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Hirsch, I. (1996). Observing-Participation, Mutual Enactment, and the New Classical Models ART. Contemp. Psychoanal., 32:359-383.

(1996). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 32:359-383

Observing-Participation, Mutual Enactment, and the New Classical Models ART

Review by:
Irwin Hirsch, Ph.D.

Current freudian writing about the concept of “enactment” has led some classical analysts to a new way of conceptualizing the place of countertransference in psychoanalysis and, even more significantly, the basic nature of the psychoanalytic relationship. The term enactment was only recently introduced to the literature by Jacobs (1986) and has since stimulated considerable interest among classical psychoanalytic writers (see Panel, 1992). Of these authors, Renik (1993a, 1993b, 1995), in particular, has extended the concept to a radical reworking of the role of the classical analyst in the psychoanalytic dyad. His emphasis on the analyst's unwitting participation bears a very strong similarity to interpersonal psychoanalysts and their own model of the analytic relationship: participant-observation or observing-participation. I will review a current in the Freudian literature in an effort to articulate this evolving convergence between a number of classical writers and those of the interpersonal school.

Interpersonal Conceptions of Participant-Observation and Observing-Participation

Since by now most readers, especially of this journal, are quite familiar with the interpersonal psychoanalytic models, these concepts will not be extensively reviewed. Sullivan's (e.g., 1953) most significant contribution to clinical psychoanalysis is taken from Heisenberg's physics and from social psychologist's field theory: the observer, by definition, interacts with and influences what is observed. For some psychoanalysts, this suggests that the scientific model of the neutral analyst studying the intrapsychic world of the specimen patient is not tenable. The patient cannot be isolated and examined as a purely single entity, entirely separate from


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Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 32, No. 3 (1996)

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