The Art of Psychoanalysis

This is only available in one place on the internet and it has changed how I interact with difficult people.  I'll explain below, hopefull this will fit here, it's worth the read.


The Art of Psychoanalysis

Enough research has been done by social scientists to corroborate many of Freud’s ideas about unconscious processes. Yet there has been surprisingly little scientific investigation of what actually occurs during psychoanalytic treatment. Fortunately this situation has been remedied by a scholar on the faculty of Potters College in Yeovil, England. Assigned a field trip in America, this anonymous student spent several years here studying the art of psychoanalysis both as a patient and a practitioner. His investigation culminated in a three-volume work entitled The Art of Psychoanalysis, or Some Aspects of a Structured Situation Consisting of Two-Group Interaction Which Embodies Certain of the Most Basic Principles of One-up-manship. Like most studies written for Potters College the work was unpublished and accessible only to a few favored members of the clinical staff. However, a copy was briefly in this writer’s hands, and he offers here a summary of the research findings for those who wish to foster the dynamic growth of Freudian theory and sharpen the techniques of a difficult art.

Unfamiliar terms will be translated into psychoanalytic terminology throughout this summary, but a few general definitions are necessary at once. First of all, a complete definition of the technical term “one-up-manship” would fill, and in fact has filled, a rather large encyclopedia. It can be defined briefly here as the art of putting a person “one-down.” The term “one-down” is technically defined as that psychological state which exists in an individual who is not “one-up” on another person. To be “one-up” is technically defined as that psychological state of an individual who is not “one-down.” To phrase these terms in popular language, at the risk of losing scientific rigor, it can be said that in any human relationship (and indeed among other mammals) one person is constantly maneuvering to imply that he is in a “superior position” to the other person in the relationship. This “superior position” does not necessarily mean superior in social status or economic position; many servants are masters at putting their employers one-down. Nor does it imply intellectual superiority as any intellectual knows who has been put “one-down” by a muscular garbage collector in a bout of Indian wrestling. “Superior position” is a relative term, which is continually being defined and re-defined by the ongoing relationship. Maneuvers to achieve superior position may be crude or they may be infinitely subtle. For example, one is not usually in a superior position if he must ask another person for something. Yet he can ask for it in such a way that he is implying, “This is, of course, what I deserve.” Since the number of ways of maneuvering oneself into a superior position are infinite, let us proceed at once to summarize the psychoanalytic techniques as described in the three volume study.

Psychoanalysis, according to the Potters study, is a dynamic psychological process involving two people, a patient and a psychoanalyst, during which the patient insists that the analyst be one-up while desperately trying to put him one-down, and the analyst insists that the patient remain one-down in order to help him learn to become one-up. The goal of the relationship is the amicable separation of analyst and patient.

Carefully designed, the psychoanalytic setting makes the superior position of the analyst almost invincible. First of all, the patient must voluntarily come to the analyst for help, thus conceding his inferior position at the beginning of the relationship. In addition, the patient accentuates his one-down position by paying the analyst money. Occasionally analysts have recklessly broken this structured situation by treating patients free of charge. Their position was difficult because the patient was not regularly reminded (on payday) that he must make a sacrifice to support the analyst, thus acknowledging the analyst’s superior position before a word is said. It is really a wonder that any patient starting from this weak position could ever become one-up on an analyst, but in private discussions analysts will admit, and in fact tear at their hair while admitting, that patients can be extremely adroit and use such a variety of clever ploys that an analyst must be nimble to maintain his superior position.


Space does not permit a review of the history of psychoanalysis here, but it should be noted that early in its development it became obvious that the analyst needed reinforcement of the setting if he was to remain one-up on patients more clever than he. An early reinforcement was the use of a couch for the patient to lie down upon. (This is often called “Freud’s ploy,” as are most ploys in psychoanalysis.) By placing the patient on a couch, the analyst gives the patient the feeling of having his feet up in the air and the knowledge that the analyst has both feet on the ground. Not only is the patient disconcerted by having to lie down while talking, but he finds himself literally below the analyst and so his one-down position is geographically emphasized. In addition, the analyst seats himself behind the couch where he can watch the patient but the patient cannot watch him. This gives the patient the sort of disconcerted feeling a person has when sparring with an opponent while blindfolded. Unable to see what response his ploys provoke, he is unsure when he is one-up and when one-down. Some patients try to solve this problem by saying something like, “I slept with my sister last night,” and then whirling around to see how the analyst is responding. These “shocker” ploys usually fail in their effect. The analyst may twitch, but he has time to recover before the patient can whirl fully around and see him. Most analysts have developed ways of handling the whirling patient. As the patient turns, they are staring off into space, or doodling with a pencil, or braiding belts, or staring at tropical fish. It is essential that the rare patient who gets an opportunity to observe the analyst see only an impassive demeanor.

