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Olinick, S.L. (1976). Empathy and Metaphoric Correspondences. Ann. Psychoanal., 4:93-100.

(1976). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 4:93-100

Empathy and Metaphoric Correspondences

Stanley L. Olinick, M.D.

This paper proposes an answer to the question of how the analyst integrates the data of empathic perception, collected in his state of evenly hovering attention, into a comprehensible, valid system that corresponds to the patient. The problem is one of the perception and transmission of covert meaning from one person to another, and from one intra-psychic system to another within the same person.

In previous communications, I have been concerned with empathic processes as they reveal the workings of the psychoanalytic-work ego–the more or less autonomously functioning aspect of the analyst at work, which is uniquely attuned to and in parallel with processes in the patient (Olinick, 1969, 1976, in press a, b; Olinick et al., 1973). With that model one may observe that the analyst, through his work ego, learns to know the patient, not only through the usual cognitive channels, but also by a specialized attention to his own internal and internalized processes as these become mobilized and influenced in the psychoanalytic situation (Olinick et al., 1973).

A definition of empathy remains difficult to arrive at, although Fliess's (1942) discussion in terms of transitory “trial identifications” is useful. However it is defined, the basic questions remain to be answered: What does the analyst introject? What are the objective data of empathy? To what does the analyst respond, and how are the raw data made meaningful and informative? To be sure, the analyst responds to the free associations, to their form and style, to the revealed patterns of thinking and feeling. Still, it is not on verbal content alone, on the basis of the principles of contiguity, similarity, and repetition, that this process depends (Freud, 1915; Kanzer, 1961; Beres and Arlow, 1974).

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