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Book Forum: Creativity   |    
Freud’s Models of the Mind: An Introduction
RICHARD D. CHESSICK, M.D., PH.D.
Am J Psychiatry 1998;155:1452-1453.
View Author and Article Information
Evanston, Ill.

by Joseph Sand­ler, Alex Holder, Christopher Dare, Anna Ursula Dreher. Madison, Conn., International Universities Press, 1998, 203 pp., $32.50

Book Forum

Every science, as Kuhn pointed out in his famous work R2815510CBBCGCAI, requires a basic paradigm from which advances are made by improvements and alterations in that paradigm. The authors of this splendid little text are aware of this and "are convinced that it is necessary to return to the roots of the psychoanalytic theory of mental functioning, and that a historical approach is vital for putting into perspective the continuously changing post-Freud psychoanalytic approaches" (p. 185). To understand what they call the "labyrinth of present-day theoretical viewpoints" (p. 185), the authors correctly state that it is necessary to have a basic idea of Freud’s models of the mind from which these contemporary theoretical viewpoints represent alterations and deviations.

This book proposes to give a clear introduction to what the authors call the three phases of Freud’s work. The first phase was marked by the seduction or external trauma causation theory of neurosis (mid-1880s to 1897), the second was marked by emphasis on the vicissitudes of the instinctual drives and the defenses against them (1897–1923), and the final phase offered the structural theory, the psychic agencies (id, ego, and superego), and the conflicts and compromises among them. Freud’s Models of the Mind is based on a series of lectures originally given by Dr. Sandler and revised and elaborated into papers by him along with Dr. Holder and Dr. Dare. These papers, we are told, have been used extensively in teaching and made into this book by further revision and expansion by Dr. Sandler and Dr. Dreher. The resulting volume is a clear, accurate, and careful exposition of the evolution of Freud’s models of the mind that is carefully restricted to that topic. Those interested in the clinical aspects of Freud’s theories and his practice of psychoanalysis will not find them covered in this text, although there are some excellent clinical illustrations of Freud’s view of transference in chapter 8 and his view of dream processes in chapter 9. However, these are specifically for the purpose of illustrating the theory. The authors refer the reader to another text R2815510CBBBIBIJ for a study of Freud’s clinical constructs. I also have published a book combining the details of Freud’s theories with his technique and practice of psychotherapy R2815510CBBDAADC.

There are difficulties with this sort of presentation, of course, because there is a lot of overlap, especially between the topographic and structural theories, as Freud developed his theories. In addition, Freud sometimes used the same term to mean different things at different times, as the authors point out. Freud’s metapsychology is very complex, sometimes approaching medieval scholasticism, and the authors concede that a number of students for this reason are "attracted to ‘new’ and apparently all-encompassing theoretical systems, which are relatively easy to grasp. Others are tempted to reject all psychoanalytic theories or to pronounce them irrelevant to their practical work" (p. 4). This is a very poor idea because those who claim to reject all theories simply practice without being aware of the assumptions on which they proceed.

I did not find anything in the authors’ technical presentation with which to disagree, but the views expressed from time to time in their footnotes are open to debate. The book is made even more interesting by these footnotes, which are fortunately placed at the bottom of the page for easy access rather than at the end of the book. In one footnote, the authors accurately point out the confusion in Freud’s view of the preconscious system. On the one hand, Freud describes the content of the preconscious as freely accessible to consciousness but, on the other hand, he "simultaneously took the view that there was a censorship between the Preconscious and Conscious systems" (p. 67). This confusion was seized upon by Sartre R2815510CBBDHBAI, who criticized Freud’s topographic theory severely because of it. Sartre’s criticism focused on Freud’s conception, as pointed out in this book, that "the scanning and scrutiny of instinctual wishes and their derivatives involved in the censorship necessarily presumes the existence of a form of ‘unconscious awareness’ in the Preconscious" (p. 69).

There is an excellent description of drive theory, including the confusion between the biological and psychological aspects and what the authors call the "psychologist’s fallacy" (p. 73). This is the presumption that when the observer of the infant sees the infant doing something, e.g., sucking the breast, the infant "knows" that it is doing it. Although the observer may say that the infant is satisfying its instinctual drives by sucking at the breast, the infant may have no psychological knowledge or mental representation of the object from which its satisfaction is derived, knowing little more than a sequence of unpleasurable tension and pleasurable satiation. Of course, Melanie Klein’s adherents would not agree with this.

The authors maintain that Freud’s "notion of drive satisfaction through a discharge of energy is now outdated and confuses many important issues" (p. 74). Similarly, in a footnote on page 92, the authors suggest discarding Freud’s notion of energic "binding." This matter is not settled, although the fashion today is to ignore Freud’s concept of psychic energy, but I believe it still may have heuristic use.

The authors also point out that in using the topographic frame of reference in this phase of the development of psychoanalytic theory, "The focus of the psychoanalyst’s attention was on the ‘the language of the unconscious’ " (p. 76). This lends some credence to Lacan’s claim that he was returning to the early Freud when he rejected the structural theory, returned to Freud’s topographic theory, and focused on the unconscious as structured like a language. Of course, a careful reading of Freud’s Models of the Mind reveals that Freud’s notion of the unconscious even in this phase was quite different from that of Lacan.

Another polemical issue discussed in a footnote is the concept of unconscious fantasy; unfortunately, "a number of different meanings have accrued to the term" (p. 88). This is nicely clarified, and Freud’s use of the term is also explained in the text.

It should be kept in mind that the topographic theory is still in use, but it had to be modified, as the authors explain in chapter 11, for a number of reasons. Chapter 11 also contains a footnote maintaining that Freud regarded his "death instinct" as a "speculative excursion." Later, the authors claim that Freud recognized it as "entirely speculative" (p. 179). In subsequent publications, however, Freud began to treat the death instinct as an established discovery R2815510CBBDBBFE. The authors correctly conclude in a footnote, "In the present state of knowledge and theory formation, there is no single all-embracing psychoanalytic model of the mind" (p. 167).

In summary, this outstanding book offers an excellent introduction to the vicissitudes of Freud’s models of the mind as they changed over his long lifetime. A thorough understanding of the material in this book will introduce the reader to what might be called the basic paradigm of psychoanalysis and will greatly enable the reader to understand the various emendations and substitutions that have been proposed by a number of different theorists since Freud’s day. In spite of the cacophony of these modern conflicting deviant theories, a study of the present book reminds us how Freud’s genius towers above them all. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the field of psychodynamic psychiatry or psychoanalysis.

Kuhn T: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1962
 
Sandler J, Holder J, Dare C: The Patient and the Analyst, 2nd ed. Madison, Conn, International Universities Press, 1992
 
Chessick RD: Freud Teaches Psychotherapy. Indianapolis, Hackett, 1981
 
Sartre J: Being and Nothingness. Translated by Barnes H. New York, Washington Square Press, 1973
 
Chessick RD: The death instinct revisited. J Am Acad Psychoanal  1992; 20:3–28
[PubMed]
 
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References

Kuhn T: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1962
 
Sandler J, Holder J, Dare C: The Patient and the Analyst, 2nd ed. Madison, Conn, International Universities Press, 1992
 
Chessick RD: Freud Teaches Psychotherapy. Indianapolis, Hackett, 1981
 
Sartre J: Being and Nothingness. Translated by Barnes H. New York, Washington Square Press, 1973
 
Chessick RD: The death instinct revisited. J Am Acad Psychoanal  1992; 20:3–28
[PubMed]
 
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