Monday, October 22, 2012

Poem and forbearance

Months ago in The New Yorker magazine (May 14, 2012, p.78 to be exact) I read a poem: Audiology by Sean O’Brien.  The phrase:

the held breath
Of forbearance

struck me at the time as somehow apropos of the psychoanalytic process. Some patients furrow their brows, some exhale in exasperation. They give the impression of forbearing as I contemplate their implicit message to rethink where I fell off track. I suppose therapists, too, at times exhibit forbearance, but I was particularly grateful for that of my patients.

I have copied an excerpt from the poem in which this phrase is embedded because the poem to me is thrilling:

I hear an elevator sweating in New Orleans
Water folding back on black in tanks deep under Carthage,
Unfracked oil in Lancashire
And what you are thinking. It’s the truth—
There goes your silent count to ten, the held breath
Of forbearance, all the language not yet spoken
Or unspeakable, the dark side of the page.

This poem was brought to mind last week when the Relational Study Group of the Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, Inc had the pleasure of discussing a paper by Holly Levenkron along with its commentaries by Bromberg and Renik. I particularly found Renik’s comments enlightening and comforting. In his abstract, Renik wrote that he "agree[d] with her view that a successful analytic process is a negotiation between analyst and patient. [He added: However, I question Levenkron's idea that the analyst must loosen her hold on her own subjectivity in order for the negotiation to proceed. An analyst cannot and need not diminish her subjectivity. Rather, what is required for clinical analytic work to unfold is that the analyst include the patient within the analyst's subjectivity—or, in other words, that the analyst come to love the patient.” But this is to discuss another time, unless I contemplate that part of the reason we love our patients is for their forbearance.]

Renik closes with, and this is the comforting part: “We do well to remember, though, that so-called errors are part of every successful treatment. In clinical analysis, it is not the analyst's job to be right all the time; the analyst's job is to facilitate a productive learning process for the patient.” Somehow our so-called errors and our patients’ forbearance seemed to me connected. 

  Renik, O. (2006). Discussion of Holly Levenkron's “Love (and Hate) With the Proper Stranger... Psychoanal. Inq., 26:233-238. 

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