I cannot advise my colleagues too urgently to model themselves during psycho-analytic treatment on the surgeon, who puts aside all his feelings, even his human sympathy, and concentrates his mental forces on the single aim of performing the operation as skilfully as possible (Freud 1912(b): 115).

It is certainly possible to forfeit this first success if from the start one takes up any standpoint other than one of sympathetic understanding, such as a moralizing one, or if one behaves like a representative or advocate of some contending party – of the other member of a married couple, for instance (Freud 1913(a): 140).

Transference provides the impulse necessary for understanding and translating the language of the unconscious; where it is lacking, the patient does not make the effort or does not listen when we submit our translation to him. Essentially, one might say, the cure is effected by love (Freud 1906: 12).

I have already let it be understood that analytic technique requires of the physician that he should deny to the patient who is craving for love the satisfaction she demands. The treatment must be carried out in abstinence (Freud 1915: 164).

I am not saying anything else when I say that love is the sign that one is changing discourses (Lacan 1998 [1973]: 16). 

What does an analyst know? What does an analyst want? What does an analyst do? The relational school has often been described as a postmodern turn within Anglo-American psychoanalysis and as a corrective to the modernism and objectivism of the American classical school. (Space does not allow for an interrogation of that claim, but writers such as Frie (2002), Reis (2005) and Richards (2002) are unconvinced, while Schwartz (2002) offers a challenging deconstructionist critique of the Greenberg paper discussed here). It has certainly allowed for a more flexible and creative use of technique compared to the technical conservatism of the classical school. (It should be mentioned that although the relational school’s rejection of the classical school is often taken as a rejection of Freudian theory, the American classical school’s grounding in ego psychology positions the classical school as post-Freudian rather than Freudian). Following the relational critique of positions based on knowledge and authority, can a clear position be taken up in relation to the nature of the analyst’s participation? A preliminary examination of some of these issues is offered through a review of Greenberg’s 2001 paper ‘The Analyst’s Participation – A New Look’ – unusual as a critical commentary of the relational turn from within that school. Lacanian theory, in particular Lacan’s theory of the Four Discourses, is offered as a means to clarify some of the issues raised by Greenberg. (All references to Greenberg are in respect of this paper). 

Particular attention will be paid here to Greenberg’s assertion that:

Neutrality and abstinence, keystones of classical technique, are mythic and therefore empty concepts (362).