Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Analyst's Excitement in the Analysis of Perversion

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Analyst's Excitement in the Analysis of Perversion

Article excerpt

The author believes that unconscious sexual excitement in the transference and countertransference is an especially problematic aspect of the analysis of perverse character pathology and that perverse sexual gratification deserves a more prominent position in the clinical theory of analyzing perversion than that which has been assigned tacitly through analysts' routine focus on the defensive and destructive dynamics of perversion. He presents clinical material from the analysis of a perverse patient that illustrates the role of excitement in the transference perversion established in this analysis; and he asserts that gratifying perverse enactments occurring in the transference perversion can appear not only as conscious or unconscious excitement in the transference but also, at times most clearly, as the analyst's excitement. The author suggests that using a clinical theory that supports the analyst in understanding his excited responses as perverse countertransferences-i.e. evoked excitement complementary to the sexual component of a perverse transference-will assist him in locating and thinking about gratifying, perverse excitement in the transference where it is most usefully analyzed. Finally, he discusses some of the reasons why analysts might deny, suppress or otherwise avoid perverse countertransferences and in so doing contribute to sustaining perverse resistances.

Keywords: perversion, countertransference, perverse countertransference, transference perversion, narcissism, perverse transference, perverse resistance, excitement

Perversion has long held the interest of psychoanalysts (Freud, 1905); and yet it remains an area about which there is considerable diversity of theoretical understanding and, as far as I can judge, much to learn about its clinical management. Among the technical recommendations relevant to the treatment of perversion is the assertion that the detection and interpretation of the perversion as it is lived out in the transference-the recognition and analysis of the transference perversion-is fundamental and crucial (Joseph, 1971; Etchegoyen, 1978; Ogden, 1996). This way of thinking about the psychoanalysis of perversion seems essential, but the technical stance required to accomplish this sometimes elusive goal can be a very difficult thing to achieve.

My own experience in the analytic treatment of patients with perverse characters has led me to the perspective, also taken by Joseph and Etchegoyen, that in many respects perversion is usefully viewed as a sexualized form of narcissistic objectrelating (see also Parsons, 2000). While it is well known that a perverse mental structure can serve as a defense against psychosis (Glover, 1933) and that it can also occur within the structure of neurosis (Kernberg, 1989), there seems to me to be considerable clinical utility in recognizing the similarities-and differences-between the psychodynamics found in most perverse character structures and those in less complex narcissistic characters. For example, both demonstrate central conflicts concerning experiences of true dependence (recognition of the analyst's goodness) and envy (rooted in acceptance of the analyst's separateness) in the analytic relationship. In relation to these psychic problems, perverse object-relating parallels narcissistic object-relating: the narcissist devalues while the perverse patient dehumanizes in defense of anxiety associated with the analyst's goodness, and each defends against anxieties connected with separateness by fusing with the analyst through projective identification. Additionally, in the psychoanalytic treatment of perversion, the analyst's struggle with the defensive and destructive aspects of typical narcissistic resistances involving omnipotent, devaluing, and pseudoself-sufficient fantasies brought into the transference relationship is further complicated and made more arduous by the patient's projective identification of sexual excitement. …

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