Another purpose is served by the position behind the couch. Inevitably what the analyst says becomes exaggerated in importance since the patient lacks any other means of determining his effect on the analyst. The patient finds himself hanging on the analyst’s every word, and by definition he who hangs on another’s words is one-down.

Perhaps the most powerful weapon in the analyst’s arsenal is the use of silence. This falls in the category of “helpless” or “refusal to battle” ploys. It is impossible to win a contest with a helpless opponent since if you win you have won nothing. Each blow you strike is unreturned so that all you can feel is guilt for having struck while at the same time experiencing the uneasy suspicion that the helplessness is calculated. The result is suppressed fury and desperation – two emotions characterizing the one-down position. The problem posed for the patient is this: how can I get one-up on a man who won’t respond and compete with me for the superior position in fair and open encounter.

Patients find solutions, of course, but it takes months, usually years, of intensive analysis before a patient finds ways to force a response from his analyst. Ordinarily the patient begins rather crudely by saying something like, “Sometimes I think you’re an idiot.” He waits for the analyst to react defensively, thus stepping one-down. Instead the analyst replies with the silence ploy. The patient goes further and says, “I’m sure you’re an idiot.” Still silence in reply. Desperately the patient says, “I said you were an idiot, damn you, and you are!” Again only silence. What can the patient do but apologize, thus stepping voluntarily into a one-down position. Often a patient discovers how effective the silence ploy is and attempts to use it himself. This ends when he realizes that he is paying a large sum each hour, to lie silent on a couch. The psychoanalytic setting is calculatedly designed to prevent patients’ using the ploys of analysts to attain equal footing (although as an important part of the cure the patient learns to use them effectively with other people).

Few improvements have been made on Freud’s original brilliant design. As the basic plan for the hammer could not be improved upon by carpenters, so the use of the voluntary patient, hourly pay, the position behind the couch, and silence, are devices which have not been improved upon by the practitioners of psychoanalysis.

Although the many ways of handling patients learned by the analyst cannot be listed here, a few general principles can be mentioned. Inevitably a patient entering analysis begins to use ploys which have put him one-up in previous relationships (this is called a “neurotic pattern”). The analyst learns to devastate these maneuvers of the patient. A simple way, for example, is to respond inappropriately to what the patient says. This puts the patient in doubt about everything he has learned in relationships with other people. The patient may say, “Everyone should be truthful,” hoping to get the analyst to agree with him and thereby follow his lead. He who follows another’s lead is one-down. The analyst may reply with silence, a rather weak ploy in this circumstance, or he may say, “Oh?” The “Oh?” is given just the proper inflection to imply, “How on earth could you have ever conceived such an idea?” This not only puts the patient in doubt about his statement, but in doubt about what the analyst means by “Oh?”. Doubt is, of course, the first step toward one-downness. When in doubt the patient tends to lean on the analyst to resolve the doubt, and we lean on those who are superior to us. Analytic maneuvers designed to arouse doubt in a patient are instituted early in analysis. For example, the analyst may say, “I wonder if that’s really what you’re feeling.” The use of “really” is standard in analytic practice. It implies the patient has motivations of which he is not aware. Anyone feels shaken, and therefore one-down, when this suspicion is put in his mind.

Doubt is related to the “unconscious ploy,” an early development in psychoanalysis. This ploy is often considered the heart of analysis since it is the most effective way of making the patient unsure of himself. Early in an analysis the skilled analyst points out to the patient that he (the patient) has unconscious processes operating and is deluding himself if he thinks he really knows what he is saying. When the patient accepts this idea he can only rely on the analyst to tell him (or, as it is phrased, “to help him discover”) what he really means. Thus he burrows himself deeper into the one-down position, making it easy for the analyst to top almost any ploy he devises. For example, the patient may cheerfully describe what a fine time he had with his girl friend, hoping to arouse some jealousy (a one-down emotion) in the analyst. The appropriate reply for the analyst is, “I wonder what that girl really means to you.” This raises a doubt in the patient whether he is having intercourse with a girl named Susy or an unconscious symbol. Inevitably he turns to the analyst to help him discover what the girl really means to him.

