THE FALLACY OF UNDERSTANDING: An Inquiry into the Changing Structure of Psychoanalysis by Edgar A. Levenson

THE FALLACY OF UNDERSTANDING: An Inquiry into the Changing Structure of Psychoanalysis

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This hyped-up treatise, abundant in quotations and esprit, enjoyable but lacking in rigor, attempts to adumbrate a new psychotherapy. Levenson is on the side of the angels: he disdains therapy which merely ""shrinks"" the patient into adjustment, and insists on Laingian respect for the patient's own sense of reality. But his ""structuralist"" perspective remains elusive. It involves the therapist's conscious grasp of the patterned give-and-take between him and the patient, so that he can ""rise above"" and avoid the patient's tendency to fit him into neurotically preferred roles and responses. Thus the therapist does not tell the patient not to treat him like a father-figure -- that would be to confirm a fatherly role. Levenson, in his sensitive clinical examples, relies on his intuition for ways to rise above these unconscious interpersonal manipulations. But this hardly suffices for theoretical power. When hard questions arise, he tends to fall back on easy agnosticism -- who can say what ""change"" or ""success"" is? -- not questions to be so lightly tossed off in this life-and-death area. The book is not without its theoretical critique, however; Levenson attacks both the mechanistic equilibrium sought by Freud and the open-communication-good-vibes-flow viewed as an end in itself by some latter-day therapists; and he points out that, despite their ostensible differences, therapists in one culture may be far more alike than their co-thinkers from another time and place. In short, the book offers stimulation and frustration in equal parts. Levenson is Director of Clinical Services at the prestigious William Alanson White Institute.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1972
Publisher: Basic Books