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Stein, M.H. (1958). The Cliché: a Phenomenon of Resistance. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 6:263-277.

(1958). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 6:263-277

The Cliché: a Phenomenon of Resistance

Martin H. Stein, M.D.

The cliché is best illustrated by the patient who early in her analysis uses the phrase, "mother-figure." She may be referring to a teacher, a supervisor, or, best of all, to her own mother. The analyst is tempted to exclaim, perhaps with irritation, "For heaven's sake, if you are talking about your mother, why don't you come out and say so?" A good question, the answer to which is the intent of this paper.

For the purposes of this discussion, the concept of the cliché will be expanded to include not only stereotyped words or word groups, but also somewhat broader verbal responses. This borders inevitably on a related phenomenon, the use of jargon by patients in analysis. Jargon in this context may be defined as "The cliché use of technical language." This paper will deal with both cliché in the ordinary sense and jargon, as they appear in the service of resistance.

A usually inhibited young man described in everyday terms a round of sexual pleasures which he had achieved the night before. He continued, "But I was brought up in a referential system, designed toward the assimilation of a Christ pattern." He was referring to an intense sense of sin derived from his religious upbringing. The use of mathematical circumlocutions was an attempt to relieve the sharpness of his guilt.

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