Modern Psychoanalysis

Modern Psychoanalysis is a treatment for relieving mental and emotional distress. Its simple technique heals through the talking interaction between patient and therapist. Join us to learn more or post your own thoughts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Clinical Techniques: #1 - Silence

Clinical Techniques: #1 - Silence

The powerful clinical techniques, or interventions, used in Modern Psychoanalysis have been mentioned in our previous articles, but it may be illustrative to examine some of them in further detail over the next few articles.

Silence is mentioned first, not because it is most important, but partly because it is sometimes overlooked or not thought of as a technique, or as an intervention. Coincidentally, it is most likely to be used, or possibly overused, with new patients or with new analysts.

How do I mean this? With new patients, the analyst has very little information to go on. A good number of modern analysts refuse to look at notes made by others in a new patient’s chart; these analysts want to get to know their patients individually, without any preconceived biases.

Modern analysts are also likely to be the least intrusive of therapists; as a rule they encourage their patients to talk about anything the patients want to talk about; rather than forcing them to answer the therapist’s questions, or requiring talk on certain subjects.

Given this situation, where very little is known about the new patients, silence is almost the intervention of choice, i.e., it is not so likely to damage a new patient’s vulnerable ego.

With new analysts, there is a natural fear of making mistakes, relevant to often justifiable concerns about the possibility of harming new patients, but also relevant to the analyst’s concern for self.

Silence is frequently the ideal tool for creating what D.W. Winnicott referred to as a “holding environment,” a place where the patient can feel safe and be given room to grow. (See e.g., Winnicott, 1986). In this sense, one could say that silence creates a space.

Silence can, likewise, be improperly used. By its nature, silence can be depriving. Analysts who remain unaware of their own strong countertransferences may even be capable of unconsciously using a depriving silence as a weapon against their patients.

Furthermore, silence can be an inappropriate response to some of the real life tragic events that can happen to patients while they are undergoing therapy, such as losing a loved one.

Dr. Spotnitz has discussed some of the different types of silence that may exist in the therapeutic setting. (See e. g., Spotnitz, 1985, pp. 249-50). Patient’s reactions to silence vary greatly. For example, Spotnitz tried remaining silent for a prolonged period with six different patients and noted six different reactions. (1976a, p. 28). Also, the same patient may report that silence provides a sense of power on one occasion and may complain about it at other times. (Spotnitz, 1976b, p.198).

One of the most important considerations in using, or not using, silence is the frustration level of the patient. Spotnitz (1976b, p. 172) says “The treatment may be preserved by controlling the degree of regression. To accomplish this the analyst may… limit the amount of silence to which the patient is exposed.”

However, the analyst must be careful in working with silence:

“It might appear that [a non-stimulating]… climate would be created if the analyst kept quiet. However, silence may at times be more stimulating than words. A great deal of anxiety can be produced by too much silence as well as by too many words. The anxiety level of the patient has to be studied, to determine whether silence or a communication would be more therapeutic in a particular situation.” (Spotnitz, 1976a, p.129).
Spotnitz (1985, p.175) also put the issue in a slightly different light in the following:

“Whereas the relatively stable patterns are just studied silently, the analyst does speak to lower the frustration-level and help the patient verbalize frustration-tension when a sudden intensification of such patterns is observed. Inasmuch as silence can have a soothing effect or exert increasing pressure on the patient, the analyst needs to regulate the amount of verbal communication he engages in, depending on whether he wants to intensify or to diminish pressure on the patient to verbalize."
Analysts need to know a great deal about themselves to effectively work with others where clinical techniques such as silence are involved. This is why modern analysts have their own analysts and supervisors to talk to, or be silent with.


Spotnitz, H. (1976a). Psychotherapy of Preoedipal Conditions, N.Y., Jason Aronson.
Spotnitz, H. and Meadow, P. (1976b). Treatment of the Narcissistic Neuroses, NY, Man. Center For Advanced Psychoanalytic Studies.

Spotnitz, H. (1985). Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient: Theory of the Technique, Second Edition, NY, Human Sciences Press.

