Psychoanalysis in a New Key, Vol. 3
The Analytic Press is pleased to reissue within the Psychoanalysis in a New Key book series two works that have proven influential in the realignment of psychoanalytic thought and practice away from Freudian drive theory and toward a contemporary appreciation of clinical process in its interactive, enactive, and participatory dimensions. Newly introduced by series editor Donnel Stern, The Fallacy of Understanding and The Ambiguity of Change are richly deserving of the designation “contemporary classics” of psychoanalysis.
In The Fallacy of Understanding (1972) and The Ambiguity of Change (1983), Edgar Levenson elaborated the many ways in which the psychoanalyst and patient interact – unconsciously, continuously, inevitably. For Levenson, it was impossible for the analyst not to interact with the patient, and the therapeutic power of analysis derived from the analyst’s ability to step back from interactive embroilment (and the mutual enactments to which it led) and to reflect with the patient on what each was doing to, and with, the other. Invariably, Levenson found, the analyst-analysand interaction reprised patterns of experience that typified the analysand’s early family relationships. This reconceptualization of the analyst-analysand relationship and of the manner in which the analytic process unfolded would become foundational to contemporary interpersonal and relational approaches to psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. But Levenson’s perspective was revolutionary at the time of its initial formulation in The Fallacy of Understanding and remained so at the time of its fuller elaboration in The Ambiguity of Change.
“It seems to me that Levenson’s contribution to relational thinking, via the sea change in our understanding of the nature of interaction, has been seminal, even originary; but I also believe that this influence has never been adequately recognized and appreciated by many relational writers. . . . It was Levenson who conceived of mutual enactment, more or less single-handedly. Or rather, it was Levenson who first understood that continuous mutual unconscious influence necessarily implies mutual enactment. Does this seem to credit him too much? I don’t think so. In 1972, the date of The Fallacy of Understanding, and for years thereafter, there was simply nothing else available on the subject.” -- Donnel B. Stern, from the Introduction