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Apfelbaum, B. Gill, M.M. (1989). Ego Analysis and the Relativity of Defense: Technical Implications of the Structural Theory. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:1071-1096.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:1071-1096

Ego Analysis and the Relativity of Defense: Technical Implications of the Structural Theory

Bernard Apfelbaum, Ph.D. and Merton M. Gill, M.D.


We suggest that it is recognition of the relativity of defense, of the fact that the same content can be either defense or wish, rather than recognition of unconscious defense, that distinguishes the structural from the topographic theory. The structural theory did not simply add to the topographic theory the recognition that defense can be unconscious; it represented a radical shift in the concept of defense and of the relation between defense and wish. Accordingly, ego analysis, as the technical approach generated by the structural theory, is not complementary or preliminary to id analysis, the technical approach generated by the topographic theory.

We attempt to demonstrate that the two theories represent antagonistic paradigms, both theoretically and technically. We suggest that "defense before drive," the structural formula for interpretation, made ego syntonicity a crucial determinant in formulating interpretations, and assumed the relativity of defense. Accordingly, the structural revision made possible an equidistant position between defense and wish, reducing reliance on suggestion and establishing interpretive neutrality, which we distinguish from behavioral neutrality.

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