from the assumption

I decided to start from the assumption that my patients knew everything that was of any pathogenic significance and that it was only a question of obliging them to communicate it. Thus when I reached a point at which, after asking a patient some question such as: ‘How long have you had this symptom?’ or: ‘What was its origin?’, I was met with the answer: ‘I really don’t know,’ I proceeded as follows. I placed my hand on the patient’s forehead or took her head between my hands and said: ‘You will think of it under the pressure of my hand. At the moment at which I relax my pressure you will see something in front of you or something will come into your head. Catch hold of it. It will be what we are looking for. – Well what have you seen or what has occurred to you?’

On the first occasions on which I made use of this procedure (it was not with Miss Lucy R.) I myself was surprised to find that it yielded me the precise results that I needed. And I can safely say that it has scarcely ever left me in the lurch since then. It has always pointed the way which the analysis should take and has enabled me to carry through every such analysis to an end without the use of somnambulism. Eventually I grew so confident that, if patients answered, ’I see nothing’ or ‘nothing has occurred to me’, I could dismiss this as an impossibility and could assure them that they had certainly become aware of what was wanted but had refused to believe that that was so and had rejected it. I told them I was ready to repeat the procedure as often as they liked and they would see the same thing every time. I turned out to be invariably right. The patients had not yet learned to relax their critical faculty. They had rejected the memory that had come up or the idea that had occurred to them, on the ground that it was unserviceable and an irrelevant interruption; and after they had told it to me it always proved to be what was wanted. Occasionally, when, after three or four pressures, I had at last extracted the information, the patient would reply: ‘As a matter of fact I knew that the first time, but it was just what I didn’t want to say’, or: ‘I hoped that would not be it.’

Sigmund Freud (with Breuer) 1893 On The Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena: Preliminary Communication


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