Freud's Technique Papers: A Contemporary Perspective

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This landmark book is a brilliant commentary on Freud's psychoanalytic technique and how it is incorporated in contemporary clinical practice. Freud's basic technique papers are included, so that the reader has Freud's own words to compare with the views introduced.

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1. Freud's Early Ideas

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Freud's Early Ideas

We begin this volume at a time when Freud is leaving the hypnotic method,1 and beginning to listen and talk to patients in a manner that will shake the foundations of Western Society. Although contemporary analysts frequently draw a sharp dichotomy between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, we will see that Freud's psychoanalytic technique gradually evolved from his work as a hypno- and psychotherapist. In fact, Freud's method will always remain a mixture of his later, more mature psychoanalytic technique, with ideas he developed in his first therapeutic interventions. As Bernfeld has noted (1949), Freud often saw himself primarily2 as the inventor of the psychoanalytic method and viewed psychoanalysis

first of all as a new technique by which a whole realm of facts, inaccessible before, can be brought to light. It is a new instrument of observation, a new tool of research. In the second place only is it a body of new knowledge gained by the use of the new instrument, [p. 238]

 

2. The Evolution of the Concept of Transference

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The Evolution of the Concept of Transference

Freud's Early Theoretical Views

At this point in his career,1 Freud had come to conceive of transference as a crucial aspect of the therapeutic process. One can only imagine that there were times when transference must have seemed, to the creator of psychoanalysis, like a living, breathing entity. Nevertheless the realization of the importance of transference was a painful one, given that it was conceived of amidst clinical difficulties and disappointments. It is no wonder that Freud's interest in the topic fluctuated throughout his career. As early as Studies on Hysteria and the Dora case, Freud was on his way toward recognizing the clinical importance of transference. In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), written after Studies on Hysteria, Freud proposed a theoretical understanding of transference.

The concept of transference is explained as involving the unconscious system and preconscious system (two systems in what is called Freud's topographic model):

 

3. The Transference Papers

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The Transference Papers

The Dynamics of the Transference1

(1912)

The almost inexhaustible subject of ‘transference’ has recently been dealt with in this Journal by W. Stekel in a descriptive manner.2 I wish to add a few remarks in order to make clear how it happens that the transference inevitably arises during the analysis 1 and comes to play its well-known part in the treatment.

Let us bear clearly in mind that every human being has acquired, by the combined operation of inherent disposition and of external influences in childhood, a special individuality in the exercise of his capacity to love—that is, in the conditions which he sets up for loving, in the impulses he gratifies by it, and in the aims he sets out to achieve in it.3 This forms a cliché or stereotype in him, so to speak (or even several), which perpetually repeats and reproduces itself as life goes on, in so far as external circumstances and the nature of the accessible love-objects permit, and is indeed itself to some extent modifiable by later impressions. Now our experience has shown that of these feelings which determine the capacity to love only a part has undergone full psychical development; this part is directed towards reality, and can be made use of by the conscious personality, of which it forms part. The other part of these libidinal impulses has been held up in development, withheld from the conscious personality and from reality, and may either expend itself only in phantasy, or may remain completely buried in the unconscious so that the conscious personality is unaware of its existence. Expectant libidinal impulses will inevitably be roused, in anyone whose need for love is not being satisfactorily gratified in reality, by each new person coming upon the scene, and it is more than probable that both parts of the libido, the conscious and the unconscious, will participate in this attitude.

 

4. Contemporary Perspectives

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Contemporary Perspectives

We can see that Freud was able to state his views on transference not only in clinical terms but also within two different theoretical contexts (Freud 1900, 1920). First, he gave a theoretical definition of the relationship of transference in terms of the system unconscious and its relationship to the preconscious/ conscious (Freud 1900). Twenty years later he extended the concept of the “compulsion to repeat” to the status of a universal tendency (present in all humans), and thus logically extended the concept of transference to a universal tendency (Freud 1920). He placed this vision in his new structural model of the ego, superego, and id. Freud did not explore the implications of his new postulate and its ramifications for the concept of transference. The paragraph that we have previously quoted from “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920) is his most significant statement of the relationship of transference to the compulsion to repeat.

Brian Bird

No contemporary writer has dealt with the subject of transference as powerfully as Brian Bird (1972, 1973). His views on Freud and the role of transference in the analytic situation are both refreshing and, in his words, “admittedly extreme.”

