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Ehrenberg, D.B. (2000). Potential Impasse as Analytic Opportunity: Interactive Considerations. Contemp. Psychoanal., 36(4):573-586.

(2000). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 36(4):573-586

Potential Impasse as Analytic Opportunity: Interactive Considerations

Darlene Bregman Ehrenberg, Ph.D.

Impasse is often conceived of as a situation in which treatment comes to a halt, where there is a clash that cannot be resolved, and a rupture. Nevertheless, we must recognize that many treatments that continue also constitute forms of impasse. We are all too aware of analyses of all analytic schools that have gone on for years and years with no sense of impasse while in progress, only to end with no substantial analytic result. The same patients come for second and third analyses in states of cynicism and despair about having invested so much time and money to no significant avail.

What I argue here is that in many of these cases, the basis for the impasse is that crucial interactive issues have never been engaged. The question is how to begin to open analytically the interactive issues that form the core of such impasses. My view is that if we can successfully work with these issues, potential impasse actually becomes analytic opportunity. As I have emphasized (Ehrenberg, 1974, 1992), I think this applies no matter what our theoretical perspective. Unfortunately, our theory has not adequately provided for addressing the complex forms of unconscious communication and enactment, of projective and introjective identification, and of collusion, coercion, manipulation, seduction

Earlier versions were presented at a panel, “Negotiating Impasses: Different Perspectives,” at the meetings of the Division of Psychoanalysis (Division 39) of the American Psychological Association, April 16, 1993, New York City; at the International Forum of Psychoanalysis, Florence, Italy, May 14, 1994; at the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, New York, May 26, 1994; at the Derner Institute, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, December 10, 1994; at the Northwest Center for Psychoanalysis, Portland, Oregon, April 12, 1995; at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, San Francisco, April 24, 1995; at the Minnesota Society for Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies, Minneapolis, October 21, 1995; and at the Twenty-fourth Annual Scientific Conference on “The Difficult Patient,” Washington Square Institute, New York City, February 6, 2000.

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