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Sandler, J. Sandler, A. (1987). The Past Unconscious, the Present Unconscious and the Vicissitudes of Guilt. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:331-341.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:331-341

The Past Unconscious, the Present Unconscious and the Vicissitudes of Guilt

Joseph Sandler and Anne-Marie Sandler

This paper aims at providing a frame of reference within which we can, among other things, view the transformation of guilt feelings and the ideas associated with them. The concepts of the past unconscious and the present unconscious have been introduced in an attempt to bring psychoanalytic theory closer to clinical practice, as well as to suggest a way in which some of the clinically useful features of the topographical theory (Freud, 1900), lost when the structural theory was introduced (Freud, 1923), could be retained and developed.

In the clinical situation of psychoanalysis the material we have to work on is that brought by the patient. This material includes the patient's words and affecto-motor behaviour, as well as his transference attitudes and the content of our own countertransference responses. All of these elements enter into the dialogue the analyst has with the patient. In the analyst's particular way of listening, and with the aid of free-floating attention and a certain degree of free-floating responsiveness, he or she makes inferences from the patient's material. The analyst sees what the patient brings as a set of allusions to what is going on beneath the surface (Gill, 1982). We make our inferences on the basis of many factors. First there is the broad base of our own particular variety of psychoanalytic theory—our general model or set of models of mental functioning. Then there is our clinical and technical experience of working with such

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