The Analytic Attitude

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'It is my aim in this book, writes Dr Schafer, 'to clarify the intellectual and emotional attitude adopted by the analyst at work.'"The analytic attitude" ranks as one of Freud's greatest creations. Both the findings of psychoanalysis as a method of investigation and its results as a method of treatment depend on its being consistent to a high degree. Yet Freud offered no concise, complex, generally acceptable formulation of what it is: his ideas, or a version of them, can only be derived from his papers on technique. Taking these ideas as a starting point, and with due regard to the contributions of other analysts over the years, Dr Schafer rises to the challenge of defining the "ideal" attitude that he come to aspire to in his work as an analyst. To this end he discusses not only the analyst's empathy, the need to establish an "atmosphere of safety" in relation to the dangers the patient perceives when facing the possibility of insight and personal change, but also the concepts of transference and resistance, and the nature of psychoanalytic interpretation and reconstruction.Both original and innovative, Dr Schafer's book offers the reader a fresh understanding of the analytic process and its narrative structure. It will deepen the foundations of all psychoanalytic work, and, at the same time, help to develop a modern epistemology for psychoanalysis as well as a much needed discipline of comparative psychoanalysis.

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1. The Analytic Attitude: An Introduction

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The analytic attitude ranks as one of Freud’s greatest creations. If the analyst is to provide the analysand with the best chance for a searching and beneficial analysis, then he or she must maintain this attitude with a high degree of consistency. Both the findings of psychoanalysis as a method of investigation and its results as a method of treatment depend on this consistency. But what is the analytic attitude? Something so important should be formulated in a relatively concise, complex, and generally acceptable way, yet we have no such formulation. None was offered by Freud, though a version of his ideas on the analytic attitude can be derived from his papers on technique (see chapter 2), especially when these papers are considered in the context of all his works.

Over the years, many other analysts have published significant contributions to this topic, Typically they have done so in connection with their discussions of analytic technique. From a very long list of notable contributions of this sort, I wish to mention those made by Sandor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Wilheim Reich, Otto Fenichel, Edward Glover, John Strachey, Ella Freeman Sharpe, Theodor Reik, Ernst Kris, Rudolph Loewenstein, Annie Reich, Edith Jacobson, Kurt Eissler, Ralph Greenson, Leo Stone, Jacob Arlow, Charles Brenner, Merton Gill, and Heinz Kohut. But it must be noted that this rich literature presents difficulties. For one thing, the chief emphases in these contributions are not always the same, there being variation, for example, with respect to the desirability of the analyst’s maintaining emotional detachment, making early, deep interpretations, and focusing intensively on transference. Emphases also vary on manifesting a caretaking and self-expressive humanness, engaging in forceful and dramatic confrontations, and centering attention on the uses and significance of empathy. For another thing, in many instances the relevance of these discussions to the analytic attitude, being only implicit, must be teased out, and so may be construed differently by different readers. And finally, some of these technical contributions are more controversial than others, or at least are more difficult to include in a general synthesis.

 

2. The Atmosphere of Safety: Freud’s “Papers on Technique” (1911-1915)

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Introduction

Today’s psychoanalysts must deal with an ever-increasing number of challenges to the traditional or classical analytic method. On the one flank are the actively confrontational therapists and the sex therapists who, at least implicitly, claim to bring about structural changes (such as radical modification of defenses) that have been held to be the special achievement of the psychoanalytic method. On the other flank are those working within psychoanalysis who, while denying any revisionist orientation, are developing new approaches to technique with special classes of analysands. In the latter case, with which I am here concerned, reference is made to an increase in the number of severely narcissistic and borderline patients and phenomena, their refractoriness to the classical method, and the special requirements of doing analytic work with them. Inevitably, questions arise for analysts as to whether these challenges call for fundamental modifications of analytic attitude and technique or merely describe advances based on more sophisticated thinking through of the theoretical and technical implications of Freud’s papers, perhaps especially his paper, “On Narcissism” (1914b).

 

3. The Psychoanalyst’s Empathic Activity

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Introduction

Do psychoanalysts empathize with their analysands in a more sensitive, complex, sustained manner than they do with others in their nonanalytic personal relationships? In “The Metapsychology of the Analyst” (1942), Robert Fliess assumed that they do. In that paper he characterized the analyst’s “work ego” as capable of special feats of empathizing. This capability is based on a permissive, work-justified, adaptive realignment of the analyst’s superego relations with his or her ego. And this realignment allows the “work ego” to experience a great array of feelings and fantasies in relation to the analysand which might otherwise be experienced as inappropriate and reprehensible and therefore effectively blocked by the ego’s usual defensive measures.

