1 Gertrude R. Ticho (1967) On Self-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho

Gertrude R. Ticho (1967) On Self-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:308-318
It is an interesting phenomenon that the science of psycho-analysis, which owes so much to
the self-analysis of its creator, largely disregards self-analysis in its literature. The
importance of self-analysis for the continuing mental health of a former patient may be
controversial, but all analysts will certainly agree that the ability for self-analysis is a
prerequisite for the competent practitioner of psycho-analysis.
Some former patients forget nearly everything about their analyses and may never get into
serious difficulties again. They wanted relief of symptoms, and when this aim has been
accomplished, they feel no further incentive for the continuation of self-investigation.
Other patients shift their goal during the course of analysis to a more ambitious one: to
obtain increasing mastery of their inner life by keeping neurotic unconscious interferences
at a minimum. The psycho-analytic candidate should have self-analysis in mind from the
beginning of his training analysis, and his personal analysis should help him to become
deeply convinced of the need for it and should give him a good foundation for becoming an
effective "self-analyst".
In "Analysis Terminable and Interminable, " Freud (1937) states clearly that for the psychoanalytic practitioner, analysis is an interminable task. His advice for the solution of this
dilemma is self-analysis and periodical re-analysis without feeling ashamed about taking
this step. He said the following about self-analysis:
We reckon on the stimuli that he [the analysand] has received in his own analysis not
ceasing when it ends and on the processes of remodelling the ego continuing spontaneously
in the analysed subject and making use of all subsequent experiences in this newly-acquired
sense. This does in fact, happen, and insofar as it happens it makes the analysed subject
qualified to be an analyst himself.
Hoffer (1950) suggested that one criterion for termination of treatment should be
identification within the ego with the functions of the analyst … when the analytic process
can hopefully be entrusted to the apprentice, himself.
It is the purpose of this paper to explore the process of self-analysis as it develops after
psycho-analytic treatment. Based on the information I have obtained from other analysts
who felt that their efforts at self-analysis have been successful, and my own selfobservations, I have tried to delineate common characteristics in the development of selfanalysis. All informants were practising analysts who underwent personal analysis once or
twice and whose treatment was terminated not less than four to five years ago.
Reasons for the Difficulty in Collecting Material on Self-Analysis
It seems that at least four factors significantly account for the dearth of information about
While we assume that the competent analyst analyses himself, no attempts were
made to formulate the principles of the self-analytic process.
In follow-up studies of analytic patients, the primary interest of the interviewing
analyst is in behavioural change and in the former patient's residual pathology. For this
reason, self-analytic attempts are disregarded. Take, for example, this excerpt from a
follow-up interview from the Psychotherapy Research Project of the Menninger Foundation
(Wallerstein et al., 1956, 58, 60): A highly intelligent and verbal patient whose analysis
was very successful, spoke about his subsequent self-analysis without being asked to do so
by the interviewers. This beautiful description of self-analysis came up by chance, and no
attempts were made to pursue the subject. The former analysand said: "I use not
necessarily insights, but certain ways of thinking about the world and myself and my
problems. … It's become part of the fabric of my existence, but I
- 308 don't often sit down and think, 'Well, now, what are the meanings of all this and how did it
get here—how did it happen?' … It's never this organized; it's always rambling thoughts in
your head. You work on a corner of it, and then it disappears and something else comes up,
and so on. … I left this kind of structure, [his analysis], I didn't leave the method. … I
didn't leave the kind of useful self-absorption. Again, this is not an organized kind of thing.
There are different ways of perceiving yourself and ways of problem-solving that are
different. I don't mean that my own therapy is all over."
In spite of professions to the contrary, the myth of the "complete" analysis lingers
on in many patients and analysts. This myth of the "complete" analysis, which promises a
life without severe failures and disappointments, lends unpleasant connotations to the
necessity of self-analysis. It slips out unintentionally in some papers on termination and in
the evaluation of treatment results. Because of this myth of the "complete" or "perfect"
analysis, analysts often become defensive when their patients develop symptoms again,
even if these symptoms are fleeting ones, and even if the patient deals well with them. In
Pfeffer's (1961) follow-up study, one of the treating analyst's reactions to the recurrence of
his patient's pre-analytic symptom was that she "might have been kept in analysis longer
and her positive transference more extensively analyzed." He felt that perhaps his own
pleasure in the good results stood in the way of his doing a better job. This analyst's feeling
of inadequacy despite the achievement of excellent treatment results from an analysis of
seven-years' duration of a very sick patient, testifies to the persistence of the myth of the
"complete" analysis.
