The roots of empathy and aggression in analysis



Abstract:  Empathy and interpretation have complementary roles in analysis. Empathy diminishes psychological arousal, ego-defences, and promotes the therapeutic relationship. Interpretation, when adopted in the service of character analysis and the uncovering of unconscious conflict, represents one element of a larger set of interventions termed analytic aggression, whose primary goal is to promote insight. Psychoanalysis has been increasingly influenced by derivative theories that promote the therapeutic relationship. Clinical observations suggest that the application of analytic aggression has diminished and that many modern treatments may have become overly skewed towards empathic approaches. This paper explores ethical humanism, Jamesian typology, and feminine psychology, as factors that have contributed to the diminished emphasis on analytic aggression in practice. Eastern myth and Buddhist psychology are used to explicate the core features of narcissistic mental structuring and to support the continued importance of analytic aggression in its treatment. Case material is examined to elucidate the benefits and limits of analytic aggression.