The Gergely and Watson (1-17-13 post) paper on affect-mirroring leading to infant brain development, as well as a sense of self and intersubjectivity and mentalization, brought to mind Lew Aron’s paper (2006) Analytic Impasse and the Third: Clinical implications of intersubjectivity theory. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 87:349-368, in which Aron demonstrates that three people are not necessary to create a triangle, that is, triangulation can take place within a dyad. He expands the idea of a child’s use, even before the oedipal period, of a third vertex of a triangle when a caregiver, capable of self reflection, advances intersubjectivity. It is the dialogue within her that creates the third vertex. Utilizing Benjamin’s ideas of the third-in-the-one and the one-in-the-third, Aron elaborates how the third can be used for differentiation as well as for connectedness, respectively. When mirroring their infants’ affect, mothers never match perfectly, and thereby signal to the infant that her mirroring is “her version of his response.” The infant utilizes this signal which helps both to differentiate her from him, and also to anchor his own sense of self/self state.
Likewise, the therapist can, being of two minds, by her disclosure of her dilemma (e.g. the wish to rescue and the wish not to impinge or infantilize), open a transitional, triangular space in which patient and therapist might collaborate. Aron finds this particularly useful when an impasse has arisen. The analyst grapples with a dilemma in a way that opens up a third, transitional space where increased negotiation can occur. [One can imagine a myriad of vertices of ever enlarging geometric shapes.] The therapist finds ways to facilitate thirdness, “a process of identification of the patient’s position without losing her own perspective…” The possibility of collaboration, as well as the disclosure of the workings of the analyst’s mind, facilitate mentalization in a patient. Aron notes that others, too, see the third as “an emergent property of dyadic interaction” as well as “a dyadic achievement that creates the psychic space necessary for reflexive awareness and mentalization (Gerson, 2004)…” Keeping two ideas in mind create a third point of view. Even interpretation, then, becomes a mutual endeavor.