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Spence, D.P. (1994). Response to Dr. Poland's Letter. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:1315-1315.

(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:1315-1315

Response to Dr. Poland's Letter

Donald P. Spence, Ph.D.

March 31, 1994

Yes and no. While Dr. Poland is right in maintaining that analytic surface and analytic space are largely overlapping terms, it is not quite true that nothing occurs in an analysis that does not occupy the analytic space—consider the stream of ideas occurring to the analyst while the patient speaks. Unless he or she chooses to make them public, they do not occupy the space shared by the two parties.

But there is a larger question raised by Dr. Poland's comment. Confusion about the meaning of such terms as surface and space frequently stems from their largely metaphorical nature. Metaphor leads directly to solipsism; even though we use the same terms and seem to be speaking the same language, our private senses of what these words mean is far from uniform; similarity in language papers over a disturbing range of private differences. It was for this reason that we proposed a definition of analytic surface that is rooted in specific speech patterns (pronoun cooccurrences). This version of the concept of surface has the advantage of being clearly linked to countable features of the analytic conversation.

Terms such as surface and depth or space tend to be evocative, even comforting in their metaphoric promise, but almost always turn out to be unreliable in practice because connotation tends to displace denotation. If surface can be defined in terms of specific pronoun patterns spoken by the patient, it is clearly not an artifact, as Dr. Poland suggests; what is more, the specific pattern of pronouns may or may not include the analyst and, as a result, may or may not overlap with analytic space. The patient who uses only first-person pronouns is sending quite a different message from the one who pairs first- and second-person pronouns; the first is excluding the analyst (surface is not correlated with space), whereas the second is being more inclusive (surface and space tend to overlap). Only by moving away from metaphor can we make these kinds of hard-and-fast distinctions.

We thank Dr. Poland for his useful comments and invite other clinicians to join the dialogue.

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