With Fliess, I believe that often, even if not always, analysts do empathize more freely and reliably in the analytic situation than they do in nonanalytic situations. But I also believe that the explanation of this discrepancy is more complex than the one proposed by Fliess and that it is amenable to profitable discussion in nonmetapsychological terms. Consequently, with the help of action language, I shall attempt in this chapter to develop further the psychology of the analyst’s empathic activity, from here on to be designated empathizing. Although empathizing will remain the focus throughout, the following discussion should, owing to its wide range, also develop further the idea of the analytic attitude. No effort will be made to maintain a sharp line between empathizing and the analytic attitude as a whole, of which empathizing is a constituent. The cost in precision will be offset, I believe, by the gain in evocativeness and significance.

 

4. Appreciation in the Analytic Attitude

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From the time of Freud’s “Papers on Technique,” analysts have been attempting to delineate the constituents of the analytic relationship. These constituents include the noncountertransferential and potentially beneficial ways in which analysts view analysands and engage in clinical relations with them—the so-called analytic attitude. A variety of terms have been proposed: respect, liking, and empathy (widely accepted and now elaborated in a special way by Kohut), benevolent neutrality (Jones), tact (Loewenstein), the diatrophic attitude (Gitel-son), the work ego (Fliess), the therapeutic alliance (Zetzel) or working relationship (Greenson), the holding relationship (Winnicott), and the growth-fostering relationship that includes an analytic type of love (Loewald). From this list of overlapping terms I abstract the constituent element of appreciation in order to give it special consideration here.

By appreciation I refer to a family or spectrum of terms that range from the analyst’s being mildly admiring to experiencing wonder that may border on awe. No doubt, appreciation may be a manifestation of, a screen for, or simply colored by disruptive value-laden identification in the countertransference. Being appreciative of the analysand may also amount to the analyst’s adopting a defensive stance against consciously envying and derogating the analysand. But then any of the other constituents listed above (respect, empathy, etc.) may also involve transferential and resistant actions on the analyst’s part, and it is generally accepted that the mere possibility of such involvement is no argument against the analytic usefulness of one or another constituent. Appreciation, a mode of engagement frequently expressed or implied in informal clinical discussion as well as published case reports, is not usually taken necessarily to imply any lapse from the analytic attitude.

 

5. Resisting and Empathizing

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I shall be dealing here less with empathizing as such and more with resisting and its impact on empathic interactions. I have linked the two terms in my title because over many years of supervising analysis and teaching analytic technique and process in seminars, it has always seemed to me that certain things about resisting which ought to be well known, and are said to be well known and sufficiently appreciated and applied, are in fact not known well enough and not consistently attended to in practice. And it has seemed to me that this neglect of resisting has invariably functioned as one of the most powerful disturbers of the analyst’s readiness to empathize.

The emphasis in clinical psychoanalysis falls, of course, on understanding and explaining the analysand’s difficulties. And the goal of the analytic method is structural change. Structural change is shown not just by the analyst’s getting back from the analysand insightful formulations. And certainly it is not shown by getting easy assent to the analyst’s formulations, for if it were easy to develop mutative insight, if, that is, there were no resisting that achievement, there could be no analysand who needed expert analysis.

 

6. Conflict as Paradoxical Actions

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Introduction

The concept of conflict, especially unconscious conflict, is, of course, central to psychoanalysis. Conflict in the psychoanalytic situation is the source of psychoanalytic psychopathology, the psychoanalytic theory of the therapeutic process, and the psychoanalytic theory of individual development in the family and society. The analyst’s attending carefully and impartially to signs of conflict is an essential feature of the analytic attitude. Psychoanalysis could not exist as a theory or a clinical method without constant reference to conflict.

Psychoanalytic theorizing about conflict has always adhered basically to Freud’s metapsychological model and the language rules it dictates. We speak, for example, of dynamic conflict between drives and defenses, thereby agreeing to use a language organized around such terms as energy, force, and mechanism. We speak, too, of structural conflict between the ego and the id and between the ego and the superego, thereby agreeing to use a certain kind of structural language as well. The proposition will be developed here that it is both possible and desirable to develop a nonmetapsychological conceptualization of conflict that is still psychoanalytic and systematic. Conflict will be defined as a person’s engaging in paradoxical actions. As will be explained later, action is to be understood in a broader sense than the usual one.

