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Levy, S.T. Inderbitzin, L.B. (1989). Negativism and Countertransference. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:7-30.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:7-30

Negativism and Countertransference

Steven T. Levy, M.D. and Lawrence B. Inderbitzin, M.D.


The purpose of this work is to explore the phenomenon of negativism and the analyst's response to it during the course of analytic work with a patient in whom negativism is a central behavioral pattern. Melville's short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener," describing in telling detail the response of a sympathetic lawyer to profound and pervasive negativism in his legal scribe, is discussed as a literary analogy to the analyst-analysand dyad. Aspects of the concept of negativism within psychoanalysis are discussed. The potential usefulness of understanding certain unexpected countertransference responses to pervasive negativism is explored, as this is a relatively neglected area of psychoanalytic technique. A case is presented describing the analysis of a patient whose character, like Bartleby's, is a mixture of profound negativism along with schizoid, obsessional, and masochistic elements.

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