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Makari, G.J. (1997). Current Conceptions Of Neutrality And Abstinence. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:1231-1239.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:1231-1239

Current Conceptions Of Neutrality And Abstinence

George J. Makari

Robert Michels began by proposing that neutrality and abstinence are technical terms derived from the language of teaching, supervision, and instruction. They are used by one analyst in advising another. As such, neutrality and abstinence are ideals, as well as safeguards against harm, primarily from suggestion and seduction. The panel, Michels noted, would explore neutrality and abstinence in relation to such concepts as indifference, anonymity, equidistance, empathy, objectivity and subjectivity, suggestion and influence, countertransference and resistance.

To set the stage, George Makari presented an historical review of the concepts of neutrality and abstinence. He noted that in trying to write the history of neutrality one is struck by the fact that the concept is everywhere and nowhere. Freud never used the term in his published work; rather, he once used the German Indifferenz, which Stratchey translated as neutrality. But, Makari argued, we should not take this absence at face value. He suggested that we instead examine how specific historical contexts gave rise to ways of approaching the analytic situation that would later inform notions of analytic neutrality. The first such context Makari proposed was that of neutrality as the unspoken opposite of suggestion. He reviewed the fin de siècle debate between the Salpêtrière and the Nancy school, and outlined Freud's epistemological concerns with Bernheim's suggestive therapeutics. Makari then pointed out that in Freud's earliest essays on psychoanalytic technique he defined psychoanalytic inquiry by situating it in “the greatest possible antithesis” with suggestive technique; hence, antisuggestion was the first kind of psychoanalytic neutrality.

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