ABSTRACT

It is necessary for the psychotherapist to avoid misleading representations of loving kindness. In this chapter two common yet understandable pitfalls are described: the symbiotic merger and sentimentality. The discussion opens with reference to the object relations perspective developed by Bowlby, Mahler, Masterson and Spitz. A distinction is drawn between the natural symbiosis between infant and parent and the symbiotic merger which occurs when individuation is blocked by difficulties within that relationship. The negative impact of a symbiotic merger is illustrated in the autobiographical example of the children's writer, Tania Unsworth, and in a case study from the author's practice. The importance of attachment theory is applied to an understanding of the experience of clients who are resolving a merged relationship. The hazards of sentimentality are discussed with reference to the life of Charles Dickens and his novel Little Dorrit. It is proposed that by expressing loving kindness, the psychotherapist can be true to instincts of warm feeling and compassion, whilst holding boundaries and promoting real change, from negative expectations to more vital living.