Regularly in the course of an analysis, particularly if the patient becomes obstreperous (uses resistance ploys), the analyst makes an issue of free association and dreams. Now a person must feel he knows what he is talking about to feel in a superior position. No one can maneuver to become one-up while free-associating or narrating his dreams. The most absurd statements inevitably will be uttered. At the same time the analyst hints that there are meaningful ideas in this absurdity. This not only makes the patient feel that he is saying ridiculous things, but that he is saying things, which the analyst sees meaning in and he doesn’t. Such an experience would shake anyone, and inevitably drives the patient into a one-down position. Of course if the patient refuses to free associate or tell his dreams, the analyst reminds him that he is defeating himself by being resistant.

A resistance interpretation falls in the general class of “turning it back on the patient” ploys. All attempts, particularly successful ones, to put the analyst one-down can be interpreted as resistance to treatment. The patient is made to feel that it is his fault that therapy is going badly. Carefully preparing in advance, the skillful analyst informs the patient in the first interview that the path to happiness is difficult and he will at times resist getting well and indeed may even resent the analyst for helping him. With this background even a refusal to pay the fee or a threat to end the analysis can be turned into apologies with an impersonal attitude by the analyst (the “not taking it personally” ploy) and an interpretation about resistance. At times the analyst may let the patient re-enter the one-down position gently by pointing out that his resistance is a sign of progress and change taking place in him.

The main difficulty with most patients is their insistence on dealing directly with the analyst once they begin to feel some confidence. When the patient begins to look critically at the analyst and threaten an open encounter, several “distraction” ploys are brought into play. The most common is the “concentrate on the past” ploy. Should the patient discuss the peculiar way the analyst refuses to respond to him, the analyst will inquire, “I wonder if you’ve had this feeling before. Perhaps your parents weren’t very responsive.” Soon they are busy discussing the patient’s childhood without the patients’ ever discovering that the subject has been changed. Such a ploy is particularly effective when the patient begins to use what he has learned in analysis to make comments about the analyst.

In his training the young analyst learns the few rather simple rules that he must follow. The first is that it is essential to keep the patient feeling one-down while stirring him to struggle gamely in the hope that he can get one-up (this is called “transference”). Secondly, the analyst must never feel one-down (this is called “counter-transference”). The training analysis is designed to help the young analyst learn what it is like to experience a one-down position. By acting like a patient he learns what it feels like to conceive a clever ploy, deliver it expertly, and find himself put thoroughly one-down.

Even after two or three years in a training analysis seeing his weak ploys devastated, an analyst will occasionally use one with a patient and find himself forced into a one-down position. Despite the brilliant structure of the analytic fortress, and the arsenal of ploys learned in training, all men are human and to be human is to be occasionally one-down. The training emphasizes how to get out of the one-down position quickly when in it. The general ploy is to accept the one-down position “voluntarily” when it is inescapable. Finding the patient one-up, the analyst may say, “You have a point there,” or “I must admit I made a mistake.” The more daring analyst will say, “I wonder why I became a little anxious when you said that.” Note that all these statements seem to show the analyst to be one-down and the patient one-up, but one requires defensive behavior. By deliberately acknowledging his inferior position the analyst is actually maintaining his superior position, and the patient finds that once again a clever ploy has been topped by a helpless, or refusal to do battle, ploy. At times the “acceptance” technique cannot be used because the analyst is too sensitive in that area. Should a patient discover that this analyst gets embarrassed when homosexual ideas are discussed, he may rapidly exploit this. The analyst who takes such comments personally is lost. His only chance for survival is to anticipate in his diagnostic interviews those patients capable of discovering and exploiting this weakness and refer them to analysts with different weaknesses.

The more desperate ploys by patients are also anticipated in analytic training. A patient will at times be so determined to get one-up on his analyst that he will adopt the “suicide” ploy. Many analysts immediately suffer a one-down feeling when a patient threatens suicide. They hallucinate newspaper headlines and hear their colleagues chuckling as they whisper the total number of patients who got one-up on them by jumping off the bridge. The common way to prevent the use of this ploy is to take it impersonally. The analyst says something like, “Well, I’d be sorry if you blew your brains out, but I would carry on with my work.” The patient abandons his plans as he realizes that even killing himself will not put him one-up on this man.

