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Shabad, P. (2020). The Forward Edge of Resistance: Toward the Dignity of Human Agency. Psychoanal. Dial., 30(1):51-63.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 30(1):51-63

The Forward Edge of Resistance: Toward the Dignity of Human Agency

Peter Shabad, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysts have traditionally viewed the patient’s resistance as an obstacle to treatment progress. In this paper, I will view resistance in relation to the primary asymmetry built into the treatment relationship with regard to help seeking – patients are help seekers and analysts are designated helpers. More specifically, since there is an ethical privilege and power derived from the self-confidence in providing help to another person, there is a subtle hierarchical subject-object relationship that emerges from the relative dignity or indignity with regard to help-seeking. In this view, resistance is seen as the patient’s attempt to reclaim the dignity of his/her agency as a human subject. Since the patient often feels stymied by a fatalistic inertia in living his/her life, the patient’s resistance of “I Won’t,” instead of a fatalistic “I Can’t,” provides a pathway for the analyst to respect the patient’s resistance as a manifestation of the patient’s need for self-determination.

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