A Clinical Introduction to Freud
Techniques for Everyday Practice
W.W. Norton & Company 2017
Bruce Fink joins me once again, this time to discuss his latest book, A Clinical Introduction to Freud: Techniques For Everyday Practice (W. W. Norton & Co., 2017). What prompted Fink, a world-renowned Lacanian analyst, to return to Freud? In the spirit of Lacan, he informs us at the outset that he was always already, and forever will be, Freudian. This does not mean, of course, that Fink is uncritical of Freud. Carefully, brilliantly, and often playfully, he reads Studies on Hysteria, The Interpretation of Dreams, and the Rat Man and Dora cases, drawing out the clinical relevance of key Freudian theoretical concepts, and punctuating (the many) moments Freud strayed from his own clinical recommendations.
The death knell of Freudianism has been sounded by various groups—some expected, like psychiatrists, neuroscientists, cognitive behavioral therapists, and feminists—and others less so, including Freudians themselves. Few would deny that Freud, in important and unfortunate ways, was a man of the late Victorian era: much ink has been spilled on his patriarchal values, cocaine habit, casual misogyny, and authoritarian attitude toward patients and colleagues. From his cases and letters we know, too, that Freud made almost every error he warned against in his papers on technique: he bombarded patients with interpretations, dispensed advice, intimidated, and asked them for favors. Nonetheless, even Freud’s detractors view him as a revolutionary and influential thinker who, despite failures to follow through on his own ideals and iconoclastic assertions, changed fundamental beliefs regarding gender and sexuality, art and literature, subjectivity, and social life. He continues to have a profound hold on non-Freudian psychoanalysts, even as they rename his metapsychological concepts and claim to leave him in the dust.
Fink provides early clinicians with an excellent guide to Freudian theory and technique, paying special attention to dream interpretation, symptoms, the handling of transference, diagnosis, and the facilitation of free association. Periodically, he inserts his own vivid clinical examples while underlining that which remains valuable in Freud and reading him to the letter. And isn’t this the most generous way to read Freud’s work—armed both with sharp critique and an appreciation of his path-breaking ideas? “The only good father,” to quote Lacan, “is a dead one.”
Anna Fishzon, PhD is Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol, UK. She is a candidate at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) and author of Fandom, Authenticity, and Opera: Mad Acts and Letter Scenes in Fin-de-Siecle Russia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).