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Josephs, L. (1998). The Mutual Regulation of Self-Criticism. Contemp. Psychoanal., 34(3):339-357.

(1998). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 34(3):339-357

The Mutual Regulation of Self-Criticism

Lawrence Josephs, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysts of all theoretical orientations have long been concerned with the issue of how the analyst's moral biases shape the analytic process. I believe that one potentially fruitful way of addressing this issue is to examine it from the perspective of the mutual regulation of self-criticism within the analytic dyad. By mutual regulation of self-criticism I mean that patient and analyst are engaged in a continual process of either alleviating or exacerbating self-critical attitudes within one another at conscious as well as unconscious levels. The analyst's moral biases are implicitly expressed in the manner in which the analyst's interventions will tend to alleviate some of the patient's self-critical attitudes while often unwittingly exacerbating others.

I hope to demonstrate that the mutual regulation of self-criticism is intimately related to the mutual regulation of freedom of association within the analytic situation. Self-censorship is effected through an intensification of self-criticism. In alleviating self-criticism, self-censorship is lifted and freedom of association is facilitated. Given the ubiquity of the transference of authority, the analyst will always be experienced as either exacerbating self-criticism, thereby enforcing self-censorship, or as alleviating self-criticism, thereby lifting self-censorship. My aim is to demonstrate that the relational enactment of moral biases is an omnipresent but often neglected dimension of the analytic relationship.

A Synopsis of the Psychology of Self-Criticism

Freud (1900) originally viewed self-criticism as a form of defensive inhibition that stifled free association. The fundamental rule declared that the patient should suspend all conscious self-criticism and say whatever comes to mind without self-censorship. Self-criticism served as a gatekeeper to both conscious awareness and speech that served to stifle the open expression of forbidden wishes and forbidden pleasures.

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