The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 1951, 20, No. 2, p. 275.
The author of this paper has in recent years been concentrating on linguistic psychology with special emphasis on the psycho-analytic aspects of language. His Theory of Silences is based on an observation that there are two main forms of interpersonal silence: (1) the 'negative' silence found in situations of anger, fear, hatred and 'psychological blocking' which are all characterized by acute interpersonal and intrapersonal tensions or psychic disequilibrium; (2) the 'positive' silence of tranquil agreement and mutual understanding (reciprocal identification) as fleetingly achieved between lovers and intimate friends and characterized by absence of tensions between the speech partners. The author asserts that the whole speech field is found between these two extremes of silence; that all speech acts serve to release intrapersonal tensions; that the unconscious end-object of all speech is not continued speech but silence in which all tensions have been dissipated.
The present paper deals with material relating to this theme that the author gathered in the course of taking word-tests. It could be reported that when testees were confronted with demands to associate
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to certain words they frequently made 'extra-lingual' responses either before or after (sometimes both) giving formal responses to stimulus words. Among these extra-lingual responses the author lists mumbled or broken sentences, laughs, coughs, throat clearing, sighs, deep breaths, borborygms, one case of hiccups and the passing of anal flatus.
It is suggested that these acts are largely of a kind deriving from innervation of the autonomic nervous system and that they all denote resistances in testees. Since, according to his Theory of Silences, the unconscious aim found in all interpersonal speech situations (of which the word-test is one) is the achievement of silence in equilibrium and reciprocal identification between speech partners, the extra-linguistic acts occurring in word-tests are, in his view, to be regarded as (1) aggressions directed against the obstructive person of the tester, (2) infallible indications of affect relating to certain stimulus words, and, above all (3), as evidence of the way in which a speaker unconsciously releases intrapersonal psychic tensions through the medium of the speech act.
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(1951). 'Autonomic Resistances in Word-Association Tests.'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:330-331