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Wangh, M. (1992). Reflections on the Analyzing Instrument. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 1(2):233-235.

(1992). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 1(2):233-235

Reflections on the Analyzing Instrument

Martin Wangh, M.D.

Much time has passed since Freud described what occurs during the psychoanalytic treatment hour, both within the patient and within the psychoanalyst. The aim of it all was to obtain the patient's “aha,” perhaps preceded closely by the analyst's “aha.” To obtain insight into the source of one's motivations, to recognize them, and to use this insight for conflict solution is still the goal. This is to be achieved by means of the patient's free association accompanied by the analyst's evenly hovering attention.

Isakower emphasizes that this evenly hovering attention is the essential tool of the analyst at work. He adds that to visualize what is contained in the metaphors and idiosyncratic speech characteristics of the patient is a particularly useful way for accelerating the analyst's comprehension of what the patient seeks to communicate. I agree with that (Wangh, 1986, p. 388). Also: Edgar Degas is quoted as saying that: “At a single brush stroke we painters can say more than a writer in a whole volume” (quoted in a BBC-TV broadcast). Furthermore, in like manner auditory inner perceptions of music may be helpful to the psychoanalyst who is so gifted in speeding up his comprehension of a patient's mood states.

What may be apprehended by the analyst in these various nonverbal ways, he then communicates to his patient in logical, sequential words. This is his “interpretation” or “intervention.” Both the narrower concept of “interpretation” and the broader one of “intervention,” by fostering “insight,” will encourage the patient to provide more material for further insight.


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