The analytic type of interview does not seem to be the best instrument for the
investigation of self-analysis. The unstructured, dynamically oriented interview fosters
regression. This fact is clearly documented in Pfeffer's follow-up studies. All the patients
subjected to an analytic type of interview showed an emergence of transference residues
and an intensification of residual symptoms or the recurrence of symptoms for which
analysis was first sought. The patients dealt with the follow-up analyst as though they were
in analysis. One of them "was aware of her tendency to experience subjectively the followup analyst, his office, and the follow-up study as identical with the treating analyst, his
office, and analysis, and she wards off regression and free association." One could say that
all Pfeffer's patients showed a tendency to re-distribute the various analytic functions as
they were during their treatment: to the follow-up analyst went the listening and
understanding; to themselves, the free-associating and reporting. Processes which may
have reflected some form of self-analysis occurred predominantly outside the interview and
were reported afterwards.
The discussion about self-analysis I had with my colleagues can best be described as
structured, question-answer interviews. Since self-analysis by definition excludes an
outsider, I expected reluctance, and was pleasantly surprised to find generous cooperation.
The feeling of sharing a mutual discovery and the attempts to put self-analytic experiences
into an organized form, created an atmosphere which discouraged regression and the
recurrence of transference phenomena.
When the interview became less structured, the participant drifted in the direction of less
relevant information which came closer to free associations, particularly childhood material
and reminiscences from the analysis.
The Integration of the Three Analytic Functions Leading to the Skill of Self-Analysis
It is my impression that self-analysis following psycho-analytic treatment depends on the
development of a new skill which evolved during psycho-analytic treatment, a skill which
is based mainly on the analysand's identification with the three main psycho-analytic
functions: free association, objective and respectful listening, and interpretation.
The final organization of these three functions into a unified whole has to be achieved by
the analysand on his own. This phase usually starts with a disappointment reaction. As far
as I could ascertain from my informants, this disappointment phase occurs frequently,
though within a variable time interval after termination, and varies in intensity. Whether
the analysand
- 309 begins self-analysis or turns away from self-analysis depends on the final outcome of this
phase. When self-analysis progresses, this skill becomes relatively autonomous, reliable,
and stable.
Although it is difficult to distinguish the three functions of free association, listening, and
interpreting in the process of self-analysis, an attempt is made in this paper to follow their
development from analysis to self-analysis. I do not want to discuss details which are well
known to analysts, and will limit myself to those aspects of the three analytic functions that
are applicable to self-analysis.
(1) Free Association
At the beginning of analysis, the patient is not able to adhere to the fundamental rule and
has to learn to free associate; that is, to observe himself and report simultaneously. The
continuous analysis of resistances and the transference neurosis goes hand in hand with an
increased ability to follow the fundamental rule. By the time of the successful termination
of analysis, the patient should have acquired a new skill: the capacity for free association.
By removing the main obstacles to free association, the analysand not only gains
intellectual and emotional knowledge about the nature and content of the impediments
which hamper his self-observation, but he also recognizes certain repetitive patterns unique
to his development. The understanding of these patterns is very important for the
analysand's future self-analysis, because he will retain a healthy mistrust toward similar
stereotyped responses even when they seem warranted in a given situation.
In this context, it is important to clarify the difference between free associations and
controlled associations (Bellak, 1961). Both belong to the therapeutic armamentarium of
the classical psycho-analysis, and the failure to differentiate them leads to errors in
assessing the complexity of the self-analytic process.
It seems that this lack of distinction between controlled and free association caused Kramer
(1959) to separate active self-analysis from an auto-analytic ego function. What Kramer
describes as active self-analysis is the insight gained through controlled associations, while
her auto-analytic ego function corresponds to the intermittent free associations which occur
automatically in the process of self-analysis.
I do not think a separation between self-analysis as a deliberate effort and an unconscious
auto-analytic ego function has to be made. When Kramer says "I do not know where a line
between active effort (meaning active self-analytic effort) and auto-analytic ego function
can be drawn, except in situations where the active efforts have failed, " she makes a
distinction between immediate results through self-interpretation and self-analysis as a
process. What she calls "auto-analysis" is one aspect of self-analysis which is exercised for
longer or shorter periods without deliberate intent. I suggest that self-analysis consists of
controlled as well as free associations and that both are different aspects of the same
If dreams, parapraxes, and countertransference phenomena are treated as isolated
occurrences, some understanding of their unconscious meaning may result. But because the
interpretation is achieved mainly by controlled rather than free association, the exclusive
ability to interpret these discrete unconscious manifestations cannot be called self-analysis
proper. Self-analysis is an open-ended process in which free associations play a most
important role.
Various factors may contribute to the tendency to resort first to controlled associations in
self-analysis. It may be due to the wish for "quick results", a tendency which is often
encountered in the beginning phase of psycho-analysis, when the patient has the feeling he
has provided such an amount of material that he "deserves" the brilliant interpretation from
the analyst which will magically alleviate his psychic pain. And, indeed, the successful
analysis of a dream or parapraxis may have been a rewarding experience during a certain
stage of the patient's analysis. It may also be an indication of the identification with the
omniscient and omnipotent analyst. Again, it might indicate an identification with the
analyst's method of encouraging controlled associations rather than free associations. This
may be due to the analyst's uncontrolled impatience.
