The Analyst's Preconscious
How do the analyst’s consciously held theoretical commitments intersect with the actual conduct of analysis? Does the commitment to certain concepts entail commitment to related ideas and practices to the exclusion of others?
This is the uncharted domain that Victoria Hamilton explores in The Analyst’s Preconscious. At the heart of her endeavor is an imaginatively conceived empirical investigation revolving around in-depth interviews with 65 leading analysts in the United States and Britain. In these lively and free-ranging discussions, the reader encounters firsthand the thoughtfulness with which practitioners wrestle with the ambiguous relations between various theoretical positions, whether or not their own, and the exigencies of the therapeutic encounter.
The result is a uniquely detailed map of contemporary cultures. Hamilton documents the existence of different analytic cultures, each shaped by a need to maintain inner consistency among fundamental assumptions and also by extra-theoretical factors, including geography, collegial experiences, and exposure to particular teachers and supervisors.
Coming at a critical juncture in the history of the field, this work is indispensable to all who care about psychoanalytic culture and psychoanalytic practice, and especially about the analyst’s real-world adaptation to the theoretical turbulence of our time.
From cover, 1st edition 1996: Hillsdale, NJ & London, The Analytic Press Inc.
The Analyst’s Preconscious is the most innovative book on psychoanalytic theory in print today. Her grasp of psychoanalytic theory is breathtaking…at the same time, it will provide practitioners with profound insights into the ways in which their learning translates into the styles and strategies of everyday clinical work.
Peter Fonagy, PhD, University College, London.
Early on in my reading of Victoria Hamilton’s Analyst’s Preconscious, I became astonished that nobody has written on this subject before. One reason may be: What an enormous amount of work! Hamilton’s rigor, fairmindedness, and clarity are exemplary.
Marcia Cavell, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Narcissus and Oedipus
The Greek myths have played an important part in the history of psychoanalysis: ‘primary narcissism’ and the Oedipus complex were two of Freud’s most influential insights. This new study of child development returns to the original myths, as well as drawing on the theory and practice of ethology and communication theory, in order to expand the discipline of psychoanalysis created by Freud nearly a century ago.
Victoria Hamilton suggests that the myths of Narcissus and Oedipus are tragedies and, as such, may be interpreted in the light of pathological, rather than normal development. In place of primary narcissism, she depicts from the story of Narcissus and Echo a painfully fused two-person relationship in which differentiation leads to death. The Oedipus myth is viewed less as a tale about illicit sexual wishes than as a tragic account of a young person’s search for knowledge about his origins which fails because of deception. In contrast to more traditional psychoanalytical views of personal development, the infant’s intense desire to communicate with, to love and to learn about his mother is stressed. The author assigns a crucial role to play in human development: play enlivens the infant-mother attachment and fosters creativeness and the sense of autonomy.
From cover, 1st edition 1982: London, Boston & Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul
‘Why is this an important book? Starting very generally, it questions a long-standing bit of psychoanalytic theory. Hamilton sets about demonstrating that Freud’s theory of primary narcissism as a normal developmental stage is largely wrong, so we must think about discarding it. Dr. Hamilton is a child and adult psychoanalytic practitioner and teacher of long experience. Her literary facility makes the Greek myths seem easy. However, she is also philosophically and logically trained, and this gives her the conceptual precision needed to set about reforming old psychoanalytic habits. Since 1986, when Daniel Stern summarized infant research findings in his classic, ‘The Interpersonal World of the Infant’, the general psychoanalytic theory of development ought never to have been the same again. Hamilton’s book came before Stern’s but has been overshadowed by it.Hamilton’s book is certainly not a lazy read but it grasps both wide vistas of theory and the intimacy of clinical experience. This gives it a beauty that is a joy to read; but the conclusion we must come to is rather awesome. Psychoanalysis must think honestly about changing some of its theory. Without this, it is likely to become anachronistic.’
Foreword to 2nd edition 1993: London, H. Karnac Books
Primary narcissism has of course been questioned for decades but never so gracefully and cogently as by Hamilton. It should be required reading for teachers of psychoanalysis.
Eric Rayner, PhD, Former Vice-President British Psychoanalytical Society.
In this exceptionally intelligent study, Victoria Hamilton re-examines the myths of Narcissus and Oedipus to see if a radical reinterpretation will give birth to new sets of images through which psychoanalysts can contemplate the contemporary patient. In this she succeeds brilliantly. The informed reader will be continuously pushed to rethink human nature and its development.
Christopher Bollas, PhD, Psychoanalyst and Author