Wynn Schwartz / Presentation
I am a teacher, provider and supervisor of psychotherapy trained in classical psychoanalysisÂ and in Descriptive Psychology’s status dynamics. Both psychoanalysis and Descriptive PsychologyÂ are fundamental approaches to people. Psychoanalysis provides a theory driven and empiricallyÂ informed method whereas status dynamics is a pre-empirical formulation of basic maximsÂ that guide a competent explication of behavior. Status Dynamics as an organized body of remindersÂ potentially provides conceptual access to any and all behavior and as such is logically priorÂ to a coherent psychoanalysis or any other theory of persons and psychotherapy. I supervise non psychoanalytically trained students and I practice both a recognizable variety ofÂ psychoanalysis and psychotherapies that do not resemble Sigmund Freud’s but clearly followÂ from what I learned from Peter Ossorio. I am not eclectic even though my psychoanalytic workÂ involves an application of descriptive psychology. A basic competence with status dynamics, concerned with the formulations of intentionality,Â the practical syllogism, the states of affairs relations of stability and change, enable me to describe.Â Being able to describe is fundamental in doing psychology. As Wittgenstein reminds us, "If a descriptionÂ is complete what is left to explain?" Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain.Â (Wittgenstein, 126., 1953).Â I think that Ossorio’s Place (1998), his fundamental compilation of status dynamic maxims,Â is among a small handful of the most useful documents that has been produced in psychology.Â In my day to day work as a teacher, supervisor and therapist I use status dynamics:
- As the neutral language to teach comparative psychotherapy.
- In case formulation and supervision.
- As the structure of reminders for my practice of psychotherapy.
a methodology useful for enactingÂ accreditation can be found in the related social practices of moral dialogÂ (Arendt, 1958; Cavell, 1969; Pitkin, 1972) and negotiation (Ossorio, 1970).Â The practices set the stage for status change and acceptance. Although the mere successfulÂ practice of moral discourse and negotiationÂ can be therapeutic, the achievement of such anÂ encounter between therapist and client has no guaranteed end. The specific issues,Â complex and sometimes obscure, must still be accurately identified and dealt with,Â and this is not ordinarily easy to accomplish. What makes the concepts of moral dialog andÂ negotiation especially attractiveÂ for paradigms of therapeutic exchange is that both concepts directly involve mutual encounter.Â Moral dialog is an activity by which involved persons attempt to accurately reveal their positions,Â while negotiation concerns practices of calibrating those judgments through appeal to shared standards.Â Negotiation is thus conducted on the presupposition that both individuals have the competence to makeÂ judgments about the matters at hand, and that both persons wish to act with a common attention to theÂ relevance of what they say.Concerns with moral dialog and negotiation bear family resemblance to the concerns of the analyst.Â A key difference being the that analyst is fundamentally a value and significance describer and creator,Â cautious about self disclosure, whereas the descriptive therapist as accreditor must beÂ recognized as a representative of a valued community and is a value and significance provider,Â trainer and affirmer. Both analyst and descriptive therapist are concerned with an empathic exploration of intentionalityÂ and it is to this common ground that I will briefly turn. Intentionality, after all,Â is the concept that allows both parties to recognize each other’s values, knowledge, and skills,Â and must be understood in order for an appropriate appreciation of agency and responsibilityÂ to develop (Schwartz, 1984). The descriptive therapist must empathically recognize the patient’s values and status if thereÂ is to be negotiation and be especially attuned to the patient’s recognition of the therapist’s status.Â Similarly, the analyst must be empathic in order to make the analysand’s unconscious actions cognizantÂ and in so doing be in position to usefully analyze the transference and resistance interactions. So what is empathy and its bearing on intention? Here, I think, are the keys to what identifiesÂ good therapists of any stripe. Let me tell you what I mean by empathy. We recognize the other asÂ empathic with us when we feel that they have accurately acted on or somehow acknowledgedÂ in stated or unstated fashion our motivations, skills, and knowledge, but especially asÂ they appear to recognize the significance of our actions in a manner that we can tolerateÂ their being recognized. Empathic recognition is not intrusive, overwhelming, sadistic, orÂ otherwise abusive of the vulnerability that such recognition might create especially if whatÂ is recognized is potentially shameful or guilt provoking. This recognition of the vulnerabilityÂ that comes with recognition is what gives so much of good psychotherapy a sense of intimacy andÂ is central to what analysts require of the "tactful" interpretation or of any other intervention. We can be empathic because we recognize each other’s intentional actions as intentional actionsÂ including those that the observed has reasons for claiming or disclaiming. When we interpret behaviorÂ as unconscious and do so therapeutically we acknowledge the person’s reasons for acting and disclaimingÂ that action and we do so with tact because we know what the other can tolerate. And there are many waysÂ to do this. Accurate empathic interpretation can take an infinite variety of forms without ever beingÂ random or arbitrary: it just must fit. The analyst is especially concerned with an empathic interpretationÂ of transference and resistance. Interpretation of the transference is a particular way of acknowledgingÂ the context or learning history of the actions that the analysand directs toward orÂ performs in reference to the analyst. The analysis of the resistance acknowledges theÂ understandable ways the analysand consciously or unconsciously defends his viewÂ (and particularly his criticism of the transference analysis). Analysts and descriptive psychologists make use of the distinctions of motivation,Â knowledge, skill, performance, achievement and, especially, significance in theirÂ everyday practice. Analysts and descriptive psychologists recognize the conservativeÂ nature of personal characteristics and the dynamics of state and status.