The interpretation of unconscious activity in clinical psychoanalytic practice or any other reasonable endeavor resembles the dilemmas of gathering and presenting legal evidence and the problems of building a case.
1. If I say you are acting unconsciously, I am saying things are not as they seem to you. I may also be saying that your reasons for acting are different than what you claim.
2. To interpret an action as an unconscious performance is to begin a potential argument or negotiation subject to all the problems of polemics, authority and persuasion. A good case can be rejected, and a bad case can be accepted. The social or personal value of the interpretation of unconscious activity is to clarify a meaning or pattern that the actor has reason not to see. This is inherently contentious. The claim that an action has significant unconscious meaning begins with a disagreement about what the relevant players take to be the significant “facts”. For something to be "dynamically" unconscious, the therapist believes that the client has defensive reasons not to see what the therapist sees especially in relation to the client's motivations or reasons for action.
3. Since there is no pipeline to the truth, the therapist can only build a case by assembling evidence that the relevant states of affairs are not identical to the claims of the client.
4. It is a maxim that people take it that things are as they seem unless they have sufficient reason to think otherwise. This is the reminder that from the observer’s perspective, if a situation calls for actions that from the actor’s perspective are unthinkable, intolerable or require motives, priorities or skills that the actor does not have, the actor will see and do something else instead.
5. Clinicians are in position to observe, describe and critique behavior. Part of the purpose of making “the unconscious, conscious” is to allow the client to see patterns of behavior that are not recognized as particular patterns by them. Patterns of unconscious behavior that show up in significant personal relationships are part of what psychotherapists mean when they use the concept of “transference” and "resistance". Accurately or not, transference involves treating someone as someone else. The actor engaged in transference has automatically seen something as something else based on some "family resemblance". The actor engaged in resistance has some personally significant reason not to recognize some problematic state of affairs. Unconsciously enacted behaviors are not in the ordinary sense deliberate and lack the flexibility available in cognizant and deliberate action. The recognition of alternative meanings opens the potential to act differently.
6. The expert status of the clinician can create the illusion that the evidence he or she gathers points to truth rather than possibility. Actual expert status should require an appreciation of the nature of the evidence, the stance of the clinical “witness”, and the vulnerability of the client “judge”. What the therapist believes in good faith is happening may not be what is happening. Uncertainty should be acknowledged and is a requirement of the "good enough therapist."
7. Psychological clinicians should be experts at acknowledging ambiguity and uncertainty and as practitioners of possibility rather than truths. Since insistence on the part of the client may be a sign of unconscious defense, the clinician is careful not to insist on the validity or necessity of an interpretation they offer. The therapist models non-insistent inquiry.
8. Making a good case is not an arbitrary practice. The problem is deciding what is relevant evidence and how to present it honestly and empathically . Tactfully, the clinician should appreciate what is at stake for the client in maintaining or dropping the unconscious defense. Is the gain worth the loss?