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Pandora's Box: On The Function Of Secrecy In Psychoanalysis

The Letter, Issue 10, Summer 1997, Pages 86 - 97


PANDORA'S BOX ON THE FUNCTION OF SECRECY IN PSYCHOANALYSIS*


Katrien Libbrecht


Introduction

One of the chapters of Herbert Strean's Behind the Couch. Revelations of a Psychoanalyst invokes the story of Mr. X, a man who entered analysis with the statement that he would tell everything to the analyst, except his name: 'Just put me down on your list as Mr. X'.[1] This could be a pure Freudian case-history, if it were not for the observation that Strean, despite his overwhelming curiosity and eagerness to know, does not force his analysand to unveil the secret of his name. Instead, he relies on the reactions that this analysand conjures up in him - his so- called counter-transference - to direct the analytic process to the point where Mr. X acknowledges his own identity and the fantasy enclosed in his name, Reginald - 'My friends call me Reggie'. In the aftermath of lifting the secret of his name, Reginald reveals other secrets, that is, other elements he had until then willingly hidden from the analyst.

Reginald entered analysis with the conviction that analysts are very persistent people, in that thev force their analvsands to tell them everything that comes to mind. Moreover, as Mr. X, he explicitly challenged the Freudian ground-rule in forcing the analyst to accept him on this one condition that he could keep his name secret. The case-study perfectly matches Freud's experiences with the analytic ground-rule of free association, namely that every patient, in his or her own way, tries to create at least one exception to the rule of telling everything that comes to mind.[2] However, Strean's reaction to his patient's secrecy differs from Freud's.

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