Winnicott, D.W. (1986). Holding and Interpretation, London, The Hogarth Press.

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
Matawan, New Jersey 07747

Monday, September 17, 2007

Priorities in Treatment

Priorities in Treatment

Modern Psychoanalysts have adopted one of their most important guidelines from the Hippocratic Oath - “First, do no harm.”

A first step to help insure that they “do no harm” is for the analyst to rely on the contact functioning of the patient’s own ego.

Do the patient’s statements or questions indicate that the patient aware of the analyst as an individual? Is the patient content to lie on the couch and talk until hell freezes over? Does the patient prefer to be silent? etc.., etc..

In any of these cases the analyst will respond (or not respond) based on what the patient’s contacts say about the individual s/he is dealing with. Rather than imposing interpretations or unsolicited ideas on vulnerable patients; modern analysts base interventions or responses, if any, on the contacts they receive from those patients.

Additionally, as long as the patient is talking and engaging in progressive communication, the analyst is usually not intervening much at all.

When resistances become operative, there a type of hierarchy involved in dealing with them. One could say that resistances are dealt with according to a system of priorities - depending upon what kind of resistance is being manifested at the time. The priorities in treatment can be conceptualized as follows:

1. Treatment Destructive Resistance – The treatment destructive resistance (or “TDR’) is first in priority and foremost in every good analyst’s mind. It refers to anything which will destroy the treatment if left unchecked. Therefore, the first question most analysts ask when confronted with new behavior or dialogue is “Is this a potential TDR?” i.e., “can this wait, or do I need to deal with this right now?”
Patient’s questions which might be totally innocent in a more social setting, such as “How is the parking near your office?”; or patient’s statements such as “I didn’t have an easy time parking here;” would each need to be carefully investigated and considered as potential treatment destructive resistances in the modern analytic setting.

When attempting to deal with a TDR, “all bets are off;” i.e., the analyst may use a variety of clinical techniques which might not otherwise be used - to try to save the treatment. The premise is that if the patient is not coming to talk s/he will not otherwise be helped.

2. Status Quo Resistance – At this stage the patient has settled in to treatment and clings to old patterns; the patient may wish to conceal any “bad feelings” and/or concentrate on proving that s/he is a good patient.

3. Resistance to Analytic Progress – In this stage, which may be difficult to distinguish from the last, patients may experience anxiety over investigating anything new or adding anything new to the treatment. Thus, the patient may have largely abandoned the idea of clinging to the old “status quo,” but may also be fearful of the new material or of “being pushed” towards new realizations.
4. Resistance to Cooperation – Here, patients may try to concentrate exclusively on themselves; to the exclusion of their analyst. In a group environment this could be called “resistance to teamwork.” At this stage, patients may be aware of their therapists as “real people,” but may not realize the importance of working together, or may not want to give their therapists the satisfaction of doing so.
5. Resistance to Termination – This stage can involve the patient’s falling back on old habits in an effort to keep the old relationship with the analyst. In this regard, some modern analysts believe that there should be a natural end to most treatments at a certain point, whereas others do not believe treatment needs to end as long as both parties want to work together. In either case, it is usually thought that the feelings surrounding the ideas of termination (i.e., separation) should be worked through.
Spotnitz, 1985, pp.175-183, Spotnitz, 1976a, pp. 86-88 and Spotnitz, 1976b, pp. 183-191.

In actual treatment, the above stages of resistance often overlap or are blurred together. Patients can display behavior reflective of several different stages in a single session or can slip back and forth between stages over a period of time.

Also, while treatment destructive resistances are generally far more common at the beginning of treatment, they can also arise when moving from one stage of resistance to another, or at any other time.

Resistances or defenses are not always obvious or easy to detect; its a good bet that many patients even do their best to conceal them. Therefore, the best modern analysts know that they need to be constantly sensitive to their own feelings as a guide to bringing their patients successfully through every stage of treatment.

