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Spence, D.P. (2003). Listening for Rhetorical Truth. Psychoanal Q., 72(4):875-903.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 72(4):875-903

Listening for Rhetorical Truth

Donald P. Spence, Ph.D.

Associations are rarely as free as theory assumes; at the same time, they may tell us more than what appears on the surface. Memories, on the other hand, are rarely as reliable as they might appear. We are overtrained to listen to the unfolding story and to the narrative truth of the moment; much harder to capture is what might be called its rhetorical truth. Learning to listen for sequence, repetition, and co-occurrence tends to minimize the importance of the narrative thread and clarify instead the more suppressed meanings. In rare cases, we can even sense something of what the analysand is saying before it comes into awareness.

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