly locate the source of misunderstanding or difficulty in the student's passivity, unpreparedness, or to "a bad day." If I can bear to look at myself through the lenses my students provide at these moments, I believe I have much to learn about how, despite my attempts to enter into dialogue with them, I can become deaf to their ideas in the service of my own.

     The future work in psychoanalytic education that I am imagining would first involve identifying the mythologies of our teaching practices as we "hear them back" through our students, and then determining how to proceed in full and mutual acknowledgement of what they are. Our ability to do this will depend on our willingness to recognize that a classroom is not one but many neighborhoods, that we and our students and all of the analysands inhabit many neighborhoods at once, and that we do not always know what they are. When we assume that we live in the same neighborhood, or even that we know which one we are talking about, we are always in danger of leaving somebody outside the gate.

Works Cited

Aron, Louis. "Clinical Choices and the Relational Matrix." Psychoanalytic Dialogues 9 (1999): 1-30.

Britzman, Deborah. "'Thoughts awaiting thinkers': Group Psychology and Educational Life," International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice 2 (1999): 313-335.

Busch, Fred. "'In the Neighborhood': Aspects of Good Interpretation and 'Developmental Lag' in Ego Psychology." Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Assosciation 41 (1993): 151-178.

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To cite this article, use this bibliographical entry: Dawn Skorczewski "Whose Neighborhood is This?: Intersubjective Moments in Psychoanalytic Education". PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. Available http://psyartjournal.com/article/show/skorczewski-whose_neighborhood_is_this_intersubjecti. April 12, 2024 [or whatever date you accessed the article].
Received: January 9, 2002, Published: February 2, 2002. Copyright © 2002 Dawn Skorczewski