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Zeligs, M.A. (1960). The Role of Silence in Transference, Counter-Transference, and the Psycho-Analytic Process. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:407-412.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:407-412

The Role of Silence in Transference, Counter-Transference, and the Psycho-Analytic Process

Meyer A. Zeligs

This brief presentation will be limited to those aspects of the problem of silence during analysis which relate to transference and counter-transference. In the course of my remarks I shall comment on silence and its relation to technique and emphasize the continuous role which silence plays in the psycho-analytic process. But first I should like to present some general preliminary thoughts on the psychology of human silence, in order to provide a frame of reference for the specific theoretical and clinical formulations which follow.

Let us conjecture for a few minutes what a state of silence between any two or more people might mean. Obviously, it could reflect many different psychic states and qualities of feeling. It might evidence a state of agreement, disagreement, pleasure, displeasure, anger, or tranquillity. The silence could be a sign of contentment, mutual understanding, and compassion; or it might indicate emptiness and complete lack of affect. Human silence can radiate warmth or cast a chill. At one moment it may be laudatory and accepting; in the next, it can be cutting and contemptuous. Silence may express poise, smugness, snobbishness, taciturnity, or humility. Silence may mean yes or no. It may be giving or receiving, object-directed or narcissistic. Silence may be the sign of defeat or the mark of mastery. When life-and-death situations are being sweated through, there is little occasion for words. Silence prevails when the 'moment of truth' is at hand, for, as has been said, silence is closer to truth than words.

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