 

7. Danger Situations

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Introduction

“Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety” (1926) is the most modern of Freud’s theoretical treatises. In this work, Freud systematically introduced a new way of looking at the neuroses and their clinical analysis—a way so true, so useful, and by now so familiar that one all too easily underestimates its achievement. By formally defining danger situations, arranging these situations chronologically, and aligning them with the various neuroses, he developed a new perspective on the analysis of the neuroses. In that perspective, the analyst’s goal is to help the analysand consciously recognize danger situations and to understand how in his or her life history these situations evolved and persisted and the means that were adopted to cope with them. In this last respect, the analysand’s characteristic unconscious defensive activities are of particular significance. The entire treatise amounts to a major advance in the analytic attitude.

In what follows I shall justify this appraisal of “Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety” while sorting out some of the weaker parts of Freud’s argument. In executing this project, I shall make extensive use of action language. I shall develop further the concept of anxiety (and of all affects) as an action or mode of action best rendered through the use of a family of verbs and adverbs. In light of this conception, I shall review the key terms of Freud’s treatise and discuss other key terms such as character traits, defenses, diagnosis, and therapy.

 

8. The Interpretation of Transference and the Conditions for Loving

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Introduction

The progress of the discipline of psychoanalysis is expressed perhaps most obviously in its theory of transference and the therapeutic effects of the interpretation of transference. The theory of transference rests on assumptions concerning repetition and regression or the influence of the past on the present; the roles of activity, passivity, and defensive measures; and the content of unconscious fantasy and conflict. The theory of the therapeutic effects of interpretation rests on these same assumptions and on others concerning the nature of insight, the role of the therapeutic relationship, the accessibility of unconscious fantasy and conflict to conscious influence, and the balance in the psychoanalytic process between, on the one hand, reliving and reexperi-encing of the past and, on the other, new experience.

Clearly, the topic is vast, and one cannot hope to do justice in any single discussion to all the valuable contributions to the extensive literature on it; nor can one cover all that is widely understood and accepted in ordinary good practice. In this chapter I shall limit myself to reexamining some of the assumptions I just mentioned, doing so from the standpoint of action language.

 

9. The Analysis of Character

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Introduction

Perhaps the first question to raise in a theoretical and clinical discussion of character is whether it is worth bothering with the concept at all. Unlike the ego, which, as a systematic concept, came after it, character has never been provided with either a satisfactory conceptualization or a definite place in psychoanalytic theory. Moreover, in an amorphous way character overlaps the concept ego. In other respects, character overlaps both the concept self, which is now very much in theoretical vogue, and the free-floating concept style or “neurotic style” as elaborated by Shapiro (1965). But conceptualizations of self and style, in turn, usually overlap those of the ego. For these reasons alone, one remains uncertain of one’s theoretical ground when referring to character.

One feels better positioned with respect to character when the discussion turns to clinical or technical matters and centers on such issues as resistance, defense analysis, conflict resolution, ego-syntonicity, and subtle expressions of maladaptiveness. It is, however, questionable whether this security is any more warranted than theoretical security in regard to the concept of character. This is so because for some time there have been at hand the theoretical and technical concepts of ego analysis, defense, intersystemic and intrasystemic conflict, acting out, multiple function, the synthetic function of the ego, secondary autonomy, and others of that order, and these, far more than character, have an established place in systematic psychoanalytic discussion of clinical phenomena and methods.

 

10. The Analysis of Resisting

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Introduction

There is a way to approach the analysis of resisting that is particularly valuable to the analysis as a whole. The analyst takes up the problematic actions in question simply as further analytic material of a conflic-tual nature. For even though it may be necessary to show that many of these actions have been unconsciously designed to be obscure, opaque, or stereotyped, and so to appear at first and second glance to be only limiting and disrupting the work of analysis, in time it will be possible and more useful to interpret them by applying the same principles used to deal with any other conflictual material. Indeed, it is often just this interpretive approach that is being used, knowingly or not, when resisting does get to be analyzed successfully. If this is so, then many of the textbook discussions of resisting are conceptually and technically incomplete, if not confusing, for they bog down in an approach to resisting simply as oppositional activity and thereby isolate that activity from other analytic material.

 

11. Psychoanalytic Interpretation

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Introduction

I begin with two concretely oriented analytic questions concerning time and place, the answers to which also touch on substance, person, and activity as they appear in analytic interpretation. Following this relatively informal introduction, I shall move on to a systematic review of some of the main features of the construction of analytic interpretations.

The two questions are these: When is a phallus? And where is a phallus? These questions should not seem at all odd to anyone who is used to working within the second reality or so-called psychical reality that is constituted by and within the psychoanalytic dialogue. In the same vein, one could just as well ask when and where is a baby, a breast, a bowel movement, or a self. For expository purposes, however, phallus will do to make my point.

