The Nature and Function of the Analyst’s Communication to the Patient : 5th May 1956 (London) : Charles Rycroft

by Julia Evans on May 5, 1956

Contribution to the Symposium ‘The Theory of Technique’ held at the Centenary Scientific Meetings of the British Psycho-Analytical Society on 5th May 1956 

Published in International Journal of Psychoanalysis (IJPA), probably October 1956, Vol 37, p469-472

Available at /authors a-z or authors by date

Charles Rycroft (from Wikipedia)

Charles Frederick Rycroft was a British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He studied medicine at University College London, and worked briefly as a psychiatrist for the Maudsley Hospital. For most of his career he had a private psychiatric practice in London. 

Born: 9 September 1914, Basingstoke Died: 24 May 1998, London 

Charles Rycroft as psychoanalyst from  here  

He was analyzed by Ella Sharpe and, following her death, by Sylvia Payne in an analytic lineage that dates back to Hanns Sachs, and was supervised by Marion Milner, whose clinical thinking he valued no less than what he saw as her warmth and distinctive approach to the irrevocable uniqueness of the patient. He consulted Milner on matters of difficulty throughout his life.

Rycroft produced a considerable body of theoretical work, in the second half of the twentieth-century, in the Independent tradition of British object-relations theory

… The general attitude of indifference towards his work, particularly from analytic colleagues in Britain, may be seen in the context if his own disaffection with the institution of British psychoanalysis. His critical views about the Society’s factionalism, the deleterious effects of charisma and ablation in analytic training, as well as the general intellectual insularity of the Society were well-known and, after a protracted period of ‘strategic withdrawal’, in 1978 he eventually allowed his membership to lapse. He didn’t write any more clinical papers thereafter; as some would have it, Rycroft ‘outgrew’ psychoanalysis and, indeed, he seems to have met with the fate of previous secessionists. Nevertheless, while keeping his distance from the Society, he retained active links with the 1952 Club, an independent group of which he was a founder member with Pearl King and Masud Khan. 

Note : Marion Milner (1900-1998) In 1940, she started training as a psychoanalyst undergoing analysis with Sylvia Payne, and training with Joan Riviere and Ella Sharpe. She began practicing psychoanalysis in 1943, and became a prominent member of the Independent Group founded by Charles Rycroft.

Texts by Ella Sharpe  here, by Sylvia Payne  here, by Joan Rivière  here,  by Charles Rycroft  here.

Cited by Jacques Lacan

Note, papers by Ella Sharpe & Sylvia Payne are also examined in Seminar IV.

Seminar IV : 27th February 1957 : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan  or here : para 32 (draft translation) – But there is someone named Rycroft who, in the name of the Londoners, is trying to go a bit further, that is, to more or less tell us what we are doing: analytic theory in relation to intrapsychic instances and their interrelations… 

p469 of this text : Susanne Langer in her study of symbolism, Philosophy in a New Key, observes that ‘the great contribution of Freud to the philosophy of mind has been the realization that human behaviour is not only a food-getting strategy, but is also a language; that every move is at the same time a gesture’. By this I understand her to mean two things. First, that psycho-analysis has shown that human behaviour is actuated not only by the need to satisfy instinctual impulses by using appropriate objects but also by a need to maintain a meaningful contact with these objects; and secondly, that human activity is intrinsically symbolic, and comprises an attempt to communicate something. An essential part of her thesis is that the various ‘impractical’, apparently unbiological activities of man, such as religion, magic, art, dreaming, and symptom-formation—i.e. just those aspects of human life which have become the peculiar domain of psycho-analytical research—arise from a basic human need to symbolize and communicate, and are really languages.
Although I think that Langer is right in this view of psycho-analysis, and would indeed be inclined to add that Freud initiated a revolution in our capacity to communicate by making us aware of previously unrecognized attempts at communication, it is, I believe, also true that theoretical formulations of psycho- analysis have a tendency not to do full justice to the communicative aspects of human behaviour. The reason for this lies in the nature and history of metapsychology. Metapsychology is based on the assumption of a psychic apparatus which is conceived of as a model analogous to a single, isolated central nervous system. Within this apparatus certain structures are assumed to exist, to have certain relations one with another, and to be invested with libido and aggression derived from instinctual sources. Some of these structures, such as the ego and object-representations, are conceived of as being related to objects in the external world and to be the result of the impingement of external reality on a primitive undifferentiated apparatus, but, strictly speaking, metapsychology is concerned with these psychical representations and precipitates of the external world, not with the external world itself or with the interaction between the subject and his external objects. For instance, the term ‘object-cathexis’ refers to the libidinal investment of an object-imago, not to any transmission of libido to the object itself. For this reason the knowledge and theories that we have about the inter-relationships between individuals, and, in particular, about the relationship between patient and analyst, have never been satisfactorily incorporated into metapsychological theory.  References,  FREUD, S. 1923 The Ego and the Id. (London: Hogarth, 1927 .)   LANGER, SUSANNE K. Philosophy in a New Key (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1942.)


Note : If any texts’ links do not work, check If a particular text or book remains absent, contact Julia Evans


 Julia Evans     

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Sandwich in Kent & London


Further posts:

Some Lacanian history  here

Topology  here 

Lacanian Transmission    here 

Of the clinic  here 

By Charles Rycroft  here   

By Sigmund Freud here 

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud   here 

By Jacques Lacan here     

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here 

Jacques Lacan in English or here 

Translation Working Group here 

Use of power here 

By Julia Evans   here