 

5. The Exceptional Position of the Dream in Freudian Thought

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The Exceptional Position of the Dream in Freudian Thought

In this chapter, we briefly review some of Freud's major theoretical writings. This is necessary since the two papers on dreams in Chapter 6 were written twelve years apart, and during that time there were major shifts in Freud's theoretical position. Nevertheless, it is surprising how Freud's position on dream analysis does not seem to change dramatically over this decade when so many aspects of the theory are undergoing transformation. The implications are important when one attempts to summarize Freud's mature or final position on psychoanalytic technique.

The Early Importance of Dream Formation

Freud had already mentioned the significance of dreams by 1893. While writing Studies on Hysteria, Freud conceived of the dream as symbolically representing certain aspects of every normal person's waking life. In talking about the nature of symptoms, Freud tells us that at times the relationship between the precipitating cause and the final expression of the symptom “consists only in what might be called a ‘symbolic’ relation…a relation such as healthy people form in dreams” (Breuer and Freud 1893, p. 5).

 

6. Freud's Dream Papers

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Freud's Dream Papers

The Employment of Dream Interpretation in Psycho-Analysis1

(1912)

The Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse was not designed solely to keep its readers informed of the advances made in psychoanalytical knowledge, and itself to publish lesser contributions to the subject; but it aims also at presenting to the student a clear outline of what is already known, so that by means of suitable directions the beginner in analytical practice should be saved waste of time and effort. Henceforward, therefore, articles of a didactic nature and a technical content, not necessarily containing new matter, will appear in this Journal.

The question with which I now intend to deal is not that of the technique of dream-interpretation; neither the methods by which dreams may be interpreted nor the use of such interpretations when made will be considered, but merely the way in which the analyst should employ the art of dream-interpretation in the psychoanalytic treatment of patients. There are undoubtedly different ways of going to work in the matter, but then the answer to questions of technique in analysis is never a matter of course. Although there may perhaps be more than one good road to follow, still there are very many bad ones, and a comparison of the various methods can only be illuminating, even if it should not lead to a decision in favour of any particular one.

 

7. Contemporary Perspectives

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Contemporary Perspectives

It is surprising that, after Freud, dreams received relatively little attention in psychoanalytic literature, in terms of either the theory of dream formation or the role of dreams in psychoanalytic treatment. There were, of course, dreams used in many clinical illustrations, but it remained for modern sleep research1 to bring a resurgence of interest in the dream. Freudian thought immediately occupied a central focus with various researchers maintaining that modern research was in some ways confirmatory of Freudian positions, whereas others attempted to demonstrate that Freud's theories had for once and for all been disproven. One of the more radical attempts (Hobson and McCarley 1977, Crick and Mitchison 1986) to disprove psychoanalytic notions has been to maintain that dreams in and of themselves are meaningless events having no intrinsic meaning. Vogel (1978) and Ellman and Weinstein (1991) have at least shown that there is enough experimental evidence to cast aside these claims. The discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep has not as yet led to evidence that would confirm any one of several theories (Ellman and Weinstein, 1991) of dream formation or the salience of the dream. Perhaps it is because so many analysts have been active in sleep and dream research that REM sleep research renewed contemporary interest in the dream. (That interest has at this time partly waned.)

 

8. Freud's Practical Suggestions

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Freud's Practical Suggestions

Calling the content of Freud's recommendations papers his “practical suggestions” is somewhat misleading. In all of his papers Freud transcends the practical and presents part of his theoretical vision. The issue of psychoanalytic technique is hardly an exception to this generalization. Freud probably did not want to state hard-and-fast rules of technique because he did not want to rule out the possibility of exploration of new technical innovations and partly because he believed that to some extent all analysts have to develop their own methods. These considerations were balanced by his concern that “wild analysis”1 would be practiced in the name of psychoanalysis. Given all these different factors, we can say that all of the technique papers are a type of compromise formation that delicately balances these concerns. This is particularly the case with the following two papers, which deal more explicitly with practical issues. Freud is at times quite circumspect in writing about technique, and one has to be able to read between the lines to fully ferret out his meaning. He states most of his warnings in tones that are balanced, at times even mild. He rarely makes mention of his own clinical experience, even though it is clear that, if one traces the evolution of his thought, many of the points he makes in his technique papers are designed to rewrite earlier views that he has presented in case studies or in previous papers. One can say that these two “practical papers” are a combination of practical advice, carefully scripted warnings, and at times important theoretical statements. These papers form an intriguing blend that in some ways gives insight into the manner in which Freud went back and forth between practical issues and issues of clinical relevance, while continuously attempting to place his observations into a theoretical framework.

