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Friedman, L. (1995). Two Panels On Interaction: An Introduction. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:517-520.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:517-520

Two Panels On Interaction: An Introduction

Lawrence Friedman

Words containing the syllable act are conspicuous in analytic debate today.

Not that enactment and interaction (and the action of psychoanalysis) have been ignored in the past. Freud wrote most boldly about the analyst's personal influence. Ferenczi's couch was a laboratory for its study. Nunberg, Balint, Glover, Tower, Bird, Racker, the object relationists, and many others have written about interaction before our day.

What, then, distinguishes the present controversies?

We have here two elaborate panels on interaction (and its dialectical partner, interpretation) that may show what's special about our time. They take us through considerations of enactment, interaction, interpersonal action, intrapsychic action, the action of transference on the analyst and of countertransference on both parties, authoritative actors and humble actors, expressive and reserved actors, and even the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis. The participants range over a great many topics—so many that the reader may feel a bit dizzy. But if we really want to scratch up what's at the bottom of today's preoccupation with the analyst's action, a wide rake like this may be just what's called for.

Looking at these panels, we see that analysts are no longer agreed that they can control the subtleties of their behavior. Some contributors go on to say that even the analyst's controlled behavior—interpreting—expresses a personal attitude, and unknowingly fits into the patient's familiar pattern. Such views suggest that the analyst does not stand as apart from a social relationship as we had hoped.

If that is true, we might ask what is analytic about the action? One suggestion is that the social attitudes of an analyst are often the equivalent of interpretations; another suggestion is that trouble in the relationship is what makes the relationship visible for detached scrutiny; another is that clarification of the social relationship is what treatment is all about.

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