chapter  5
16 Pages

Stumbling in the counter-transference

In the course of our work to uncover and work through each patient’s unique core pre-oedipal phantasies and the subsequent oedipal elaborations and compromise formations, we discover many obstacles in the way of psychic change (Chessick 1994). While the counter-transference can be a remarkably helpful tool in unearthing and understanding the patient’s internal struggle between self and object, the counter-transference can also become part of the overall pathology, playing out a mutual reenactment of archaic object relational confl icts. Newman (1988) discusses how many of our more diffi cult patients will work to prove their conviction of having no useable or reliable objects. I would add that they may act out their conviction that they are a useless or even dangerous object to others, including the analyst in the transference. Newman (1988) states that these patients will evoke complementary pathological responses from the analyst that serve only to prove their case that object relations must be controlled, avoided, or obliterated for the sake of either self or other. This notion is similar to the clinical observations of Betty Joseph (1989) in which she examines the moment-to-moment invitations and interpersonal as well as unconscious pull for the analyst to shift into certain paranoid or depressive counter-transference states. Of most clinical concern are the situations in which the analyst is temporarily maneuvered by projective identifi cation processes into paranoid-schizoid experiences of countertransference anxiety, competition, desperation, demand, or aggression that when acted out only serve to validate or intensify the patient’s existing paranoid or depressive phantasies regarding love, hate, and knowledge.