Spotnitz, H. (1976a). Psychotherapy of Preoedipal Conditions, N.Y., Jason Aronson.
Spotnitz, H. and Meadow, P. (1976b). Treatment of the Narcissistic Neuroses, NY, Man. Center For Advanced Psychoanalytic Studies.
Spotnitz, H. (1985). Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient: Theory of the Technique, Second Edition, NY, Human Sciences Press.

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
Matawan, New Jersey 07747

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Child Development Presentation

Child Development Presentation

Studies of early parent-child interactions, family dynamics and child development have greatly contributed to the science of Modern Psychoanalysis. The modern analyst’s ability to successfully deal with a wide range of mental and emotional difficulties is frequently informed by the knowledge gained from these studies.

One of the foremost experts in child development, Dr. James Garbarino, will be appearing at a presentation sponsored by the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis in the near future.

Dr. Garbarino’s credentials are truly impressive; among other things, he holds the Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology and is the Director of the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University in Chicago. He earned his B.A. from St. Lawrence University in 1968 and his Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University in 1973. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Garbarino has served as a consultant to a wide range of organizations, including the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, the National Institute for Mental Health, the National Black Child Development Institute, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect. In 1991, he undertook missions for UNICEF to assess the impact of the Gulf War upon children in Kuwait and Iraq, and has served as a consultant for programs serving Vietnamese, Bosnian, and Croatian child refugees.

Dr. Garbarino is the author and/or editor of numerous books including: See Jane Hit: Why Girls are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It (2006), And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence (2002), Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them (1999), and Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment (1995).

Dr. Garbarino’s presentation is entitled
“Developmental Pathways To Aggression In Girls and Boys” and will be held on:

Saturday, October 6, 2007
from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at
The Radisson Warwick Hotel1701 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
A reception and book signing will follow at the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis, 313 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103 from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This is such an important topic that I recommend attendance at this presentation for all clinicians or members of the public who are able to do so.

The cost for the presentation is minimal, but SPACE IS LIMITED, so early reservations are required by MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2007, Via E-Mail to: or by calling PSP Administrator, Tamika Hall at 215-732-8244, Ext. 222.

Further details are also available at the news page of the school's website:

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
Matawan, New Jersey 07747

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Curing Schizophrenia

Curing Schizophrenia

Views of Schizophrenia

A simple internet search for the word reveals a profusion of definitions with similar typecasting; e.g., Schizophrenia is “a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder...” (NIMHa, 2007), or “a severe, lifelong brain disorder,” (Medline, 2007), or a “disease.”

The reader may perceive something approaching a unanimity of opinion on the idea; i.e., that since this “disease” involves the brain and these authorities have deemed it to be “lifelong,” it must ipso facto be something strictly biological. A host of inferences follow: “it’s all in the genes,” “you’re born with it,” “there’s something wrong with their brains,” “the poor parents,” “medicine can cure them, if only we can find the right medicine,” “there’s no hope,” etc..., etc...

This writer thinks most of these views are about as useful as earlier ideas that people with schizophrenic symptoms were guilty of witchcraft. At least the same National Institute of Mental Health Report listed above candidly admitted:

“…schizophrenia is believed to result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. All the tools of modern science are being used to search for the causes of this disorder.”
NIMHb, 2007.Nature or Nurture?In fact, medical science has been looking for a biological cause for schizophrenia for close to a century and has yet to find one. Over that time, many announcements of such “findings” have been made – always accompanied by the greatest publicity, but none were proved to be verifiable.

Another curious fact of this “disease” is that people who have it sometimes spontaneously recover. How then is it a disease? Or a brain disorder? Or lifelong? It is a rare disease indeed where people spontaneously recover and where there is no known physical etiology.

What about the “environmental” factors mentioned; i.e., the family backgrounds of the people who develop schizophrenic symptoms?

Peter Breggin, M.D. (p. 103, et seq.; see generally, 1994) speaks of one of the seminal reports on schizophrenia in the history of psychiatry, the study of the Genain Quadruplets (all of whom had schizophrenic symptoms). He notes that the report of the study recites the potential “biological” evidence for schizophrenia in that case in almost inexhaustible detail – but somehow neglects to consider it noteworthy that the family life of the quadruplets included such horrors as having acid poured on their genitals.

