Health: Tales from the Therapist's Couch ; `My Patient Had Developed a Successful "False Self". the Part of Him That Felt Authentic and True Went into Hiding'

By Meakins, Elizabeth | The Independent (London, England), March 8, 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Health: Tales from the Therapist's Couch ; `My Patient Had Developed a Successful "False Self". the Part of Him That Felt Authentic and True Went into Hiding'


Meakins, Elizabeth, The Independent (London, England)


"LAST NIGHT, I watched these terrible images about what we are doing to one another and our world: wars, poverty, pollution. I felt overwhelmed by the pity of it all. And totally pathetic because I do nothing to change it. I come here and talk about how I feel disconnected from everything. But how is that going to help the world?"

At the time this was spoken, my patient, a man in his mid- forties, had been coming to therapy for about four months. During our initial meeting he described himself as someone who has spent his life feeling like an impotent outsider, and, as we gathered together his life story, the aptness of this became poignantly clear. As a child, he was intimidated by his bullying father, whose sarcasm frequently reduced him to tears. When he was six, his father left home and my patient found that an unkind father was replaced by a needy mother, who increasingly depended upon him for emotional support. "I suppose I always had to hide from or fit in with other people's worlds. As the eldest I had the top bunk bed, and it may sound mad but that was the one place where I could be with me. I escaped there as often as possible, just to daydream."

In the language of the psychoanalyst Winnicott, my patient developed a successful "false self" in order to fit in with what others needed him to be. The part of him that felt authentic and "true" went into hiding, only emerging in fantasy or solitude. As he grew older, this difficulty in being who he was in the presence of others developed into an air of detachment. What was inside felt real, but he found it increasingly difficult to show this to the world around him. A voracious reader, he spent many hours at his local library, and worked as a porter at a local hospital.

What struck me from early on in our work together was the paradox between his feeling of being cut off from the world and his intense empathy for suffering around him. As his opening remarks indicate, this often gave rise to anguish and frustration at his own feeling of impotence in the world. His words above also pose a challenging question to the whole therapeutic process: do the private conversations that take place behind consulting room doors have any connection with the wider world? Or is therapy as cut off as this man felt himself to be from anything beyond the personal?

For me, this important question has a boomerang-shaped response.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Health: Tales from the Therapist's Couch ; `My Patient Had Developed a Successful "False Self". the Part of Him That Felt Authentic and True Went into Hiding'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?