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Malcolm, R.R. (1992). As If: The Phenomenon of Not Learning. New Library of Psychoanalysis, 14:114-125.
(1992). New Library of Psychoanalysis, 14:114-125
As If: The Phenomenon of Not Learning
Ruth Riesenberg Malcolm
An earlier version of this chapter was given as a ‘Bion Lecture’. The present version was given at the 36th International Psychoanalytical Congress at Rome in 1989 and subsequently published in the Int. J. Psycho-Anal. (1990) 71: 385-92.
I want to express my gratitude to Dr Hanna Segal for reading a draft of this chapter and making very helpful suggestions.
Analysis is a process which aims to achieve psychic change through understanding - that is, an emotional experience of learning.
It was Helen Deutsch who in 1942 coined the term ‘as-if personality’ to describe certain types of people about whom she says: ‘The whole relation to life has something about it which is lacking in genuineness and yet outwardly it runs “as-if” it were complete.’
In this chapter I want to speak of the patient's ‘as-if’ response to analysis - a false connection with the analyst and the interpretations in the sessions, which gives an outward impression of understanding and progress, while in fact the whole process lacks something real, does not feel genuine, and seems to be going nowhere.
In most, if not all, analysis we can find the as-if behaviour in our patients, operating like any other defence or resistance against insight. But in some patients, this ‘as-ifness’, as behaviour in analysis, comes to constitute their basic mode of responding to the analyst's attempts to bring insight and change. This way of functioning aims at keeping an appearance of an analysis in progress, while the patient's main objective will be to keep the situation immobilized. A static stituation acts for these people as a kind of reassurance, a kind of proof that they are all right, do not need any change, which they prove by perceiving themselves endowed with keen analytic perceptions and gifts and rich emotions.
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