Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry


The term "neutrality" as used in psychoanalysis has multiple meanings, each carrying major emotional significance. In that sense "neutrality" is a term which evokes the metaphor of the "Six Blind Men and the Elephant."

In her paper, "The Usefulness of Neutrality," Julia Jones Zawatsky uses the term to express a variety of issues related to a complex and difficult clinical situation. Neutrality includes the therapist taking an equidistant position from the various forces involved in the compromise formation used to solve psychic conflict. She also uses the term to acknowledge the multiple facets of the therapist's conscious and unconscious instinctual life, and responsiveness to patients, as well as the capacity to observe and acknowledge one's own countertransferences. The term describes a therapeutic position serving to understand the dynamic processes involved in a patient's symptomatic behavior, and to recognize that no matter how distressing or painful a patient's behavior may be, it still serves a significant unconscious psychological function. The author contrasts neutral therapeutic behavior and understanding by the therapist and the hospital staff with over-sympathetic, seductive or gratifying patterns and with the assumption of responsibility for the patient's distress, as well as for making progress.

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