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Mallard, H.C. (1987). Ambiguities of Self-Analysis. Psychoanal Q., 56:523-527.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:523-527

Ambiguities of Self-Analysis

Henry C. Mallard, M.D.

Self-analysis is an accepted method of analytic inquiry. The work employing self-analysis has been predominantly in the form of individual reports of self-analytic efforts and the application of self-analytic findings. Written works on the concept itself are surprisingly rare, and as a concept and a method of investigation, it deserves more attention. After a brief summary of Freud's views about self-analysis, I will illustrate the need for further attention to this issue by using clinical vignettes. Two problem areas will be considered: first, the definition of self-analysis lacks sufficient clarity, and second, the effect of individual methodology needs further examination, especially in evaluating self-analytic findings.

Freud felt self-analysis to be possible and useful. He tells us, in "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" (1937), that "the processes of remodeling the ego [continue] spontaneously in the analysed subject" and that "in so far as it happens it makes the analysed subject qualified to be an analyst himself" (p. 249).

He also speaks of difficulties, however. He tells us in his short work, "The Subtleties of a Faulty Action" (1935), that "in self-analysis the danger of incompleteness is particularly great. One is too soon satisfied with a part explanation, behind which resistance may easily be keeping back something that is more important …" (p. 234). He, of course, changed his view that self-analysis alone was sufficient preparation to become an analyst, to the position that analysis by another was essential for the analyst in training.

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