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Bonnie E.

Litowitz

THE SECOND PERSON


Unlike third-person sciences, psychoanalysis is the science of the
second person. Briefly tracing the history of our focus on a second
person, this paper contrasts two different approaches-the dyadic
and the dialogic, proposing the latter as the better model for our field
and the one that marks our unique contribution to other disciplines.

or

time now I have been preoccupied with exploring what is


J- unique about psychoanalysis in relation to other sciences. What
kind of science is psychoanalysis, what kind of knowledge do we generate, and why does our unique perspective make collaboration with
other sciences difficult (although, I believe, not impossible)? In articulating my thoughts, however, I want to avoid the usual dichotomies
of science versus art or, more commonly, natural science as opposed
to hermeneutic sciences) What can such a dichotomy mean in our interdisciplinary age of cognitive neurosciences, evolutionary psychology,
sociobiology, and, now, neuroethics (Gazzaniga 2005)?
Breaking through dichotomies is particularly appropriate for the
first Gertrude and Ernst Ticho lecture, since in their own writing
the Tichos persuasively argued against a perspective that isolated the
individual from a social group or cultural context. I am thinking here
of Ernsts discussions in Tokyo (1972) about the effects of culture on
superego development and Gertrudes paper, &dquo;Cultural Aspects of
Transference and Countertransference&dquo; (1971), a staple on syllabuses
for cultural anthropology courses.2 I trust that what I have to say today
about psychoanalytic science, examining as it does the individual and
the social, is in the spirit of their work.
some

The latter is
1

a legacy of Diltheys distinction between Naturwissenschaften


Geisteswissenschaften.
2Living and working in three different cultural contexts (Austria, Brazil,
and the United States) must have sparked the Tichos interest in their frequent

and

Faculty, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis; Associate Professor, Department


of Psychiatry, Rush Medical School.
Originally presented as the Gertrude and Ernst Ticho Memorial Lecture,
Washington, DC, June 16, 2006. Submitted for publication July 2, 2006.

1130

What makes psychoanalysis unique is that it is not a third-person


science of unthinking objects (geology), nor is it the study of a first
persons solitary activity (a painting or a written text). Instead it involves
two persons and what emerges from their relationship. Recent work has
modeled this interaction on a dyad, but I want to argue that a dialogic
model makes more sense. To illustrate this, I will be speaking of the
movement from a two-person approach to a second-person approach.
Hence, the title of my presentation-the second person. By person I
mean the grammatical (technically, inflectional) category that you may
recall from foreign language class: amo, amas, amat; I love, you love,
he/she/it loves; first person, second person, third person. So the second
person is the grammatical category that in English we associate with
&dquo;you&dquo;: the hearer, the one addressed. Specifically, I argue that there are
first- and third-person sciences but that what is unique about psychoanalysis is its focus on the second person.
Now, I imagine that for some readers a first association to my claim
that psychoanalysis is the science of the second person is that psychoanalysis is a two-person psychology. Since I want to differentiate a twoperson or dyadic psychological approach from a dialogic approach
of the second person, let me begin with the more familiar history of
how we came to recognize the importance of the second person and the
many ways in our history that we have tried to explain it.
PSYCHOANALYSIS AS A
TWO-PERSON PSYCHOLOGY

:~

time now, psychoanalytic writers, commenting on the


multiple theoretical approaches in our field, have distinguished oneperson from two-person psychological approaches. In their 1983 book,
Greenberg and Mitchell codified this distinction as one between drive
theories, on the one hand, and object relations theories, on the other.
Although the theoretical approaches they review resist a neat assignment into these two discrete categories, the authors did capture a significant historical struggle within our field. As they say, &dquo;Accounting
for the enormous clinical significance of object relations has been the
central conceptual problem within the history of psychoanalytic ideas&dquo;
(1983, p. 4). Their claim is that, for Freud, the relevance of another
For

some

topics:

culture shock and cultural stereotypes.

person was limited to the role played in the discharge of the drives,
a fact captured in the very designation of the other as object; in other

words, &dquo;object&dquo; originally meant &dquo;object of the drive.&dquo; Since then,


