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Cooper, S.H. (1996). Neutrality And Psychoanalysis: Separation, Divorce, Or A New Set Of Vows?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:1017-1019.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:1017-1019

Neutrality And Psychoanalysis: Separation, Divorce, Or A New Set Of Vows?

Steven H. Cooper

As pluralism thrives in American psychoanalysis, there may be no more controversial and complicated concept in our theory of technique than that of neutrality. While some wish to redefine neutrality within a contemporary classical perspective, as an ideal worth aspiring to, others suggest that we do away with the concept altogether and develop ways of better understanding our inevitable participation and influence. Still others, suggesting a major revision of the concept of neutrality, attempt to delineate the dialectical tensions between danger and safety, new and old object experiences, and analytic discipline and personal expressiveness within the analytic process. In many ways, the debate about neutrality among contemporary psychoanalysts hinges on whether its pursuit as a technical ideal is helpful or counterproductive during the analytic process.

For many years, the analyst was regarded as having, like any good mammal, a well developed capacity for homeothermia. The ideal of the neutral analyst expressed the analyst's aggregate emotional cognitive capacity for regulating his or her own body temperature despite wide variations in the surrounding medium. This involved, in the case of analysis, the affective, conflict-laden, surround. In the most extreme view, the neutral analyst worked within the blank-screen model, akin to Aristotle's “unmoved mover.” However, even within American ego psychology over the last thirty years, most elaborations of the analyst's neutrality have involved less the analyst as an impersonal participant than as one aspiring to be more “objective and mature.”

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