Silence in Psychotherapy and Its Analytical Characteristics

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The importance of silence has created and changed after some time. Early psychoanalytic writings examine analysand's silence as an intrapsychic wonder, deciphered as a resistance and transference responses, while analyst's silence has been seen as a procedure to open the analysand's silence, bring out transference and empower verbal communication. After some time, different scholars have come to comprehend silence as an intersubjective procedure of communication and experience between both analyst and analysand with different significance. In this article it is discussed past and current psychoanalytic meaning of silence for both analyst and analysand and how it is used in clinical settings.

Silence in Psychotherapy

Almost no seems to have been composed on the point of silence inside the psychoanalytic writing. In the restricted writing that is accessible the historical backdrop of the subject seems to have pursued a comparable example of advancement to that of other psychoanalytic ideas, for example, transference and countertransference; i.e. at first quietness in sessions was viewed as negative, something to be maintained a strategic distance from and which spoke to a protection from treatment (Arlow 1961: 44-55). Obviously, this can regularly be the situation, yet silence can now additionally be all the more broadly perceived and comprehended as a type of correspondence, a route for the analysand to make the analyst feel those things which can't be articulated. Silence is defined by Deverson in 1991 as an abstinence of sound, absence of noise or speech (as cited in Warin, 2007). Silence between two or more people reflects different psychic states like fear, tranquility, anger agreement, pleasure, disagreement, displeasure (Zelig, 1961). One moment it signifies acceptance and another time it can be insolent. It may be the expression of unacceptable thoughts and feelings. In verbalization, there is a hidden silence. However, it still serves the communication between verbal and non-verbal as compromise (Zelig, 1961).

In therapeutic settings definition of silence differs. At the beginning in psychoanalysis, silence of the analysand was the enemy of succession in therapy (Arlow, 1961). According to Reik (1926) one of the difficulties of psychoanalysis is about words and speech. To analyze is impossible unless analysand speaks (Zelig, 1961). The central point of the analysis depends speaking (Reik, 1926). It is understandable because the name of the technique was talking cure (Arlow, 1961). Function of speech does not only provide communication but also it serves instinctual feelings to be discharged (Zelig, 1961). On the other hand, intersubjective perspective of psychotherapy uses the concept of silence as communication technique which helps to encompass layers of affect and thoughts (Sabbabadini, 1991). Also, it provides active listening, understanding, containment and safe communication to make unconscious to conscious (Warin, 2007). The worth of silent attention has without doubt cached psychoanalysis (Reik, 1926). Wilmer (1995) mentioned that true dialogue is happened when the analyst is listening into the analysands silence not when the analyst is listening to the analysand’s stories, words and dreams. There is always a third which is silence in the conversation of people (Picard, 1953): Silence contains everything within itself. It is not waiting for anything; it is always present in itself and it completely fills the space in which it appears. … Silence has been banished from the world today… All that is left is muteness and emptiness. Silence seems to survive as a mere “structural fault” in the everlasting flow of noise. It is therefore all the more important that silent images should be preserved in the soul. (p. 17)

Nacht (1963) stated that beyond verbal exchanges, true analytic relationship includes not only verbal level but also non-verbal level. Non-verbal communication leads to both analyst and analysand oneness through communication from unconscious to unconscious. This exchange provides the analysand whose level at the pre-object phase to perception of undifferentiated union with the analyst. This non-verbal relationship once conceived in silence of the uncertain, can become animated again just in silence. That is the reason, certain silences of the analysand in the analytic session have appeared an essential condition for the blooming of an inward state dubiously felt by the analysand as proportional to the condition of impeccable and aggregate association which he unwittingly desires. During analysis, silence is neither resting periods nor random intermissions (Zelig, 1961). Silence interpreted as multidetermined ego attitude according to structural ego psychology. Beside structural point of view, dynamic ego psychology supposes that during silence cathexis of aggressive and libidinal feelings discharged and displaced (Zelig, 1961). Not depending on the who is being silent, it affects each other both analyst and the analysand. However, the analyst’s silence is different matter from the analysand silence (Arlow, 1961).

Analyst’s Silence

In psychoanalysis two subjectivities cross, the analysand's abstract reality and the analyst's emotional experience. The interchange of these subjectivities is exceptionally affected by transference and countertransference elements (Atwood and Stolorow, 1984; as cited in Warin, 2007). Countertransference has two unmistakable implications, first the analyst’s transference to the analysand, and second, the analyst's enthusiastic disposition or response towards his analysand (Colman, 2001; as cited in Kurtuluş, 2018).

Standard framework in psychoanalysis shaped the analyst as a listener and the analysand as a talker (Zelig, 1961). This was a baseline of the psychoanalytic treatment and if only the analyst intervenes, the analysand evolves into a listener (Zelig, 1961). Freud (1912) introduce covertly two psychoanalytic techniques for the analyst about silence. One of includes the analyst as a mirror and second one involves analyst’s abstinence (as cited in Warin, 2007). Also, both of techniques mean the analyst as a blank screen. This provide the analysand to use the analyst by projection of his unconscious conflicts and fantasies (Warin, 2997). Arlow (1961) likens the analyst’s silence to the nursing technique by minimization of external stimulation source. Pressman is the first theorist about silence in psychoanalysis. According to Pressman (1961), silence is a matrix that creates the atmosphere in which analysands free association could intervene. In addition, beside the intrapsychic quality of silence, it is also interpersonal phenomenon and both of the intrapsychic and interpersonal phenomenon is understood in the light of the real analyst-analysand relationship or reactions (Brockbank, 1970; as cited in Warin, 2007).