For the psychoanalyst, a phallus is whenever the analysand confronts, imagines, or construes a self, an activity, or a substance in what may credibly be taken as his or her phallic terms; and it is wherever he or she seems to locate that self, activity, or substance. For example, for one woman in analysis a phallus was whenever she thought intelligently; correlatively, its location was in her thoughts, her brain, or her impressive self-presentations through writing and speaking. On this understanding, which she had maintained unconsciously, she could enact irremediable castratedness or punitive self-castration by behaving stupidly, being surprisingly at a loss for words, damaged in syntax, unable to get the point of a simple idea, diffuse in her writing, or simply by beating her head in apparent frustration. Meanwhile, she concealed and protected her unconsciously fantasized intact phallic status. Unconsciously, she followed this strategy repetitively, for she found it intolerable to give the least appearance through functioning intelligently of being what was, for her, mannish or aspiring to be like a man, anatomically especially. In the account of her past and present life that was being developed during the analysis, there were many reasons why, for her, it was that kind of appearance, and why this appearance was so intolerable to her; but it is not to the point to go into them here. Before going any further, however, I do want to say that the kind of sexualization of intelligence I have just described is not gender-specific. Many men, as well as many women, undergoing a Freudian analysis prove to have been chronically and unconsciously confronting, imagining, and construing the use of their intelligence in very much the same frightened, guilty, secretly self-protective but nevertheless self-damaging phallic way. Work inhibition is thus presented as a genital affliction by members of both sexes, and often it can be explained in part on the basis I have just described.

 

12. Psychoanalytic Reconstruction

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Introduction

There is no longer any need for an analyst to argue or to demonstrate that transference interpretations are relevant to the reconstruction of early development. The urgent question today is how the interpreting analyst establishes their relevance. And that question implies another. How does the analyst define what is to be related to something else or, in other words, how does the analyst establish contexts of significance? I am attempting here to set forth some partial answers to these complex questions. My approach makes use of ideas about the narrative aspects of psychoanalysis and the relativistic point of view on interpretation that I shall develop more fully in chapters 14-16. A clinical example will be included here.

Accounts of the Past

Each account of the past is a reconstruction that is controlled by a narrative strategy. The narrative strategy dictates how one is to select, from a plenitude of possible details, those that may be reorganized into another narrative which is both followable and expresses the desired point of view on the past. Accordingly, this reconstruction, like its narrative predecessor, is always subject to change. For whenever new explanatory aims are set and new questions raised, new slants on the past will be developed and new evidence concerning the events of the past will become available. Change of this sort typifies historical narratives of every kind.

 

13. The Construction of Multiple Histories

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It will be argued in this chapter that there is no single, all-purpose psychoanalytic life history to be told, for the account of that life keeps changing during the course of analysis. This continuous change occurs not only because the history gets to be told more insightfully, that is, from the psychoanalytic point of view told more completely, more consistently, and with a greater sense of relevance regarding the variables that are crucial in analysis, such as the varieties of sexual, aggressive, and defensive activity during different phases of development. If it were just this kind of change, one could still end up with a single coherent history, as Michael Sherwood, for example, assumes to be the case in his important book The Logic of Explanation in Psychoanalysis (1969). But it is not just this kind of change. The historical account also changes whenever the major questions change; for in the context established by each such question, different aspects of events and people and conflictual compromised activity come to the fore in distinctive ways. One sees that this is so when new, surprising, and long repressed or neglected details of the life history are told with special significance as different analytic questions are pursued in depth. One also sees how remembering is so largely a function of the context established by one or another question.

 

14. Narration in the Psychoanalytic Dialogue

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Psychoanalytic Theories as Narratives

Freud established a tradition within which psychoanalysis is understood as an essentialist and positivist natural science. One need not be bound by this scientific commitment, however; the individual and general accounts and interpretations Freud gave of his case material can be read in another way. In this reading, psychoanalysis is an interpretive discipline whose practitioners aim to develop a particular kind of systematic account of human action. We can say, then, either that Freud was developing a set of principles for participating in, understanding, and explaining the dialogue between psychoanalyst and analysand or that he was establishing a set of codes to generate psychoanalytic meaning, recognizing this meaning in each instance to be only one of a number of kinds of meaning that might be generated.

Psychoanalytic theorists of different persuasions have employed different interpretive principles or codes—one might say different narrative structures—to develop their ways of doing analysis and telling about it. These narrative structures present or imply two coordinated accounts: one, of the beginning, the course, and the ending of human development; the other, of the course of the psychoanalytic dialogue. Far from being secondary narratives about data, these structures provide primary narratives that establish what is to count as data. Once installed as leading narrative structures, they are taken as certain in order to develop coherent accounts of lives and technical practices.

