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Meerloo, J.A. (1959). Psychoanalysis as an Experiment in Communication. Psychoanal. Rev., 46A(1):75-89.

(1959). Psychoanalytic Review, 46A(1):75-89

Psychoanalysis as an Experiment in Communication

Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D.

The communication between patient and therapist may be viewed as a mere means to the goal of cure, giving insight to the manifold dynamics of therapy. Or, it may become itself an object of study—a fascinating world of uncharted dimensions of contact between man and his fellow man. In this laboratory of communication verbal and non-verbal forms of transmission play a role.


Free Association as a Linguistic Experiment

In psychoanalytic treatment the method of free association, introduced by Freud, proves to be one of the best tools of self-revelation and deeper communication. The analysand is asked to forsake the realm of conventional, rational talk and thought and to reveal everything that is in his mind, without reserve. The therapist wants him to do this in order to arrive at the hidden primary process of unconscious feeling and thinking. The patient is not pressed to reveal all that comes to mind, but is gradually helped to feel free to voice and say anything and everything, unconditionally.

Very soon, however, it appears that this exercise in freely verbalizing all that enters the sphere of consciousness is rendered difficult by barriers of inner censorship. Usually there is less censorship if the therapist is able to prolong the first interview to three or four hours. We used this initial catharsis—the so called three-hour interview—in cases of war-neuroses, where no other form of treatment or second encounter with the patient were feasible.

What originally was called “free” association appears to be not at all free; it is bound to numerous limitations and is modified in various ways.

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