however, the object has broken free of that implicit verb-object construction, becoming objectified (as it were) as an entity in its own right.
It could be said, if oversimply, that theorizing has taken the direction
of finding the objects subjectivity.
We are all aware that psychoanalysis began as a treatment of one
person, the patient, who was seeking relief of symptoms from a doctor,
an objective (i.e., third-person) observer of the clinical data. The data
the doctor asked the patient to present was a first-person report, a
streaming narrative of consciousness: &dquo;I think ... ,&dquo; &dquo;I feel ... ,&dquo;
&dquo;I want ... ,&dquo; &dquo;I dreamt....&dquo; Consciousness is a uniquely subjective
experience, not just taking place in one persons brain (which it
is) but experienced in the first-person &dquo;J.&dquo;3 Very quickly Freud made
two discoveries. The first was that something exists outside the firstperson report, though glimpsed only through gaps and errors. Freuds
discovery of the unconscious has come down to us in mythic statements
such as &dquo;the ego is not master in its own house&dquo;; &dquo;The subject is split
within itself&dquo;; &dquo;Like Copernicus, Freud decentered the subject&dquo;;
&dquo;Freud subverted the Cartesian cogito&dquo;; and so forth. In other words, it
is all about the subject, the first-person &dquo;I&dquo; who tells her story.
Discovery of latent, unconscious elements in a conscious story did not
require Freud to change his scientific stance of the neutral third-person
observer gathering data from a first-person report. His was a discovery
about the nature of the data.4
It was in the case of Dora that Freud (1905) began to address
the connection between his data and the concept of narrative. In the
postscript to that case, he first pondered the concept of transference
(though the term was first used in Studies on Hysteria [Breuer and
Freud 1895, p. 302]). The inchoate nature of his early comments
regarding transference suggests that Freud did not so much discover
transference as transference discovered him, pulling doctor/scientist
Freud from his third-person position into the second person. This second
Those who follow current debates in cognitive neuroscience know that
3
studying consciousness has raised the question of how to capture a uniquely firstperson experience with established objective (i.e., third-person) methodology.
4Many authors have pointed out that an awareness of the existence of unconscious ideation predates Freud, but none can doubt his original contributions to explicating conflictual motivations as generative factors in its presence.

1131

discovery-that we are not outside our data-was the beginning of our


science, the core of what makes psychoanalysis unique, but also what
makes interdisciplinary research difficult. It is not surprising that neoDarwinian neuroscientists such as Gerald Edelman (1992) and Antonio
Damasio (1994) find themselves sympathetic to the early Freud (the
Freud of the topographic model and the &dquo;Project for a Scientific
Psychology&dquo; [1895]), whom they cite approvingly. Consider that the
existence of unconscious mentation can be, and has been, validated
using subliminal, priming, and other experimental (i.e., third-person)
methods. However, with current third-person methodologies involving
brain lesions, behavioral observation, or neural imaging, how can we

1132

demonstrate transference?
What Freud glimpsed in the Dora case was that the first-person
report (his data) is addressed to someone: a speaker is reporting to a listener. We should not be surprised to find Freud commenting here both
on the narrative nature of our work and on transference. After all, the
speaker-listener relation, with its anchoring in a specific place and
time (a particular context), is fundamental to narrative. In addition
to the propositional content (the &dquo;what&dquo;) being communicated, there is
the act of communication itself-a performative speech act, a point
Freud makes explicitly elsewhere when he notes that speech is also
action (see Smith 2006b).5 What would a story be if not told? And
when told, it must be told by someone to someone; and the telling must
take place in a specific time and place. The discipline of narratology
devotes itself to the myriad permutations of these fundamental anchoring features: speaker, hearer, space/time orientation.
The fact that speech is addressed to another person can lead us
down two different theoretical pathways: the dyadic and the dialogic. On
the one hand, the focus can be placed on the fact that the first-person
report, with which we are already familiar, now incorporates a second
person, the other to whom the report is addressed. On this view, the
narrative report represents the repetition of an interaction with significant others from the subjects past. In his desire to remain in a position
of objectivity and neutrality, Freud interpreted transference in just
Lacan (1966): "All speech calls for a reply.... There is no speech without a reply,
5
if it is met only with silence, provided that it has an auditor: this is the heart
of its function in analysis" (p. 216). However, Lacan abandoned the dialogic second
even

person when he chose abstract language structure


matics of the speech event (Green 2004).

as

addressee

over

the

specific prag-

=.
.

>

this way:

ample,

information, but still all about the subject. (For exmight say that his technique guaranteed that he was being
if he were the patients father.) However, as I have noted,

more

Freud

addressed as
the contributions in the dyad from the specific subjectivity of the analyst
as the other/object have increasingly become the focus among psychoanalytic writers. I will briefly review the history of this dyadic perspective, but first let me introduce an alternative: the dialogical position.
This position maintains a focus, not on the two persons of the dyad,
but on what they are doing, the activity in which they are mutually engaged. A speaker, &dquo;I,&dquo; and an addressee, &dquo;you,&dquo; are in the process of
telling and constructing a narrative in the form of a dialogue, even when
that dialogue appears to be a free-associational monologue. &dquo;Speaker&dquo;
and &dquo;hearer&dquo; are interchangeable positions in that dialogue, since the
speaker is also the hearer, and vice versa. &dquo;I&dquo; and &dquo;you&dquo; are always in
reciprocal and permeable relation to one another, such that sorting out
who is speaking to whom, whether &dquo;then&dquo; in the past or &dquo;now&dquo; in the
present, &dquo;here&dquo; in the room or &dquo;there&dquo; (elsewhere), is always considerably complex, confusing, and in flux. In reciprocal, permeable relations
there is no constant place of orientation from which persons, time, and
place can with any certainty be objectively established.
THE DYADIC SECOND PERSON

