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Unread February 5th, 2005, 10:47 AM
Tom Rosbrow Tom Rosbrow is offline
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Default Re: "Integrating control-mastery theory & research with other theoretical perspective

I am writing a response to the Psychoanalytic Dialogues discussion between Weiss and Wachtel & DeMichele. I read these papers when they were published, and at the time thought that Wachtel & DeMichele were nitpicking and not really getting Joe Weiss' concepts. This time I had a very different reaction--that they were raising vital questions coming out of a sympathetic reading of Joe and the group's ideas, which are important to address if the group's ideas can evolve and grow. Their reactions are similar to one's I've heard when teaching the group's ideas. The language around plans and tests make clinical sense and are have a personal human meaning to clinicians working within the group's culture and paradigm. When presented to people outside or unfamiliar with the groups work, 'plans' and 'tests' often sound to the outsider as mechanistic, impersonal, and more.
Writing so soon after Joe Weiss' death, I think about how playful, creative, and humorous he was, and that his use of these terms were instrinsically connected to a passionate belief in the person's strivings to undo trauma, and find conditions of safety to do so. However, he was adamant in proposing and defending his theory, which had positive and negative effects. Positively, he and Hal Sampson created a framework and paradigm which was enormously generative both clinically and in fostering and encouraging research and clinical writing. The downside is that the theory can sound like a closed system from the outside, and as Wachtel & DeMichele point out the role of affect and personal conflict can seem missing. I think, just my opinion,because of Joe's immersion in the creation of a point of view, he willfully constructed his ideas on their own terms, and was not too interested in other theories or criticisms, excepts as ideas he could debate against, or as confirmations of his ideas. This allowed him to over many years come up with a highly original set of ideas, but the downside was a certain repetitousness -- so that the terms and wordings of the theory-- which sounded like a highly original reformulation of ego psychology in 1986 when the Psychoanalytic Process came out, can sound rather mechanical, to those outside the group, today.
The plan is a great example of this issue, and raises paradoxial questions. My clinical understanding of the concept, and the appeal of the group's work to me starting back in '86, is that it is an attempt to formulate a person's dynamics from the inside, from the point of view of the patient's motivations, strivings, and attempts to work through his or her own traumas and life-historical challenges. Weiss emphasizes the case-specific nature of the plan-- that each person has his own unique set of life-themes and strivings, which are uniquely brought into the relationship with the therapist.
This was a radical shift from the clinican constructing a dynamic formulation of the patient which described the patient's psychodynamics and object relations without putting at the very center the patient's own intentions and strivings.
At the same time, the fact that testing is seen as unconscious, and that the therapist always is trying to infer and pass the patient's test, can sound like a chess game, where the patient is unconsciously trying to figure out the therapist, and the therapist is consciously and unconsciously reacting to patient's tests--- where they are not meeting together collaboratively, in a therapeutic encounter, but are more reading and reacting to one another. I know this isn't what's meant, but the language gets in the way.
Wachtel and DeMichele very cleverly put there finger on this, for me, when they say on p.440 "one might suggest that what is really being stressed by their idiosyncratic language and conceptualization is not that it is the patient's plan (patient italicized) but that it is the patient's plan.(patient italicized)". In other words, when the plan is understood as an expression of the patient's intentions and creativity you are getting Weiss's original idea-- but it can sound by the nature of the language he is describing a plan which sounds dry, mechanical, and outside the active self of the person/patient.
There's so much more to discuss, but this seems like more than enough to start.
Tom Rosbrow
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