During the interviews I conducted with colleagues, the first examples of self-analysis which
could be easily remembered were attempts at gaining insight through controlled
associations. Controlled associations seem to be heavily relied upon in the beginning phase
of self-analysis and often during periods of active self-analytic efforts.
It is well known that the supine position on the couch, the frequency and regularity of
interviews, and the privacy of the psycho-analytic room enhance free associations. Thus, it
is not
- 310 to be wondered at that the main part of self-analysis takes place in solitude. The
circumstances which are most likely to produce a free flow of associations are not
purposely brought about, but everyday life situations conducive to regression are taken
advantage of, and after a while, a habit develops. These situations show similarities to the
analytic setting: maximum opportunity for physical and mental relaxation, relative solitude
or monotonous background noise, freedom from interference, and agreeable temperature.
In practice, such circumstances are: lying in bed before falling asleep or after awakening,
taking a warm bath or a shower, shaving, or travelling in a train or an airplane. One
informant reported that he free-associates most easily while driving. Driving is experienced
by him as being passively carried along by the car. Thus, it follows that the analysand not
only learns to free-associate, but also identifies with the analytic situation. As a matter of
fact, one informant reported that he was a predominantly action-oriented person before his
analysis and that this pattern changed during treatment. Since the beginning of his selfanalysis, he has become even more introspective and contemplative.
Generally, one could say that the responsiveness to signals from the unconscious as stimuli
for self-analysis varies among persons. The same can be said about the degree of
consciousness each individual has of the ongoing process of free association.
A few words need to be said about those situations in which professional ethics induce free
and controlled associations. One analyst reported no awareness of any attempts at free
association during his daily activities. He maintained that the necessary material would
come to his mind when the conditions were optimal for self-analysis. Only on further
questioning did he remember incidents of self-analysis "on the spot". At first he
remembered more obvious ones, all of them connected with countertransference
manifestations, but later on he also recalled less conspicuous occasions. One day he caught
himself very nearly making a slip of the tongue at the end of an analytic session. There
were no doubts in his mind that the slip would have had an unfavourable effect on the
course of his patient's analysis. He postponed his next appointment until he had a better
understanding of his slip, which he thought might be either a countertransference reaction
to the patient's pressure for the gratification of an infantile wish or the manifestation of a
conflict in his own life which upset his psychic equilibrium to such a degree that it rendered
him less resistant to his patient's pull toward regression.
Dreams about a patient are similar situations where the analyst for professional reasons
feels a greater need to analyse himself before he goes about his work. He will be more
successful in understanding such situations and will not be unduly alarmed by them if he
has realistic grounds for confidence in his capacity for self-analysis.
(2) Listening
In his analysis the analysand encounters a relationship he never experienced before: a
person who listens to him, who takes every utterance seriously and treats it with respect, but
who remains objective and uninvolved. Freud's recommendation to the analyst to be
neutral and to follow the rule of abstinence has been widely criticized as being too cold and
not human enough. Some analysts feel more comfortable in comparing the analytic
situation with a mother-child relationship. But the latter lends itself to as many unfortunate
misconceptions as Freud's original mirror or surgeon model. It is interesting to observe that
some poets feel more attracted by the surgical metaphor than most analysts. The French
poet, Paul Valéry (Engle, 1964), sees poetry as a "holiday of the mind, " and he says, "I
proceed like a surgeon who sterilizes his hands and prepares the area to be operated on …
clearing up the verbal situation."
In Freud's writing, the rule of abstinence refers to the technical principle of keeping at a
minimum those substitute gratifications of infantile needs which the patient derives from
the therapeutic situation. When Freud introduced this technical principle, he was mainly
concerned with the dynamic and economic points of view of the neurosis and transference
neurosis: a certain quantity of libido, which had been freed by the analytic procedure,
would escape or become drained off by substitute gratifications and thus diminish the
patient's motive for further analytic work. The interplay of forces striving to continue
neurotic solutions, and those opposing them, might come to a deadlock, and the analytic
situation, itself, might become a refuge against the trials of life. From the structural point
of view, the rule of abstinence refers to different modes of functioning of the psychic
apparatus. In spite of the patient's
- 311 tendency to seek gratification according to the pleasure principle, the analyst should remain
a representative of reality. Thus, instead of permitting gratification by means of
displacement, condensation, and symbolization, he abides by the law of logic and reality.
He provides continuous stimuli for the sublimation of primitive drives by avoiding
gratification of them and furthers logical thinking. By observing the rule of abstinence, or
as it may be more correctly called, the rule of the reality principle, the analyst remains as
much task-oriented as possible and helps the analysand to increase his ability to tolerate
frustration and his capacity for delay. The disadvantage of the term "rule of abstinence" is
the over-emphasis of the depriving aspects of the analytic situation.
