Here’s a paragraph in Bruce Fink’s book on psychoanalytic technique that I read on the plane yesterday. In his chapter on interpreting, Fink recounts an episode from his practice — an episode with which some of us in the blog world are familiar as recounted by the analysand.
One of my analysands told me that he had noticed he was no longer putting so much pressure on his chalk when writing on the blackboard that it would break, which he had been wont to do for some time when standing in front of his class (much to his embarrassment). This change apparently occurred after I had rearranged a few of his words, saying something like “pressure at the board” (referring to pressure he had felt as a child when called on by teachers to perform at the blackboard, and to pressure he was putting on himself to fail for a whole variety of reasons). He had not given my phrase any thought at the time but realized a couple of weeks later that he was no longer breaking chalk, even though he was not making any special effort to ease up and did not know why he had stopped. Although this is just a micro-symptom, it points to the fact that the analysand need not even become conscious of what had been unconscious for a symptom to disappear, as long as enough of it is verbalized by the analyst, the analysand, or the two together building on each other’s words. It also points to the fact that the analyst need not know that what she has said has had an effect — I would not have known if the analysand himself had not told me a few weeks later.
The analyst’s implicit interpretation — that the analysand was feeling too much pressure, putting too much pressure on himself — seems pretty straightforward. As I recall, though I’d have to check the original source to be sure, the analysand’s self-interpretation was much more convoluted than this. Presumably he arrived at his own understanding only after his behavior had already changed and he’d stopped breaking chalk.