Psychoanalysis traverses the terrain from the most poignant personal moments to the broadest domain of theory. I shall cover this terrain starting with personal experience, in order to then pass through the concept of “lived experience” into other theoretical concepts and circle back again to the personal. The rationale for beginning with my personal experience is that the choices of concepts and techniques you will hear are inevitably influenced by it (Stolorow and Atwood 1979). After completing college and three years in the navy as a deck officer, I decided to go to medical school in order to become a psychoanalyst. By becoming a doctor, I was fulfilling my grandmother’s ambitions for herself and me. With rebellious pleasure I knew that becoming a psychoanalyst was strictly my own idea. After the second year of medical school, I went to work in a state mental hospital and began a personal analysis. The analyst was a warm and attractive young woman, probably a candidate, with whom I developed a strong transference. The analysis proceeded with positive results for my emotional well-being. Having joined an institute as a candidate, however, I was required to switch from her to a training analyst. Then a terrible thing happened: she died suddenly of a rare complication of pregnancy. I began a training analysis with an esteemed analyst whose reputation was not that of a cold and silent nonresponder. At this time I was in a state of mourning for my beloved grandfather, who had recently died, and for my prior analyst. Unfortunately, the “training” analysis, rather than helping me, became a source of added psychic pain and ended in failure. Looking back now after an effective third analysis, the resumption and completion of analytic training, and years of productive, deeply satisfying practice, I can recognize that I learned from that troubled experience a most important lesson-what not to do. Two interventions the analyst made stand out as negative direction-giving beacons. At a point when it seemed he could no longer stand my crying and yearning, he stated, “What she was doing with
you was not analysis; she was only holding your hand.” A second intervention, offered in a tone of exasperated disapproval, was, “You don’t think of me as like your grandmother; I have become your grandmother to you!” In both instances I did not yet have the courage to be spontaneous with my deep sense of hurt, confusion, and disagreement. The lesson became clear years later: if an analyst assumes the privilege of ignoring or hiding his or her contributions to the intersubjective nature of the exchanges, the analysis cannot succeed. Such a tilted relationship, in which responsibility for problems in the exchange is placed solely on the analysand, is always in danger of sinking under the weight of the patient’s shame, humiliation, and guilt. Years later I realized from reading Kohut’s elucidation of idealization (1971), that my second analyst and my grandmother were indeed alike, in that both desperately required being idolized to bring out their kindly, affectionate side.