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Wolf, E. (1976). Ambience and Abstinence. Ann. Psychoanal., 4:101-115.

(1976). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 4:101-115

Ambience and Abstinence

Ernest Wolf, M.D.

Psychoanalysts generally are in agreement about the definition of the major concepts that make up the body of psychoanalytic theory. This is not to say that psychoanalysts do not have theoretical differences. Such differences usually pertain to the choice of the most appropriate theoretical model to apply to a particular body of data, such as the topographical model versus the structural model. Diverse opinion may even grow into heated controversy at times when new models are introduced. This was the case, for example, when Freud (1923) introduced the structural model in “The Ego and the Id.” Similar controversies are currently being generated by Kohut's introduction of the self and self-object model to conceptualize the clinically observed narcissistic transference. These disagreements, heated as they may be, are the signs of a vital and growing science. At the same time, however, we find almost unanimous agreement on the definition of basic theoretical concepts. Analysts no longer need to struggle in order to reach consensus on what is meant by the unconscious, drive, defense, resistance, and a host of other basic conceptualizations.

But such is not the case when it comes to the basic elements of psychoanalytic practice. Leaving aside those practitioners who for various reasons of training or personal inclination have not become part of the mainstream of the psychoanalytic community as recognized by its national and international organizations, there remains the great majority of well-trained and experienced psychoanalysts whose practice of the psychoanalytic treatment differs widely. Glover (1955) commented at length on these differences, which are more than a matter of personal style, noting agreement on many aspects of technique, but concluding that “confused council has reigned” (p. 167).

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