Orthodox psychoanalytic ploys can be highlighted by contrasting them with the more unorthodox maneuvers. There is, for example, the Rogerian system of ploys where the therapist merely repeats back what the patient says. This is an inevitably winning system. No one can top a person who merely repeats his ideas after him. When the patient accuses the therapist of being no use to him, the therapist replies, “You feel I’m no use to you.” The patient says, “That’s right, you’re not worth a damn.” The therapist says, “You feel I’m not worth a damn.” This ploy, even more than the orthodox silence ploy, eliminates any triumphant feeling in the patient and makes him feel a little silly after awhile (a one-down feeling). Most orthodox analysts look upon the Rogerian ploys as not only weak but not quite respectable. They don’t give the patient a fair chance.

The ethics of psychoanalysis require the patient be given at least a reasonably fair chance. Ploys, which simply devastate the patient, are looked down on. Analysts who use them are thought to need more analysis themselves to give them a range of more legitimate ploys and confidence in using them. For instance, it isn’t considered proper to encourage a patient to discuss a subject and then lose interest when he does. This puts the patient one-down, but it is a wasted ploy since he wasn’t trying to become one-up. If the patient makes such an attempt then of course losing interest may be a necessary gambit.

Another variation on orthodox psychoanalytic ploys demonstrates a few of their limitations. The psychotic continually demonstrates that he is superior to orthodox ploys. He refuses to “volunteer” for analysis. He won’t take a sensible interest in money. He won’t lie quietly on the couch and talk while the analyst listens out of sight behind him. The structure of the analytic situation seems to irritate the psychotic. In fact when orthodox ploys are used against him, the psychotic is likely to tear up the office and kick the analyst in the genitals (this is called an inability to establish a transference). The average analyst is made uncomfortable by psychotic ploys and therefore avoids such patients. Recently some daring therapists have found they can get one-up on a psychotic patient if they work in pairs. This is now called the “it takes two to put one down” therapy, or “multiple therapy.” For example, if a psychotic talks compulsively and won’t even pause to listen, two therapists enter the room and begin to converse with each other. Unable to restrain his curiosity (a one-down emotion) the psychotic will stop talking and listen, thus leaving himself open to be put one-down.

The master one-up-man with psychotics is a controversial psychiatrist known affectionately in the profession as “The Bull.” When a compulsive talker won’t listen to him, the Bull pulls a knife on the fellow and attracts his attention. No other therapist is so adroit at topping even the most determined patient. Other therapists require hospitals, attendants, shock treatments, lobotomies, drugs, restraints, and tubs, to place the patient in a sufficiently one-down position. The Bull, with mere words and the occasional flash of a pocket knife, manages to make the most difficut psychotic feel one-down.

An interesting contrast to the Bull is a woman known in the profession as “The Lovely Lady of the Lodge.” Leading the league in subtle one-up-manship with psychotics, she avoids the Bull’s ploys which are often considered rather crude and not always in the best of taste. If a patient insists he is God, the Bull will insist that he is God and force the patient to his knees, thus getting one-up in a rather straightforward way. To handle a similar claim by a patient, The Lady of the Lodge will smile and say, “All right, if you wish to be God, I’ll let you.” The patient is gently put one-down as he realizes that no one but God can let anyone else be God.

Although orthodox psychoanalytic ploys may be limited to work with neurotics no one can deny their success. The experienced analyst can put a patient one-down while planning where to have dinner at the same time. Of course this skill in one-up-manship has raised extraordinary problems when analysts compete with one another at meetings of the psychoanalytic associations. No other gathering of people exhibits so many complicated ways of gaining the upper hand. Most of the struggle at an analytic meeting takes place at a rather personal level, but the manifest content involves attempts to (1) demonstrate who was closest to Freud or can quote him most voluminously, and (2) who can confuse the most people by his daring extension of Freud’s terminology. The man who can achieve both these goals best is generally elected president of the association.

The manipulation of language is the most startling phenomenon at an analytic meeting. Obscure terms are defined and redefined by even more obscure terms as analysts engage in furious theoretical discussions. This is particularly true when the point at issue is whether a certain treatment of a patient was really psychoanalysis or not. Such a point is inevitably raised when a particularly brilliant case history is presented.