Beside the theoretical interpretation of the silence Levitt (2001) conducted an empirical study about analysand’s silence. She tried to categorize the analysand’s pauses and she finds 7 different pauses which are interactional, emotional, disengaged, reflexive, expressive, mnemonic and associational and she collects these pauses in 3 categories that are productive silences, neutral silences and obstructive silences. This research can help when the analyst is interpreting the analysand’s silence however, Reik (1926) emphasizes the importance of difference between muteness of a person who has a voice and a person who does not speak even if his wishes to hear. In other words, it is not the same not speaking and silence. Use of silence as a technique becomes important. Arlow (1961) stated that silence and interpretation act as the same in terms of analyst’s interventions. Like inappropriate interpretation, inappropriate silence of the analyst disturbs the process (Zelig, 1961). Interchangeably, the analyst’s proper silence markedly has a advantageous effect. The analysand can find the meaning of his own silence which emotional factors is hidden, if the analyst’s silence can be emphatic and objective (Zelig, 1961).

To overcome analysand’s resistance, to uncover instinctual wishes and to make the unconscious to conscious, analyst’s silence displays itself as essential and irreplaceable method (Warin, 2007). Also, silence can be seen as a tool for productive and communicative process in psychoanalysis for both analyst and analysand. According to most of the cases, at the beginning of the sessions, analyst’s silence has a calming effect (Reik,1926). This silence is taken by the analysand as a sign of calm attention. Therefore, silence of the analyst gives the encourage the analysand precise himself freely. The best feasibility to establish communication is provided by the analyst’s silence (Reik, 1926).

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Throughout time, analytic abstinence was left by relational perspective (Wairn, 2007). Then, silence can be taken the interplay between analyst and analysand and it facilitates transferential dynamics, the understanding of feelings and fantasies and affects burdened events and forgotten materials (Friedman, 1980; as cited in Warin, 2007). Similarly, Sabbadini (1991) states the silence as interpersonal phenomenon and analyst’s use of silence for improving the analysand’s inner world. Shafii (1973) add this thought that like interpretation, convenient silence of the analyst and the analysand had a healing effect.

An analyst is arranged in a countertransference position whether they know about it or not. Not comprehension and utilizing countertransference completely, may obstruct specialists' adequacy or on the other hand keep specialists from following the developments and encounters of their own 'psychical functioning.' (Faimberg, 1992; as cited in Warin, 2007). Expanding on Faimberg's works, Stern (2002) trusted that it is just through the consciousness of, and inside the setting of transference and countertransference that the connection between what can and can't be said is significant. Stern recommended that the most noteworthy piece of dialect is here and there, what it cannot talk. He paid specific consideration regarding the contrast among 'words' and 'silence' and how dialect and silence cooperate inside the psychotherapeutic process (as cited in Warin, 2007).

According to object relation theory, pre-oedipal or pre-object stages re-enacted in psychotherapy in terms of presence of the therapist. They clarify the silence as a holding environment (Kurtuluş, 2018). Silence of therapist enables to create a longing for oneness like mother-infant relationship. After preverbal relationship develops reparative experience occurs (Warin, 2007). Unlikely to the classical approach, object relational perspective requires silence because analyst’s function is containing and holding. Sabbadini (1991) add to this idea that silence in the therapeutic hour functions as a form of container of words.

Silence as a communication technique is extended to the idea that analyst hears the analysand through his silence and doing this provide the analysand a sense of security and the analyst possibility of exploration (Beazley 1997 as cited in Warin, 2007). According to Reik (1926), interpretation or speech has a reactive force on the analysands because the things which analysand does not admit himself has been told by analyst. Right at this point, effect of silence is added this concept. The silent analyst as a listener strength the reactive effect. This kind of silence has a stronger effect than words or interpretation itself since now the analysand becomes conscious about analyst’s silence (Reik, 1926).

Analysand’s Silence

Greenson (1973) states that wordless emotions like panic, rage, grief are not soundless. Speechless does not mean the analysand does not experience something. Especially in extreme emotional situations, verbalization is harder, and these kinds of feelings expressed more primitively. If the topic is the silence, it cannot be interpreted without the body image. If analysand’s silence comes with open eyes, the analysand does not have a trust toward the analyst. On the other hand, it comes with close eyes it is likely derived from love and acceptance and it is again about the trust of the analysand (Greenson, 1973).

