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Frank, G. (2012). On the Concept of Resistance: Analysis and Reformulation. Psychoanal. Rev., 99(3):421-435.

(2012). Psychoanalytic Review, 99(3):421-435

On the Concept of Resistance: Analysis and Reformulation

George Frank, Ph.D.

Transference and resistance are the pillars of psychoanalytic inquiry theoretically as well as clinically. How we understand these constructs impacts on how we use them clinically. In a previous work (Frank, 2000), I examined the conceptualization of transference. That analysis revealed that there were two significantly different ways of conceptualizing the nature of transference: Freud's way (the displacement model) and a contemporary view of transference as a way of organizing experience (the “organizational model”; Fosshage, 1994, p. 268). In this paper I focus on the other pillar of psychoanalytic inquiry: resistance. Much has been written about resistance (e.g., Blum, 1985; Busch, 1992, 1995; McLaughlin, 1995), but in the end the questions of the nature of, the source of, the purpose of, and how best to work with it in treatment remain unanswered.

Reading Freud's works in temporal sequence, one finds that there was an evolution of the meaning of “resistance” in Freud's writing. When Freud first wrote about resistance (Breuer & Freud, 1893-1895), he conceived of it as a consciously motivated stance on the part of the patient (p. 268), the purpose of which was to protect him or her from revealing to the analyst any idea or feeling that would evoke shame (p. 269); Freud viewed patients as consciously trying to avoid painful topics in order to protect themselves from this shame.

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