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Brenner, C. (2000). Brief Communication: Evenly Hovering Attention. Psychoanal Q., 69(3):545-549.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(3):545-549

Brief Communication: Evenly Hovering Attention

Charles Brenner, M.D.

No statement about psychoanalytic technique is more frequently cited than Freud's recommendation that analysts listen to their patients with evenly hovering or suspended attention (gleichschwebende Aufmerksamkeit in German) and depend on their unconscious to do the rest. In view of its wide currency, this precept for analytic listening seems to me to deserve closer attention than it has been given until now. Freud first expressed the idea in 1912:

The technique…is a very simple one…. It consists simply in not directing one's notice to anything in particular and in maintaining the same “evenly-suspended attention” …in the face of all that one hears…. If the doctor behaves otherwise, he is throwing away most of the advantage which results from the patient's obeying the “fundamental rule of psychoanalysis.” The rule for the doctor may be expressed: “He should withhold all conscious influences from his capacity to attend, and give himself over completely to his ‘unconscious memory.'” Or, to put it purely in terms of technique: “He should simply listen, and not bother about whether he is keeping anything in mind.” [pp.

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