Most of the analysand’s silence can be interpreted as resistance. Basic principle of the psychoanalytic technique for the analysand is putting all thoughts into words, that is why, if the analysand becomes silent this means the analysand unwilling to verbalize either conscious or unconscious (Greenson, 1973). To verbalize leads the analysand discharge of controllable energies as a smaller quantity for more enormous discharge in the cathexes of the unconscious system. That is why silence of the analysand can be understood as resistance (Arlow, 1961). This silence of the resistance is understood by Freud (1939) in two ways: firstly, it is transference resistance and secondly it is as a remembering resistance (as cited in Warin, 2007). On the other hand, Nacht (1961) discussed the analysand’s resistance in terms of the silence. According to Nacht (1961), to become silence means the resistance, the analyst has to be feared from it. Beside all of these, according to Reik (1926), if the analysand find himself in an unfamiliar or strange situation, this kind of silence is caused by superficial resistance. Then analysand interpret the analyst’s silence differently and he also becomes silent. Reik called this situation as awkwardness. Finally, the resisting component of silence can cause the fear to the analysand that the therapist cannot aware his needs and is not trustable or it may simply be a resistance towards change (Nacht, 1963).

Another point of view that sees quiet as useless is its depiction as an indication that identifies with depression (Weinberger, 1964; as cited in Kurtuluş, 2018). For depressive analysands, silence speaks to a get-together with the affection object in an enduring state (Arlow, 1961). Silence communicates the passing of a special and close association with the mother amid childhood, maybe because of a mother's disease or something unique. Without a substitute or pay for this misfortune, any failure of the customer's narcissistic requests for acknowledgment and love is communicated through silence, as there are no words to pass on the torment of this misfortune or the sentiment of insufficiency. From one perspective, these side effects keep the likelihood of another misfortune and further damage. Then again, in an uninvolved and unconscious manner, silence reestablishes the lost association with the mother. It is not as such that these analysands wish for, yet the merger encounter with the analyst (Olinick, 1982; as cited in Kurtuluş, 2018).

According to Ferenczi (1916) the analysand’s silence is used as a defense against discharge of conflictual feelings (as cited in Zelig, 1961). If the analysand’s silence means defensive function, it is hard to uncover the clinical phenomena because this kind of silence disrupt the technique of free association (Arlow, 1961). In respect to psychoanalytic literature silence can be seen mostly defense mechanism like regression, repression, fixation etc. Arlow (1961) stated that this silence which establishes a huge countercathexis with respect to the ego against the requests of the id. It was this marvel which driven Freud to conceptualize suppression metapsychologically as a notwithstanding of the cathexis of the framework unconscious from any association with the store of verbal pictures of the framework preconscious (Kurtuluş, 2018). This specific silence is a prototype of repression (Arlow, 1961).

During treatment, a special form of temporary, recurrent interruption of speech, a blank silence can actualise, which can be defined as a temporary regression of the ego, when confusing preverbal experiences may get reenacted (Arlow, 1961). The disruptions in speech in the regressive states may be a consequence of unconscious forces operating in the service of the id, or in the service of the ego in averting anxiety stemming from the id or the superego (Arlow 1961). A silent regressive state may also be indicative of alteration of object relations (Heide, 1961; as cited in Kurtuluş, 2018). It might, represent fusion with the object in a blissful narcissistic sleep, where the analysand seem to have no thoughts or conscious withholding of thoughts or fantasy (Shafii 1973).

Silence of analysand can be an essential part of the analysis and can be a form of communication. (Greenson, 1961). It can incorporate a great deal of implications and in some cases can be more significant than discourse as a sort of no-word dialect. Analysand's silence can be deciphered additionally as a procedure toward verbalization (Lowenstein, 1956 as cited in Warin, 2007). Past the perspective of silence just like a segment to discourse or another dialect supplanting discourse, silence in the analytical space may likewise be open through an unconscious reenactment. (Greenson, 1961). In respect to ego psychology, the analysand introjects the analyst’s voice, words and attitudes to satisfy his unconscious needs (Zelig, 1963). In this point, analyst’s silence is also introjected, and it gives the satisfaction to the analysand. There was a huge literature about silence, but it is too dispersed. Authors wanted to make a point to silence in analysis however they do not know how to deal with this concept properly. It is said the meaning of the silence in the transference and the countertransference. In most of the analytic frame, already anything cannot be thought without transference and countertransference. Also, most of the article was written depending authors clinical observation. In other words, in each case it was presented different kind of silence and these results was tried to be applied in clinical settings as a theory. This creates the confusion in terms of silence and they contradict themselves because both authors said the uniqueness of each case or different types of the silence and still conclusions of these cases were tried to put into analytic frame.

To sum up, meaning of silence in psychotherapy is tried to discuss in this article. Because of the nature of silence, it’s meaning in clinical settings has to investigated as intertwiningly. The analyst’s silence cannot be thought without his analysand and the analysand’s silence cannot be thought of his analyst. Silence is important because if there is no silence between words speech does not make sense to us. As Picard (1953) says: “The solitary life being silent, clears away the smoke-screen of words that man has laid down between his mind and things. In silence we remain face to face with the nakedness of being of things. And yet we find the nakedness of reality which we have feared, is neither a terror nor a shame. It is clothed in the friendly communication of silence; this silence is related to love.” (p. 92)

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