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Bromberg, P.M. (1994). “Speak! That I May See You”: Some Reflections on Dissociation, Reality, and Psychoanalytic Listening. Psychoanal. Dial., 4(4):517-547.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 4(4):517-547

“Speak! That I May See You”: Some Reflections on Dissociation, Reality, and Psychoanalytic Listening

Philip M. Bromberg, Ph.D.

The new emphasis on nonlinear dynamics in psychoanalytic thinking is rapidly changing our view of both psychological structure and psychological growth. The conceptualization of psychoanalytic listening and technique as therapeutically mediating the lifting of repression and the resolution of intrapsychic conflict is reexamined here in terms of new types of questions having to do with such concepts as “self-organization,” “states of consciousness,” and “dissociation.” This paper presents the view that dissociation is as basic as repression to human mental functioning and as central to the stability and growth of personality. Even in the most resilient personality, an analyst will always encounter domains of dissociated experience that have weak or nonexistent linkage to the experience of “me” as a communicable entity. Before these “not-me” states of mind can be taken as objects of analytic self-reflection, they must first become “thinkable” while becoming linguistically communicable through enactment in the analytic relationship. This depends on the analyst's ability to acknowledge the divergent realities held by discontinuous self-states in the patient while simultaneously maintaining an authentic dialogue with each. By “unfreezing” the concrete, literal quality of a patient's discontinuous states of consciousness, the patient is able to embrace the full range of his perceptual reality within a single relational field, so that the process becomes a dialectic


Philip M. Bromberg is a Fellow, Training and Supervising Analyst, and faculty member of the William Alanson White Psychoanalytic Institute, and a Clinical Professor of Psychology at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

An earlier draft of this paper, entitled “‘Speak! That I May See You’ Some Reflections on Psychoanalytic Listening and the Concept of Technique,” was presented as The Second Annual Bernard Kalinkowitz Memorial Lecture at New York University on February 25, 1994. It was jointly sponsored by Section V of Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of the American Psychological Association, and the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

© 1994 The Analytic Press

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between seeing and being seen, rather than simply being seen “into.” It is through this that intrapsychic bridges are built between a patient's self-experiences that could not formerly be contained in a relationship with the same object, and a transition begins to take place from enacted dissociative experience to interpretable intrapsychic conflict.

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