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Slochower, J. (2003). Honesty, Unconsciousness, and Intentionality: Commentary on Owen Renik's Paper. Psychoanal. Perspect., 1(1):23-32.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 1(1):23-32

Honesty, Unconsciousness, and Intentionality: Commentary on Owen Renik's Paper Related Papers

Joyce Slochower, Ph.D., A.P.B.B

In his characteristically honest way, Owen Renik has written a paper about the limits of honesty within the clinical setting. Using his own experience to illustrate the inevitability of self-deception on the analyst's part, Renik shows us how this particular form of dishonesty can sneak into the interpretations we make, those we don't, and the justifications we give for our interventions. Renik underscores the role of unconscious factors that inform such moments of self-deception. He demonstrates how the interface between analysts' and patients' unconscious issues, memories, and anxieties can result in good analytic technique through which bad leaks out. Renik has addressed the still taboo subject of the analyst's dishonesty and invited us to do the same.

Renik focuses on the double-sidedness of the analyst's dishonesty by describing a dramatic shift in a stalled treatment. He reproaches his patient Leon for a tendency toward self-pity, only later recognizing that embedded in this reproach lay a personal protest of Renik's own. Leon, unaware of Renik's mixed motives, nevertheless responded in ways that moved the work forward. Renik offers convincing evidence that the process was deepened as a result of his comment, despite the layer of dishonesty that informed it. In a second vignette from a different treatment, the patient Ethan, unlike Leon, did pick up on a moment of dishonesty—in this instance, his analyst's unconscious withdrawal. This time, however, Renik quickly recognized and acknowledged his momentary distraction to Ethan, who responded with gratitude for his honesty.

Renik uses these vignettes to make two points: “We are dishonest with our patients even when we don't intend to be dishonest. The good news is that we can do productive and beneficial analytic work despite being dishonest, as long as we try as hard as we can to be as honest as we can.”

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