John Modrow, did not suffer the same horrors as the Genain Quadruplets; but did endure a significant amount of craziness from his parents, which he describes throughout his outstanding book “How to Become a Schizophrenic.”

Modrow notes that:

“The claim that most schizophrenics come from perfectly normal families deserves careful consideration… (regarding a case study he presented earlier)… Although the parents in this family appeared to be very ordinary and sensible people, they were later found to be playing with their daughter’s mind, subjecting her to strange ‘telepathy experiments’… it took over a year of investigation to discover those parents’ bizarre behavior.”
1995, pp. 205-206, emphasis original.

In spite of the extreme craziness of his own parents, Modrow still thinks of them as “basically decent and relatively normal” (1995, pp. 206); but also says:

“Had a psychiatrist examined my parents… he would have found… nothing strange or odd… Moreover, had that psychiatrist known my parents intimately for several years he probably would have retained his favorable opinion of them… However… there is no doubt in my mind that their behavior towards me was the major cause of my schizophrenic breakdown.”
Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient
It is no accident that the decisive text in modern psychoanalysis is entitled “Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient.” (Spotnitz, 1985). Though the theory and techniques in that book are equally applicable to all sorts of mental difficulties, Dr. Spotnitz arrived at those results through his groundbreaking work with schizophrenic patients.

Spotnitz (1985, p. 17) proceeded from the premise that “Regardless of etiology… there is no evidence that the condition is not completely reversible.”

“The operational concept follows: Schizophrenia is an organized mental situation, an intricately structured but psychologically unsuccessful defense against destructive behavior. Both aggressive and libidinal impulses figure in this organized situation… Obliteration of the object field of the mind and fragmentation of the ego are among the secondary consequences of the defense.”
Spotnitz, 1985, p. 57, emphasis original.

As to the “environmental” variables, Spotnitz says:

“It is unnecessary to postulate that a particular type of relationship produced the infantile pattern. It may be in part innate and in part learned. Even in cases where it was taught by the mother, her attitude may not have been pathological; there may simply have been a disequilibrium between her emotional training and the infant’s impulsivity. The dynamics of the mother-child relationship are not uniform in these cases. More significant than whether the parent actually loved, hated, or was indifferent to her infant is the fact that the totality of his environment failed to meet his specific maturational needs…”
1985, p. 68, emphasis original.

In this writer’s opinion, the techniques set forth in “Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient” work equally well with other mental difficulties because mental conditions have much in common – they are all part of the human condition.

One could even say that mental difficulties are normal; part of being human - the only question being whether we still function well in spite of our difficulties, or whether those difficulties have reached intolerable proportions, such as with the schizophrenic condition.
The Talking CureMany people will use Herculean efforts to appear normal, to distinguish themselves from those with problems, to split themselves off from the idea that they themselves might have any mental difficulties at all.

In spite of the efforts and protestations of these ordinary people, however, skilled observers have little difficulty seeing the underlying troubles in most of us. And, if the troubles reach a stage where they seriously interfere with the individual’s ability to love, work, or play it may be time to seek help.

When we speak of the physical illnesses we tend to think of cure as involving the complete eradication of anything relating to the condition. Not so with mental conditions – in those cases, the cure consists of placing the individual in a position where he or she can love, work and play without serious hindrance – where they can be productive and enjoy life.

The particular weakness of the individual is not likely to be completely eradicated. If a person tends to display in a phobic, or an obsessive-compulsive, or a schizophrenic, or any other way, they could have some resort to their characteristic mechanisms even after being cured. After all, we do not cure people from being human; nor do we seek to.

But, the person who has been competently treated by a modern psychoanalyst will be able to enjoy the whole range of human feelings and action available to the best of us.
Breggin, P. (1994). Toxic Psychiatry, New York, St. Martin's Press.

