Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Philip Bromberg - A Relational View of Resistance

" 'Resistance' is not a word I ordinarily use, either conceptually or clinically, and when I might hear it inadvertently pop out of my mouth it is usually when I am feeling grouchy with a patient and unaware that I wish to conceal it. Notwithstanding its illusory advantage in a countertransferential emergency, it is a term that I feel has become largely incompatible with the natural evolution in postclassical analytic thought. In effect, it traps us into preserving intact Freud's (1925) formulation of the function of negation, in which the negativity of resistance is viewed as a barrier between depth and surface designed to prevent repressed images or ideas from entering consciousness. In this sense, it is a remnant of our past that I think can be usefully reframed as part-of an enacted dialectical process of meaning construction, rather than an archeological barrier preventing the surfacing of disavowed reality.

Freud (1925, observed that 'the content of a repressed image or idea can make its way into consciousness, on condition that it is negated. Negation is a way of taking cognizance of what is repressed; indeed it is already a lifting of the repression, though not, of course, an acceptance of what is repressed.… With the help of the symbol of negation, thinking frees itself from the restrictions of repression and enriches itself with material that is indispensable for its proper functioning.' This, of course, bears centrally on the concept of "resistance," which in my view, as I shall discuss, is anchored more fundamentally to dissociation than to repression.

My conceptualization of resistance, like that of Schafer (1983, pp. 230–231), addresses the structure of resistance as an account of transference itself, but as a dyadic experience rather than a unitary one — an account of the transference and countertransference matrix, rather than of transference alone. It also addresses the motivation of resistance as not simply an avoidance of insight or a fear of change, but as a dialectic between preservation and change — a basic need to preserve the continuity of self-experience in the process of growth by minimizing the threat of potential traumatization. It is a "marker" that structures the patient's effort to arrive at new meaning without disruption of self-continuity during the transition, and gives voice to opposing realities within the patient's inner world that are being enacted in the intersubjective and interpersonal field between analyst and patient. The negativity of resistance thus represents a dialectic tension between realities that are not yet amenable to a self-reflective experience of intrapsychic conflict and are, at that moment, in a discontinuous, adversarial relationship to each other. Optimally, and most simply, it is a dimension of the ongoing process of negotiation between incompatible domains of self-experience."
(pp. 173-174)

Philip Bromberg, (1995). Resistance, Object-usage, And Human Relatedness. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 31, pp. 173-191.


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