 

9. Freud's Recommendations Papers

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Freud's Recommendations Papers

Recommendations for Physicians on the Psycho-Analytic Method of Treatment1

(1912)

The technical rules which I bring forward here have been evolved out of my own experience in the course of many years, after I had renounced other methods which had cost me dear. It will easily be seen that they may be summed up, or at least many of them, in one single injunction. My hope is that compliance with them will spare physicians practising analysis much unavailing effort and warn them of various possibilities which they might otherwise overlook. I must, however, expressly state that this technique has proved to be the only method suited to my individuality; I do not venture to deny that a physician quite differently constituted might feel impelled to adopt a different attitude to his patients and to the task before him. 1

(a) To the analyst who is treating more than one patient in the day, the first necessity with which he is faced will seem the hardest. It is, of course, that of keeping in mind all the innumerable names, dates, detailed reminiscences, associations, and effects of the disease which each patient communicates during the treatment in the course of months or years, and not confounding them with similar material proceeding from other patients treated simultaneously or previously. When one is required to analyse six, eight, or even more patients daily, the effort of memory necessary to achieve this evokes incredulity, astonishment, or even pity in the uninformed. Curiosity is inevitably aroused about the technique which makes it possible to deal with such abundance of material, and the expectation is that some special means are required for the purpose.

 

10. Contemporary Perspectives

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Contemporary Perspectives

Heinz Kohut

There is much in what we have gone over in this section of Freud's writings that Kohut has departed from in his ideas of analytic practice. The most obvious example is patient selection. When he began to write articles about patients with “narcissistic” difficulties, Kohut pointed out some of the problems with psychoanalytic views of narcissism. Kohut's new emphasis is important to understand in order to appreciate his thoughts about analyzability. It is Kohut's contention that analysts tended to follow the altruistic value system of Western societies and see all aspects of narcissism as negative. This limited view both puts the analyst in a normative position and more importantly is a misleading theory of human development. In Freud's theoretical writings, there is a stipulated tension between narcissism and object relations (see Chapter 4) such that the more an individual is narcissistic, the less object-related that individual can be. This necessary link between object relations and narcissism is questioned by Kohut,1 and this questioning leads him to view narcissism as having its own line of development. In his theoretical understanding there is an important interplay between the development of internalized object relations and the development of the self as a cohesive structure. Kohut's conceiving of the self as a psychological structure, having a separate line of development, allows him to see the possibility of people with narcissistic difficulties being object-related. Freud concluded that, insofar as one had narcissistic difficulties, object relations were canceled out, and Kohut corrects that conclusion.

 

11. Freud on Analyzability, Termination, and Recovery of Pathogenic Memories

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Freud on Analyzability, Termination, and Recovery of Pathogenic Memories

At first glance, the two papers discussed in the following pages are quite different in both style and intent. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” is a long, dense paper filled with palpably different mood swings. Its length makes it necessary to reprint only a small portion, but the paper is discussed extensively in this chapter. “Constructions in Analysis,” on the other hand, is a short paper that brings up several interesting issues and ends on an exploratory note. In discussing these last two technique papers, we will look at each of them separately because they show remarkably different aspects of Freud's views on analytic treatment.

“Analysis Terminable and Interminable”

HISTORICAL SOURCES

It is important to read this paper in the context of Freud's life and his surroundings. The following brief look at Freud's life is enhanced by Gay's recent biography of Freud (1988) as well as Schur's book Freud: Living and Dying (1972). In addition, a recent book by Mahony (1989) examines “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” (Freud 1937b) and attempts to explain aspects of content and writing style in terms of a variety of factors in Freud's surroundings. This work, On Defining Freud's Discourse, makes interesting reading because Mahony is both informative and extreme in the conclusions he draws.