In this sense the rule of abstinence applies to the analyst as well as to the analysand.
Although the analyst's whole personality, his reality and fantasy, his conscious and
unconscious tendencies are brought into play while listening to his patient, the analyst
pledges to use his own and the patient's material for one purpose only: to help the patient
gain mastery of himself. And he, in turn, will abstain from using the analytic situation for
the gratification of his own infantile needs.
The rule of abstinence underlines one important aspect of the analyst's over-all attitude to
his patient: his respectful neutrality. In this sense, the analyst adds a dimension to the
analytic relationship hardly ever encountered in everyday life: a deep respect for the
patient's struggle—futile, distorted, and objectionable as it may be in its outward
manifestations. But because the analyst has gone through similar experiences in his own
analysis and, last but not least, because his own self-analysis confronts him every so often
with the difficulty of the task, he can be expected to be the most qualified person to respect
the patient's struggle. For the same reason, he can convincingly convey trust and
confidence. When the patient goes through inevitable periods of discouragement, becomes
confused and miserable, and the solution of a conflict seems far out of reach, the analyst's
trust that the patient's inner resources will finally lead him to a solution is of decisive
importance. It will enable the analyst to continue his task of analysing empathically rather
than to give it up temporarily for unnecessary gratifications of the patient's infantile needs.
Through identification with the respectfully listening analyst who abides by the rule of the
reality principle, the analysand acquires a basic trust in his inner resources and a respect for
his honest struggle with the irrational forces within himself. This security will help him to
carry on his self-analysis. A better integrated superego, which is neither too punitive nor
too self-indulgent or corrupt, not personified but more objective—in short, a more
autonomous superego—is an important contributing factor. If the analyst can convey to his
patient that their mutual task consists predominantly in removing obstacles which prevented
the patient from making the fullest use of his own potential for further growth and to
reclaim for constructive activities the energy previously tied up in neurotic security
measures, then the analysand will want to continue this never-ending process.
Psychic discomfort is the most powerful incentive for keeping the process of self-analysis
going. While crisis situations are least favourable for self-analysis, they nevertheless may
provide a strong motivation afterwards. But very often anxiety is avoided by various
unconscious defensive manoeuvres. If these manoeuvres are not sufficient to ward off
anxiety, more pathological devices are called into action. Self-analysis is possible only
when this sequence is held in abeyance and will be most successful the sooner the circle is
interrupted. Therefore, the ability to delay, to tolerate anxiety, achieved during analysis,
and the identification with the analyst who abides by the rule of the reality principle are of
utmost importance for self-analysis. The trust in his own ego-strength and in his inner
resources will be of great help in carrying on self-analysis even though quick solutions are
not achieved.
A realistic concept of the object world and of the self is an important precondition for
successful self-analysis. Such a realistic self-concept and the establishment of stable
object-relations with adequate object-constancy are the most important requirements for
being able finally to replace the listening analyst. A person may perceive certain neurotic
manifestations within himself, but fail to assess them more objectively because of
temporary, or permanent, distortions of his self-image and his object-representations. But it
should be possible to recognize frustrations caused by realistic confrontations with our
shortcomings without too severe a damage to our self-concept and without distorting the
object which causes it.
One type of experience seems to play a significant role in self-analysis and in one's
- 312 attitude as a respectful listener to one's own associations from the unconscious. I refer to
the discovery during one's analysis of the richness and beauty of the hidden provinces of the
past. The person who cannot accept and experience the grace, joy, and lighthearted humour
of his infantile tendencies, but who expects predominantly dangerous and awful discoveries
is a bad prospect for self-analysis. He will not start it at all, or it may deteriorate into selfpreoccupation.
One analyst reported that in his self-analysis he relies heavily on his unconscious as a
friendly collaborator. "At times I may go on for months without being conscious that my
relationship with members of my family is not quite as it should be. Something is
smouldering. Quarrels occur, and I may have withdrawn and worried too much. Then I
make a conscious effort to see what's going on. I have to look back and realize that
attempts at self-analysis were going on, but it didn't bother me enough and I put it aside. At
such times, free associations may make me even more confused, and my thoughts go in all
directions. In such situations I wait for a dream. My dreams will bring me a wellcompressed summary and alert me to the important conflict. For example, during my
analysis I had recurrent examination dreams; now an examination dream may alert me to
what's going on in my self-analysis."
(3) Interpretation
Up to now, the role of the analyst as interpreter and the contribution of this function to selfanalysis have not been mentioned. The contribution of the analyst's knowledge, his
experience, and his psycho-analytic understanding that lead to a correct interpretation
encompasses all levels of consciousness and, therefore, is difficult to convey in words and
is rarely shared with the analysand. The analysand has no direct access to his analyst's
conscious and unconscious processes which bring about an interpretation. Only in
retrospect, after interpretations have helped the analysand to enlarge his knowledge of
himself, can he reconstruct which of his productions may have led the analyst to his
interpretations. In this sense, the identification with the analyst as interpreter remains
incomplete and makes interpretation a most difficult task in self-analysis.
