What is Evenly-Suspended Attention?

Introduction

Evenly-suspended attention is the kind of direction-less listening – removed from both theoretical presuppositions and therapeutic goals – recommended by Sigmund Freud for use in psychoanalysis.

Outline

By attaching no preconceived importance to any particular part of the analyst’s discourse, and allowing their unconscious complete freedom to act, the analysand’s can best profit from the counterpart rule of free association on the part of the analysand.

Such “hovering” attention (as Freud put it in 1909 in the case of Little Hans) was a technical development on his part from the more aggressive listening and interpretation of the 1890s, as his shift from hypnosis to psychoanalysis took gradual shape.

Later Developments

Since Theodor Reik and his 1948 study Listening with the Third Ear, more analytic emphasis has been placed on the dialectic between evenly suspended attention, and the analyst’s cognitive working-over of what they hear. The part played by countertransference and by the analyst’s role responsiveness has also been highlighted.

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