In contrast to the

dialogical view, the dyadic perspectives

focus on the
other/object is by now well established. One can argue that the roots of
object relations theories are readily detectable in Freud by the time he
shifts to his second model: in how ego and superego develop through
identifications with significant others, and in the different ways that
object loss is dealt with in &dquo;Mourning and Melancholia&dquo; (1917). From
that point forward, ego psychologists in America focused on strengthening the ego by freeing its functions via interpreting character
defenses and drive/defense conflicts, thereby enabling greater free will
through sublimation of the drives. For their part, Klein and the British
School went on to elaborate the different ways that the ego or self
relates to its objects, toward the goal of eventual acceptance of the
ambivalence inherent in dependence on someone outside ourselves.
A third route was taken by Lacan, who remained loyal to Freuds first
model and viewed the ego as an illusory (i.e., false) adaptation to reality.
The Lacanian goal is an acceptance of submission to the other, not as

1133

another

subjectivity but as an abstract Otherness represented by the


symbolic order of language structure. Still another theoretical perspective was developed in Kohuts self psychology, in which the &dquo;second
person&dquo; is the object who responds to the first-person self with sufficient empathy to &dquo;activate&dquo; a selfobject transference (see Ornstein
1999, p. 385).

1134

There are, of course, many subtle distinctions among theorists of


any group (compare, for example, Klein, Fairbairn, and Winnicott),
and one must acknowledge theorists who have attempted to bridge
views (e.g., Otto Kernberg). Nevertheless, to speak of object relations
assumes an already existing self/subject/ego about whom we may ask,
How does this first-person entity deal with a second person (or, in the
case of self psychology, vice versa)? Asking this question leads ultimately to framing it in developmental terms.6 Do we start out as a separate self and then need to form attachments, or, merged with the other
to begin with, do we need to separate and individuate? Does psychic
reality dominate, with the object split into good and bad parts, projected
and introjected from one person to the other, until they can be ambivalently held together? Or does the other persons actual failure to meet the
infants needs create deficits in prescribed developmental sequences
whose stages must be reengaged through the behavior of a new second
person? Since we can no longer believe that the infant does not know
that there is another person in his world, recently the question has shifted
to, Does he know that the other person has a mind of her own?
Attempts to explain how the minds of two separate brains can
affect each other have given rise to a rich topological vocabulary of
&dquo;ins&dquo; and &dquo;outs,&dquo; &dquo;gap,&dquo; and &dquo;spaces,&dquo; discussed in a variety of ways.
Ego psychologists write about identifications and self- and other representations. Kleinians tend to focus on crossing the gap, presenting a
variety of spanning processes: incorporation and internalization; projection and introjection; changes from beta to alpha elements. Indeed,
projective identification can be viewed as a radical crossing, even a
closing, of the gap. Relationalists tend to view the gap as a space where
&dquo;a third&dquo; can be created, in which intersubjectivity can be established.
Kohut tried to minimize the gap through his focus on empathic
immersion and, ultimately, to eliminate the gap with his concept of the
One could argue that our theoretical problem of what to do with the
6
been passed on to the child to solve.

object has

selfobject, an elimination iconically represented by the deletion of a


hyphen. Recently, Goldberg (2004) advanced Kohuts eliminative view
by discounting the premise that there is a gap to cross or span or close.
Against the background of this very brief history of theoretical
positions on the second person as the object in a dyad, it might be helpful in understanding the contrasting dialogic approach if we look at
some

clinical material.

&dquo;

CLINICAL
L EXAMPLE
E

Smith (2006a,b) has recently described an exchange with a


female patient who is reacting to his momentary distraction. The patient
says, &dquo;I am so good. I dont turn around and look.&dquo; Her analyst interprets to her that &dquo;looking would be too aggressive.&dquo; The patient says,
&dquo;It would startle you,&dquo; falls silent, and then announces that she has
become &dquo;aroused.&dquo; The analyst looks to his own behavior and &dquo;infer[s]
that her arousal may be a response to her experience of my distractedness, which is still on my mind, if not on hers; in other words, that her
sexual excitement is a reaching out to someone she has just lost.&dquo; When
this interpretation does not seem right, the analyst concludes that he
has been &dquo;led astray by my guilt and by my theory about her excitement.&dquo; Ultimately, it becomes clear that the sound of the analysts voice
was the source of her excitement, leading the analyst to conclude: &dquo;the
very fantasies my patient and I are analyzing are being enacted through
the words we use to analyze them, and I cannot help but be a participant in my patients effort to actualize them&dquo; (2006b, p. 31 ).
Smiths point here is to deconstruct the opposition set up by Freud
.
in &dquo;Remembering, Repeating and Working-through&dquo; (1914) between
action as repetition, expressive of the motor sphere, on the one hand
(p. 150), and talking as remembering, an expression of the psychical or
mental sphere, on the other (p. 153). Smiths clinical example succinctly demonstrates why this opposition between speech and action
cannot hold. Also in that 1914 article, Freud says that the symptom (or
fantasy or transference) must come into the room; it must &dquo;assert itself
in a definite field&dquo; (p. 154). Smiths example illustrates how it may
assert itself through the very speech act of asserting.
The clinical material illustrates that every statement is embedded
in a communication between speaker and hearer, who attribute different
meanings, not only to the propositional content of the statement, but to