The psycho-analytic curriculum takes this fact into account by a strong emphasis on
supervision, where the training analyst can share with the candidate those experiences
which lead to correct interpretations. This supervisory relationship makes a more
comprehensive identification with the interpreting analyst possible and complements the
identification with the interpreting analyst which took place during personal analysis.
In this connexion the tendency of some analysands to analyse themselves outside the
sessions should be re-evaluated. This activity is usually seen as a manifestation of
resistance, and there is no doubt that this is often the case. But when it occurs during the
termination phase, it may indicate the beginning of that development which every analyst
wishes to encourage and not to obstruct by focusing only on its possible defensive aspect.
In the beginning of their analytic work, candidates have to acquire the ability to oscillate
between temporary identification with the patient and the formulation of an interpretation.
Every mistake the inexperienced candidate makes within a continuum from a
predominantly intellectual approach to an uncontrolled overidentification is an error that is
most likely to be repeated in self-interpretation.
If insights gained in the personal analysis are not too distorted and can be remembered—in
short, if the content and the psychodynamics of the main area of conflicts have not been
repressed again—these insights are the first to be called into action. In the beginning of
self-analysis, the analyst's words are exactly remembered; while if self-analysis progresses,
the analyst fades more and more out of the picture, and the content of the interpretations
remains in an objective and re-integrated form. The analysand becomes less dependent on
the fantasied presence of the analyst.
Whenever strong resistances arise, the optimal distance for the functioning of the critical
faculty necessary for interpretative work is diminished, and this fact presents another
limitation of self-analysis. Flashes of analytic understanding occur, but these selfinterpretations remain incomplete because of the immediate resistance to more painful,
more primitive unconscious aspects of the conflict. Freud (1935) said about this:
But in self-analysis the danger of incompleteness is particularly great. One is too soon
satisfied with a part explanation, behind which resistance may easily be keeping back
something that is more important, perhaps.
- 313 The incomplete identification with the interpreting analyst accounts for only one part of the
difficulty in self-interpretation. The fact that most of the free associations are not
verbalized in self-analysis makes a clear formulation of insight difficult.
Some analysts take notes of dreams, of countertransference phenomena, or of other
manifestations from the unconscious, together with the insight gained at that time. This
enables them to come back to it and observe their own repression at work; and often it is
only after months, or even years, that they can see a common trend in all these
manifestations. Every so often these insights are those that are most warded off and least
There are a few activities which can serve as a substitute for the interpreting analyst. For
the practising analyst, the most important, as well as the most rewarding, activity is the
continuous self-investigation of countertransference phenomena, particularly those which
occur in response to a specific conflict of the patient. In such instances it is the patient who
verbalizes the unconscious material, and the analyst, by observing his reaction to it, gains
the psychic distance required for self-interpretation.
The increase of knowledge gained by reading psycho-analytic literature and the humanities
also facilitates self-interpretation. While there can be some question whether intellectual
understanding of unconscious material pushing toward consciousness. On rare occasions,
pertinent psycho-analytic papers can even serve an interpreting function. For instance,
during the self-analysis of recurrent feelings of strong envy, an analyst had to prepare
herself for a seminar, for which she first read a paper on early childhood development, then
decided to look up a paper given as a reference for further clarification. The reference
happened to be a paper on envy. Up to then, her envy was mainly understood in terms of
sibling rivalry; after re-reading the paper, she recognized how she avoided investigating
more directly her conflicts with her mother. Another analyst noticed the following incident:
While reading the last issues of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, he underlined
several paragraphs because the material applied to problems with which several of his
patients were struggling. Several weeks later he re-read all the passages he had marked,
and could not see the connexion between this material and his patients. Suddenly he
became aware of the cause for his interest in these paragraphs: "I added all of them up and
divided them by me, and there was my problem."
Another road to self-interpretation is the analysis of one's responses to artistic or scientific
writing. The choice of subject matter is at times determined by the ongoing process of selfanalysis of a not yet sufficiently and completely understood neurotic conflict. The writer
may or may not be aware of that. He may choose a certain topic and only during his work
or after its completion, become conscious of the self-interpretative function of his
formulations. Writing compels the writer to concise secondary-process thinking and often
requires intensive reading on the subject. Thus insights which already exist in a less
organized form have to be put into words and have to be precisely formulated. An example
of this can be found in Kramer's paper already referred to. She wrote:
Not until I was reviewing the material for the purpose of writing this paper did I realize that
a dream I had following my mother's death had also revealed an aspect of this conflict. … I
know now that in this dream I offered my mother part of myself as restitution for the same
oral-aggressive impulse, the analysis of which I have described. The restitutive aspect of
the appeasement had not been understood, and the specific oral-aggressive fantasy
remained repressed at the time.
