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(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: The Psychology of Silence: Its Role in Transference, Countertransference, and the Psychoanalytic Process. Meyer A. Zeligs. Pp. 7-43.. Psychoanal Q., 31:287.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: The Psychology of Silence: Its Role in Transference, Countertransference, and the Psychoanalytic Process. Meyer A. Zeligs. Pp. 7-43.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:287

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: The Psychology of Silence: Its Role in Transference, Countertransference, and the Psychoanalytic Process. Meyer A. Zeligs. Pp. 7-43.

The patient-as-talker and the analyst-as-listener constitute the central structural part of the analytic setting. Depending on how both the patient and analyst use silence during the sessions, the silence either can promote or impede the analytic process. In whatever way it is used by either analyst or patient it carries with it a measure of accompanying frustration or gratification. If the feeling behind the analyst's silence is a consistently benevolent one, it will greatly help the silent patient to verbalize by strengthening his basic transference which is derived from the preverbal phase of object relations. The patient will develop self-assurance as he senses that the analyst's silence also grants him the right to be silent. The patient's reality testing will be facilitated so that eventually he will be able to verbalize the content of his silence.

The analyst's improper silence disturbs the analytic process just as an injudicious verbal intervention would; a timely and prudent silence, especially when the patient anticipates an intervention, as after an obvious parapraxis, may have a strikingly beneficial effect. Further, the quality of feelings emanating from the analyst during his silence is as important as that which accompanies his verbal interventions. Hence if the patient senses the silence as impatience, boredom, indifference, or hostility on the part of the analyst, he will experience the analytic situation as depriving and hostile and the analytic process will be arrested.

The thoughts and feelings of the analyst during silence should not complement, oppose, or otherwise improperly interact with the thoughts and feelings underlying the patient's silence. The silence of the patient can induce a nonverbal stalemate if the analyst does not interpret it and participates in it as a resistance. Silence in the transference may invite the analyst to share in the emotional experiences of the patient's fantasies, making the analyst's silence a shared acting out. Close attention to his countertransference, however, often will alert the analyst to the meaning of the patient's silence and will enable him to avoid pitfalls. When the patient's silence is an indication of autistic withdrawal or temporary splitting of the ego, the analyst must abandon his own silence in order to reintroduce himself as a real object. Recognition of the vicissitudes of a primary transference involving oral gratification of the preoedipal period, enables the analyst to deal more effectively with the patient's primitive ego.

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Article Citation

(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961. Psychoanal. Q., 31:287

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