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Resistance

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French: résistance
Sigmund Freud

Freud first used the term "resistance" to designate the unwillingness to recall repressed memories to consciousness.

Treatment

Since psychoanalytic treatment involves precisely such recollection, the term soon came to denote all those obstacles that arise during the treatment and interrupt its progress:

"Whatever disturbs the progress of the work isa resistance."[1]

Resistance manifests itself in all the ways in which the subject breaks the "fundamental rule" of saying everything that comes into his mind.

Psychoanalytic Theory

Though present in Freud's work from the beginning, the concept of resistance began to play an increasingly important part in psychoanalytic theory as a result of the decreasing efficacy of analytic treatment in the decade 1910-20.

As a consequence of this, ego-psychology placed increasing importance on overcoming the patient's resistances.

Lacan's Criticism

Lacan is very critical of this shift in emphasis, arguing that it easily leads to an "inquisitorial" style of psychoanalysis which sees resistance as based on the "fundamental ill will" of the patient.[2]

Lacan argues that this overlooks the structural nature of resistance and reduces analysis to an imaginary dual relation.[3]

Lacan does accept that psychoanalytic treatment involves "analysis of resistances," but only on condition that this phrase is understood correctly, in the sense of "knowing at what level the answer should be pitched."[4]

In other words, the crucial thing is that the analyst should be able to distinguish between interventions that are primarily orientated towards the imaginary and those that are orientated towards the symbolic, and know which are appropriate at each moment of the treatment.

Structural Resistance

In Lacan's view, resistance is not a question of the ill will of the analysand; resistance is structural, and it is inherent in the analytic process.

This is due, ultimately, to a structural "incompatibility between desire and speech."[5]

Therefore there is a certain irreducible level of resistance which can never be "overcome".

"After the reduction of the resistances, there is a residue which may be what is essential."[6]
Suggestion

This irreducible "residue" of resistance is "essential" because it is the respect for this residue that distinguishes psychoanalysis from suggestion.

Psychoanalysis respects the right of the patient to resist suggestion and indeed values that resistance.

"When the subject's resistance opposes suggestion, it is only a desire to maintain the subject's desire. As such it would have to be placed in the ranks of positive transference."[7]
Analyst and Analysand

However, Lacan points out that while the analyst cannot, and should not try to, overcome all resistance, he can minimise it, or at least avoid exacerbating it.[8]

He can do this by recognizing his own part in the analysand's resistance, for "there is no other resistance to analysis than that of the analyst himself."[9]

This is to be understood in two ways:

Lure

The resistance of the analysand can only succeed in obstructing the treatment when it responds to and/or evokes a resistance on the part of the analyst, i.e. when the analyst is drawn into the lure of resistance (as Freud was drawn into the lure of Dora's resistance).

"The patient's resistance is always your own, and when a resistance succeeds it is because you [the analyst] are in it up to your neck, because you understand."[10]

Thus the analyst must follow the rule of neutrality and not be drawn into the lures set for him by the patient.

Interpretation

It is the analyst who provokes resistance by pushing the analysand:

"There is no resistance on the part of the subject."[11]
"Resistance is the present state of an interpretation of the subject. It is the manner in which, at the same time, the subject interprets the point he's got to. ... It simply means that he [the patient] cannot move any faster."[12]

Psychoanalytic treatment works on the principle that by not forcing the patient, resistance is reduced to the irreducible minimum.

Thus the analyst must avoid all forms of suggestion.

Ego

The source of resistance lies in the ego:

"In the strict sense, the subject's resistance is linked to the register of the ego, it is an effect of the ego."[13]
Imaginary Order

Thus resistance belongs to the imaginary order, not to the level of the subject.

"On the side of what is repressed, on the unconscious side of things, there is no resistance, there is only a tendency to repeat."[14]

This is illustrated in schema L; resistance is the imaginary axis a-a' which impedes the insistant speech of the Other (which is the axis A-S).

The resistances of the ego are imaginary lures, which the analyst must be wary of being deceived by.[15]

Thus it can never be the aim of analysis to "strengthen the ego," as ego-psychology claims, since this would only serve to increase resistance.

Ego-psychology
Resistance and Defence

Lacan also criticizes ego-psychology for confusing the concept of resistance with that of defense.

However, the distinction which Lacan draws between these two concepts is rather different from the way in which they are distinguished in Anglo-American psychoanalysis.

Lacan argues that defence is on the side of the subject, whereas resistance is on the side of the object.

That is, whereas defences are relatively stable symbolic structures of subjectivity, resistances are more transitory forces which prevent the object from being absorbed in the signifying chain.

See Also

References

  1. Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900a. SE IV-V, 517
  2. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 30
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 78; Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 333ff
  4. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p. 43
  5. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 275
  6. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p.321
  7. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.271
  8. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p. 228
  9. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 235
  10. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.48
  11. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p.228
  12. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p.228
  13. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p.127
  14. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p.321
  15. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 168