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Smith, H.F. (1996). Dr. Gedo's Plenary Address. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:649-650.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:649-650

Dr. Gedo's Plenary Address

Henry F. Smith

October 15, 1995

I am delighted that Dr. Gedo is pleased with my Introduction to his Plenary Address (JAPA, 43:2) but want to correct a somewhat misleading impression he gives of my position. At several points in his response he contrasts his technical approach with a presumably more classical one which he maintains I have “labeled passive” (p. 391). It was not my intent to label his approach active and another approach passive. I do not see it that way.

It seems to me that in every technical approach, the analyst is always active, even when silent; the differences are differences in the type of activity, the patient's experience of that activity, and the meanings the analyst and the patient each give to that activity. My only point in highlighting the active-passive dialectic, which Dr. Gedo himself introduced in his elucidation of the transitive and reflexive meanings of the German verb durcharbeiten or working through (p. 340), was to contrast Dr. Gedo's use of the metaphor of working through with Freud's use of the same metaphor. To wit: in their initial descriptions of working through, Freud and Gedo apportion the active and passive meanings of the term somewhat differently. In Dr. Gedo's view of durcharbeiten the analyst “promotes intrapsychic change,” while the patient, more passively it would seem, simply “makes his way” (p. 340); Freud (1914), on the other hand, has the patient “overcoming” and “defying” on the way to a mutual discovery with the analyst, while the analyst merely “waits and lets things take their course” (p. 155).

Rather than the sharp dichotomy that Dr. Gedo attributes to me, I referred to an “active/passive ambiguity” which “runs throughout analytic work” (p. 335), an ambiguity on which hinges much of therapeutic action: who is doing what to whom? It seems to me in any relationship, including the analytic one, both parties are active and passive in various permutations and combinations. I suspect that Dr. Gedo and I agree on this point and that perhaps we are guilty of inadvertently “misreading” each other.

In this latter regard I believe that Dr.

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