Can candidates in training, or even seasoned analysts, ever tire of discussing our ‘countertransference’ and the importance of our self reflection? At TBIPS we include the analyst’s contribution— inadvertent or deliberate, explicit or implicit— in our discussions throughout the training, and in every course. Heimann extended the Freudian concept of countertransference (the analyst’s neurotic transference to the patient) to include all feelings and reactions to the patient, acknowledging that countertransference provided useful information about the patient, even positing that the patient created the countertransference. Thus, countertransference was not to be eschewed but, instead, utilized. Lachmann poses the question of whether we are ready to dispense with the term ‘countertransference’ altogether.
Lachmann, from his Self Psychology approach, advocates that the analyst provide (ideally, always) a self object experience for the patient. He gives a clinical example of how he welcomed in Cecilia’s inexhaustible talk about her favorite soap opera. One TBIPS candidate, Stavros Charalambides, noted that Lachmann missed an opportunity for negotiation when he did not pose to Cecilia whether she wanted the analyst to continue listening to the lives of her soap opera characters or whether she wanted to consider if something else might also be worthy of their attention. My Relational bias wonders, too, whether it does a disservice to a patient when we deprive them of knowing their impact on us. I greatly admire Lachmann’s work and often assign his papers, but I, too, was left wanting more from the clinical vignette in his paper. Perhaps Cecelia, over time, goes further than the connection to her mother merely through a soap opera. Maybe Cecilia’s mother can offer nothing more, but how sad if this remains their only connection. Maybe Cecilia’s father can never connect to her except when she does for him, like compiling a book about him. Maybe Cecilia’s acceptance of what little her parents are capable of offering was great progress. But what if an inadvertent outcome for Cecilia was that she had become a self object experience for her parents just as Lachman was for Cecilia, and that she never learns to negotiate to include her own needs?
Lachmann is a great fan of co-construction, now termed co-creation, and wrote with Beebe a wonderful paper on mutual regulation between infant and mother, but I had some questions about why Lachmann does not extend co-construction to include countertransference when he writes “…even if I had felt angry, that would not indicate to me that Cecilia's motivation was to make me angry.” Lachmann, I suppose, is considering other motivations of Celia’s, such as the attempt to make a connection, or an attempt to know her analyst’s mind, for example, which only as a by-product might make her analyst angry. Because Lachmann sees co-construction as “understood,” he does not tell us where the analyst’s contribution is to the Self psychologist’s two dimensions of transference: the self object dimension and the representational dimension. Sometimes, I need it made explicit, as may the patient.
Heimann, P. (1950). On counter transference. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 31, 81.
Lachmann, F.M. (2001). A Farewell to Countertransference. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 10:242-246.