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Zac, J. (1972). An Investigation on How Interpretations Arise in the Analyst. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:315-320.

(1972). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53:315-320

An Investigation on How Interpretations Arise in the Analyst

Joel Zac

In this paper I set forth a theory of how interpretations arise in the analyst, of the different functions involved therein and their mode of interaction.

But first, I find it necessary to draw an important distinction between the explanatory aspects (the 'why'), and the instrumental use (the 'what for') of an interpretation. The former clarifies for the analyst his understanding of the patient's behaviour and enables him to formulate theoretical hypotheses concerning that behaviour, i.e. to predict its future.

The instrumental use refers to the way in which the interpretations act on the patient. While an interpretation may be adequate from the explanatory point of view, its specific action on the patient may be distorted. The instrumental use also implies prior hypotheses as to how interpretations arise, as well as their action and how they are evaluated by the analyst, i.e. therapeutic results. Testing problems will not be discussed here.

Each of these aspects (origin, evaluation and action of the interpretation) raises different methodological problems, and therefore the need for specific correction factors. This paper will focus mainly on the origin of interpretations 'inside' the analyst.


In 1934 Sterba described a specific dissociation of the patient's ego during the analytic process into a reality-orientated part and an acting out part. This hypothesis clarified certain technical aspects, since such dissociation, plus the patient's ability to identify himself with the therapist, made the analyst–patient alliance possible.

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