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Nersessian, E. (2000). The Role of Curiosity in Psychoanalysis: Changes in My Technique in the Past Fifteen Years. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 103-109.

Nersessian, E. (2000). The Role of Curiosity in Psychoanalysis. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 103-109

The Role of Curiosity in Psychoanalysis: Changes in My Technique in the Past Fifteen Years Book Information Previous Up Next

Edward Nersessian, M.D.

Some 15 years ago I was confronted for the first time with a patient who, while perfectly willing to say what came to his mind, did not want to think about the meaning of his associations. Whenever I asked him about an aspect of his thoughts, he was in the habit of answering that he was there to tell me everything and it was my job to figure out what it meant. An intensely exhibitionistic and voyeuristic man, he showed no curiosity vis-à-vis his own associations nor vis-à-vis a whole array of symptomatic behaviour. In a certain way, he was pointing out the inadequacy of the so-called “basic rule”. Other patients, when encouraged to say what came to their mind, had spontaneously reflected about it and, therefore, had not provided the opportunity to observe a situation where self-reflection was missing. This patient offered just such an opportunity and this experience was instrumental in my becoming aware of the role of curiosity in psychoanalytic treatment, which resulted in a paper entitled: “Some Reflections on Curiosity and Psychoanalytic Technique(Nersessian, 1995). Since that time, I have continued to be affected in my analytic work by the attention that I pay to this function and, while it is impossible to hold any one factor as central in one's clinical development, I think my technique has been strongly affected by this focus.

In the paper mentioned above, my interest was more focused on the analyst and therefore I discussed curiosity under the broader subject of analytic listening. For a long time, the analysand's free association has had its counterpart in the analyst's free-floating attention.

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