The analyst’s posture in analysis is supposed to be driven by three aims: neutrality, abstinence, and anonymity. I want to focus specifically on neutrality. Read any psychological textbook and one always happens upon the same critique that neutrality is impossible. Freud was not always neutral, which should come as no surprise considering his case studies are all stories of failure not success. Relational analysts have emphasized two-person psychology and critiqued Freud’s neutrality as being robotic and inhuman.
I want to talk about the importance of neutrality or indifference. People going into the mental health profession tend to have certain proclivities to be caring and empathic. Of course, these attributes are necessary and can help the psychotherapist greatly who is engaging in difficult work. I wish I could find the quote from Freud that goes something like this: “the worst thing you can do is care too much about the patient”. This might strike some as odd. Aren’t psychotherapists supposed to care about the well being of others since their work is driven by a sense of benevolence? To explain why caring too much can severely hinder therapy, I want to use Klein’s idea of projective identification. This is a controversial idea that combines a couple of different notions such as: projection, introjection, and identification. Read the rest of this entry »