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Miller, I. (1964). On Taking Notes. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:121-122.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:121-122

On Taking Notes

Ira Miller

It is not unusual, during the course of free association, for a patient to enquire of the analyst, 'Are you taking notes?' Certainly, in fanciful reproductions of the analytic situation such as cartoons, the analyst is identified by his notebook no less than by his beard and couch. When such a question is referred back to the analysand for his thoughts, almost invariably there is some association to the effect that the patient wants the analyst to take notes so as not to lose sight of a single, precious word.

That it is not advisable to take notes during an analytic hour is something with which most analysts would agree. This is based on the consideration that anything which distracts the analyst from the optimum free-floating attention interferes with the communication, via the derivatives, between the unconscious of the analysand and the unconscious of the analyst (Freud, 1912). A perusal of the literature fails to reveal any mention of note-taking save in general terms. Glover (1955), for example, states: '… note-taking is calculated either to arouse suspicion in the defensive type of patient or to give anxiety cases the impression, not altogether unfounded, that the analyst is unsure of himself.' The purpose of this short communication is to delineate a specific resistance, both in the transference and countertransference, which may be served by the practice of taking notes. An attempt will be made to show that frequently the patient's professed 'I don't want you to miss a single word' is penultimate to the unexpressed thought, 'and at the same time not know what is really going on'; and that a similar resistance may be operative in the countertransference.

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