Henry

1135

1136

the very act of speaking itself. The analyst makes an interpretation&dquo;Looking would be too aggressive&dquo;-that itself embodies his dialogues
with esteemed teachers and admired theorists, a process eloquently
described in Smiths &dquo;Hearing Voices: The Fate of the Analysts
Identifications&dquo; (2001).~ The patient hears the same statement, &dquo;Looking would be too aggressive,&dquo; but she hears other voices, inviting her
into &dquo;forbidden pleasures&dquo; (Smith 2006b, p. 31). We do not know (nor
do they) whether those voices are packed into the concept of aggression ; or into the thought of not looking, with its desire to see, to know,
and the interdiction not to; or into that little adverb too, with its sense
of excess and transgression; or, as the patient claims, into the analysts
voice. And even if it is his voice, is it the prosodic features that imply
that the statement might just be an invitation, or is it just the very act of
speaking by one who does not have to speak (but who does get to look)?
So, we can say, paraphrasing Freud, that when the symptom (fantasy,
transference)-embodying conflicts and defenses, needs and wishescomes into the room and joins in the conversation, that conversation
embodies a cacophony of voices (Breuer and Freud 1895, p. 296).
THE DIALOGIC SECOND PERSON

The notion that speech is embodied dialogue is most closely associated


with the Soviet critical theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin, whose writings on literature-most notably on Dostoevsky-are becoming more familiar to
psychoanalytic readers. For Bakhtin, there is no such thing as language
&dquo;divorced from a specific saying, which is charged with particular
overtones. Language, when it means, is somebody talking to somebody
else, even when that someone else is ones own inner addressee&dquo; (M.
Holquist, in Bakhtin 1981, p. xxi). So both the patients first-person
report and the analysts inner thoughts are addressed; internal dialogues
from the past, embodied in words and actions, are repeated, remembered, and reworked anew in the present, even at the very moments
they are being embodied in the external dialogue of the analysis. As
Bion (2005) has noted, &dquo;It is not possible to analyse the analysand without being analysed oneself by the patient&dquo; (p. 79); analysis is always
carried out in some form of dialogue.
Bion (2005) has said, "The noise that those theories make is
7
can

hardly hear yourself think" (p. 42).

so

great that you

To describe language in this way is to claim that the essence of language is that it is spoken, even when it is not being spoken at a particular moment. This view has a venerable history associated with Karl
Biihlers theory of speech (1934), which holds that every speech event
consists of ( 1 ) a statement (what the speech is about), (2) an indicator
of the speakers state or attitude (i.e., feelings) about that statement, and
(3) an appeal to the listener whom the speaker hopes to affect. A few
decades later this view of speech was picked up by speech act theorists
(Austin 1962; Searle 1969), philosophers of language who stressed that
&dquo;speaking a language&dquo; is &dquo;performing speech acts&dquo; and that those
acts entail &dquo;commitments&dquo; (Searle 1969, p. 198).
In the clinical material, the patient says, &dquo;I dont turn around and
look,&dquo; when we would have expected her to say, &dquo;I didnt turn around
to look.&dquo; Instead of using the past tense for a just completed action, she
uses the habitual present tense, the tense one uses for factual assertions

speech

that

timeless and true in all contexts (e.g., &dquo;herbivores dont eat


meat&dquo;; &dquo;iron oxidizes&dquo;). Is this a parapraxis, a glimpse into her unconscious, a classic case of repression signaled by the denial of her wish to
are

primal scene (Freud 1925)? That is certainly one


to
way
go, keeping our third-person focus on her first-person report.
Alternatively, however, we could say that the habitual present is the
hallmark of unconscious fantasy. What we mean when we say that the
unconscious is timeless and enduring is that it has never been spoken,
never been anchored in a dialogue (Litowitz 2007). Smiths patient
brings her fantasy into the room (into the field), where it forces its way
into the conversation, making both the content and the speech act
potential topics for joint reference and predication. How long has this
not-looking been going on? Was there a specific time that she didnt
look which, because it was never talked about, remains ever presentuntil now? Since &dquo;Dont look!&dquo; is the imperative form of a command
and &dquo;I&dquo; and &dquo;you&dquo; are reciprocal, is &dquo;I dont look&dquo; some form of or reaction to &dquo;Dont you look!&dquo;? Could that be the voice of the parent/superego or the voice of all analysts, who instruct their patients: &dquo;Lie down,
face away from me, speak but dont look!&dquo; So maybe she is the one who
is guilty about her wish to violate the rules here, or is it elsewhere
(&dquo;I am so good&dquo;)? Bion (2005) asks, &dquo;Where do these ideas come from
when there are two people together in a room?&dquo; (p. 32). He has already
answered his own question: &dquo;There is something that rapidly comes
to exist when there are two people in the room-one of them wanting
look, probably