Other substitutes for the interpreting analyst are the works of creative artists who attempt to
express complex human feelings and put them into an original form. The connoisseur
assumes the role of listening to the "interpretation" and tries to apply it. The appreciation
of the artist's message and the form he finds for its communication calls for a combination
of optimal identification and the maintenance of the critical, observing faculty. If
overidentification occurs, a piece of art becomes merely a cathartic experience. When
identification is impossible, it is at best reduced to an intellectual exercise, or not enjoyed at
all. The failure to maintain the balance between identification and optimal distance can
give valuable information about the content of the presenting conflict.
For example, an analyst who got great enjoyment from good theatre and good cinema was
aware of the fact that she became at times over-involved. Her overidentification consisted
- 314 uncontrollable crying when the hero of the play became the tragic victim of hostile forces.
When by chance she saw a theatre performance for the third time within a period of three to
four weeks, she found herself crying at the same passage as she had during the two previous
performances. In her self-analysis she remembered previous situations in other theatre or
cinema performances to which she had reacted in a similar way. These occasions could be
connected with masochistic fantasies during adolescence, and she interpreted the
symptomatic behaviour as a more permissible gratification of her warded-off and partially
sublimated masochistic wishes. The "symptom" improved and occurred less frequently.
Finally, she understood that she was not reacting to the mistreatment the hero underwent,
but to a specific situation of total abandonment, but to a specific situation of total
abandonment by the outside world and to absolute loneliness. Only then could she slowly
understand her fear of oral deprivation. The insight into this primitive aspect of her sadness
and of her unconscious oral range widened her self-understanding of other aspects of her
behaviour, and also made it possible to grasp the playwright's message that suffering may
ennoble the imperfect human condition and may become one of the greatest achievements
in human life. Such a message would be difficult to grasp if oral rage and masochistic
wishes were too strongly stimulated by the actual story of the play.
In all the reports I have gathered about self-analysis, there was one observation which is
worth special emphasis. Although all informants indicated that the focus of their main
neurotic conflict was the positive and negative Oedipus complex, a complete understanding
of the problem under self-analysis invariably necessitated an analysis of pregenital
tendencies. The above-mentioned vignettes of cases and Kramer's self-analysis attest to
this fact. Kramer writes:
Only then did it become clear that the original oral frustration had produced a helpless rage
accompanied by an oral-aggressive fantasy. The awareness of the complete traumatic
situation of the defences that had kept the conflict in repression and of the character
attitudes employed to avoid recurrence of situations similar to the traumatic experience, led
finally to the disappearance of the physical symptom.
Most of my informants remembered the interpretations of their core neurotic problems with
relative ease and put them to use in self-analysis, but preoedipal material was not so easily
recalled, and at times could be recovered only through long and painful self-analytic work
or had to be discovered anew. It would be tempting to explain this observation on the basis
of an analysis that was not "deep enough" or not "long enough, " or to hold the analyst's
limitations and his countertransference responsible. These possibilities cannot be ruled out,
but I would suggest the following hypothesis: the analytic setting in itself gratifies
pregenital strivings to a certain extent; for this reason, some interpretations of the
preoedipal material have less lasting impact and are more easily forgotten.
Only a few examples among the many possibilities should be mentioned: Passivedependent needs are to a certain degree gratified by the regularity of hours and by the
reclining position on the couch. Oral-aggressive tendencies can be covered up by the
reassuring presence of the analyst. Unconscious guilt feelings can be held in abeyance by
the regularity of sessions. The analyst's respectful neutrality may provide the needed
reassurance from an authority figure who functions as an auxiliary superego. Narcissistic
supply is obtained from an attentive listener who is held in high esteem by the community.
Omnipotent strivings can be hidden behind a strong therapeutic alliance. For instance, one
informant mentioned his dis-illusionment several months after termination of the analysis
when he reacted to serious troubles in his family with depression and helpless confusion.
Self-analysis of these symptoms uncovered the remnants of his wishes for a life without
frustrations. The knowledge that after termination of analysis life will not be without
drawbacks carried little conviction during his analysis. As long as new unconscious
manifestations were understood and interpreted, he could maintain the unrealistic hope that
a "thoroughly and completely" analysed person would become the indisputable master of
his life. Thus the residuals of his omnipotent feelings were concealed by his cooperation
and his hard work during the last phase of his analysis. Behind the effort to get the utmost
out of analysts, the wish for a change of sex, size, and other unattainable unconscious goals
can be partially maintained.
Another informant made the following remark: "It was only after termination of my
analysis that I realized that I had not really given up the hope that, at the end, a summation
would come forth which would be my touchstone
- 315 which would contain all answers and be the solution of all life's ills."
