Problems with the concept 'interpretation'.


Consensus on the conceptualisation of 'interpretation', the most characteristic feature of psychoanalytic technique, has proven elusive. Attempts at precising the meaning of this term are reviewed. The role of intuition and suggestion in interpretation are commented upon. There seem to exist polarities in interpreting styles. It is the author's contention that these are mostly contingent on the practitioner's adscription to the topographical or the structural model of the mind. The tendency to interpret deeply unconscious elements would correspond to pre-structural technique, whereas the tendency to direct the patient's attention to preconscious manifestations would be characteristic of the structural orientation. Clinical material is provided to illustrate the divergence of underlying theories of technique. The topographical interpreting of Freud and his early followers is different from the interpreting used in contemporary structural technique. 'Deep' interpreting approaches continue to be used side by side with clarification-like interpretations. The reasons for this coexistence are examined. There are powerful motivations for the adherence to pre-structural interpreting. It seems to gratify the analysand's dependency wishes and the analyst's narcissism more directly. It also provides a less sublimated satisfaction of epistemophilic drives. Maintaining ill-defined the concept 'interpretation' facilitates the application of the topographical technique with its irrational gratifications.

Cite this paper

@article{Paniagua2003ProblemsWT, title={Problems with the concept 'interpretation'.}, author={Cecilio Paniagua}, journal={The International journal of psycho-analysis}, year={2003}, volume={84 Pt 5}, pages={1105-23} }