 

12. Freud's Termination and Construction Papers

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Freud's Termination and Construction Papers

Analysis Terminable and Interminable1

(1937)

I

Experience has taught us that psycho-analytic therapy—the liberation of a human being from his neurotic symptoms, inhibitions and abnormalities of character—is a lengthy business. Hence, from the very beginning, attempts have been made to shorten the course of analysis. Such endeavours required no justification: they could claim to be prompted by the strongest considerations alike of reason and expediency. But there probably lurked in them some trace of the impatient contempt with which the medical profession of an earlier day regarded the neuroses, seeing in them the unnecessary results of invisible lesions. If it had now become necessary to deal with them, they should at least be got rid of with the utmost despatch. Basing his procedure on the theory formulated in Das Trauma der Geburt (1924) Otto Rank made a particularly determined attempt to shorten analysis. He assumed that the cardinal source of neurosis was the experience of birth, on the ground of its involving a possibility that the infant's primal fixation’ to the mother might not be surmounted but persist in the form of ‘primal repression’. His hope was that, if this primal trauma were overcome by analysis, the whole neurosis would clear up, so that this one small piece of analytic work, for which a few months should suffice, would do away with the necessity for all the rest. Rank's argument was certainly bold and ingenious, but it did not stand the test of critical examination. Moreover, it was a child of its time, conceived under the stress of the contrast between the post-war misery of Europe and the ‘prosperity’ 1 of America, and designed to accelerate the tempo of analytic therapy to suit the rush of American life. We have heard little of the clinical results of Rank's plan. Probably it has not accomplished more than would be done if the men of a fire-brigade, summoned to deal with a house set on fire by an upset oil-lamp, merely removed the lamp from the room in which the conflagration had broken out. Much less time would certainly be spent in so doing than in extinguishing the whole fire. The theory and practice of Rank's experiment are now things of the past—no less than American ‘prosperity’ itself. 2

 

13. Contemporary Views of Termination

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Contemporary Views of Termination

Although Freud wrote about endings in analysis, he was not primarily concerned with what contemporary analysts have designated as the termination phase of treatment. Freud does point out that there are not always mutual terminations in analyses, but his interest is in understanding the obstacles that are frequently encountered in the analytic situation. Contemporary analysts have attempted more generally to study the way analyses end.

Jack Novick

Novick relates that mutually agreed-upon terminations are the exception in modern analytic treatment.1 In a review of the termination phase of treatment (1982) he brings up six major termination issues:

NOVICK ON SOME DEFINITIONS IN THE TERMINAL PHASE

Novick's review begins with consideration of the question of premature termination. This type of termination is divided into two clearly defined categories. Those that are decided on by the analyst are designated forced terminations, whereas those initiated by the patient are labeled unilateral terminations. Forced terminations may occur because the analyst moves away, contracts a prolonged illness, becomes pregnant, or even dies. Grouped with these reasons are the more common analytic issues, “a premature decision made by the analyst for countertransference reasons, such as dealing with entrenched preoedipal transference situations, especially those of the sadomasochistic kind, or dealing with seemingly interminable patients” (Novick 1982, p. 330). Similarly, unilateral terminations include such divergent factors as “geographic moves or physical illness, to intensive resistances to the transference” (Novick 1982, p. 330). Although the problem of premature terminations is certainly not limited to analytic treatment or to psychological treatments, there are obviously important reasons to understand the difficulties in the path of mutually agreed-upon terminations.2

 

14. Contemporary Views of Reconstruction

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Contemporary Views of Reconstruction

Although reconstruction is not a major aspect of Gill's—or, surprisingly, even Brenner's—ideas on technique, clearly Kohut sees reconstruction as an essential aspect of his analytic method. Again we can note that at least some classical analysts have not necessarily followed Freudian concepts in this area of psycho-analytic technique. The movement away from reconstructive work has been noted by Curtis (1979). In this article he maintains that classical analysts dwell on the here-and-now transference at the expense of what he considers to be necessary reconstructive work. Greenacre had made a similar observation several years earlier (1976) when she described a general turning away of classical analysts from reconstructing the patient's past. She also noted that analysts no longer seemed interested in, or able to deal with, a patient's presentation of screen memories. Interestingly, in a recent paper, Arlow has noted that there “has been a current revitalization of reconstruction as a concept and technical procedure” (1990, p. 2). This revitalization has occurred primarily in analysts like Kohut who have tended to see early development from a theoretical perspective that departs from the standard (American) or classical view. In our discussion of reconstruction in this chapter, we will concentrate on Arlow's paper and use his formulations to focus our attention on current issues in the use of reconstruction in the psychoanalytic situation. In this article Arlow contrasts his view of reconstruction with the views of analysts who are interested in early (preoedipal) developmental issues.1 In particular, analysts like Valenstein and Lichtenberg are involved with relating new conceptions of development to psychoanalytic technique.

