[from: THE STORY OF MY PSYCHOANALYSIS, by [pseud.] John Knight]



At first I would disregard certain thoughts, and select and arrange others. However, after experiencing about three months of the therapy, I began to catch the peripheral phrases and hold on to the unpleasant sentences that had previously caused the periods of silence. These bidden, unpleasant associations almost invariably proved more valuable than the easy, fluent talk about current events.

For example, when I finally got out some crude words that expressed my repressed desire to mutilate Doctor Goldschmit, Doctor Maxwell pointed out, "The subconscious isn't polite. But actually castration isn't the real purpose of that association, even though you express that desire. These are merely the words your inner self employs to express anger.

"Why the intense anger? That's the real question. From your recent associations and dreams, I can guess that you resent Doctor Goldschmidt's authority. As a doctor in whom you have trust, he directs your life in certain spheres and you are reacting against that."

Then Doctor Maxwell added, "Actually the resentment toward him probably has another side. In an oblique way it expresses dislike for another Physician -myself. Very likely, your subconscious self also wants to injure me because I am forcing you to continue this long, expensive, and painful treatment."

At that point I recalled a missing link. I had not reported a stray, elusive image in which I had seen Doctor Maxwell laid out in a funeral parlor. When I mentioned this to him, Doctor Maxwell was even more convinced that everything fitted into a picture of resentment directed against him and the analytic treatment. That made sense to me, too, and taught me something about the intensity of my underlying resistance to the psychoanalysis.

When I finally reached the point where there were only a few periods of silence and the reporting encompassed almost everything that flashed into my mind, I began to make faster progress. No distractions were permitted. Smoking was forbidden. Otherwise it would have been so convenient to reach for a cigarette and kill a few seconds lighting it, in order to break a stream of images and words that was threatening to become uncomfortable.

The choice of using free associations or the reporting of dreams was left to me most of the time. Occasionally, Doctor Maxwell would inquire about my dreams, apparently to encourage my use of them, or to see whether or not I was repressing them. Dreams are also helpful in promoting a good flow of free associations, as I learned later.

Sometimes one uses free associations to cover up moods, tensions, and hostilities which cannot be easily expressed at the moment. For example, in one of the early sessions with Doctor Maxwell, he kept me waiting fifteen minutes. When I lay down on the couch I was not aware of any unusual tensions, and started off with a rush of associations which flowed on and on. But after twenty minutes of this Doctor Maxwell inquired, ̉Don't you think it would be better to tell me directly that you're angry because I kept you waiting?" The moment I stopped my associations I realized how intensely annoyed I bad been with him. I had repressed it because I was ashamed to express the unpleasant truth, and had gone off on a flurry of phrases in the hope of hiding my childish rage. He had deduced from my tone of voice, as well as my determined, unbroken flow of language, that something entirely different from what I was saying constituted my important problem at that moment. Doctor Maxwell made it clear that it would accelerate the therapy to bring up immediately any anger about delays in the appointment. or any annoyances on practical matters about hours or bills. This simple measure saved valuable time for the real purpose of the analysis -the continuous, deep, honest search for the subconscious motivations of emotional problems.

Doctor Maxwell discouraged too much concentration on current events. He would not discuss politics or world affairs, and encouraged me to disregard current issues unless they caused fairly intense emotional reactions. As he pointed out, it is very easy to try to escape the unpleasant, buried, ancient memories by discussing everyday matters.

If a patient talks freely during the course of his psychoanalysis he uses more than a million words. Many of these words are spoken in ordinary conversational tones and deal with current or past topics. Many words are spoken in disconnected phrases and frequently appear to be unintelligible. But all have purpose and meaning. I found that the freer and deeper my flow of language became the more readily did the real problem emerge from the hidden caves of the subconscious mind.

When the early months of learning the technique had passed, a typical hour with Doctor Maxwell would ordinarily start with associations related to my work, the analysis, or my current love life. I rarely reached the point where I could drop directly from the day's activity into the complete freewheeling of the subconscious mind. My associations would begin ordinarily in a conversational tone of voice:

Feel good today...science advances...our project is completed...the boss is pleased...I think we've made an important contribution in industrial chemistry...feel virtuous, great benefactor of humanity

Often, even before these introductory phrases had ended, I would be conscious of a sense of pressure in my mind because other thoughts were trying to force their way in. One -"I want to make a million bucks" -had flashed in and out several times. Finally I seized it:

I've been wrestling with a peripheral thought that makes me feel uncomfortable, Doctor Maxwell. It's "I want to make a million bucks." It seems to me an undignified thought for a sincere research worker to have in his mind.

Doctor Maxwell answered, "Let's examine it more closely. Does it tie in with anything you've been talking about the past few days or have recalled from your dreams?" I saw at once that for several days I had been bringing up fairly undisguised associations to wealth.

I'm envious of my father...I also have a vivid image in my mind of my boss's beautiful estate...I visited it last fall...he even has an artificial lake for his private fishing parties...I dreamed last night about an invention...I invented the zipper but someone stole it from me...I sued for ten million dollars...

For several days my associations and dreams had been saturated with this theme of wealth and financial security. Doctor Maxwell continued, "I think the time has come for you to decide that you can't work at your highest productiveness as a research worker if you're spending a good part of your energy as a businessman. Doesn't it surprise you to learn bow consistently your unconscious mind is preoccupied with making money instead of advancing science? But please go on -we'll discuss it later."

The association in this typical therapeutic Session would pass from a preoccupation with current events to more direct freewheeling. In this part of the hour there would often be a change in tone of voice. Some days I might be angry and loud-voiced, or plaintive and whining. Usually I would not notice the change in voice until Doctor Maxwell pointed this out in his summary at the end of the session.

There's something here I don't like...the color of your walls annoys me...I'm tense...I'd like to get out of here...Where was Moses when the lights went out?...I'm a Jew...


Document URL: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/knight.html
Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:42:17 EDT