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Yorke, C. (1996). Panel Report - Psychic Reality: Its Relationship To Defences Involving Negative Mechanisms: Chaired by WARREN S. POLAND, Washington. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:97-102.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:97-102

Panel Report - Psychic Reality: Its Relationship To Defences Involving Negative Mechanisms: Chaired by WARREN S. POLAND, Washington

Clifford Yorke

The Chairman opened the panel at this very full meeting and displayed the lively good humour that characterised his chairmanship. He proposed to call on the speakers to read their papers, and after that to open the discussion on this fascinating but complex issue.

The first panellist, Michael Parsons, began by discussing the ‘analytic stance’. This was not simply the attitude with which one approached the patient: it applied to the way one read analytic literature or had analytic thoughts. It brought with it a slight sense of tension, since effort was needed to stay attuned to psychic, as opposed to ordinary, reality. It meant saying ‘no’ to something to which we habitually said ‘yes’.

A patient once told him that she would wake in the night and tell her father that she was afraid of burglars, or of dying, or of nuclear war. His angry reassurance would make her more agitated, not less. He failed to meet her on the level, not of ordinary, but of psychic, reality, where her fears had substance. That would have meant negating his ordinary way of thinking. But for psychoanalysts, psychic reality was the level at which their work was done.

The paradox was reflected in recent controversy over psychoanalytic listening. Some believed we listened in order to detect and understand distortions in the patient's view of reality. Others thought the psychoanalyst was no arbiter of reality: his job was to help the patient to understand his own psychic reality better, not to correct it.

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