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Winer, J.A. (1990). A Few Comments on Psychoanalytic Stalemate. Ann. Psychoanal., 18:85-88.

(1990). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 18:85-88

A Few Comments on Psychoanalytic Stalemate

Jerome A. Winer, M.D.

Dr. Maguire has tackled one of the most difficult topics in our clinical experience: transference stalemate. Specifically, he has selected to investigate the phenomenon in which the analysand fails to effect a transition from the defense transference to the transference neurosis proper. He believes this situation proceeds from the analysand' inability to abandon a successful childhood defense against unremitting traumatization — one that is often quite an appropriate adaptation during childhood. Mindful of the function of fantasy in development, he does not fall into the trap of accepting the analysand'' narrative as historical truth. The stalemate proceeds from the analysand' inability to libidinize the therapeutic process sufficiently. To such patients the proffered intimacy of the situation means more opportunity for hurt. Consequently, no transference neurosis develops.

In his technique paper “On Beginning Treatment” Freud (1913), compared analysis to chess. There are standard openings and endgames, but the midphases are all different. I presume the term “stalemate” comes from the fact that it is one well-known type of ending. Dr. Maguire gives us an operational definition of stalemate that carefully differentiates it from a state of exceptionally intense resistance. In stalemate the therapeutic structure itself becomes a target, with the analysand' persistent tardiness or absence remaining inaccessible to intervention. Or, by contrast, ritualized attendance may occur, yet the analyst' presence as an interpretive catalyst is excluded. There is a cessation in the usual ebb and flow of analytic discourse; the analysand removes his affective presence. An intractable recycling of old issues substitutes for the engagement of new issues. The analysand engages in unremitting recriminations that alternate with a de-energized state.

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