at a

1137

to be

analysed and the other wanting to be an analyst. So the germ of


really belongs to both&dquo; (p. 21). In this &dquo;language-game&dquo;
(Wittgenstein 1953), we analysts set the rules and, if were lucky, the
patient breaks them, provocatively dragging the second person into her
first-person report and making the dialogue itself the focus. Only then
can we say that we have truly learned something new.
By contrast, some theorists believe that communicative exchanges
of analytic moments such as those described above are best viewed as
windows into dyadic, self-with-other patterns. Aron (2006), for
example, writing about analytic impasses, describes patients and
analysts stuck in what Jessica Benjamin has called &dquo;complementarity&dquo;
(p. 350). A complementary dyadic position is a binary opposition that
Benjamin (2004) has generalized as &dquo;doer-done to,&dquo; but whose manifest forms are myriad: for example, terrorist-victim; sadist-masochist.
The assumption is that these are patterns from our earliest experiences,
being repeated in the transference, and that those experiences consist of
two persons, one of whom is an agent of action (the doer) while the
other is the object of that action (the done to). In other words, for relationalists, Freuds object-of-the-drive has become the object-of-thesubjects-action. Locked into these two grammatical positions, one can
only become the other, as in &dquo;identification with the aggressor&dquo; or
&dquo;change of voice&dquo; (passive into active). On this view, the only escape
from this binary opposition is, in the manner of Hegelian dialectics, to
create a third position, a space outside of or apart from the other two
where a new synthesis can be co-constructed.
However, there are indications that this conception of the &dquo;third&dquo;
cannot adequately capture clinical experiences. For one, the proliferating modifiers of the third that appear in recent literature-nascent third,
energetic third, rhythmic third, intentional third, symbolic third, moral
third, incipient third-leave one wondering about its core definition, a
point brought home in a recent issue of Psychoanalytic Quarterly
devoted to the concept (2004, vol. 73, no. 1 ).g Then there is the question
of whether in fact it is possible to &dquo;take a step to the side within [ones]
own mind so as to create mental space&dquo; (R. Britton cited in Aron 2006,
p. 355). Can there be such a neutral mental space, one not filled with
&dquo;hearsay&dquo; (Bion 2005)? Isnt it, rather, as Delgado (1969) states, that &dquo;we
cannot be free from parents, teachers, and society because they are the
8Hanly (2004) has suggested that this may well indicate the need for Ockhams
an

1138

idea

razor

(p. 286).

extracerebral sources of our minds&dquo;? (p. 243; see also Green 2004,
p. 129). I believe that it is in recognition of this problem that Benjamin
has attempted to break through the boundaries of the dyad with another
binary pair: the &dquo;one in the third&dquo; and the &dquo;third in the one.&dquo; Once again,
the problem is to explain intersubjectivity (or resistance to intersubjectivity, as is more often the case with clinical material) starting from the
assumption of two separate minds embodied in two separate brains of
two separate persons. As with Kohuts selfobject, Benjamins solution is
to introduce different kinds of intersubjectivity that for her arise in sequence, disturbances of which lead to pathological forms of relatedness.
WITHIN THE DIALOGUE

How to account for the clinical fact that analyst and patient are caught
up in self-other dyadic communicational patterns that can become
rigidly fixed, closed to change and possibility? My answer would be
not to create a third space or object but to reexamine the dialogic context within which these (and our earliest) exchanges take place. It is,
after all, through speech or its absence in the sessions that the analyst

1139

experiences the fixity of the dyadic self-with-other positions, and it


is through saying something-in dialogue-that the analyst, supervisor,
or theorist attempts to open new avenues for change. Perhaps we should
recall that in ancient Greek the word &dquo;dialectic&dquo; (dialektos) originally
meant simply &dquo;conversation&dquo; or &dquo;dialogue&dquo; and stemmed from the verb
dialegesthai, &dquo;to converse.&dquo;
It is true that each persons mind is contained in the neuronal networks of its bodily brain. For where else could it be? But to the degree
that the minds functions (e.g., perception, thought, memory, representation) consist of symbols that are shared, intersubjectivity is being
established from the start. The pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders
Peirce best articulated this perspective when he argued against the common notion that mind &dquo; resides within this person or that, belonging to
him and correlative to the real world&dquo; (Colapietro 1989, p. 102). Peirce
asks: &dquo;But are we shut up in a box of flesh and blood? When I communicate my thought and my sentiments to a friend with whom I am in
full sympathy, so that my feelings pass into him and I am conscious of
what he feels, do I not live in his brain as well as in my own-most literally ? True, my animal life is not there, but my soul, my feeling,
thought, attention are&dquo; (p. 103). I believe that Peirce has stated a view

_-

1140

that would be compatible with both Kohuts concept of empathy and


with what Benjamin and Aron have tried to express with the third. This
may explain why references to Peirces work appear throughout the
Psychoanalytic Quarterly issue devoted to that concept (see especially
Green 2004; Hanly 2004).
However, in Peircean terms it is not &dquo;thirdness&dquo; but &dquo;secondness&dquo;
that is critical to understanding language in use-that is, those speech
events that in analysis reveal transference and countertransference
relations (Crapanzano 1981). We do indeed live in a shared symbolic
world, that world we are all bom into that precedes us and exceeds us.
It is this shared aspect that Peirce called thirdness. But that abstract,
transindividual language system can be experienced by individuals
only by means of specific indices that tie language to a particular context of use. Peirce called those indices &dquo;secondness.&dquo; It is indexicality
that creates the singularity of enacted experience, both the experience
brought into the analytic moment and the experience of that moment.
For example, in Smiths clinical material described above, &dquo;aggression&dquo;
is a general term (a symbolic third) that we all recognize, but it can
have meaning only when connected to a unique context: is it your
aggression or my aggression; this aggression or that aggression? The
dialogic approach places the focus on the pragmatics of communication : the speakers intentionality, addressed to a particular &dquo;you&dquo; in a
particular time and place. These particulars localize shared concepts
through indexical expressions such as personal pronouns, tense and
aspect markers (that indicate the time and duration of the action), and
other forms of deixis.

