Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Analyst's Pain6

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Analyst's Pain6

Article excerpt


Inspired and chaired by Theodore Jacobs, the IPA panel entitled 'The Analyst's Pain' aimed to investigate the analytic situation in which we are subject to periods of extremely intense 'pain' during the course of our day-to-day work as analysts. For this panel, the analyst's 'pain' referred to extremely powerful positive or negative affects, such as rage, terror, hatred, impotence, heart-wrenching sorrow and sexual arousal. Often these affects are evoked by a trying patient who acts out, for example, in manipulative, provocative, hostile and seductive ways within the transference.

Dr. Jacobs highlighted how our professional work necessarily involves us meeting up with such powerful forces within the transference-countertransference field. The literature abounds with publications on the subject of countertransference enactments and self-disclosure, commented Dr. Jacobs. In his view, however, the predominant nature of these experiences relates to relatively mild, manageable and controlled situations, which all too often culminate in uncomplicated, successful outcomes. More serious conundrums in the lives of analysts, he stated, typically fall in the realm of private consultations amongst colleagues, and are not subject to the public scrutiny of congresses and the print world.

This panel was therefore constructed to examine the kind of analytic situation that rarely finds its way into public fora, because the analyst feels too ashamed and unwilling to expose his errors. These presenters selected clinical examples requiring them to erect a mighty counterforce to protect the patient from the analyst's impulse to retaliate against the patient. They also discussed unconscious enactments that contaminated the analytic field in ways the analyst felt disappointed and surprised by, and ways that they worked with this material in the service of advancing the analytic project.

Panelists' contributions

The panel assembled three analysts from three separate countries and analytic traditions: Ilany Kogan M.A. from Israel, Bernard Reith M.D. from Switzerland and Brian Robertson M.D. from Canada.

Ilany Kogan is an internationally admired training and supervising analyst at the Israel Psychoanalytic Institute, and an author of publications relating to the subjects of trauma, the holocaust, and mourning. Her paper entitled The analyst's pain: The management and utilization of frustration, rage, despair and other troubling affects in the process of analyzing elaborated upon a patient featured and discussed previously in Ms. Kogan's 2012 book, Canvas of Change: Analysis Through The Prism of Creativity.

Ms Kogan gave a detailed account of a long analysis with Rachel, a woman in her mid-30s whose inhibited creativity held her back from realizing considerable talents. Rachel was a woman plagued by feelings of annihilation anxiety, terror, and infantile rage in response to an internal, sadistic, and rejecting object constellation. These emotions, we learned, peaked in the midst of separations from her analyst. We were privileged to listen to the patient's abundant non-verbal and verbal unconscious productions, including highly evocative paintings, poems, and dreams, and the ways they resonated intimately with Ms Kogan's countertransference.

We witnessed exchanges between Rachel and Ms Kogan when the analytic couple grappled with enormous tension. When the analyst wore a bandage over her cheek after a potentially cancerous lesion was biopsied, and thus exposed her frailty, the patient challenged her by hurling hostile verbal attacks upon her analyst. Ms Kogan felt "narcissistically mortified," in reaction to the ways in which Rachel let her analyst know about her death wishes towards her, in no uncertain terms. For example, Rachel yelled: "Two weeks ago, I noticed a bandage on your cheek, and I thought you were about to die; now you are going abroad. I would rather have you dead than going away! …

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