After ten years, I figured out one reason psychoanalytic sessions are frustrating: the analytical attitude.

A description of the analytic attitude, an attitude the skilled analyst consistently maintains, would contain these words: neutrality, discipline, empathy, authenticity, and fidelity to a system of psychoanalytic thought and practice.Imagine being in a conversation with someone who is always always always neutral and who is disciplined to the degree that you, if you are thoughtful, could predict the response that will be given, except for the times when the expected response isn’t given, and an interpretation that almost makes perfect sense is given to you, but when you begin to finally hear it, you realize that it means you are being called on the carpet so to speak, and that admitting to the truth of the statement will be a blow to your self-esteem.

You may be asking – what about empathy, authenticity and fidelity? I can assure you that they are also present but in non-ordinary ways that unless you are paying close attention, you will miss because of the emotions you are experiencing – more on that below.

The secret sauce of psychoanalysis (don’t tell anyone this) is that the analyst’s response to you will be very different from what you would receive in a normal, ordinary conversation. Often you will find yourself, at the very least, puzzled, and at the most, furious, when you hear what is offered.

Here’s the thing, whether you are confused or outraged, the analyst uses your response as the essential material for their analyses.

Obviously, since I am writing a memoir about my time in analysis, how I’ve changed and grown, there are benefits to be derived from the analytic attitude. I wanted to share what I will be describing in the memoir so you won’t be surprised.

And I wanted to ask you a question. Do you think it would be a good idea if politicians used the analytical attitude?

Thanks for reading and commenting. Scroll down and leave your thoughts.


6 Responses

  1. Nicky, great teaser for your book! So interesting. I’d love to hear an example of an infuriating, but spot on, response from an analyst to understand this phenomenon better. Makes me even more excited for the book to come out!

    • Diane – I’m excited too! It seems like such a long process. This morning I am waiting for feedback from editor
      on a chapter revision I sent her yesterday. Thanks for checking in and for reading. Hope you are well!

    • Janet – What can I say – you made my day. Almost sounds like a poem but I am deeply touched by
      your words. I went to your website and scrolled through your posts, stopping to read the one
      about your treasure of pens, one a poem about love shown by encouragement to do what you felt
      you couldn’t do, and one the humorous rules for marriage. So now I REALLY appreciate your comment.

      Come back again! I tried to sign up on your website but didn’t recognize any of the choices.
      Is there an option for email?

      Thanks again!

  2. Have had to ponder your description of the analyst attitude, and wonder what what the same as my therapy experience, and what was different. Thank you for your explanation – it gives me a clearer picture of the Freudian system. I wonder how you feel about the analyst after that long time – respectful? dependent? warm, loving even?
    I certainly got the discipline, empathy, authenticity, and fidelity to a system. But definitely not the neutrality. Laura’s psychotherapeutic model was Object Relations. I Googled and got this:
    ‘Object relations is a variation of psychoanalytic theory that diverges from Sigmund Freud’s belief that humans are motivated by sexual and aggressive drives, suggesting instead that humans are primarily motivated by the need for contact with others—the need to form relationships.’
    I wonder whether different systems are more suited to different personality types. It was astonishing for me to be understood, after a life-time pretty well without anyone doing it. She was totally on my side till I learned to do that for myself, so no neutrality. Only at first she was like a blank canvas till I started talking about the effect that was having on me. I drew my way through the whole time. That stage had a little tent with me in it, and her sitting cross-legged outside. Later it was a box, with the lid a little way up showing two scared eyes, later again we were both in the box. And lots more.
    Thank you for the stimulus to revisit what was effectively a re-parenting experience, a filling of the huge gaps of disrupted attachment.

    • Trish – You asked how I felt about the analyst now after many years and offered some guesses – most of which I would
      agree with, especially feeling respectful. The more I studied Freudian psychoanalysis, the more impressed I was with my analyst and
      how she really believed in her method and resisted my efforts to make her my colleague. I feel a fondness for her that is, at times,
      difficult to portray in the memoir.

      I appreciated your definition of object relations and agree that the different theories are suited for us as unique people. The two
      of us are lucky that we found the person who could help us, give us what we had not received in the past.

      I look forward to your comments and so enjoy hearing your thinking. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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