“Bringing Meditation into Psychoanalysis: Free Association, Meditation and Bion.”
Speaker: Axel Hoffer, M.D.
October 21 at 8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Speaker: Axel Hoffer, M.D.
This talk is based on the unexpected commonality between psychoanalysis and Buddhist meditation-namely, the shared use of free association in both. Can the remarkable fact of that shared basic method be a coincidence?
The two procedures and the ideas that underlie them are compared, and mutual benefits are described, with special interest in the roles of memory and desire in psychoanalysis and meditation. I will discuss one aspect of the work of Wilfred Bion, who re-discovered Freud’s original idea of free association, and thus brought psychoanalysis closer to Buddhist meditation. I will illustrate my conclusions with a case example, and will propose that psychoanalysis can be seen as a two-person meditation.
- Participants will be able to explain the commonalities and differences between these two major, widely practiced approaches to understanding and alleviating suffering.
- Participants will gain understanding of Freud’s original idea of free association and how it has been changed over time.
- Participants will learn about the relevance of these process to Bion’s injunction that analysts must eschew memory and desire, as illustrated in a clinical vignette.
Axel Hoffer, M.D. is Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and former Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association and has taught in the U.S. Europe, Russia and Israel.
He has published widely on the theory of analytic technique and on the analytic relationship. He is best known for his contributions on analytic neutrality and free association, and won the 1985 Journal Prize the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association for his paper, “Toward a definition of psychoanalytic neutrality.”
Born in Czechoslovakia, German is Dr. Hoffer’s first language. Together with his brother Peter, Dr. Hoffer translated Freud’s lost Twelfth Metapsychological paper, Overview of the Transference Neuroses, which was found in an old trunk containing letters from Freud to Ferenczi. That draft and a few of their letters formed their monograph, A Phylogenegtic Fantasy. Fascinated by these letters, Dr. Hoffer also wrote about the contemporary revelance of the Freud-Ferenczi controversy.
He has chaired panels on the topic of free association at a meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and two meetings of the International Psychoanalytic Association; and for over eighteen years, has co-chaired, with Salman Akhtar, M.D. and on-going clinical study group at the annual meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association called “Disruptions, dilemmas and difficult decisions-psychoanalytic theory and practice.
Dr. Hoffer’s interest in free association has recently led him to compare the fundamental rule, “free association,” of psychoanalysis with the practice of meditation in Buddhism, exploring whether the two mental processes may be similar, and whether there maybe benefit from integrating aspects of psychoanalysis and meditation. In July, 2016 he edited a book: Freud and the Buddha: the Couch and the Cushion.” Today’s paper extends his thinking about these issues.
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