Emotional Understanding

Studies in Psychoanalytic Epistemology

Donna M. Orange

October 13, 1995
ISBN 9781572300101
Price: $52.00
226 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
bookProfessors: request an exam copy

With a unique blend of clinical compassion and philosophical reflection, Donna M. Orange explores the nature and process of psychoanalytic understanding within the intimate and healing context of treatment. Disputing the traditional psychoanalytic emphasis on verbalization, Orange highlights the emotional nature of psychoanalytic understanding. Because much of emotional understanding is tacit understanding, it requires the analyst's empathic participation in the patient's emotional predicament, and attention to the kinds of memories that precede and extend beyond words. Delineating the philosophical underpinnings of emotional understanding—and illuminating the epistemology of the therapeutic enterprise—this book is enlightening reading for all mental health professionals interested in psychodynamic theory and treatment.

“In a remarkable and novel way, this book brings together contemporary psychoanalytic theories and clinically relevant aspects of philosophy to answer the question, `What is emotional understanding and how is it being communicated?' It is written in a clear and evocative style that reflects the book's message that understanding another can only be attained in a dialogue in which the participants are genuinely emotionally engaged. The book will richly reward the experienced as well as the novice in the practice of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy.”

—Anna Ornstein, MD, Prof of Child Psychiatry, Co-Director, International Center for the Study of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology

“With deceptive simplicity, Donna Orange explores here the basic premises that underlie psychotherapeutic effectiveness. Her collaborative model of the treatment process illuminates such bedrock issues as emotional memory, understanding and misunderstanding, and healing. In a voice consistent with her theoretical convictions, she moves fluidly from sharing her subjective emotional experiences to making intellectually incisive inferences about their meaning. By exemplifying the rare combination of philosophical sophistication and personal humility, Orange has encouraged all of us in the field to `hold lightly' our pet explanatory constructs.”

—Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

“In this brilliant and beautiful book, philosopher-psychoanalyst Donna Orange grounds the clinical psychoanalytic enterprise in the solid epistemological foundation it has long and sorely needed. In her perspectival, dialogic, and thoroughly intersubjective vision of psychoanalysis as `emotional understanding gained by making sense together,' the old false dichotomy between insight and affective bonding is finally and definitively mended. Emotional Understanding provides a philosophically sound view of the psychoanalytic process that will serve as an invaluable guide for all clinicians who seek to heal emotional wounds and help establish new ways of emotional experiencing.”

—Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D., Training and Supervising Analyst, Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles

“Donna Orange has written an eloquent and inspiring volume, teaching us to have more respect and regard for our patients than for our theories. She balances this perspective with an encompassing mastery of philosophy, and interweaves that collective wisdom with the contemporary analytic approaches of self psychology, intersubjectivity theory, and other relational approaches. Mental health professionals will be greatly enriched by reading this book.”

—Morton Shane, MD, co-president of the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles, CA

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Making Sense Together

2. Understanding Understanding

3. Theory-Choice and Fallibilism

4. Towards an Epistemology of Perspectival Realism

5. Cotransference: The Analyst's Perspective

6. Experience: Given and Made

7. Affect and Emotional Life

8. Emotional Memory

9. Emotional Availability

10. Misunderstanding: A Collaborative Pragmatist View

11. How Does Psychoanalytic Understanding Heal?

12. Illustration: Understanding Schreber

About the Author

Donna M. Orange, Ph.D., Psy.D., holds two doctorates: one in Philosophy from Fordham University and the other in Clinical Psychology from Yeshiva University. A faculty member of the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity and a supervisor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, she maintains a private practice in New Jersey.


All mental health professionals interested in psychodynamic theory and treatment.