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Schimel, J.L. (1974). Dialogic Analysis of the Obsessional. Contemp. Psychoanal., 10:87-100.

(1974). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 10:87-100

Dialogic Analysis of the Obsessional

John L. Schimel, M.D.

IN A PREVIOUS PAPER (Schimel, 1972), I discussed the role of the power theme in the obsessional patient. This paper focusses on the form and structure of the behaviors of obsessionals in the psychoanalytic situation and presents an optimal strategy for psychoanalytic intervention deriving chiefly from the views of Wilhelm Reich (1933) and Harry Stack Sullivan (1940).

In this presentation the term character structure is used in the same sense as personality type. Sullivan (1940) attributed many of the phenomena observed in the obsessional person to an underlying character structure which he termed the negativistic personality. This cannot be equated with negativism, although negativism does play a significant role in the thoughts and overt behavior patterns of obsessionals. The level of development achieved by the negativistic personality is evident throughout the spectrum of functioning by the individual, including the panoply of behaviors observed in the analyst's office. An obsessional patient's thoughtful response to the doctor's equally thoughtful and careful interpretation can take the form of, "I think you may have a point there, doctor." The therapist may feel defeated, and the patient never realizes that he has rejected the doctor's precious formulation since his "characteristic" mode of rejection has appeared in a socially acceptable form and, of course, he doesn't feel angry.

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