Although absolutely necessary in establishing personal meanings,


indexical expressions are not themselves remembered. Just as we do
not recall the exact circumstances in which we acquire the skills of procedural memory, we must work to reconstruct contexts (where, when,
who) in recalling episodic memories. One might hypothesize that the
human brain has a &dquo;value&dquo; of efficiency (Edelman 1992) that pushes
what we learn toward automaticity and the generality we find in semantic memory. In psychoanalytic practice we try to undo the automatic,
find the idiosyncratic experience in the general, and use the singular
dream-image to unlock memories and meanings.
There is a great deal in Peirces philosophy that could be explored
with benefit in understanding our psychoanalytic experiences (Green
2004). Here I stress only that Peirce proposes thirdness as one aspect of

any semiotic communication to explain that part of the shared symbolic


world that is embodied in each of us; that is, how mind is distributed
or stretches over individuals in a community. There is no need for positing an additional space, outside the dyad, when the focus is shifted
within the dyad onto the dialogue. Given that we already inhabit a
shared symbolic world, the necessary conditions for continuing intersubjectivity always exist. The critical question for psychoanalysts is not
how to establish intersubjectivity, but, rather, how to understand what
went wrong that turned intersubjective dialogues into fixed dyadic

object relations.
Peirce describes the ideal way to use our already shared symbolic
world in a continuing co-construction of meanings: I must accept that
meanings are indeterminate and thereby open to completion by you;
and you must do the same for me. So thirdness is not everything. It is
just a beginning, enough to get us started in the dialogue, where indices
will establish a joint referent, predicate something about it, express an
attitude, make an appeal (Bhler 1934). That is, we can do lots of things
with the communicational resources at our disposal; and usually we are
doing more than one at the same time.9 At any one time, we step in or
we dont, mindful that the analyst is the person in this dyad who, as
Bion (2005) says, is &dquo;theoretically responsible for the conversation&dquo;
(p. 13), and that choice influences what unfolds.
Peirce states over and over that all thinking is dialogical. He says
that we should not say we have thoughts but, rather, that we are in
thought since thinking is an activity or a process (as are memory,
perception, attention, and representation itself), a perspective that
cognitive neuroscientists would agree with. Although the form of that
activity is a dialogue, Peirce does not spend much time discussing relations between speaker and hearer because his writing is normative
and idealistic, aimed at an ideal of cooperative communication that
the philosopher Paul Grice (1967) later codified in his conversational
maxims: be cooperative; speak the truth; be only as informative as is
required; be relevant; and be perspicuous (i.e., brief, lucid, nonambiguous,
orderly). These five maxims our patients are in effect instructed to ignore or violate when they join in our language-game. So what of nonnormative, noncooperative dialogical relations of nonideal speakers
and hearers? What happens when we do not leave some part of meaning
9These resources also can be played off against each other, generating irony,
humor, etc.

casm,

,&dquo;

sar-

1141

when my meaning is closed to you and yours to me, a


situation Aron describes in &dquo;analytic impasses&dquo; but may be seen more
generally in our work with transference, symptom, and fantasy?
It is here, in our clinical experiences, that unique opportunities
arise for learning about the second person. For it is in the actualities of
the analytic setting, with its demand to abandon normative conversational maxims, that the relations between speaker and hearer can
become truly visible (as with Smiths patient).1~ Investigating why our
patients reject the conversational demands of the analytic setting or
resist the indeterminacy of the present dialogue, we come up against
their insistence on maintaining speaker-hearer relations from past dialogues. We experience that insistence when we find ourselves cast as
another &dquo;you&dquo; in the transference, or as another &dquo;I&dquo; in the countertransference. We are forced to ask ourselves, as we ask our patients,
Who is speaking and to whom? Toward what effect-what are we trying to do here? What is the attitude; what is the appeal? Both patient
and analyst may seek out certainty by anchoring &dquo;I&dquo; and &dquo;you&dquo; to a specific subject and object: &dquo;You sound just like my mother&dquo;; &dquo;Thats just
what my father used to do&dquo;; &dquo;I wonder if this is how you felt when your
brother was bom&dquo;; &dquo;Looking would be too aggressive for you.&dquo;
However, if we look at past dialogues, especially the earliest dialogues
that establish our shared and private worlds, we find that &dquo;I&dquo; and &dquo;you&dquo;
are less distinctly separate or certain.

indeterminate,

1142

THE
E EARLIEST DIALOGUES
S

..

