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Eigen, M. (1973). Abstinence and the Schizoid Ego. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 54:493-498.

(1973). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 54:493-498

Abstinence and the Schizoid Ego

Michael Eigen

Since the dawn of self-awareness some form of asceticism has been used, virtually universally, as a consciousness-raising technique. It appears to have functioned both to heighten awareness for its own sake and as one of the perennial revolutionary media to offset the toxic side-effects of civilization. It is thus not surprising to find radical psychoanalysis, a consciousness revolution of critical importance, an advocate of abstinence as a catalyst for the work of self-transformation. Freud's very theory of personal development portrays an ego capable of increasing itself through its resistance to the collective in nature and culture. The movement towards psychic mastery is achieved by means of mental acts which are grounded on critical renunciations for their power. For Freud the life and growth of consciousness are necessarily ascetic, or depend upon an ascetic element. An ascetic therapeutic methodology would appear to flow naturally from his vision of man. Beyond the specifics of the abstinence rule, the analytic situation itself is conceived as a paradigm of the ascetic moment: the patient's need or desire is destined to collide with the analyst's sustained attentiveness, a thwarting which, ultimately, results in the increase of the patient's own capacity for self-awareness.

With the continued development of analytic therapy, the rule of abstinence as a specific therapeutic technique has been disregarded for both theoretical and practical reasons. Therapy is, generally, no longer compressed into intense, short durations.

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