I have tried to show that resistance is an activity of one person towards another person, or an image of another person, whereby the resisting person takes up a stance, maintains a system, a stasis, a pause or hold-up. He holds himself upright like a pillar, with undertones of phallicism and ecstasy. With this he opposes another person and causes him to stand back. The pause and the phallic ecstatic element suggests an excited wish behind the resistance that is sustained until the other person has been fully tested out.
Perhaps the ‘system or stasis’ elements arise from the false ego while the ‘pause or hold-up’ elements stem from true ego sources. By contrast the ‘ecstatic and phallic’ dynamisms represent resistance arising out of unconscious sources that wish only to seize the personality and run away with it, regardless of the personal factors involved in the analytical relationship or indeed the fate of the patient.
The way in which this phenomenon has been understood in the historical development of psychoanalysis and analytical psychotherapy and analytical psychology shows a movement from the study of subjective fears involved in submitting to analysis towards the study of modes of resistance. This leads to considering what is being defended; the study finally moves into considerations of the interpersonal process whereby what is being resisted is the impact of or penetration by another person.
Case histories illustrate how envy, often overwhelming, together with experiences of past damage and fear of devastating penetration can cause patients to resist the personal impact of their analysts. Resistance is distinguished from defences by virtue of the fact that, in resistance, the wholeness of the person and its present total organization is felt to be threatened by the analyst. In the case of defences, the subject is defending himself against the pressure of a part of himself that is feared or disliked. This, as Fordham has shown, sometimes operates by projective identification of the sick part of the patient on to the analyst and constitutes an attempt to safeguard the patient's good parts (FORDHAM 7). In the case of Winnicott's deeply regressed patients, however, the distinction between defences and resistances ceases to be relevant; a blind push for survival in the face of threatened annihilation is the order of the day. Prior to treatment through analytical psychotherapy, the false self and ego, together with whatever there may be of a rudimentary real ego, seem to cooperate to provide protection against feared disaster. After therapy gets going, clinical evidence suggests that the resistance-defence put up by the false self works through uncomprehending compliance with interpretations or rejection of them as absurd. The true self, on the other hand, with enough hope in it to seek analytic psychotherapy at all, employs resistance-defence to reject all therapeutic efforts save those that seem to meet the over-riding need for ‘first months of life’ care.
Resistance can be divided into two types. Secondary resistance is very heavily saturated by archetypally originated infantile transference-counter-transference. Primary resistance involves the direct resistances of a person to the possibility of a changed, if not quite new, development of life being brought about by an interpretative and interpenetrative relationship with another person. A deeply conservative force is at work—and, in a way, justified until reality testing has taken place, or, when necessary, the patient's capacity to carry out reality testing has been facilitated. Of course, secondary resistance has a basis in primary resistance, but is heavily influenced by the infantile experiences and the personal history of the patient which in turn determine to a great extent the archetypal configurations involved.
Two phenomena that look like an infantile expression of a primary type of resistance have been uncovered by Winnicott. Patients who regress to the point where their dependence upon the maternal environment is nearly absolute, and who have been interrupted in the early process of finding and creating the maternal object, either go in for a ‘moment of hesitation’ prior to experimenting with a ‘kind of intimacy’ with the analyst or seem to resist endlessly all normal analytical and interpretative processes. This they need to do in the service of the true self because of their need to reproduce with the analyst something as close as possible to the experiences of the early months. Here the destruction of the maternal object, her survival, the objectivity of her reality and the birth of concern and care for the mother etc. represent the real point at issue—critical for the establishment of the infant self's sense of security. In such cases, the real resistance would paradoxically be expressed in any acceptance by the patient of the normal analytical procedures and interpretations. This would in fact only collude with the purposes of the false self.
Resistance on the part of the analyst may be understood in terms of unneurotic resistance, neurotic resistance, reactive counter-resistance, complementary counter-resistance and concordant counter-resistance.
I acknowledge the information and stimulus received in writing this paper from the two historical streams of analytical psychotherapy — psychoanalysis, Kleinian psychology and Winnicott on the one hand, and analytical psychology on the other. In terms of contemporary writers I owe much to Heinrich Racker and Roy Schafer, but above all to an enabling analysis by, and the teaching of Michael Fordham, for whom the whole subject of resistance has been of constant concern and interest.
Kenneth Lambert (1976). Resistance and Counter-Resistance. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 21, pp. 164-192