(2006, citing Reis) describes such a situation: a mother (as an &dquo;I&dquo;)


looking at her infant (her &dquo;you&dquo;) also remembers her infant-self (as an
&dquo;I&dquo;) being looked at by her mother (as a &dquo;you&dquo; for another &dquo;I&dquo;). We know
from work on mirror neurons that your actions are experienced simultaneously as mine, and mine as yours (see Gallese, Eagle, and Migone
2007). The infant, gazing at the mother, follows her line of regard and
her gesture, sharing her intentionality and her perspective. These are the
origins of joint reference and predication (epistemic knowledge), but
also of deontological ethics: what is good or bad, desirable or prohibited;
Aron

All discourse is rule-governed; and rules become most obvious when they are
10
violated. Unlike laws that describe physical phenomena, which must be changed when
violated, the violation of social rules does not change the rule. Rather, the violation
itself generates meaning.

who has the right to set the rules and what my obligations are (Litowitz
2005). &dquo;Look here&dquo;; &dquo;Dont look there&dquo;; &dquo;This is worth looking at&dquo;;
&dquo;Thats too much excitement&dquo; (for whom?). Whose thoughts, feelings,
values, rules, etc. are these? Do they belong to the infants, the mothers,
or both? Later, in analysis, it is not clear where an idea is bom (as Bion
notes) because it was not clear, even in our beginnings. Ultimately the
child will acquire the personal pronouns-&dquo;I&dquo; and &dquo;you&dquo;-that will
make the underlying ambiguities seem far clearer than they really are.
In other words, the subject &dquo;I,&dquo; addressing &dquo;you,&dquo; speaks with an
unwarranted confidence in its unity and originality.
There is no human language that does not contain these pronouns
(and only human languages do contain them).&dquo; It takes normal children
almost three years to master these little words-&dquo;I&dquo; and &dquo;you&dquo;-that
have no meaning apart from the dialogue. They have been called
&dquo;shifters&dquo; (Jakobson 1957) because &dquo;I&dquo; is always the one who is speaking and &dquo;you&dquo; the one addressed. The constantly shifting referent may
explain the lengthy acquisition time, because what the child hears is
always reversed: he is always addressed as &dquo;you&dquo; by another who refers
to herself as &dquo;I&dquo; yet he must learn to refer to himself as &dquo;I&dquo; when he

speaks to &dquo;you.&dquo;
Academic research on the earliest dialogues has had little impact
the psychoanalytic literature when compared to the influence of
mother-child interactional studies. The latter focus on observed
behaviors such as attachment patterns, contingent responses, and social
referencing (Mayes and Spence 1994), rather than on dialogic factors
(see, e.g., Litowitz 2005).12 A tendency to view the second person as
an object in a dyad, rather than as a second person in a dialogue, may
be one result of this preference for the visual over the verbal. Green
(1996) suggested that the importation of findings from observational
methodologies has had the effect of shifting our clinical emphasis from
listening to seeing, and other writers have now begun to make similar
observations about the recent turn away from language in psychoon

analysis (Vivona 2006).


Among psychoanalysts, Ana-Maria Rizzuto is one writer who has
emphasized the importance of language for psychoanalytic practice,
.

In addition, only human languages mark the time and duration of events, and dis11

these from the time and duration of their narration.


tinguish
See, for example, the preponderant emphasis the visual and behavioral
12
on

in Schore

(1994).

1143

expressly connecting the role of personal pronouns to their source


in early infant-caretaker communications. She claims that &dquo;I and
you entered the analytic field in the first second an analytic field was
created,&dquo; but that this insight was lost when das ich became ego
(1993, pp. 536-537). Rizzuto (2003) proposes that the analysts use of
&dquo;you&dquo; in the present context of analysis, talking about &dquo;you&dquo; in the past,
transforms the subject from a &dquo;me&dquo; to an &dquo;I&dquo; (2003). By contrast, I have
tried to show that the analyst as subject, a speaking &dquo;I,&dquo; is equally
transformed because any unitary referent for the pronouns is always
problematic.

1144

E
TRANSFERENCE-COUNTERTRANSFERENCE

..

As I have suggested, Freud realized rather quickly that the patients ich
is always addressed to another, her doctor; and he called that aspect of
the communication transference, which he understood is not unique to
the analytic setting. He said that &dquo;psychoanalytic treatment does not
create transferences, it merely brings them to light, like so many hidden psychical factors&dquo; (Freud 1905, p. 117).13 When Freud realized
that the doctor is also das ich, addressing his patient, he called that
aspect of the communication countertransference. In the years since
Freud, we have come to realize that these terms differ only in virtue of
whose ich (patients or doctors) is our focus. Thus, the gap between
the patients and the analysts contributions to the dialogue has become
closed, again increasingly represented iconically by the hyphenated
&dquo;transference-countertransference.&dquo;
One of the psychoanalytic writers who first brought our attention
to the &dquo;equality&dquo; of the two dialogic contributions in the analytic setting
was Heinrich Racker (1968, p. 132). In articulating the analysts experience, Racker differentiated two countertransference experiences. One
is &dquo;complementary identifications,&dquo; which he describes in object-relational terminology as the analysts identification with the patients
projected internal object (p. 135). This position, Racker explains, is
&dquo;an object relationship very like many others, a real transference in
which the analyst repeats previous experiences&dquo; (p. 136). By contrast,
Racker distinguishes a second type of countertransference experience,
In the same way, I have indicated above that we do not create the relations
13
between speakers and hearers-children are born into those-but that the clinical
situation is ideally suited to bring to light their hidden psychical factors.

