Thoughts on the Nature and Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalytic Interpretation
Stuart sought analysis at the age of 26 to find relief from tormenting states of obsessional rumination that regularly followed injurious experiences that made him feel intensely vulnerable, anxious, overwhelmed, and confused. The older of two children, he
37 3. Nature and Action of Interpretation
described his father as a passive presence in the home, seemingly controlled by his wife and appearing weak and helpless in the face of her frequent outbursts of rage. In relation to himself, Stuart experienced his father as distant, uninterested, and emotionally unavailable. The patient described his mother as anxious, unhappy, and frequently overwhelmed, and also as intrusive and “controlling [his] identity.” He felt he had to function as a “substitute husband” for her and to be a “father” to his younger sister, to “set an example for her” by suppressing his own emotional reactions to events within the family. He was always aware of his mother’s emotions, he said, and felt responsible for comforting her when she was upset. Being organized around her neediness made him feel “ spec ia l ” to her, but his specialness had come at the price of a constant requirement to be “ b i g ” and “ s t r o n g ” in order to take care of her and maintain her emotional equilibrium. When he brought his own difficulties to her in the hope of a comforting response, she would become frustrated and overwhelmed and invariably tell him to leave her alone.