Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

A Comment on 'The Case of Stevie'1

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

A Comment on 'The Case of Stevie'1

Article excerpt

'I've told you many times I have trouble holding on to a feeling here. In that feeling, it was easier to hold on to you ... When there's a good connection, I can hold on to the memory of you.' (Stevie)

Dr. Alice Jones has provided us with a vivid account of a long and complex analytic experience with a difficult and very provocative patient. From the very beginning, her report contains and awakens in its readers weighty and conflicting images. Jones's analytic life begins when her patient Stevie is diagnosed with leukemia and is threatened with death. Life and death, disconsolate weeping, her sister's illness, maternal depression and aloofness, her father's alcoholism and physical and emotional ineptness-top this off with her name, Stevie, which probably reflects her mother's desire to have a son.

In Stevie's relationship with her analyst, one sees an unyielding passivity, resolute anorexia, and an apparent emotional stonewalling so as to force the analyst into making veritable ultimatums to defend her patient's life or, at the least, to occasion intense and constant attention from Jones. Simultaneously, Stevie is fiercely attached to Jones; she has a permanent sadomasochistic bent and evokes an uninterrupted parade of characters who remind Jones of Scheherazade's tales in the Arabian nights.

Her analysis contains protracted periods of apparently circular movement interspersed with some ascendant upward spirals, but often other downward spirals.

She produces images and pregnant descriptions that hook into readers' minds. To me, they suggest that, just like the account itself, Stevie is desperately trying to keep herself permanently etched in her analyst's mind. She manages this by forcing her analyst to assume her patient's desire to live, while in her day-to-day life Stevie has sufficient motivation and strength to achieve a modicum of professional success. She also etches herself in the analyst's mind by trying to bring her into a stimulating sadomasochistic relationship or by capturing her attention by playing Scheherazade. Be that as it may, her relationship with her analyst is quite different from that with her distant and depressed mother tied up with her other daughter who may die. This mother left Stevie to cry disconsolately.

Jones says that she maintained two parallel but contrary points of view concerning Stevie: she is a rigid, perverse perfectionist who is committed to her excitement. But at the same time she is someone who wants to be loved and is quite capable of growing.

My contribution in this commentary is to consider the possibility of a third point of view. This point of view is contained in or derived from Jones's second outlook. Nonetheless, it can be distinguished from that position. Actually, as I shall try to show, what I propose may be a different emphasis, which, nonetheless, could affect the focus of Jones's analytic understanding and procedures. I offer my point of view recognizing that Jones is the one in direct contact with Stevie, and that my observations are only conjectures from afar. My point of view came to me through several images contained in Jones's account of the treatment. These images resonated with situations I have encountered in my own analytic practice. Of course, what I offer will inevitably be influenced by certain theoretical positions. Here are a few of the images:

1. The risk of falling into a crevasse in a glacier as in the film Touching the void, with emphasis on the notion of the void.

2. The figure of a little girl wanting to die, which brings about a 'fear of breakdown'.

3. The infant who in a dream is left in the street by its parents.

4. The little boy in Hawaii who dies of leukemia in his sleep, i.e. the pale sickness (mentioned at the beginning of Jones's commentary), anemia, etc.

5. The chubby child with an unnatural, intensely bright-red face, which creates the impression that 'something is really wrong'. …

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