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Gross, J. Hallerman, B. (1996). On Not Interpreting: The Metaphor of the Baby, Enactment and Transitional Experience, Presenter: Joseph Newirth, Ph.D. Discussant: Douglas Ingram, M.D. October 19, 1995. Am. J. Psychoanal., 56(2):233-234.

(1996). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 56(2):233-234

Scientific Meetings of the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis

On Not Interpreting: The Metaphor of the Baby, Enactment and Transitional Experience, Presenter: Joseph Newirth, Ph.D. Discussant: Douglas Ingram, M.D. October 19, 1995

Edited by:
Joan Gross, C.S.W. and Betsy Hallerman, C.S.W.

What is curative in psychoanalysis? Is change grounded solely in the analytic relationship, as currently espoused in many circles? Or is it based in the more time-honored orientations of ego psychology, interpersonal psychoanalysis, relational conflict theory, or developmental arrest models? And what role does the verbal interpretation serve in facilitating change? Can a noninterpretive stance be mutative?

Joseph Newirth, in his stimulating, provocative, and sensitively drawn paper, attempted to address these questions by drawing from a wealth of theoretical material and a rich case presentation. Newirth argued that the current trend toward relationalism in psychoanalysis reflects a wholesale accommodation of analytic theories that shortchanges the analytical relationship in its failure to provide a developmental framework, particularly with respect to developmental arrest. The thrust of Newirth's position is that developmental arrest has been conceptually misunderstood by proponents of relationalism as pathologizing the patient and ennobling the analyst. In his view, developmental arrest is represented not by a damaged or deprived child in need of compensatory love, but rather by a failure in the capacity for symbolic experience, which is reflected in the patient's sense of the self and the world as concrete, fragile, unstable, and vulnerable to random and unpredictable external forces. The analyst's role, he holds, must be as an “active strategist” in the process of creating the verbal and nonverbal experiences that facilitate the development of the capacity to use symbolic thought.

Referring in large measure to Winnicott's work on the use of such non interpretative approaches as play, enactment, and transitional experiences, Newirth illustrated his position by presenting a case in which he and a patient develop an uninterpreted ritual of sharing a donut (then later a cookie) in each session.

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