Medline. (May 24, 2007). Service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, online at

Modrow, J. (1995). How to Become a Schizophrenic, Everett, Wash., Apollyon Press.

NIMHa. (March 1, 2007). “Schizophrenia,” National Institute of Mental Health, online at

NIMHb. (Jan. 24, 2007). “What Causes Schizophrenia?” National Institute of Mental Health, online at

Spotnitz, H. (1985). Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient: Theory of the Technique, Second Edition, New York, Human Sciences Press.

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
Matawan, New Jersey 07747

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More About Modern Psychoanalysis

More About Modern Psychoanalysis

Since Dr. Spotnitz described modern psychoanalysis as “… Freud’s method of therapy, reformulated on the basis of subsequent psychoanalytic investigation” (1985, p. 25); the question is now asked - what are the important differences between modern psychoanalysis and classical psychoanalysis?

I think it is most useful to look at this question in terms of the theoretical and clinical practice distinctions between the classical and modern schools.

Theoretical Foundations

A starting place for divergence between the two schools has to do with the inquiry mentioned in some of our previous articles; i.e., Who may be helped by psychoanalysis?

Dr. Freud’s opinion (1933, ch. 6) was that:
“The field in which analytical therapy can be applied is that of the transference-neuroses, phobias, hysterias, obsessional neuroses, and besides these such abnormalities of character as have been developed instead of these diseases. Everything other than these, such as narcissistic or psychotic conditions, is more or less unsuitable.”
This conception unfortunately resulted in huge numbers of people being deemed “unsuitable” or “unanalyzable” by the classical school of thought; while the modern theory of treatment considers most emotional, mental and personal achievement problems to be reversible through its treatment techniques.

According to Spotnitz, (1985, p.23):
“Freud and his contemporaries did not recognize the presence of narcissistic transference as such, and they did not know how to utilize it for therapeutic purposes. Since their day it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the narcissistic transference is therapeutically useful."
But, Freud (1914) did anticipate the possibility of such future developments in psychoanalysis (previously quoted on this website); when he stated the importance of:
“… the facts of transference and resistance. Any line of investigation which recognizes these two facts and takes them as the starting point of its work may call itself psychoanalysis, though it arrives at results other than my own.”
Clinical Techniques

Modern psychoanalysts are able to take advantage of a wide range of clinical techniques and interventions for ego reinforcement, emotional communication and resistance resolution. Spotnitz says:

"The essential difference is that classical analysis believes in interpretation and nothing else, no other intervention. Modern psychoanalysis is open to all interventions, all verbal interventions… Any communication that helps a patient resolve resistance to saying everything is part of modern psychoanalysis.”
Meadow, 1999, p. 6.

Some have argued that classical psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on interpretation as the sole method of “making the unconscious conscious” can also be viewed as anti-therapeutic for vulnerable patients; the same patients who are frequently seen by modern analysts.

Are modern analysts opposed to interpretation? Not at all. For modern psychoanalysts,
“…silent interpretation… is an essential ingredient of a successful analysis… Resistance is analyzed – silently and unobtrusively – but instead of trying to promote recognition, perception, or conviction, the therapist intervenes to facilitate verbalization as a connective integrative process. The patient is helped to discover for himself the genetic antecedents of his resistant behavior, explore it in terms of the analytic relationship, and articulate his own understanding.”
Spotnitz, 1985, p. 167, emphasis original.

Essentially, the vulnerable patient is protected from the likely ego-damaging effects of interpretation when used as a blunt force instrument. Clinically, modern psychoanalysis is:
“…applied to take advantage of the initial unresponsiveness of the preverbal personality to interpretive procedures and to the patient’s oscillating transference states… Safeguards against chaotic regression figure prominently in the clinical approach of the modern psychoanalyst; the therapeutic alliance is permitted to evolve at a pace the patient is able to tolerate.”
Spotnitz, 1985, p. 37.

