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Inderbitzin, L.B. Seelig, B.J. (1993). The Analytic Surface. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:179-190.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:179-190

The Analytic Surface

Lawrence B. Inderbitzin, M.D. and Beth J. Seelig, M.D.

INDERBITZIN OPENED THE PANEL with a brief historical and conceptual overview. Freud originally used the term surface as an equivalent of consciousness in his topographic model, and later (1914) modified the concept to include unconscious resistances observed by the analyst. Fenichel's (1941) idea of surface closely approximated the later view of Freud. Loewenstein (1951), (1954) added two descriptions of surface: (1) "the state and the nature of conflicts between drives and defenses at a given moment"; and (2) "all aspects of the patient's mental life which are at the disposal of his autonomous ego functions." Although "surface" does not appear as a psychoanalytic concept in any of the specialized psychoanalytic glossaries or dictionaries (Paniagua, 1985), analysts continue to use the term in different ways and contexts associated with different frames of reference. The meaning of the surface within the framework of the structural theory remains largely unexplored. An exception to this is the work of Gray (1973), (1982), (1986); he defines an "optimum analytic surface" as being the specific and discriminating focus of attention of both analyst and analysand.

Equating surface with the data of observation is problematic for a number of reasons, some of which Paniagua (1991) points out. Levy and Inderbitzin (1990) describe the analytic surface as "some aspect of the patient's verbal and nonverbal behavior to which the analyst and the analysand can direct their attention in order to gain access to important material that will be explored in a consistent, systematic manner" (p. 374). Inderbitzin elaborated that the analytic surface is that subset of data of observation from which a conjecture is formed leading to systematic exploration and interpretation.

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