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Stern, H.R. (1966). The Truth as a Resistance to Free Association. Psychoanal. Rev., 53D(4):142-146.

(1966). Psychoanalytic Review, 53D(4):142-146

The Truth as a Resistance to Free Association

Harold R. Stern

In psychoanalytic therapy, the principal instruction given to the patient at the inception of treatment is that he say whatever comes into his mind without restriction. Freud invented a number of techniques to explain the nature of this process of free-association to his patients.

This writer's method is to explain to the patient that the treatment proceeds best when he verbalizes without censorship any thoughts and ideas that come into his mind during the analytic session. It is explained that the therapist's chamber is like a control-room in a submerged submarine with the patient looking into the periscope and describing to the analyst what he sees there. It is important that no details be omitted because seemingly obsure information may be most important for their purpose of comprehending and controlling the course of the movement of the vessel.

Any failure to follow this instruction is considered by the analyst as a resistance which requires working-through. This problem, a difficult one, is not uncommon but can be resolved with some application.

A more difficult problem arises when the patient is overly controlled and comes from so constricted an environment that his whole life process is one of habitual forethought to any verbal process. In other words, such a patient is accustomed to think out very rapidly, carefully, and perhaps unconsciously what he is going to say before he says it. And some of these people of necessity can only think along very logical and circumscribed patterns of thought. Their comments in therapy are likely to be circumstantial and often deprived of any significant emotional relevance.

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