Sartre and Psychoanalysis

An Existentialist Challenge to Clinical Metatheory

Betty Cannon

Betty Cannon is the first to explore the implications of Sartrean philosophy for the Freudian psychoanalytic tradition. Drawing upon Sartre's work as well as her own experiences as a practicing therapist, she shows that Sartre was a "fellow traveler" who appreciated Freud's psychoanalytic achievements but rebelled against the determinism of his metatheory.

The mind, Sartre argued, cannot be reduced to a collection of drives and structures, nor is it enslaved to its past as Freud's work suggested. Sartre advocated an existentialist psychoanalysis based on human freedom and the self's ability to reshape its own meaning and value.

“A cogently argued piece of psychological writing that offers a refreshingly confident approach to methodological reflection.

—Philosophy and Literature

“For anyone interested in existential analysis, and most especially anyone practicing such, Cannon’s text is required reading. Thankfully, it is also pleasurable and eloquent reading, admirable for its clarity, authority and lack of academic pretension.

—Journal for the Society of Existential Analysis
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Through the Sartrean approach Cannon offers a resolution to the crisis in psychoanalytic metatheory created by the current emphasis on relational needs. By comparing Sartre with Freud and influential post-Freudians like Melanie Klein, Otto Kernber, Margaret Mahler, D.W. Winnicott, Heinz Kohut, Harry Stack Sullivan, and Jacques Lacan, she demonstrates why the Sartrean model transcends the limitations of traditional Freudian metatheory. In the process, she adds a new dimension to our understanding of Sartre and his place in twentieth-century philosophy.

About the Author

Betty Cannon, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita at the Colorado School of Mines, Senior Adjunct Professor at Naropa University, and Adjunct Professor at Union Graduate School. She is the President and co-director of the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute and a psychologist practicing in Boulder, Colorado.