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Kurtz, S.A. (1986). The Analyst's Space. Psychoanal. Rev., 73A(1):41-55.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Review, 73A(1):41-55

The Analyst's Space

Stephen A. Kurtz, M.S.W.

Origins

The specific iconography of the analyst's consulting room begins in Vienna at Berggasse 19. But its prototype is the scholar's cell. In its essence, the cell is a space for self-contained absorption in intellectual reverie. Its image was perfected in the 15th century especially in paintings of St. Jerome where Netherlandish artists found an ideal subject to capture the values of enclosure. Each room in these paintings is a holding environment that sustains the man in his work by means of its walls, its furniture and books, its skull, crucifix, and little doglike lion. Even the view from the window only serves to return the scholar to his thoughts. This Jerome is an intellectual Crusoe; his island has shrunk to the size of his cell which contains everything he might need.

The scholar's room is a world-for-one; the analyst's is manifestly for two. Yet, while constructed to be shared, it is made only by the analyst who remains literally alone before and after his patient's visit—and in the solitude of his free-floating attention even during the hour itself.

Before he ever sees a patient, the analyst designs this room. Thus, it is a pure creative act that mobilizes and gives concrete, indeed institutional, expression to the most primitive elements in his personality. Since this truth can be obscured by the now time-worn conventions that guide him, it is instructive to examine their source at Freud's office in the Berggasse.

This room is preserved for us, not only in the memories of analysands, but in the photographs Edmund Engelman (1976) took just before Freud's flight to London in 1938. It impressed many (Recouly, 1923), as it does the present writer, as a virtual museum.

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