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Tenzer, A. (1984). Piaget and Psychoanalysis, II:—The Problem of Working Through. Contemp. Psychoanal., 20:421-436.

(1984). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 20:421-436

Piaget and Psychoanalysis, II:—The Problem of Working Through

Anita Tenzer, Ph.D.

OVER AND OVER AGAIN WE FIND in the course of psychoanalytic work that what has been understood or clarified in one session is forgotten or obscured in the next. Something that is discovered at one moment seems lost at another. Apparent insights are given lip service but are then ignored.

Why—once an interpretation has been heard and apparently accepted—does it have such an evanescent quality? Why is it necessary for patient and analyst to keep going over the same ground? It seems at times as though nothing that has been accomplished has any weight or staying power. First it is difficult to help someone reach a new kind of understanding, and then it is difficult to help him hang onto it so that he can use it productively.

Freud warned that there is an adhesiveness to old modes of thought or interaction that militates against change.

We are … prepared to find in analysis a certain amount of psychical inertia. When the work of analysis has opened up new paths for an instinctual impulse, we almost invariably observe that the impulse does not enter upon them without marked hesitation. … No stronger impression arises from the resistances during the work of analysis than of there being a force which is defending itself by every possible means against recovery and which is absolutely resolved to hold on to illness and suffering. (Freud, 1937pp. 141–142)

Implicit in this statement is the assumption that resistance to change and the compulsion to repeat are pathological, hence peculiarly within the purview of psychoanalysis. This view has been challenged by Schafer (1978), among others.

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