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Schafer, R. (1973). The Idea of Resistance. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 54:259-285.

(1973). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 54:259-285

The Idea of Resistance

Roy Schafer

The resistance accompanies the treatment step by step. Every single association, every act of the person under treatment must reckon with the resistance and represents a compromise between the forces that are striving towards recovery and the opposing ones which I have described. FREUD (1912p. 103).

There is no part of clinical analytic work that is more exacting than the analysis of resistance and no part of giving training in analytic technique with respect to which one has to be more vigilant. It is a hotbed of concealed hostility and, as such, stimulates much negative countertransference. It bars the way to the analysis of significant life-historical material and even to its own analysis (the resistance against the analysis of resistance). Further, resistance cancels out the emotional impact, the sense of relevance, and the potentially lasting consequences of the most penetrating, well-founded and historically integrative interpretations of transference. On top of which the resistance stops the analysand from putting into practice the understanding he has gained through analytic work, tending instead to foster repetitive acting out.

Yet what exactly is the resistance? The idea of resistance seems to include so much—the defences, drives, character traits, ego attitudes of defiance and desperate opposition to change, even transference—that it seems hardly distinguishable from the totality of the analysis itself. Wilhelm Reich's great work on character-analysis (1933), which centres on the analysis of character resistance, must leave one with exactly this impression: once the character resistances have been analysed, what really remains to be analysed? We should insist that a concept that takes in everything is no concept at all.

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