which he calls &dquo;concordant (or homologous) identifications&dquo;&dquo;psychological contents that arise in the analyst by reason of the empathy achieved with the patient and that really reflect and reproduce the
latters psychological contents&dquo; (p. 135). Racker describes these
&dquo;same-as&dquo; identifications as &dquo;this part of you is I&dquo; and &dquo;this part of me
is you&dquo; (p. 134). This &dquo;disposition to empathy-that is, to concordant
identification.... in a certain sense annuls the object relationship,
properly speaking; and there arises in its stead the approximate union
or identity between the various parts ... of the subject and the object&dquo;
(p. 136). Racker claims that when the analyst rejects concordant identifications with the patient, complementary identifications (i.e., object
relations) arise and become fixed and intensified (p. 135). In other
words, the object relation is a defense against maintaining a permeability, an empathic openness, between &dquo;I&dquo; and &dquo;you.&dquo;
It would seem that Rackers complementary countertransference
is similar to Benjamins complementarity (discussed above) and that
Rackers recommendation to maintain a disposition to empathy-the
you in the I and the I in the you-is what Benjamin, Aron, and others
attempt to establish in proposing a third space; or what Kohut, Goldberg,
and Omstein would recommend as an empathic stance; or what Peirce
describes as being in two places at one time. These authors, writing in
different times and within different traditions, use different vocabularies whose terms embody dialogues with their significant others. By
contrast, I have cast the problem of the second person in the vocabulary
of dialogue, communication, and semiotic mediation as the second
person. While other dyadic approaches understand that there must be
another person, they do not address the particularities of the speech
event or how one makes the ambiguities and fluctuations of its anchorings the topic of joint reference.
&dquo;

,; ,

~~-

i~.

B-.-t,

CONCLUDING REMARKS

of course there are two bodily persons in the .


inner world that is experienced only by itself
(by definition, subjective) and whose experience is opaque to the other.
However, through dialogue one can create points of joint reference-a
place to start-out of shared expressions of experience (e.g., words,
gestures, affect states) that are tied through indices to the present context but also reveal other contexts. Psychoanalysis is unique among the
In the

analytic dialogue,

room, each with its

own

1145

sciences in its exploration of the vicissitudes of those contextual ties.


That is our goal, not pursuing an ideal of a co-constructed reality (the
third) outside our individual subjectivities, freed from their internal
contradictions and distortions. Such a state or place does not exist, not

1146

in

infancies (Litowitz 2005).


Whatever we do or say is an act of communication that repeats
and establishes meaning. Every act of speaking involves a specific
&dquo;I&dquo; addressing a specific &dquo;you&dquo; in a specific spatiotemporal context.
The analytic setting, with its focus on transference-countertransference,
illuminates meaning-making contexts that reveal these speaker-hearer
relations and orientations. Although some theorists debate whether
&dquo;talking&dquo; is necessary for a &dquo;cure,&dquo; talking is necessary for generating
our data because only language (not action) has the capacity for selfreference. That is, only by using language can we turn our speech itself
into a joint referent so that you and I can talk about you and me, can
debate for whom looking is or was exciting, can distinguish past from
present tense, and can perhaps arrive for a moment at a reality sufficiently shared for us to learn something new.
I conclude by returning to a point I mentioned at the start: our focus
on the second person makes interdisciplinary research difficult. Some
writers feel, for example, that we can never demonstrate how a distributed mind functions in an individual brain. These are different
worlds (Popper), different domains of discourse (Goldberg), or different categories (Bailey). Other writers eliminate the difference and close
the gap with the hyphenated &dquo;mind-brain.&dquo; However, I recall an earlier
time of paradox when the concept of &dquo;complementarity&dquo; was first
introduced by physicists in the 1930s, struggling to describe phenomena
with a vocabulary that, as Heisenberg said, &dquo;didnt fit&dquo; (Pais 1991,
p. 310). The &dquo;curious relationship between quantum phenomena and
classical language&dquo; was a problem, as Niels Bohr said in his 1927
Como lecture, because &dquo;our interpretation of experimental material
rests essentially on the classical concepts&dquo; (p. 304), but &dquo;the classical
description of physical phenomena is based entirely on the idea that
the phenomena may be observed without disturbing them appreciably&dquo;
(p. 316). We can recall that Bohrs solution was not to propose a hyphenated &dquo;wave-particle.&dquo; Rather, physicists found ways to ask quantum
questions that classical measures could demonstrate.
Similarly, embracing our unique focus on the second person, we
psychoanalysts must find ways to articulate questions that cognitive
even

(and especially not)

our

&dquo;

neuroscientists can demonstrate using their third-person methodologies. As with mirror neurons and Harlows monkeys with their surrogate mothers, I suspect that research generated by psychoanalytic data
will require conspecific subjects in a dyad both working collaboratively
and resisting collaboration-that is, in an analytic dialogue.14

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1147

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180 North Michigan Avenue #2220
Chicago, IL 60601
E-mail: belitowitz@aol.com

1149