Saturday, March 25, 2006

‘Newsweek’ errs on Freud’s influence

So Newsweek  gave Freud a cover this week (issue date 3/27/06), an article on his early career, an article about his lasting influence, and an interview about Freud with real Nobel prizewinner Eric Kandel.

I didn't think the article was great, although it contained these gems:
And Freud's debunkers are finding much to confirm what they've said all along, that his canonical "cures" were the product of wishful thinking and conscious fudging, and his theories founded on a sinkhole of circular logic.

“I'm afraid he doesn't hold up very well at all.… It almost feels like a personal betrayal to say that. But every particular is wrong: the universality of the Oedipus complex, penis envy, infantile sexuality.” –Peter D. Kramer
It was enough to get this out of a blogging psychoanalyst (or his patient, I'm not quite sure): “Regardless of what scientists can prove or disprove about his theories, I think the bottom line is this: psychoanalysis can be extremely effective”. That's the spirit. No matter what's disproved, keep on truckin’.

The Newsweek  bit had a few errors and misleading statements, like: “The American Psychological Association, which represents psychotherapists without medical degrees, has 150,000 members”. I think most psychotherapists are MA or MSW clinicians (not APA members) and a huge portion of that 150,000 are not clinical psychologists doing psychotherapy. (But I can't find any numbers this morning, drat.)

I disagreed with most of Kandel's statements about Freud. He said, for example, “Much of what we do is unconscious. That is a revelation that largely comes from Freud.” But Freud's assertions about our randy, tripartite mind have nothing I mean nothing  to do with modern research on unconscious brain activity.

Kandel also excused Freud for Freudianism's unscientific basis: “The problem with psychoanalysis, and it's a deep problem, is not with Freud. Subsequent generations have failed to make it a more rigorous, biologically based science.” Um, that's maybe because it can't be done? Just a guess. If Freud had set up a attitude of subjecting psychoanalytic assertions to ANY controlled research, then maybe you could say that the “deep problem” wasn't with Freud.

But the wrongest thing

in Newsweek  was a graphic in the print addition (not online yet, I guess) that showed a sort of family tree of modern psychology flowing out of Freud's head. Although most of it was various psychodynamic writers, it also showed the behaviorists Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner on a vein flowing out of Freud! Absolute bogus nonsense malarky! I hope there are indignant letters to the editor in coming editions.

(That tree also showed Beck coming out of Skinner, which is debatable. Beck started as a Freudian.)

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