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Rizzuto, A. (1999). Yes and No: The Complexities of Compliance in the Clinical Situation. Psychoanal. Inq., 19(1):5-21.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 19(1):5-21

Yes and No: The Complexities of Compliance in the Clinical Situation

Ana-María Rizzuto, M.D.

MOST HUMAN ACTIONS INVOLVE AN ELEMENT of compliance. The social framework of human life, the interpersonal nature of human activities in reality and fantasy, and the developmental formation of the psyche in the context of human relational exchanges make compliance with the real or assumed wishes of another an essential and unavoidable component of the psyche itself. Without compliance there is no psychic life. This proposition calls for a clarification of the concept of compliance in its semantic and psychic meanings. The term comply appears in English and in the romance languages from about 1600 as a derivative of the Latin complire, to fulfill, complete. The evolution of meaning brought it to the realm of interpersonal courtesy. Further semantic transformation carried the term to its present-day prevalent meaning: “To comply with a person's desires, requests, requirements, conditions, etc.” (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 1971). Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (1979) gives the word a less interpersonal definition: “To yield in compliance; to act in accordance with a request, demand, order, rule” while keeping its social value, “to be formally polite.”

The semantic exploration of the term points to the meaning bridging the original sense of completing something in itself to the social and interpersonal acts of acquiescing to rules and desires of another.

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