Â Therapists in general are attuned to these distinctions with a critical eye and ear to whatÂ can be tolerated and used for desired change. This is especially the case when the interventionÂ takes the form of a confrontation. What makes confrontation different in a good psychotherapyÂ from what is often the case in other social practices is that it is empathic, that is, informedÂ by what the person confronted can bare. Earlier I stated that therapists who perform "accreditation ceremonies" must beÂ representativeÂ members of some valued community. But they generally also rely on the additional status of doctor,Â healer, or other community acknowledged role that accredits them as ones who are eligible to listen, talk, and act in special ways. This is not a trivial point. J. L. Austin (1975) developed the concept of "the performatives" to identify those language acts in which the saying is essential to the doing of an action as in, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," uttered during appropriate circumstances by a duly sanctioned person. A person’s status provides significant aspects of meaning to what is said and allows certain statements to become performatives. If, during couples therapy, I look to my clients and say, "I now pronounce you husband and wife", I might be making a joke but I will not be performing a marriage. But if, on the other hand, I look over to them as I sit in my chair behind my couch and say, "you are both reenacting scenes from your childhood in which you felt rage when you made frustrated attempts to get close to yourÂ mother and father" then, whether or not I am correct, I will usually be taken seriously since suchÂ statements are the sorts of things psychoanalysts say and say in a manner where such interpretationsÂ are taken seriously. Psychoanalysts have that eligibility. "Psychoanalyst" or "psychotherapist"Â is a special status that confers eligibility to act in ways that in other social contexts would seemÂ rude, strange, or inappropriate. Credentials count. Now what about supervision? I have suggested that the therapist must create a safe place,Â what I like to call breathing space, in which the therapist and client can work. Similarly,Â it is the job of the supervisor to foster that kind of context for the work of supervisionÂ so that the therapist can examine and perhaps reveal what she has been doing with her patientsÂ in a manner that allows an honest exploration. Not an easy task, since so often novice therapistsÂ feel guilt and shame about the uncertainty which they reveal when they reflect on their interventions. The competent therapist does not have to be overly deliberate in her work, she simply knows how to do it.Â When she is in supervision, however, she is called upon to deliberate about her actions.Â The supervisor attends chiefly to the clarity of the therapist’s descriptions and critically to whetherÂ the described interventions are helpful. Given the usual status asymmetry between therapist and supervisorÂ and given the therapist’s general desire to be a full member of the supervisor’s community, supervisionÂ has inherently the potential structure of a degradation or accreditation ceremony with all the attendingÂ issues. Good supervisors know this and know how to foster circumstances in which they can perform theirÂ function. Given the legal liability that supervisors share with therapists, it is crucial that the supervisorÂ acquire an adequate description of the supervisee’s work. Supervisors want their supervisee’s patientsÂ to improve and they don’t want to be sued for their supervisee’s mistakes. The creation of a safe placeÂ requires competent recognition of the status dynamics that apply to the supervisor-supervisee relationshipÂ and this is why, in part, that an understanding of status dynamics provide the essential tools for supervision,Â at least in my practice. And, as I said earlier, the neutral or atheoritical form of the status dynamic maximsÂ allow the supervisor access to the intelligibility of the supervisee’s descriptions regardless of theÂ theoretical orientation that one or both parties might embrace. Let me tell you some about what I have embraced and what I believe all psychoanalystsÂ recognize as the core or their practice and theory. George Klein, in his PsychoanalyticÂ Theory: a study of essentials (1976), attempted a non metapsychological unfolding ofÂ psychoanalytic clinical theory which he deliberately presented in an ordinary language fashionÂ with a focus on psychoanalysis as concerned with intentionality as opposed to drive or instinct.Â R.S. Peters and Wittgenstein provided the philosophical critique of psychoanalysis that Klein took toÂ heart in a fashion that bears resemblance to my reading of Ossorio’s early concerns. With this in mindÂ let me describe my elaboration of Klein’s work and its expansion given other principles of psychoanalysisÂ that can be extracted from the object relations work of Donald Winnicott and the self psychology of Heinz Kohut.Â But let me remind you: this makes the particular sense it does to me because I am a Descriptive Psychologist.Â My elaboration is presented in Ordinary Language Essentials of Clinical Psychoanalytic Theory.