The vast armory of clinical techniques at the disposal of the modern analyst are not indiscriminately used:
“From patient to patient… regardless of the nature of the disorder, the types of interventions employed are empirically determined by individual responsiveness.”
Spotnitz, 1985, p. 38, emphasis original.

Modern psychoanalysts anticipate that a successful analysis will bring an individual to a state of maturity where the patient will be able to tolerate verbal interpretations; but the final goals of modern psychoanalysis go further:
“… modern psychoanalysis is dedicated to achieving far more than transforming a miserable human being into one suffering from common unhappiness – the therapeutic expectation stated by Freud… The patient who has successfully undergone modern psychoanalysis emerges in a state of emotional maturity. With the full symphony of human emotions at his disposal, and abundantly equipped with psychic energy, he experiences the pleasure of performing at his full potential.”
Spotnitz, (1985, pp. 288-89).


Freud, S. 1914. The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement; (fr. Freud, S. (1938). Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, (Modern Library Edition, 1995; trans. Dr. A.A. Brill), NY, The Modern Library).

Freud, S. (1933). New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. (trans. W. J. H. Sprott). New York. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Meadow, P. (1999). The Clinical Practice of Modern Psychoanalysis: An Interview with Hyman Spotnitz. (Meadow/Spotnitz, CMPS/Modern Psychoanalysis, Vol. 24, No. 1)

Spotnitz, H. (1985). Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient: Theory of the Technique, Second Edition, NY, Human Sciences Press.

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
Matawan, New Jersey 07747

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Id and I

The Id and I
“You must not expect me to tell you much that is new about the id, except its name. It is the obscure inaccessible part of our personality; the little we know about it we have learnt from the study of dream-work and the formation of neurotic symptoms… and can only be described as being all that the ego is not. We can come nearer to the id with images, and call it a chaos, a cauldron of seething excitement.”
Thus, Sigmund Freud (1933, pp. 106-107) described “das Es,” known to us as the Id,” but more literally meaning “the It.”

Freud considered the very nature of the Id to be shrouded in mystery, and originally part of the earliest stages of our development as individuals:
“If we look back at the developmental history of the individual and of his psychical apparatus, we shall be able to make an important distinction in the id. Originally, of course, everything was id; the ego was developed out of the id by the continual influence of the external world.” (1940b, ¶4.12b).
Therefore, it is not surprising that he thought it particularly amenable to “dream-work.” In one of Dr. Freud’s earliest writings (to his friend Fliess, in 1898), he opined that:
“Biologically, dream life seems to me to derive entirely from the residues of the prehistoric period of life (between the ages of one and three) – the same period which is the source of the unconscious and alone contains the etiology of all the psychoneurosis, the period normally characterized by an amnesia analogous to hysterical amnesia.” (Masson, 1985, p.302).
Of course, the id is merely a conception, or a model, for psychical functioning – it does not necessarily correspond to an actual structure in the brain – but, as such, it is still one of the most useful models available for viewing the unconscious.

Modern analysts frequently refer to the id energies as “primary process” energies. As Margolis puts it:
“…analysis by its very nature commands the deployment of capacities in the analyst that incorporate… primary process energies. In many ways, the analyst, resonating to the complex play of spoken and unspoken cues, transmits therapeutic reactions ‘through his hair and finger tips.’ The capacity to function on that level is an indispensable component of the analyst’s emotional inventory. Failing this, nothing moves. (1994, p. 253).
In fact, Margolis also quotes Freud (1994, p. 241) as describing “scientific creativity as ‘the succession of daringly playful fantasy and relentlessly realistic criticism’… in other words, an interplay of primary and secondary process.”

