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Rosenblum, S. (1998). Abstinence Anonymity and the Avoidance of Self-Disclosure. Psychoanal. Inq., 18(4):538-549.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 18(4):538-549

Abstinence Anonymity and the Avoidance of Self-Disclosure

Stephen Rosenblum, M.D.

Sometimes when an insight occurs, it seems to familiar and so obvious it is hard to believe it was not previously accessible to consciousness. The notion that self-disclosure is an inevitable and unwitting consequence of everything we do in the analytic situation has this quality. However, this familiar, and now obvious, aspect of analytic work, gained wide recognition only in the recent history of psychoanalysis. Its recognition has led to important refinements in technique. Gill (1979) writes about the importance of recognizing that transference is not just a distortion of the patient but is also significantly influenced by the analyst's unwitting behavior. He argues that recognition of the plausibility of all transference reactions by the analyst is a necessary step for the technique of interpreting resistance to awareness of transference. Schwaber (1983) writes about the impact of the analyst's contribution on the patient's experience, emphasizing that the analyst is often unaware of how he or she is being perceived by the patient. Schwaber's work has led to changes in the way we listen to patients.

Why was it so difficult to achieve awareness of unwitting self-disclosure? I believe part of the resistance reflects an idealization of Freud, who maintained that the avoidance of self-disclosure was necessary for the development and resolution of a transference neurosis. In Recommendations on Analytic Technique (1915a) he explicitly warns against self-disclosure in any form.

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