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Smith, H.F. (1993). The Analytic Surface and the Discovery of Enactment. Ann. Psychoanal., 21:243-255.

(1993). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 21:243-255

The Analytic Surface and the Discovery of Enactment

Henry F. Smith, M.D.

The concept of the analytic surface, which has been with us since Freud's earliest clinical writings, has recently received notice as a means of identifying the focus of the analyst's attention and interventions. Thus Gray (1986) writes, “I regard as an optimum surface for interpretative interventions a selection of those elements in the material that may successfully illustrate for analysands that when they were speaking, they encountered a conflict over something being revealed, which caused them involuntarily and unknowingly to react in identifiably defensive ways” (p. 253).

Levy and Inderbitzin (1990) have borrowed Gray's notion of the “choice of a surface” to define the choices other analysts (Gill, 1982; Kris, 1982; Schwaber, 1986) make in identifying their own surfaces for interpretation. Inderbitzin (1990) suggests that such an approach may help elucidate the distinction between observation and inference.

In an effort to explore further the relationship between the analyst's attention and the patient's attention, including the patient's attention to the analyst's use of the surface, I highlight in this paper certain aspects of the meaning and value of the concept of the analytic surface, which I then illustrate with a clinical example.

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