Professor Freud understood the Id to be a mainly unconscious mechanism:
“The laws of logic – above all, the law of contradiction – do not hold for processes in the id. Contradictory impulses exist side by side without neutralizing each other or drawing apart… and we are astonished to find in it an exception to the philosophers’ assertion that space and time are necessary forms to our mental acts.” (1933, pp. 106-107).
Though Freud saw the Id as a significant piece of mental development, we might infer that he was suspicious of it since it does not readily respond to our conscious control. He made it clear that:
“The id cannot be afraid, as the ego can; it is not an organization, and cannot estimate situations of danger; (Freud, 1936, ch. 8); and that “No such purpose as… protecting itself from dangers by means of anxiety can be attributed to the id. That is the business of the ego…” (Freud, 1949, p.17).
Freud additionally emphasized the Id as being isolated or “cut off” from the world:
“The core of our being, then, is formed by the obscure id, which has no direct relations with the external world and is accessible even to our own knowledge only through the medium of another agency of the mind… The id, which is cut off from the external world, has its own world of perception…” (Freud, 1940, p.195).
One also wonders whether Freud was really comfortable with the “illogic” of the Id in light of his statement “Wo Es war, soll Ich werden.” (1991, p. 112). Roughly translated – “Where It was, there I shall be,” or “Where Id was, Ego shall be;” this statement might indicate a civilized aversion to the primitive Id.

Speaking for myself, many of the difficulties people experience seem to revolve around or have their origins in the civilized superego, rather than in the id; though the solutions may lie with the latter.

Dr. Hyman Spotnitz describes how important the Id is to curing the patient:
“…what he has to do is talk from the unconscious… What he has to do is say what occurs to him. He has to tell you what he doesn’t know. He has to talk from his id… The unconscious has to be verbalized all the way by the patient. The patient doesn’t have to understand the unconscious. What matters is that it is put into words. The analyst doesn’t even have to understand it. The patient just has to say it. The analyst’s work is getting the patient to say it.” (Meadow, 1999, p. 16, emphasis added).


Freud, S. (1933). New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. (trans. W. J. H. Sprott). New York. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Freud, S. (1936). The problem of anxiety. (Original work published 1923). New York. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Freud, S. (1940). An Outline of Psychoanalysis. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXIII.
Freud, S. (1940b). An Outline of Psychoanalysis. Hogarth Press, (1979).

Freud, S. (1949). An Outline of Psychoanalysis. (trans. James Strachey). New York. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Freud, S. (1991). "The Dissection of the Psychical Personality," Lecture 31 in New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, (1932, trans. James Strachey). London & New York. Penguin Books.

Margolis, B. (1994). Research in Modern Psychoanalysis. (Modern Psychoanalysis, Vol. 19, No. 2).

Masson, J. (1985, ed. and trans.). The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. (Freud’s letter to Fliess, March 10, 1898, quoted here).

Meadow, P. (1999). The Clinical Practice of Modern Psychoanalysis: An Interview with Hyman Spotnitz. (Meadow/Spotnitz, CMPS/Modern Psychoanalysis, Vol. 24, No. 1)

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
Matawan, New Jersey 07747

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Narcissistic Transference

Narcissistic Transference

Freud (1926, pp 52-3, emphasis original) was describing the phenomenon of transference when he said:

The neurotic sets to work because he believes in the analyst, and he believes in him because he begins to entertain certain feelings towards him…. The patient repeats, in the form of falling in love with the analyst, psychical experiences which he underwent before; he has transferred to the analyst psychical attitudes which lay ready within him…
Yet classical analysts soon found that many individuals appeared to be unable to form this type of transference with their analysts. These individuals were then often deemed “unanalyzable,” because of the central role that transference plays in psychoanalysis. (See e.g., Fennessy, 2006).

How can individuals who seem to lack the capacity to develop this “object transference” be helped? Modern psychoanalysts understand that the difficulties experienced by many patients have their origins in the pre-oedipal period. Another way of expressing this is that “(t)he narcissistic patient is arrested at some point or points in approximately the first two years of life.” (Margolis, 1981, p. 149).