It is my impression that the common occurrence of the feelings of disappointment is due
partially to these unconscious gratifications inherent in the analytic situation and their
insufficient working-through.
Development of the Self-Analytic Process
We know much about motivation for seeking analysis, but little is known about the factors
which tend to initiate self-analysis. For the practising psycho-analyst, the tension between
ego and ego-ideal may be the driving force for self-analysis. The knowledge that
unconscious conflicts lower the quality of his work provides an obligation for self-analysis.
In general it appears as if any kind of tension between the psychic structures serves as a
potential source of motivation for self-analysis. Last, but not least, the conviction gained in
the personal analysis that neurotic suffering can be avoided or diminished by insight into
the unconscious is a strong incentive for self-analysis. The deep satisfaction and
gratification provided by mastery of a conflict, and the observation of one's own growth,
turns self-analysis into a never-ending process.
It is difficult to say whether self-analysis is merely limited to a continuous working-through
of ever-new derivatives of the core neurotic conflicts and overdetermined symptoms and
behaviour patterns which serve multiple functions or if essentially new insight can be
achieved. In some material that I gathered, there was no doubt that new insights were
gained; but without a report from the treating analyst, it is still an open question whether or
not the material that appears as new insight was interpreted during analysis and afterwards
repressed, a phenomenon so common after termination. But there is no doubt that the
working-through of repetitive patterns with deeper and more extensive understanding of
areas of known neurotic conflict occupies the bulk of self-analysis.
According to the reports of the informants and my own observations, the following
development of the process of self-analysis can be described (I will not try to separate
different phases too carefully, because they overlap considerably in different individuals):
After termination, there is a period of relative inactivity which may last from several weeks
to several months or even years. This phase is characterized by a feeling of
accomplishment and of heightened inner freedom. The duration of this phase seems to
depend on the dynamic implications of the separation from the analyst and the
thoroughness with which it was worked through and/or on the amount of stress the
analysand encounters in his life situation. The second phase is one of disappointment and
reappraisal. It is initiated by a realization of unexpected conflicts and their resulting
discomfort. This appears to be a crucial phase in the development of self-analysis.
Pathological defence mechanisms, such as rationalization, denial, reaction-formation,
projection, etc., may be mobilized, but their effectiveness is reduced by critical selfobservation. This phase shows many characteristics of the mourning process and leads to a
final working-through of the separation from the analyst. It is a new kind of workingthrough, taking place, as it does, in the absence of the analyst. During this phase some
analysands may seek advice from their former analysts. The distinction between the painful
working-through of the separation from the analyst and the manifestations of a premature
termination can be a difficult diagnostic challenge. This difficulty increases if the
interviewer is not aware of the post-analytic disappointment reaction.
I think that the post-analytic disappointment reaction is more common than is generally
admitted. Its intensity varies considerably. A greater awareness of the disappointment
reaction would lead to a careful analysis in the termination phase of the analysand's
handling of his disappointments in the past, and would enable the analyst to connect these
with the mourning process and the separation anxiety of the last phase of the analysis. This
would not, and probably should not, eliminate the development of the disappointment
reaction, but it would give the analysand a greater chance to handle it constructively.
One informant, illustrating what has been mentioned before about the depersonification of
the analyst, said:
During this time, which lasted about eight months, I carried on a dialogue with my analyst,
remembering the interpretations during my analysis, and imagining what my analyst would
say. This dialogue has entirely stopped; now I hardly think of my analyst. Self-analysis
goes on by itself like other routine activities. I become aware of analysing myself only
when I have to."
By "when I have to" he meant when he perceives
- 316 countertransference manifestations and when derivatives of the unconscious interfere with
his well-being.
Finally, self-analysis continues more automatically. Its intensity and the degree of
awareness of the ongoing process are subject to wide fluctuations. If the skill to analyse
oneself has been acquired, a spiralling process is set in motion. Successful resolution of
conflicts and inhibitions leads to rise in self-esteem and to a feeling of mastery. Additional
insight strengthens the ego, and increased ego-strength leads to a greater tolerance of
anxiety and a greater capacity to live with unavoidable frustrations. The feeling of mastery
and competence results in a slight change in the self-concept, and this change, in turn,
causes a new tension on a hierarchically higher level between the now more demanding
ego-ideal and the realistically improved self-image. This tension, plus increased egostrength, makes possible exposure to a more challenging situation which may have been
avoided before because of anxiety and fear of failure. Thus the new exposure turns into a
potential danger situation with concomitant anxiety. Old unconscious fears and fantasies
are revived, partial regression occurs, and new facets of old conflicts come to the fore
which have to be understood, synthesized, and brought into harmony with the higher level
of functioning. If the task on a lower hierarchical level is accomplished, regardless of how
long it may take and how fraught with errors it may be, the spiralling process begins again
and a new challenge is taken up. As a matter of fact, several informants observed more
intensive self-analysis before or after major decisions, whether these decisions concerned
their private or their professional lives.
