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Wolf, E.S. (1983). Aspects of Neutrality. Psychoanal. Inq., 3(4):675-689.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 3(4):675-689

Aspects of Neutrality

Ernest S. Wolf, M.D.

Some years ago, my initial interest in the analyst's neutrality was nourished by the growing recognition that miscarried neutrality or inappropriate neutrality were the most important contributors to my analytic failures. At that time I was helped by my discussions with Heinz Kohut who had an abiding interest in the fundamentals of the clinical psychoanalytic situation, its sound, and its felt qualities, an interest in what I later began to refer to as the analytic ambience (Wolf, 1976). Kohut also had some very definite ideas about what he considered the proper analytic posture, namely, that of collecting analytic data by empathic immersion.

His definition of empathy implies an attitude of objectivity with regard to the patient's subjectivity, his experience. Empathy, like neutrality, is a very complicated concept. Even our definitions are problematic. For example, we do not always differentiate clearly enough the process of obtaining data by empathic immersion from the resulting insights based on this empathic process. Consequently, we do not always see eye to eye on the details of our definitions of either empathy or neutrality.

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