Some Assumptions of Psychoanalytic Communication: Implications of Subliminal Research for Psychoanalytic Method and Technique

  • Howard Shevrin
Part of the The Downstate Series of Research in Psychiatry and Psychology book series (DSRPP, volume 1)


Communication in psychoanalysis is of a very special nature. Although two people talk to each other, it is not merely conversation. Although words are spoken, it does not altogether depend on language. Although the main intent of both parties is to be understood, it is the difficulties in communication which are at the heart of the matter. Finally, although much is said, it is mainly what remains unspoken that is important. Communication meeting these requirements is not ordinary; it is constrained by a method, requiring that one person reveal his thoughts unsparingly to the other person who is listening carefully enough to identify gaps, confusions, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the communication, as well as the tenor of expressed and intimated feelings. The psychoanalyst’s third ear is glued to a psychic stethoscope which magnifies the otherwise unheard stirrings in the unconscious that point to underlying disorder. Further, a special relationship quickly develops between the people involved in this enterprise. Once we recognize that psychoanalytic communication is not ordinary conversation, nor simply one person giving an account of himself to another, but constitutes a highly specialized and uniquely constrained form of dialogue, then we can appreciate how important it is to arrive at some clear idea as to what this method is and what its assumptions are. Further, it is important to know how this method is related to: (1) a body of confirmatory or supportive evidence, and (2) particular applications in a given case (technique).


Convergent Evidence Subliminal Stimulus Subliminal Perception Previous Office American Psychoanalytic Association 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard Shevrin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Michigan Medical CenterAnn ArborUSA

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