 

15. Action and Narration in Psychoanalysis

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Introduction

Psychoanalysts may be described as people who listen to the narrations of analysands and help them to transform these narrations into others that are more complete, coherent, convincing, and adaptively useful than those they have been accustomed to constructing. I emphasize that analysts may be described in this way, for they have been described in other ways, most notably, of course, by Freud, who described them or what they do in several other ways.

Today, however, there are many kinds of clinical work that are called psychoanalysis. Each kind satisfies one or another understanding of what it takes to meet the criteria of analyzing transference and resisting (in keeping with Freud’s fundamental propositions in this respect). I shall be speaking of the modern Freudian analyst. But let me caution at the outset that there is considerable dispute among those who do their work under this banner as to what is modern, what is Freudian, and what is analysis. Notwithstanding these disputes, most of these analysts would agree that the work of today’s clinician is different in some crucial respects from the picture of the work Freud presented or implied in his writings; they would also agree that critical examination of Freud’s texts alone, such as that done by some of the French writers, however valuable it may prove to be, is arbitrarily ahistorical. Not only must one take into account advances beyond Freud in method, principles of interpretation, and general theory; one must also take into account that Freud has been shown to have presented many of his ideas and findings ambiguously and in some self-contradiction, and also to have misconceived crucial aspects of the discipline he founded. His major misconception was that psychoanalysis is a new natural science. On this basis, he would have rejected or at least criticized as incomplete or pretheoretical my description of psychoanalysts as retellers of narrations. Consequently, when I refer in what follows to what Freud demonstrated, I shall be referring to my preferred modification and correction of his views on the matter. My version, in turn, takes into account the views of many analysts other than Freud, though in the interest of brevity I shall not develop a review of this literature.

 

16. The Imprisoned Analysand

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Far more peopie lead the lives of prisoners than are to be found in all the world’s prisons. For anything may serve as a prison. As we learn from that eloquent authority on imprisoning love, Juliet Capulet, even a silk thread will do. A job, a marriage, a tradition, a vow of vengeance, a stain of dishonor, a dream of glory, a promise made or a promise broken, a tense body or a beautiful face, a small town or the whole wide world; every one of them and many more are potential prisons.

Psychoanalysts know that not one of these facts of existence operates in its own right as an imprisoning agency, nor need any one of them be primarily or solely experienced as confining. But unconsciously, people can make them into versions of being imprisoned and then endlessly spin out these versions in fantasy activity and play them out in their modes of relationship. People use these versions to build the stone walls, to dig the dungeons, to heap up the rock piles, and to forge the bars and chains of their imaginings and behavior. The prisons I am speaking of are constructed primarily in that second reality with which psychoanalysis is particularly concerned; that of psychical reality or the world of unconsciously developed meanings. In this world of unrecognized symbols, concretized metaphors, reductive allegories, or repressed storylines of childhood, each of these everyday realities may be repetitively reconstructed or retold as imprisonment. And through acting out by seducing others into the role of captors, this story of life as incarceration may be continuously confirmed.

 

17. On Becoming a Psychoanalyst of One Persuasion or Another

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I plan here to survey once again the constituents of the analytic attitude, this time, however, from the standpoint of some of the important tensions in the professional life of the contemporary psychoanalyst. I recognize that in one form or another these tensions have existed for analysts almost from the beginning of the development of psychoanalysis. I recognize, too, that in some places at least I may be speaking from a purely personal point of view.

The question of what an analyst is may be approached by way of what analysands say we are. They say, for instance, that we are shrinks. Shrink is a terrible misnomer for a psychoanalyst in that it suggests that the analyst transforms passive people by diminishing them, whereas the truth is that our work proceeds in the opposite direction, that is, it helps people transform themselves in a way that expands and enhances their lives. We hear other things from analysands—that we are, to give another example, their fix. One of my analysands used to say, “I’ve come here today for my fix,” anticipating each day that by the time he left he would be feeling a little better, a little soothed. He was, of course, seeming to reduce the analysis to the satisfaction of an addictive craving, and he was unconsciously likening the analyst to a good breast. Other analysands portray us as toilet trainers, enema givers, or garbage collectors. Still others call us whores who sell our interest and affection for limited periods of time. In dreams we often appear as bus drivers or other transporters taking passive people to some definite destination that we have in mind. And, as I mentioned in the preceding chapter, some regard us as prosecutors, judges, or jailers,

 

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