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A critical study of what psychoanalysis is - the role of paradox

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posted on 02.03.2017, 03:26 authored by Chester, Robin Leslie
The perplexity of the question of what psychoanalysis is challenges analysts who strive for a self-defining priority of view. The consequent conflicts, if open to thought, can contribute to a creative aliveness about psychoanalysis, but, if closed, possibly to its demise. Psychoanalysis’ roots are in understanding conflict and this study is initiated and informed by conflict, i.e. to understand psychoanalysis’ contributions to its practitioners’ conflicts while avoiding involvement in these. To achieve this dual goal, understanding is sought through a focus upon dichotomous realisations of psychoanalysis, both with Freud and in general. This focus reveals a paradoxical basis to psychoanalysis manifesting in such dichotomy. Understanding psychoanalysis through paradox is facilitated by Winnicott’s (1971) observations of the creative potential of accepted ontological paradox including that basic to psychoanalysis. These ideas re psychoanalysis and paradox are explored through, in particular, Parsons, Ogdon and, especially, Bion and his approach to psychoanalysis as thing-in-itself and the developing understanding of it. These explorations lead to conclusions that “psychoanalysis” manifests in three interlocked realisations: 1) a process that is both uniquely individual but also one that becomes open to general consideration guided by and leading to theoretical conceptualisations about it; 2) an intrinsic psychoanalysis unknown and unknowable but know of: discovered by Freud, its qualities are being explicated; 3) psychoanalysis as the creative product of accepted ontological paradox: this paradox reveal qualities re its constituent elements informing further about the existential/experiential basis of psychoanalysis and contributing to the explication of the qualities of the intrinsic psychoanalysis.


Principal supervisor

Gavin Ivey

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Clinical Science at Monash Health

Campus location


Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences