The demise of the person in the psychoanalytic situation

The demise of the person in the psychoanalytic process may seem like a strange choice of subject matter as the words “person” and “personal” are not technical terms in standard psychoanalytic nomenclature. Typically, both terms are invoked, if at all, in a strictly offhand way when referring to non-transferential and non-technical behavior or experience in the context of the psychoanalytic treatment relationship.

For the majority of analysts, so-called personal aspects of the treatment situation have little, if any, role to play in the psychoanalytic process as it is typically conceived. For many, it is the absence of a personal engagement with patients that distinguishes psychoanalysis from its user-friendlier cousin, psychodynamic psychotherapy. It has become increasingly commonplace that contemporary psychoanalysts of virtually all persuasions reduce the psychoanalytic process to the analysis of transference, resistance, and more recently, enactments. This has resulted in the general assumption that virtually all of a patient’s reactions to the person of the analyst should be treated as transference manifestations.

Similarly, most if not all, significant interventions by the analyst in response to transference phenomena are informed by whichever technical principles a given analyst elects to follow. This is a view held typically, for example, by Kleinian, classical Freudian (i.e., American ego psychology), and most contemporary relational analysts, all of whom tend to deconstruct the very notion of a person-to-person engagement out of the psychoanalytic process. Such analysts often concede that interactions of a personal nature occur invariably during every analytic encounter, but such occurrences usually are deemed irrelevant, and even impediments, to the analytic process, and are avoided scrupulously or, when unavoidable, systematically analysed….

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