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Pressman, M.D. (1969). The Cognitive Function of the Ego in Psychoanalysis:—I. the Search for Insight. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:187-196.

(1969). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50:187-196

The Cognitive Function of the Ego in Psychoanalysis:—I. the Search for Insight

Maurie D. Pressman


Following suggestions of Hartmann and Anna Freud, I have attempted to delineate the cognitive function of the ego as it operates in the psychoanalytic situation. Cognition has been dealt with extensively in recent years and a huge literature has been amassed. But the studies have been confined to the external search—not the inner search. Therefore I have focused attention on a definition of the cognitive function as it applies to the psychoanalytic situation and on the description of the cognitive style as a baseline from which resistances may be measured. As a corollary, it is suggested that the fundamental rule be more explicitly stated: 'Bring out everything that occurs to you without criticism, but use it to know yourself better and to enlarge your understanding of your problems.' Mechanisms of achieving insight which are, in themselves, evidences of the cognitive function at work are discussed, as well as the aids which the analyst uses to help the patient achieve an ascendency of his cognitive function.

Admittedly, this paper is preliminary—an introduction. But it is offered in an attempt to delineate and define the cognitive function of the ego in psychoanalysis, in the hope that such a clarification will help to improve our technique and to understand better our failures and our successes. More on this subject will necessarily follow, for it seems to me the proper operation of the cognitive function is the essence of the patient's contribution to a correct interpretation. It demands future study.

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