Commentary Magazine

Miss Blumberg Replies

To the Editor:

I regret that Dr. Ostow has chosen to attack my competence rather than the questions raised in my article. However:

  1. The “crisis” arising out of the fact that psychoanalysts fail to cure many of their patients was not implied by me but by the psychoanalytic sources I cited. Dr. Ostow has not offered any evidence that such a “crisis” does not exist. In my opinion it hardly constitutes a defense of psychoanalysis to state that “the failing is not one of psychoanalysis but of psychiatry in general.” Psychoanalysts have often justified the costliness and duration of their treatment on the grounds of its superior effectiveness.
  2. Dr. Ostow has sadly distorted my point about research. I do not object to psychoanalytic research but to the fact that patients have to pay for it. (And are they informed that they are being used as “guinea pigs”?) And he is perhaps too sanguine about the small likelihood of distorting an individual analysis for the sake of ends that are not the patient’s. Psychoanalysts are, after all, human and subject to error.
  3. The reference to Dr. Nunberg was one of a series of statements that I juxtaposed to illustrate the disagreement among psychoanalysts on the concept of the normal personality and the goal of psychoanalytic treatment. It was not my intention to assess any of the various viewpoints.
  4. Dr. Ostow is surely aware that the use of shock techniques and lobotomy is one of the most controversial issues in medicine, not only for practical reasons but because of the ethical questions involved. The public might very properly be concerned about this. As to Dr. Ostow’s contention that the doctor should make the final decision on the use of any medical treatment, it has always been my impression that the final decision belongs to the patient or his family.
  5. The passage I quoted from the Jekels Bergler paper is not terminologically but rationally incomprehensible, and I would personally not care to have to defend its theoretical logic. It is too bad Dr. Ostow did not favor us with a translation of the passage into English.

I’m sorry Dr. Ostow feels that I’ve defiled the temple, but I cannot agree with him that only psychoanalysts may discuss psychoanalysis—there are too many non-psychoanalytic issues involved. And anyway, distance sometimes lends disenchantment. Would Dr. Ostow maintain that only priests may discuss Catholicism?

Lillian Blumberg
New York City



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