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Zeddies, T.J. Richardson, F.C. (1999). Analytic Authority in Historical and Critical Perspective: Beyond Objectivism and Relativism. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(4):581-601.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):581-601

Analytic Authority in Historical and Critical Perspective: Beyond Objectivism and Relativism

Timothy J. Zeddies, M.A. and Frank C. Richardson, Ph.D.

THE AIM OF CLASSICAL PSYCHOANALYSIS was to uncover patients' intrapsychic resistances and infantile conflicts, assist them in renouncing certain personality trends, and help them work through conflicts in order to bring about a “cure.” This aim could be achieved only when a patient talks without censoring (free association) in the presence of a neutral, abstinent, and anonymous analyst. The analyst's main role is to interpret the patient's resistances and conflicts. Above all, the analyst must not get involved in a personal way, but should be “impenetrable to the patient, and, like a mirror, reflect nothing but what is shown to him” (Freud, 1912, p. 118). According to the classical view, the patient free associates and the analyst interprets; the appropriate participation of both is prescribed from the outset. Moreover, the analyst could assume authoritative knowledge of what patients needed, and they, in turn, could rest assured that the analyst “knew better” and that they needed only to incorporate the analyst's interpretations, or “superior rationality” (Mitchell, 1997), in order to outgrow or resolve intrapsychic conflicts, make the unconscious conscious, and achieve relief of symptoms.

Before the ink was dry on the classical cannon, revisionist psychoanalytic thinkers were insisting that it provided too reductive and narrow an explanatory system to adequately characterize the analytic process. Over the years, theorists within the broad psychoanalytic tradition began to work out a much more social and interpersonal view of human existence. For example, Sullivan, and later Fairbairn, insisted that not drives but relations with others were the fundamental building blocks of mental life.

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