Preface (The Christopher Bollas Reader) by Adam Philips


Some words by Amnéris Maroni:

Adam Phillips has written a short, sharp and precious preface  to the book Christopher Bollas Reader, Routledge.  Phillips has several books published in Brazil and highlights two of them: Going sane and Winnicott, the latter being one of the best interpretations of the English psychoanalyst. It is in the condition of a great Winnicottian scholar that he writes a preface for this Bollas’s book and emphases its superb originality.

I want point out some topics discussed by Phillips: he does not overemphasize Bollas’s affiliation with D. Winnicott; on the contrary, what he is interested to show is the affiliation of Bollas with Freud, to what is conventionally called a “return to Freud,” in other words, a return to the method of free association discovered by Freud who would have resisted his own incredible finding: the Viennese psychoanalyst and his followers mobilized a great many theories to try to circumscribe the reach of the technique. And then the psychoanalysts found themselves busy in defining what is the most explosive in psychoanalysis: child sexuality? The death drive? Essentialisms in psychoanalysis — the account of human nature, the concept of cure, the developmental theories — were an attempt at self-cure of what the “method” of free association revealed: the unfathomable unconsciousness of ourselves, the mystery of things, our mystery. Defining what they were consciously doing became a noble task among psychoanalysts! Then, self-awareness and the dispute between the schools, their diverse theories, were gaining primacy over the unconscious processes and the free association which helped disclose these processes. Summarizing, according to Phillips: the schools, their theories have taken the place of the free association and with that, according to Bollas’s psychoanalysis, in their own ranks faces a “devastating failure.” For the record, Phillips points out that Bollas is surprised by the “widespread disinterest on the part of therapists and analysts in what the analysand is actually saying.” In psychoanalysis, as well, the world is turned upside down, with this atrocious inversion.

With this key info we can better understand Bollas’s uncompromising defense of theoretical pluralism. It is not a question, insists Phillips, of eclecticism, but of mobilizing a more inclusive vision where various perspectives, ways of seeing, points of view, do justice, so to speak, to the unconscious: which is referred, contained, in all these possible games of language. Embracing theoretical pluralism, using these various language games, free association and listening to the analysand regain their due primacy.

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