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Alexander, F. (1933). On Ferenczi's Relaxation Principle. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 14:183-192.

(1933). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 14:183-192

On Ferenczi's Relaxation Principle

Franz Alexander, M.D.

The increasing appreciation and knowledge of the emotional factors in the psycho-analytical situation are a characteristic of the recent development of psycho-analytic technique. It is well known that in the beginning the method of free association was used without recognition of the importance of the emotional relation between patient and physician which develops while using this technique. Very soon, however, apart from the more intellectual device of eliminating conscious control over the trains of thought, the emotional factor, the transference, proved to be the most powerful agent in mobilizing unconscious material. The original idea was that the analyst, through his passive, unemotional attitude, plays the neutral rôle of a screen on which the patient projects according to infantile patterns different qualities and at the same time develops the corresponding emotions. The easy, objective, matter-of-fact atmosphere of the analytical situation facilitates undisguised manifestation of these infantile reactions, which have been repressed as such and expressed only in the unintelligible language of symptoms.

This objective unemotional attitude, however, appears to be contradictory to the different rôles which the patient attributes to the analyst. The patient may see in the analyst a tyrannical or a weak father, an understanding mother, or competitive brother, etc.; but in contrast to these projections the real attitude of the analyst is neutral, unemotional and objective.

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