Sunday, October 11, 2009


The early morning “Conversation with James Fosshage” which began "A Day with James Fosshage, PhD" October 10, 2009, at the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Inc. (TBPS) previewed some of Fosshage's ideas about implicit and explicit communication, learning, and knowing, and their applicability to the clinical situation.

Cognitive Psychology’s learning theories about implicit procedural (riding a bike, playing tennis) processing was expanded to the relational sphere, implicit relational knowing, by the Boston Change Process Study Group (BCPSG), which includes Lyons-Ruth and (Daniel) Stern. While appreciating that the BCPSG is beginning to rethink privileging the implicit over the explicit for what is mutative, Fosshage emphasizes the interaction between both, and sees the implicit emotional context and the explicit verbal as powerfully mutative, words having to be backed by the emotional processing. This idea sparked TBPS member, William Upshaw, MD, to state that being [perceived as] genuine [occurs] when the implicit and explicit are matched.

Fosshage described three modes of listening: Kohut’s empathic mode of listening from within the patient’s perspective; other-centered listening which encompasses what it feels like for the analyst to be in relationship with the patient (e.g. the analyst finds herself experiencing listening to the patient as delightful or loathsome); and listening from the analyst’s self perspective, where the analyst’s subjectivity enters.

Of interest, too, was Fosshage’s description of a comprehensive interpretation. Rather than including elements attributed to the id, ego, and superego, or even to past, current, and transferential aspects, Fosshage stated that a comprehensive interpretation would include empathic listening, other-centered listening, and the analyst’s self perspective. Contrasting himself to the interpersonalists, who privilege making explicit how it feels to be with the patient, Fosshage said he starts with empathic listening and takes cues from the patient as to whether increased expression of the subjectivity of the analyst is invited (e.g. a patient might ask, “Are you angry with me?’).

Later in the day, Fosshage discusses invitations to subjectivity that have to do with love, and how he responds to such invitations, such as when a patient states "I love you," or asks "Do you find me sexually attractive?"

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