Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

A Mismatch of Meaning and Intentionality between Analyst and Analysand

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

A Mismatch of Meaning and Intentionality between Analyst and Analysand

Article excerpt

The divergence in understanding between patient and analyst may be con- nected to the patient's unconscious phantasies. There are also other factors which interfere with the effect of the interpretations which depend on the content of the interpretation, on the way in which this is formulated, and on factors inherent in the analyst that find expression in the concepts he/ she wishes to convey. Schafer (1999, p. 506) states:

... an interpretation may be experienced as a blow, a moral judgment, a reassur- ance, a seductive move, a rape, an insult, and so on. Thus, what is registered or heard may not correspond to the conventional sense of the analyst's action or his or her words.

Disturbances in the transmission of meaning in interpretations also depend on the specific characteristics of the intersubjective relationship established between analyst and analysand, which constitute the intersubjec- tive field as described by Bar anger and Baranger (2008).2

In the analysis of patients who have narcissistic personalities or who have marked narcissistic character traits, the defensive structure has a particular effect in the link with the object and in the analytical process itself, often resulting in a narcissistic enactment. This takes place when the subject uses words principally to subtly manipulate the object rather than for the communication of unconscious contents. The patient tries to manipulate his/her objects as if they had lost their autonomy and were merely an exten- sion of the subject's self. As a consequence, the object is not perceived as a separate entity from the subject. By means of this omnipotent control, the patient tries to produce an effect of devitalization and reification of the object, which transforms him/her into an inanimate object which can be used according to the patient's wishes. The patient's use of words for manipulative purposes, and the concealment of significant phantasies and conscious thoughts is seen by the patient as a form of 'remote control' by means of which he/she can control his/her objects (this will be shown later in the clinical material). The subject later identifies with the image of the object, and also suffers from the effect of reification. The patient's actions, despite initially evoking a feeling of triumph, are motivated by intense per- secutory phantasies and anxieties. At the same time, the distrust generated by these anxieties leads the subject to fear that the analyst will use his/her words not to explore unconscious meaning but rather to manipulate the subject and to take advantage of him/her in some way. The phantasies are sustained in the aggressive aspects of narcissism, highlighted by Rosenfeld (1971), and coexist with other libidinal aspects.

The situation described above leads to a state of stagnation in the analyti- cal process. This impasse, which is a consequence of the enactment, is evidenced by the stereotypical quality of the analytical material and limited improvement in the patient's condition. It is not always possible for the ana- lyst to detect all the patient's actions which lead to this situation given that the particular use that the patient makes of words distorts the transmission of unconscious messages. Sporadically, the patient may emit an unconscious message which enables the analyst to better understand the situation.

It is frequently the case that for the patient to continue this behaviour, the analyst must, in some way, be involved in an unconscious collusion with the patient. The analyst may be unaware or deny this and, as a conse- quence, may not interpret phantasies which have led to this state. The mutual enactment which leads to the deterioration of analysis is produced only if the analyst is permanently involved in this collusion and is not able to modify the analytical approach.

Clinical material

D, a highly intelligent and successful woman in her 50s, had been in analy- sis for a number of years, with sessions four times a week on the couch. …

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