Modern analysts are then able to use their skills to build a transference on a narcissistic basis. In this narcissistic transference:

“(t)he patient is permitted to mold the transference object in his own image. He builds up a picture of the therapist as someone like himself – the kind of person whom he will eventually feel free to love and hate.” (Spotnitz, 1976a, p. 109).
Dr. Spotnitz answers the question:

“’Do we want a narcissistic transference to develop?’ We do because in a negative, regressed state, the patient may experience the analyst as being like him or part of him. Or the analyst may not exist for him. The syntonic feeling of oneness is a curative one, while the feeling of aloneness, the withdrawn state, is merely protective. Because traces of narcissism remain in everyone, we seek, when beginning treatment, to create an environment that will facilitate a narcissistic transference so that, first we can work through the patient’s narcissistic aggression.” (Spotnitz, 1976b, p. 58).
Margolis further says that:

“In operational terms… the oedipal patient transfers the images of distinctive objects of his oedipal period onto the analyst, whereas the preoedipal patients transfers onto the analyst the fuzzy and ambiguous images of his narcissistic period… In building the narcissistic transference and eliciting the patient’s picture of the analyst, we are actually eliciting his picture of himself.” (1979, p.140).
Therapists who have any experience with narcissism know that narcissists are often consumed with themselves and themselves alone - given the opportunity they may talk about nothing but their own self-absorptions for years on end. Therefore, it should be apparent that the narcissistic transference will not be come into being on its own – it must be developed through the skills of the therapist.

What does the narcissistic transference look like? Spotnitz (1976a, p. 109) states that:

“On the surface it looks positive. He builds up this attitude: ‘You are like me so I like you. You spend time with me and try to understand me, and I love you for it.’ Underneath the sweet crust, however, one gets transient glimpses of the opposite attitude: ‘I hate you as I hate myself. But when I feel like hating you, I try to hate myself instead.”
Developing the narcissistic transference is normally an emotionally charged process, that proceeds at the patient’s own pace. (See generally, Fennessy, 2008). The training and clinical skills of the modern analyst, including proper use of emotional reinforcement, object-oriented questions and joining techniques, make all the difference between success and failure in nurturing this relationship.

Spotnitz (1985, p. 201) describes the result when the narcissistic transference is successfully developed:

“(w)hen one focuses on the narcissistic patterns and works consistently to help the patient verbalize frustration-tension, object transference phenomena become increasingly prominent… Eventually, the patient’s transferences are aroused by his emotional perceptions of the therapist as a parental transference figure.”
In other words, personality maturation takes place. The symbiotic relationship developed between analyst and patient (See, Spotnitz, 1984, p. 135) may help the patient’s emotional perceptions along. Repeated emotional associations to the mental images of the analyst, as constructed by the patient; strengthen the object field of the mind, or form new neuronal connections.

The greater emotional maturity which results has enduring and important ramifications for the patient in therapy, and in life.


Fennessy, J. (2008). Narcissism and the Contact Function, in PRACTICE MATTERS, A Journal of Modern Psychoanalytic Treatment Technique (Vol. 2), Philadelphia, PSP.

Fennessy, J. (2006). Modern Psychoanalytic Education. (Online at:, June 08, 2006).

Freud, S. (1926). The Question of Lay Analysis. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XX (1925-1926).

Margolis, B. (1981). Narcissistic Transference: Further Considerations. (Modern Psychoanalysis, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1981).

Margolis, B. (1979). Narcissistic Transference: The Product of Overlapping Self and Object Fields. (Modern Psychoanalysis, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1979).

Spotnitz, H. (1976a). Psychotherapy of Preoedipal Conditions, N.Y., Jason Aronson.Spotnitz, H. and Meadow, P. (1976b). Treatment of the Narcissistic Neuroses, NY, Man. Center For Advanced Psychoanalytic Studies.

Spotnitz, H. (1984). The Case of Anna O.: Aggression and the Narcissistic Countertransference. In M. Rosenbaum & M. Muroff (Eds.), Anna O.: One Hundred Years of Psychoanalysis. NY, Free Press.

Spotnitz, H. (1985). Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient: Theory of the Technique, Second Edition, NY, Human Sciences Press.

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
Matawan, New Jersey 07747

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Note to Readers:

We'll be away until February this year - you may still post comments in the meantime, though they will not appear on the blog until we return.

Mise le meas,
James G. Fennessy