Unlearning and Learning Psychoanalysis
Presenter: Anton Kris, M.D.
“When I was a candidate, the prevailing view held that Freud had established the foundations of the cathedral of
psycho-analysis, and that those who followed were slowly building the superstructure. This view is unsustainable. The
foundations consist of: 1) the technical rules for carrying out psychoanalysis, which include the method of free
association, the psychoanalytic frame, and the process of analyzing unconscious mental activity; 2) psychoanalytic
theory; and 3) the large body of observations gained from psychoanalytic experience. Changes in theory, practice and
observation, both during Freud’s lifetime” and in the subsequent seven decades, demonstrate that the foundations are
in fact continually evolving. These ongoing changes require unlearning as a necessary part of any new learning. In this
lecture, I emphasize that unlearning needs to be understood from an emotional as well as a cognitive perspective.”
Anton O. Kris, M.D. is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has been a psychiatrist for
over 50 years, a psychoanalyst for over 40 years, and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic
Society and Institute for over 30 years. He is the author of Free Association: Method and Process and numerous
papers. Dr. Kris has served on the editorial boards of several of the major psychoanalytic journals and on the board of
trustees of The Anna Freud Centre, The Sigmund Freud Archives, and The Anna Freud Foundation.
Educational Objectives: After attending the program, participants will 1) have gained awareness of the requirement
for unlearning in both the initial and the continuing learning of psychoanalysis, including an appreciation of the danger
of unlearning too much; 2) recognize the crucial premise that the foundations of psychoanalysis are ever-changing and
have considered a variety of situations and vicissitudes of unlearning-learning, past and present; and 3) understand the
nature of unlearning as more than cognitive, that what is at stake are important identifications and emotional
Psychoanalysts, other interested mental health professionals, and members of the community.