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Wilner, W. (1999). The Un-Consciousing of Awareness in Psychoanalytic Therapy. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35:617-628.

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(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):617-628

The Un-Consciousing of Awareness in Psychoanalytic Therapy

Warren Wilner, Ph.D.

ONE DAY, as I was dashing through a subway turnstile, only to see the train I was trying to catch leave the station, an elderly subway employee said to me, “well, you missed this train, but you're in time for the next one.” I realized much later that this anonymous sage of the underground had conveyed a powerful message, one I kept getting only in dribs and drabs, until it finally clicked with some things I was thinking about psychoanalysis.

This man brought into focus the idea that there is always something going on in analysis which is obscured by our concern to connect with some train of thought, or to catch some meaning, and by our worry that we will not become aware of something in a timely manner. Feeling bothered when these connections are not made, or when we fail to sense something that is later revealed to us as having been present earlier, further interferes with our ability to get in touch with this dimension of analytic ongoingness. Thus, when we actively try to grasp some meaning, to focus on an internal feeling, or simply to attend in a straight-forward way to what appear to be relevant analytic issues, it is difficult to realize at the same time that another issue or experience is likely to appear, and that there is an entirely different phenomenological dimension to be attuned to — one more akin to an ongoing psychic stream than to objective and subjective contents.

Psychoanalysis, from its original classical base, has developed in the positivistic tradition of observing and understanding the patient. Singly and in multiple constellations, there have always been many factors for analysts to try to apprehend; the analyst's inner experience has been attended to in order to refine this objective focus. The interpersonal and relational positions, with their emphasis on intersubjectivity, have brought additional foci to our attention. We now attend to subjective feelings, fantasies, sensations, and the like in order to see more clearly

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