Psychoanalysis > Theory

[Resistance]

  • Definition of resistance

It became evident that the work of uncovering what had been pathogenically forgotten had to struggle against a constant and very intense resistance. The critical objections which the patient raised in order to avoid communicating the ideas which occurred to him, and against which the fundamental rule of psycho-analysis was directed, had themselves already been manifestations of this resistance.

A consideration of the phenomena of resistance led to one of the corner-stones of the psycho-analytic theory of the neuroses - the theory of repression. It was plausible to suppose that the same forces which were now struggling against the pathogenic material being made conscious had at an earlier time made the same efforts with success. (Sigmund Freud: An Outline of Psychoanalysis, 1940.)

  • As Constituent of the psychoanalysis theory

The theories of resistance and of repression, of the unconscious, of the aetiological significance of sexual life and of the importance of infantile experiences - these form the principal constituents of the theoretical structure of psycho-analysis. (Sigmund Freud: An Autobiographical Study, 1925.)

  • Resistance and repression

Perhaps I may give you a more vivid picture of repression and of its necessary relation to resistance, by a rough analogy derived from our actual situation at the present moment. Let us suppose that in this lecture-room and among this audience, whose exemplary quiet and attentiveness I cannot sufficiently commend, there is nevertheless someone who is causing a disturbance and whose ill-mannered laughter, chattering and shuffling with his feet are distracting my attention from my task.

I have to announce that I cannot proceed with my lecture; and thereupon three or four of you who are strong men stand up and, after a short struggle, put the interrupter outside the door. So now he is "repressed", and I can continue my lecture. But in order that the interruption shall not be repeated, in case the individual who has been expelled should try to enter the room once more, the gentlemen who have put my will into effect place their chairs up against the door and thus establish a 'resistance' after the repression has been accomplished. (Sigmund Freud: Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1910.)

  • Resistance and transference

The transference is made conscious to the patient by the analyst, and it is resolved by convincing him that in his transference-attitude he is re-experiencing emotional relations which had their origin in his earliest object-attachments during the repressed period of his childhood. In this way the transference is changed from the strongest weapon of the resistance into the best instrument of the analytic treatment. Nevertheless its handling remains the most difficult as well as the most important part of the technique of analysis. (Sigmund Freud: An Autobiographical Study, 1925.)

  • Resistance and Anticathexes

This action undertaken to protect repression is observable in analytic treatment as resistance. Resistance presupposes the existence of what I have called anticathexis. An anticathexis of this kind is clearly seen in obsessional neurosis. It appears there in the form of an alteration of the ego, as a reaction-formation in the ego, and is effected by the reinforcement of the attitude which is the opposite of the instinctual trend that has to be repressed - as, for instance, in pity, conscientiousness and cleanliness. (Sigmund Freud: Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, 1926.)

  • Five kinds of resistances

Further investigation of the subject shows that the analyst has to combat no less than five kinds of resistance, emanating from three directions - the ego, the id and the super-ego. The ego is the source of three of these, each differing in its dynamic nature.

The first of these three ego-resistances is the repression resistance, which we have already discussed above and about which there is least new to be added. Next there is the transference resistance, which is of the same nature but which has different and much clearer effects in analysis, since it succeeds in establishing a relation to the analytic situation or the analyst himself and thus re-animating a repression which should only have been recollected.

The third resistance, though also an ego-resistance, is of quite a different nature. It proceeds from the gain from illness and is based upon an assimilation of the symptom into the ego. It represents an unwillingness to renounce any satisfaction or relief that has been obtained. The fourth variety, arising from the id, is the resistance which, as we have just seen, necessitates "working-through". The fifth, coming from the super-ego and the last to be discovered, is also the most obscure though not always the least powerful one. It seems to originate from the sense of guilt or the need for punishment; and it opposes every move towards success, including, therefore, the patient's own recovery through analysis. (Sigmund Freud: Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, 1926.)

  • Overcoming the resistance of the ego - the working-through

We showed on an earlier occasion that the resistance that has to be overcome in analysis proceeds from the ego, which clings to its anticathexes. It is hard for the ego to direct its attention to perceptions and ideas which it has up till now made a rule of avoiding, or to acknowledge as belonging to itself impulses that are the complete opposite of those which it knows as its own. Our fight against resistance in analysis is based upon this view of the facts.

If the resistance is itself unconscious, as so often happens owing to its connection with the repressed material, we make it conscious. If it is conscious, or when it has become conscious, we bring forward logical arguments against it; we promise the ego rewards and advantages if it will give up its resistance. There can be no doubt or mistake about the existence of this resistance on the part of the ego. But we have to ask ourselves whether it covers the whole state of affairs in analysis. For we find that even after the ego has decided to relinquish its resistances it still has difficulty in undoing the repressions; and we have called the period of strenuous effort which follows after its praiseworthy decision, the phase of "working-through".

The dynamic factor which makes a working-through of this kind necessary and comprehensible is not far to seek. It must be that after the ego's resistance has been removed the power of the compulsion to repeat - the attraction exerted by the unconscious prototype upon the repressed instinctual process - has still to be overcome. There is nothing to be said against describing this factor as the resistance of the unconscious. There is no need to be discouraged by these emendations. They are to be welcomed if they add something to our knowledge, and they are no disgrace to us so long as they enrich rather than invalidate our earlier views - by limiting some statement, perhaps, that was too general or by enlarging some idea that was too narrowly formulated. (Sigmund Freud: Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, 1926.)

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