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Sandler, J. Sandler, A. (1994). Regression and Anti-Regression. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 2(1):119-132.

(1994). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2(1):119-132

Regression and Anti-Regression

Joseph Sandler and Anne-Marie Sandler

Regression is both clinically and theoretically important, yet we do not have a very precise psychoanalytic definition of the concept as it is currently employed — perhaps because of the way in which it has been used since it was first introduced into psychoanalytic thinking by Freud. Accordingly, I shall start with some comments and formulations concerning the theory of regression, not only because of the wish to gain greater theoretical precision, but because what I shall suggest in this paper has, I believe, a number of clinical and technical implications for psychoanalysis. I shall link the question of regression with that of resistance, and shall introduce the concept of anti-regression, or the antiregressive function of the ego. All of this is intimately connected with the mechanisms whereby psychic change is brought about, as a consequence either of normal development or of analytic intervention.

In what follows I shall be using “regression” in a general sense, comprehending all uses of the term in relation to phenomena observed in clinical psychoanalytic practice. Thus it covers topographical regression, in that communications of the patient during analysis are influenced by the movement of unconscious thoughts, wishes, and fantasies from the depths to the surface, a process facilitated by the special qualities of the analytic setting. Fonmal regression also occurs clinically, in that we commonly see secondary process thinking becoming influenced by primary processes We also see the use of more primitive mechanisms of defence, for example the use of massive denial in the face of great anxiety aroused be an external event. In addition, there is the form of regression described by Freud as temporal regression, which is relevant to the present discussion. For Freud temporal regression was a reversion to a manifestation of an earlier

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