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Peter Fonagy: Grasping the Nettle or Why Psychoanalytic Research is such an Irritant

I stand here in considerable trepidation. My task is to persuade you to do something which past experience may have shown you to be painful, and which most of you see no justification for doing. Why on earth should anyone want to grasp a nettle? Was it the Research Committee’s unconscious intent to underscore the futility of undertaking research in psychoanalysis by issuing this pointless imperative?

Most of us would give nettles a wide berth and the same strategy has been widely adopted in relation to psychoanalytic research. My aim here will be not only to ask you to abandon this strategy, but more ambitiously to persuade you to embrace, or at least firmly grasp, this unattractive specimen of flora and enthusiastically go forth in the pursuit of psychoanalytic knowledge through research.

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