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Widlöcher, D. (2000). On Abstinence. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 121-127.

Widlöcher, D. (2000). On Abstinence. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 121-127

On Abstinence Book Information Previous Up Next

Daniel Widlöcher, M.D.

The principle of abstinence was considered very early by Freud as a basic requirement of the psychoanalytical technique. In “Observations on Transference Love” (1915a) he wrote, “The treatment must be carried out in abstinence” (p. 165) and added, It [is] a fundamental principle that the patient's needs and longing should be allowed to persist in her, in order that they may serve as forces impelling her to do work and to make changes. (p. 165).

But it is not very clear whether the principle concerns mainly the doctor or the patient. For many years, attention has been paid mainly to the former case, abstinence from the psychoanalyst's point of view. There is heated debate between “deprivers” and “gratifiers”, the question dealing with “the balance of gratifications and deprivations” that “have to be purposefully employed in the conduct of a psychoanalysis” (Fox, 1984, p. 228). So the question of abstinence is closely related with neutrality (Schachter, 1984) and the debate seems particularly relevant to Freud's initial concern about the love demands of his women patients (1919a, pp. 159-168).

But the question seems to have shifted from the psychoanalyst to the patient, from neutrality to the place of the treatment in the everyday life of the patients. This shift is related to the transference neurosis theory as it was described in the twenty-eighth lecture of the “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis(Freud, 1916-1917).

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