What happens between analyst and patient, or the art of one-up-manship, is rarely discussed at the meetings (apparently the techniques are too secret for public discussion). This means the area for debate becomes the processes within the dark and dank interior of the patient. Attempting to outdo one another in explanations of the bizarre insides of patients, each speaker is constantly interrupted by shouts from the back of the hall such as, “Not at all! You’re confusing an id impulse with a weak ego boundary!” or “Heaven help your patients if you call that cathexis!” Even the most alert analyst soon develops an oceanic feeling as he gets lost in flurries of energy theories, libidinal drives, instinctual forces, and super ego barriers. The analyst who can most thoroughly confuse the group leaves his colleagues feeling frustrated and envious (one-down emotions). The losers return to their studies to search their minds, dictionaries, science fiction journals, and Freud for even more elaborate metaphorical flights in preparation for the next meeting.

The ploys of analyst and patient can be summarized briefly as they occur during a typical course of treatment. Individual cases will vary depending on what maneuvers the individual patient uses (called “symptoms” by the analyst when they are ploys no sensible person would use), but a general trend is easy to follow. The patient enters analysis in the one-down posture by asking for help and promptly tries to put the therapist one-down by building him up. This is called the honeymoon of the analysis. The patient begins to compliment the therapist on how wonderful he is and how quickly he (the patient) expects to get well. The skilled analyst is not taken in by these maneuvers (known as the “Reichian resistance” ploys). When the patient finds himself continually put one-down, he changes tactics. He becomes mean, insulting, threatens to quit analysis, and casts doubt upon the sanity of the analyst. These are the “attempts to get a human response” ploys. They meet an impassive, impersonal wall as the analyst remains silent or handles the insults with a simple statement like, “Have you noticed this is the second Tuesday afternoon you’ve made such a comment? I wonder what there is about Tuesday,” or “You seem to be reacting to me as if I’m someone else.” Frustrated in his aggressive behavior (resistance ploys), the patient capitulates and ostensibly hands control of the situation back to the analyst. Again building the analyst one-up, he leans on him, hangs on his every word, insists how helpless he is and how strong the analyst, and waits for the moment when he will lead the analyst along far enough to devastate him with a clever ploy. The skilled analyst handles this nicely with a series of “condescending” ploys, pointing out that the patient must help himself and not expect anyone to solve everything for him. Furious, the patient again switches from subservient ploys to defiant ploys. By this time he has learned techniques from the analyst and is getting better. He uses what insight (ploys unknown to laymen) he has gained to try in every way to define the relationship as one in which the analyst is one-down. This is the difficult period of the analysis. However, having carefully prepared the ground by a thorough diagnosis (listing weak points) and having instilled a succession of doubts in the patient about himself, the analyst succeeds in topping the patient again and again as the years pass. Ultimately a remarkable thing happens. The patient rather casually tries to get one-up, the analyst puts him one-down, and the patient does not become disturbed by this. He has reached a point where he doesn’t really care whether the analyst is in control of the relationship or whether he is in control. In other words, he is cured. The analyst then dismisses him, timing this maneuver just before the patient is ready to announce that he is leaving. Turning to his waiting list, the analyst invites in another patient who, by definition, is someone compelled to struggle to be one-up and disturbed if he is put one-down. And so goes the day’s work in the difficult art of psychoanalysis.

See also The Craving for Superiority, by Raymond Dodge and Eugen Kahn.

Wow. Will read that when I have a couple of days.

And hello, Jupes :)

FRAT, but this is gold.  I've used it at home and it's transformed how I deal with conflict.  I realize now that my partner has an insane drive to be "one up."  I am sure I do too.  I realize now that arguing back only satisfies a confrontational person because by getting you upset, they have successfully made you "one down" even if they haven't necessarily won the argument.  This changed how I respond and has been incredible for my sanity.

Hey, haven't seen you in forever!


You either!! Hope all is well.

Here is a reading:

After reading this, I wondered why the therapist didn't sit behind Tony in the Sopranos, but then you couldn't see her legs I guess.

Is it wrong that I find the article hilarious? Maybe because it's so true...

In for later Phone Post 3.0

Interesting read Phone Post


I can use this on one of my clients. Awesome thread.


Interesting read Phone Post