Experience of Growth and Independence
Self-analysis has many characteristics of the acquisition of a new skill. While, ideally, the
transference involvement at the end of analysis is minimal, the identification with the
analytic method and the analysing functions of the analyst is at its most rational. This
outcome presents the matrix for the development of a new ego-interest: the continuing
application and practice of the psycho-analytic method on one's own. Although a thorough
analysis is the foundation for this new skill, the analysand has to acquire it by himself. For
the acquisition of the skill of self-analysis, the crucial task that has to be accomplished is
the resolution of the transference-neurosis and the working-through of the separation from
the analyst. During the termination period, analysis can prepare the analysand for the
separation, but as long as the relationship with the analyst continues, the full impact of the
separation is not experienced. The sense of independence can come only when the
analysand is on his own. The relationship with the analyst as a person who listens and
interprets has to be given up, and the selective ego-identifications with the analyst's
analysing functions have to become a stable and autonomous part of the ego-ideal and the
ego. Only then will self-analysis develop into skill which can be relied upon.
One colleague reported that soon after termination he had to make a very important
commitment that greatly changed his life circumstances. He became depressed and
indecisive. This prompted him to resume analysis, with the intent of clarifying conflicts
which were stirred up under the pressure of this new responsibility. Soon after the second
analysis began, his depression lifted, and it became confined to the analytic session. His
comments about this period were:
It was almost ridiculous. I functioned very well, but at the beginning of my sessions I
would become depressed, would work on my depression, and ten minutes after the hour
was over, my good mood would return until the next hour. I didn't think much about
myself and my problems."
His second analysis was terminated after about eight months, and he felt sure about his
major commitment. Six to seven months later, after the change in his life circumstances
occurred, he found himself depressed and full of self-doubts again. At that time conscious
efforts at self-analysis began. He went through a period of discontent manifested by doubts
about analysis as a therapeutic method, but at the same time he made plans to establish a
closer social relationship with his analyst. He took on some mannerisms of his analyst,
which he tried actively to give up as soon as he recognized them. There were recurrent
dreams of desperately trying to find his analyst, but the analyst was not in his office, or he
dreamt of looking for his parents, but they were not there. Fantasies which had occupied a
good part of his analysis reappeared. These and other manifestations were understood as a
reaction to the major change in his life circumstances and to the loss of the analyst. For this
colleague, his self-analysis consisted mainly of the working-through of his dependency
- 317 needs, which had their genetic roots in the negative oedipal conflict.
Self-analysis occurs mainly on a preconscious level. When major conflicts upset the
psychic equilibrium with consequent anxiety and mental pain, self-analysis becomes a more
conscious effort, which is subjectively experienced as an intensification of the process of
self-analysis. The common response of a few informants, namely, "I do self-analysis when
I have to, when I am in trouble, " refers to conscious attempts at self-investigation. Only in
retrospect can one find out that a good deal of self-analysis was going on preconsciously.
Nevertheless, there are times in every informant's life when no self-analysis occurs. These
are periods of tranquility or of overwhelming conflict leading to temporary, or permanent,
loss of the capacity for self-analysis. A severe conflict-situation leads to a regressive
aggressivization and libidinization of the self-analytic skill. Self-analysis may then
deteriorate into obsessive rumination, self-preoccupation, self-accusation,
intellectualization, self-admiration, or self-indulgence. At times this deterioration may be
mistaken for self-analysis, while it serves only defensive purposes. Instead of promoting
further growth, self-analysis becomes a substitute for living.
It is difficult at times to distinguish between a temporary and a permanent breakdown of
self-analysis. Under the impact of overwhelming anxiety, a neurotic compromise solution
may occur. In most cases the healthy part of the ego can resume self-analysis, including the
analysis of the compromise solution. But when counter-cathectic energies impoverish the
ego to such a degree that too little conflict-free energy is left for self-analytic work, help
has to be sought outside. The clinical picture of a permanent impairment of the selfanalytic skill is a severely crippling symptom and an arrest of further growth. In the
practising analyst a permanent impairment of the ability for self-analysis may express itself
in a lack of interest in analytic work and in analytic literature. This certainly presents an
indication for re-analysis.
As long as the continuation of growth and the imperfections of our personalities and those
of the society we live in force us to face new danger situations, self-analysis is a neverending process. Here, both analysis and education face the same objective. Gardner, in his
book on Excellence (1961), describes the purpose of education in the following way:
Education, in the formal sense, is only a part of the society's larger task of abetting the
individual's intellectual, emotional, and moral growth. What we must reach for is a
conception of perpetual self-discovery, perpetual reshaping to realize one's best self, to be
the person one could be.
This is, in essence, the goal of analysis and self-analysis.
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