 

15. Freud's Actual Conduct of Treatment

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Freud's Actual Conduct of Treatment

It would seem that Freud's cases would be a natural place to turn in order to gain further insight into his ideas about psychoanalytic treatment. However, when one looks at Freud's behavior with patients, it is difficult to reconcile some of his conduct with his written work. If one takes some of the comments of Freud's former patients seriously, then it becomes even more challenging to integrate Freud's actions with his theoretical understanding. During the course of this volume we have not systematically looked at Freud's behavior with patients. In this chapter we will briefly discuss this topic and then more extensively focus on Freud's notes from the case of the Rat Man.

Freud as an Analyst

Although at times Freud may have seen himself first and foremost as the inventor of a new technique (Bernfeld 1949), this perception does not seem relevant to him at most points in his career. On occasion he is clearly concerned with this new technique (this new method of observation), while at other times the technique is quite definitely of secondary importance. In at least two of the three cases that we have mentioned, Freud's concern was not with the observational method that he was employing, but rather the theoretical issues that were driving him at the time.

 

16. The Widening Scope of Psychoanalysis

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The Widening Scope of Psychoanalysis

As we have seen, there is virtually no aspect of technique (or theory) that was not of some interest to Freud. However, there were themes that Freud for the most part eschewed. Certainly, for the majority of his career, he maintained that narcissism was antithetical to psychoanalytic treatment. Late in his life Freud became more open to the idea of treating people with narcissistic difficulties. Despite this new attitude his suggestions for the initial stages of psychoanalytic treatment are not appropriate for therapy with narcissistic patients. In this chapter I will detail my reasons for this assertion and explore some alternative ideas on the opening phase of the analytic situation.

Freud's genius was such that he was able to perceive what his clinical experience barely allowed him to experience. In reconstructing his career, I imagine that he devised a number of concepts that he had only infrequently experienced, or at least attended to, in actual clinical situations. He gives indications in his case accounts and his other writings that he had little patience for resistant patients. Similarly, if a patient was interested only in dumplings,1 this patient also did not capture Freud's attention for very long. The courageous discoverer often does not have time for what he considers to be details that are best left to others. It is in this context that I see Freud's suggestions for beginning the treatment. They are the counsel of someone who is eager to hear another story and more free associations, someone who wishes to know how new experiences relate to his revolutionary concepts. His proposals for beginning the treatment do not reflect the tactful, sympathetic clinician that Freud could be once the treatment was in progress.2 Since in this chapter I will focus on the beginning phase of analytic treatment, I will also discuss the question of analyzability and the issues that come up around the concept of the unobjectionable transference.

 

17. Freud's Positions

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Freud's Positions

This chapter is intended as a summary statement of Freud's positions on technique.1 It is as well a concluding comparison between Freud and some of the contemporary authors we have been following through the course of this volume. In discussing Freud's principles of psychoanalytic technique, questions inevitably arise about how Freud actually practiced psychoanalysis. I have attempted to partially answer this question during the course of this book (see Chapter 15), while at the same time endeavoring to avoid this question. The reason for this ambivalent reaction should be clear: Freud is difficult to categorize, and his actions vary both across and within the eras of his career. Thus it seems to me that we must content ourselves with Freud's ideas about technique, and take as historical accident his clinical practices.

Even when we favor some of his clinical practices, we must keep in mind that Freud did many things that most analysts would not support. Therefore, it is hard to argue that a given practice is correct because of the evidence that this was Freud's practice. Analysts who follow Freud can only evaluate his ideas and ask how well they have stood the test of time. His insights were derived in a way that it is difficult for the rest of us to understand, and so we are left with his writings; this is certainly not a small gift from the creator of psychoanalysis. Before we begin our summary I wish to point out the obvious: however Freud practiced, his ideas about technique logically stand apart from his actual behavior.

 

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