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Greenacre, P. (1956). Re-Evaluation of the Process of Working Through. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 37:439-444.

(1956). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 37:439-444

Re-Evaluation of the Process of Working Through

Phyllis Greenacre, M.D.

The process of working through has held positions of varying importance and significance in the development of psycho-analytic therapy. Just at present one hears it referred to relatively little, and as a specific principle in technique it does not attract very much attention. Indeed, students rarely use the term, and sometimes seem uncertain as to its meaning. This may be due in part to the fact that the process of working through is now largely subsumed in other technical procedures. But there may also be some lessening in emphasis on its value. There are certain cases, however, and some situations in many cases in which a sound and thorough working through is essential for a sustained therapeutic result. A consideration of these is the topic for discussion at present.

In the early days of psycho-analytic treatment, when it was still within nodding distance of hypnotic therapy, the aims of therapy were especially the recovery of infantile traumatic memories and their abreaction through repetition, first in the hypnotic, subsequently in the psycho-analytic relationship. It was observed that the specific reliving of the disturbing experience relieved the associated conflict-bound emotional tension more than educative discussions concerning disturbed feelings could possibly do. Certainly in the re-living, the patient may more nearly admit the full emotional resonance to consciousness, whereas in discussions dealing with the disturbance in general or in incompletely specific terms, some degree of defensive distance may be maintained.

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