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(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: On the Silence and Sounds of the Analytic Hour. Ralph R. Greenson. Pp. 79-84.. Psychoanal Q., 31:289.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: On the Silence and Sounds of the Analytic Hour. Ralph R. Greenson. Pp. 79-84.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:289

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: On the Silence and Sounds of the Analytic Hour. Ralph R. Greenson. Pp. 79-84.

Silence in analysis is most frequently a resistance, and the patient often betrays the motive or content of his resistance by his posture, movements, or facial expressions. At other times, however, silence is a communication. For example, it may be the unconscious repetition in the transference of a primal scene experience in which silence was an important element. If the patient appears to be comfortable, confident, and poised, it may indicate identification with the silent analyst. In extremely disturbed patients, it may represent identification with an inanimate object or a sleeping or dead object.

Between silence and speech lies the important but neglected realm of sounds which accompany particularly great emotions. Certain sounds are the auditory representations of moods; for example, the 'mm' sound often expresses a feeling of contentment. While silence with open eyes is more likely to be derived from hatred and rejection, with distrust of the object, silence with closed eyes is usually derived from love and acceptance, with trust in the object. Eyes tightly clamped shut indicate either an attempted preparation for a blow from without or an attempt to keep locked within some terrible feeling in order to protect the analyst.

Silence is a frequent reaction to interpretation. It may be an expression of surprise in reaction to a correct interpretation, resulting from the patient's need to contend with the new insight. More frequently it is a reaction to an interpretation which is correct in content but wrong in timing and dosage. The patient regards such ill-timed and improperly dosed interpretations as hostility on the part of the analyst, and the patient's reaction of prolonged silence is both a defense and a retaliation. To illustrate this the author cites the case of a paranoid phobic woman who reacted with ten days of silence to an interpretation of some of her homosexual strivings which was made just before a week-end interruption in treatment. The patient felt that although what the analyst said was correct, he had cruelly poured over her some deadly information. Her silence served to keep him away, to destroy him, and to protect him from her more venomous angry feelings.

The author cautioned that sick and regressed patients can often perceive the emotional quality of the analyst's silence. He illustrated this by a remark of a patient in analysis with a candidate: 'I have the feeling that your silence is different today; you seem to be smiling'.

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Article Citation

(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961. Psychoanal. Q., 31:289

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