11 Pages

Safety and Growth

The drastic means an individual finds to protect his sense of stability, self-continuity, and psychological integrity, compromises his later ability to grow and to be fully related to others. Thus, a person enters treatment dissatisfied with his life and wanting to change it, but as he inevitably discovers, he is his life, and to "change" feels, paradoxically, like being "cured" of who he is-the only self he knows. "Can I risk becoming attached to this stranger and losing myself?" "Is my analyst friend or foe, and can I be certain?" Ernest Becker (1964, p. 179) considered this paradox "the basic problem of personality change" and asked trenchantly: "How is one to relinquish his world unless he first gains a new one?" Becker's question leads inevitably to a close examination of the kind of human relationship that allows a psychoanalytic process to take place. How does a relationship between patient and analyst come to exist that gets beyond the patient's having to make the impossible choice between being him self and being attached to and thus influenced by the analyst? (See also Mitchell, 1997b.) How does the relationship ever come to transcend the patient's determination to protect his own feeling of selfhood, and what does the analyst contribute that enables this transcendence to take place?