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Fox, R.P. (1984). The Principle of Abstinence Reconsidered. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:227-236.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:227-236

The Principle of Abstinence Reconsidered

Richard P. Fox


In the psychoanalytic literature the question of abstinence has usually appeared as a topic for debate in the context of some suggested modification in technique. These discussions of abstinence often have been in the service of defending a point of view and rarely have entailed an examination of the question of abstinence in its own right.

Psychoanalysis involves many frustrations along with many gratifications. Some of these are inevitable, some accidental and some are purposive. The principle of abstinence is re-examined in the context of an interactive psychoanalytic process and is re-formulated as the guideline for

technique addressed to the question of what balance of gratifications and deprivations have to be employed in the conduct of a psychoanalysis.

Case examples are cited to highlight the role of gratifications and frustrations in the development and maintenance of the transference. In the discussion, attention is directed to Freud's original formulation of transference and the function of the 'day residue' in the formation of dreams and these concepts are extended to the interactive aspects of the psychoanalytic situation. Finally the concept of transference as illusion is examined and the role of transitional processes in both the formation and subjective experiencing of transference is suggested.

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