One of those most difficult negotiations in the treatment is that of the erotic transference-countertransference dialectic. Davies writes eloquently and candidly about it. Celenza writes pointedly about it. I look back to Harold Searles’ encouragement on the subject. Searles, from the Freudian perspective, states that the analyst also goes through a kind of Oedipal phase vis a vis the patient. Just like the patient fantasizes about marrying the analyst, so too does the analyst feel toward the patient. Searles says that this type of love by the analyst is helpful when it aids the patient in her/his struggle to accept, then give up, these feelings. He discouraged disclosing such feelings. Today we might recognize the real component, that is, the part that is not solely transferred from previous relationships, in the love between patient and analyst as something that is not relinquished but negotiated, and its lack of fruition, mourned. The analyst’s suffering and sadness helps the patient with mourning.
Kohut saw an oedipal phase as normative, only developing into a neurotic complex when parents have failed to welcome the child’s oedipal strivings. Telling, for example, a boy what a fine husband he will make welcomes his love-driven fantasies. Telling a boy that he will have to find his own age-appropriate partner once grown up insidiously rejects his ardent feelings. In treatment, how to encourage the feelings when the outcome will always end in rebuff? How then to proceed in the erotic transference-countertransference dialectic? How to jump into the depths of a crater without losing one’s grip on the rim? to hold both the truth of the love (and hate) between you and your patient and to hold the truth of nothing more than a moment of meeting or understanding can become of this? A colleague recently asked me in earnest, why again do we not have sex with our patients?
Celenza writes that it is out of hopelessness for the treatment, a sense that there is nothing left to try that leads to boundary violations. It is an attack on psychoanalysis itself. In an earlier paper she writes of a longer list, including an intolerance of the negative transference and the reaction formation towards one’s own countertransference hate, sobering reasons all. All this by way of saying it behooves the analyst, when working with unremittingly attacking patients, to reread Winnicott’s papers on hate in the counter transference and its survival.
Celenza, A. (1998). Precursors to Therapist Sexual Misconduct: Preliminary Findings. Psychoanal. Psychol., 15:378-395.
Celenza, A (2006) Sexual Boundary Violations in the Office: When is a Couch Just a Couch?. Psa. Dial., 16:113-128.
Searles, H (1959) Oedipal Love in the Countertransference. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XL, 180-190.
Winnicott, D.W. (1969). The Use of an Object. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:711-716.