Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jay Greenberg - A Relational Perspective on the Analytic Situation

"I will outline what I see as an emerging theoretical vision of the nature of the psychoanalytic situation and of the analyst's participation in it. Four premises, I think, are largely accepted by all relational analysts:

Far more than the early theorists could let themselves know, the analyst influences the analysand's experience in a myriad of ways. Much of what the patient thinks and feels is responsive to what the analyst does and even to who he or she is (Hoffman 1983; Mitchell 1988; Aron 1991, 1996). Everything the analyst says (and a great deal of what is not said) will affect the patient deeply. This bears heavily on the relational view of the analyst's authority, which is seen as even more powerful than previously imagined (Hoffman 1996; Mitchell 1998). Freud's early idea (1937) that incorrect interpretations will simply be ignored by the analysand is widely rejected. Suggestion and personal influence, once the base metal of the despised and disdained psychotherapies, have become both coin of the realm and a prime area of psychoanalytic investigation.

Despite its power to affect everything that happens in an analysis, the impact of the analyst's behavior can never be understood while it is happening. In contemporary terms, enactment is ubiquitous (Hoffman 1991; Renik 1993). A great deal of the work in every analysis is to understand, after the fact, what has transpired in an unexamined way. On this last point, different relational analysts hold quite divergent positions. Some claim that enactments can eventually be understood and that the dyadic unconscious can be made conscious. Others believe that one enactment simply folds into the next, with systemic change developing even in the absence of any privileged insight into what was intended or even into what happened.

Following on this second point, and contra Freud and his followers, there is no technical posture the analyst can adopt that will guarantee the creation of a predictable atmosphere in the analysis. Neutrality and abstinence, keystones of classical technique, are mythic and therefore empty concepts. More contemporary stances, like empathy, are equally mythic. Effective analysis can be conducted only in fits and starts, as a result of negotiations within each individual dyad. The aim of these negotiations is to find a way of working, unique to the dyad, that will suit both participants (Pizer 1992, 1998; Greenberg 1995).

While the first three points address the analyst's role as a participant in the process, a fourth addresses his or her role as an observer. Even as an observer, the analyst's subjectivity is a ubiquitous presence in the consulting room (Aron 1996; Mitchell 1997). Opinions differ on the extent to which the patient brings somethingan unconscious thatcan be discovered and known, or whether all meanings are constructed within the dyad. But regardless of where the theorist stands on that point, there is a broad consensus that detached objectivity is a mythfor some relational analysts, because there is nothing to be objective about; for others, because the analyst's memory and desire can never be avoided or barred. Our countertransference is the air our patients breathe."
(pp. 362-363)

Jay Greenberg (2001). The Analyst's Participation. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Vol. 49, pp. 359-381

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