Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anton Hart on the Analyst's Disruptive Role in Analysis

"The analyst presents the unsettling prospect of intimacy in her refusal to comply with the prohibitions against alive or authentic exchange. As intimacy increases, self-protective, stasis-maintaining illusions and simplifications are jeopardized. This is a kind of violation that we have come in analysis to regard as vital, because it creates a potential space in each moment, making new experience possible. The analyst blows down the hiding places, the relief from anxiety associated with contact with other and exposure of self. The analyst tries to speak and to listen without including the common, implicit communication in the quality of the speaking or listening that "all of this is already known." As such, the analyst violates fundamental, anxiety-controlling tenets of social discourse: to wit, there will be no surprises, all that is said comes from the lexicon of the familiar, there will be no significant impact by one person upon another.

The analyst disrupts by trying to remain alert, present in the moment, and able to think associatively while the analysand steers the analyst toward becoming dull, remote, or associatively barren. The act of associative listening involves such violation. Simply to hear the analysand speak, with a distinction in mind between manifest (defensively rendered) and latent communication, is an inherently disruptive act; it says, "I will not abide by the rules that your communication dictates. I will not comply with the instructions on how I should listen to what you are saying that are incorporated into its form. I'll look for what's missing or obscured from both the narrator and the listener. I'll regard what is said as a communication about what is happening between us, rather than something out there." Ideally, such associative listening on the analyst's part invites similar listening on the part of the analysand. Similarly, alertness or interpersonal "presence" in the face of unconscious attempts to engender deadness or remoteness amounts to a disruptive, interpersonal "disobedience" on the analyst's part.

In a sense, putting the unformulated into words through interpretation amounts to a violation. Traditionally, we have thought of analysis as contributing to a developmental process in the analysand involving the acquisition of symbols. There are, however, forms of loss associated with the analytic process of giving language to presymbolic emotional experience. Analysands lose what I would refer to as the "safety of autism." By this I mean that regardless of how anxious or troubled the analysand's inner life may be, a measure of safety is invariably obtained by being incommunicado, without the threat of the other's mind. The analyst's symbolizing presence threatens free reign of dissociation, numbing, forgetting, psychogenic confusion, pseudo-stupidity, and many other means of self-management. As the analyst introduces language for experiences, the analyst intrudes on the analysand's private safety. Now experience that had been left disconnected is potentially connectable. Dreaded experience is no longer nameless, no longer isolated, no longer easily forgotten. The analysand is left with a problem he had previously been able to not know he had.

The analyst violates with inquiring. The questions that comprise a detailed inquiry persistently violate the analysand's given understanding of herself. The questions do this, not by advocating an alternate explanation, but by revealing the limits of the current, defensively impoverished rendition. Relentless "pursuit of the particular" (Levenson, 1991) makes it increasingly difficult for the analysand to maintain vague, stereotypical notions about her experience of self and other; her ability to avoid encountering her own subjectivity is thus diminished.

The analyst disrupts by behaving in ways that simultaneously replicate and alter the analysand's historically established interpersonal script. Inevitably, the analyst will become involved in enacting patterns with the analysand which resonate with patterns of relationships in the analysand's developmental history (Levenson, 1983, 1991). But the analyst tries to "work his way out" of the enactment (Levenson, 1991). The analysand is no longer able to cling to his understanding of the predictable nature of interpersonal experience. The analyst's participation leads to the analysand's being confronted with the extent to which he had unwittingly narrowed his life.

The analyst interferes by considering all of the analysand's communications to be comments on the transference, at least in part, even when the analysand regards this as strange or disturbing. Attunement to the transference (and countertransference) amounts to a subversive form of meaning making that is at the heart of the analytic process. It is a consistent feature of the analyst's role the she is invited away from thinking about the process in terms of the transference-countertransference matrices by the analysand who persistently pulls for relational experience to remain unformulated. The analysand is, at best, ambivalent about such analyst's "pursuits" because they threaten to hinder defense and expose heartfelt desire.

I see my objective as an analyst as to challenge the analysand's inclination to distance himself from his own unpredictable subjectivity. I seek to disrupt through my unwillingness to collude with the analysand's invitation to avoid listening, thinking, and contact. The generative disruption I try to foster in analysis consists of my trying to clear the way for the spontaneous and the irrational, setting their creative forces against the analysand's (and my) defensive tendencies to remain unchanged and 'intact.'"
(pp. 191-193)

Anton Hart (1999). Reclaiming The Analyst's Disruptive Role. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 35, pp. 185-211.

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