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Brotman, C.J. (1983). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 52:325-326.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:325-326

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Carl J. Brotman

DISCUSSION: Dr. Sheldon Roth noted that empathy attunes to different psychic phenomena in analysis, depending on the different phases of the analytic process. For example, in the early phase, there is a drive toward symbiosis; when the analyst then stands "apart" to make observations, it may be jarring, disrupting the patient's invitations for fusion. Dr. Arthur Valenstein observed that empathy is a word as old as time. It is the cornerstone of our psychological mindedness and "without it we'd be plumbers." Trial identification is akin to it but not the same. It is the capacity for participating in another person versus reading into the person certain attributes. This is an old debate: Is analysis an open or closed system? Bibring had observed how attributes of the analyst can be a problem for "tilting the transference." It is not that we are fully neutral; it is just that we aim to reduce our input. If we did not have neutrality, we would still try to invent it. Dr. Valenstein recalled Roy Grinker's saying, "I squeeze the analytic relationship for past experience before acknowledging the current relationship." Dr. Samuel Silverman noted that Freud, in keeping with the scientific environment of his time, tried to consider only the inside milieu. Freud did not underscore his input, although he was aware of it. Dr. Silverman raised a question about one of the vignettes cited from the literature. The analyst, listening from the position of "outside" observer, had made a comment which led the patient to feel as if he were "not being understood." Silverman wondered why the analyst had not pursued this reaction to his comment rather than "insisting" that he was right and the patient defensive. Dr. M. Robert Gardner agreed with Dr. Silverman and went on to note that the paper tended to oppose examples of good technique from the "inside" point of view and "bad" technique from the "outside" point of view. "Surely," he said, "there are good examples of the latter, and it may be useful to contrast them with good examples of listening 'from within'." Dr. Ana-Maria Rizzuto raised concerns about the use of the terms external reality and internal reality, noting that this adopts a physicalistic stance. Analysts should not be concerned with reality as an objective fact. We have no tools for "knowing" subjective reality, only patients' interpretation of subjective reality.

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