Sunday, August 28, 2016


Most psychoanalysts are familiar with Kohut’s mirroring and idealizing transferences. Togashi and Kottler (2012) write about the twinship transference and note Kohut’s “transformation from the psychology of the self to the psychology of being human” and from “the disorder of the self to… trauma-centered psychoanalysis.” They enumerate the many faces of twinship:

(1)    between merger and mirroring. Kohut originally conceived of the mirror transference in three forms: merger, twinship, and the narrowed mirror transference, their differences “based on the degree to which an individual” sees others as an extension of themselves or as a separate person.
(2)    as a process of mutual finding. This does not mean “recognizing…the other’s subjectivity” but rather that “two participants…regulate a sense of sameness and difference in their effort to match…their subjectivity” such as when the analyst finds aspects of herself and not-herself in her patient and the patient, likewise, can find aspects of himself and not-himself in his analyst, this mutual finding process, essential to the twinship experience.
(3)    as a sense of belonging. Later (1984), Kohut distinguished twinship from mirroring to a sense of belonging. Here twinship speaks to [authors quoting White and Weiner] ‘a similarity in interests and talents, along with the sense of being understood by someone like yourself” and [quoting Basch] ‘the need to belong and feel accepted by one’s cohort.’ [BTW, in this same volume, VanDerHyde writes a lovely paper on the importance of twinship, stating the need to belong precedes the need for mirroring or idealizing]
(4)    passing talents and skills to the next generation. Togashi and Kottler write: “For Kohut, an individual’s efforts to educate others is often based on her yearning for a person who[m] she can experience as essentially alike, or for a person in whom she can find herself.” The parent sees herself in the child and, reciprocally, the child sees himself in the parent. The child sees himself as the welcomed “successor” as the parent is “creating and finding oneself in the next generation.”
(5)    as silent communication. Twinship allows each “to share the feeling of connection without verbal communication –as with mother and infant; lovers; or analyst and patient—and to share in a “regulatory process to match (and not-match) one another.”
(6)    feeling human among other human beings. Kohut noted the necessity to feel human among other human beings. Narcissistic parents can treat the child as an extension of themselves or as a non-human thing, the latter causing the child to experience himself as non-human among non-humans.
(7)    in trauma. The authors cite Stolorow: “a need for twinship is a reaction to psychological trauma” [IMO, the authors decline to temper this statement by adding that we are hard-wired for a social network (a tribe), as well as that we can find joy in being understood and this not simply as secondary to trauma] and Brothers, noting that trauma destroys certainty and meaning. [and that we need relationship to restore the latter.]

Please see the next post for a poem by Angelou which beautifully illustrates humans’ need for a human family, same and different, but belonging.

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