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Chapter Three: Playfulness

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

“The sunlight playing on the waves qualifies for the attribute ‘playful' because it faithfully remains within the rules of the game. It does not really interfere with the chemical world of the waves. It insists only on an intermingling of appearances. These patterns change with effortless rapidity and with a repetitiveness which promises pleasing phenomena within a predictable range without ever creating the same configuration twice”

(Erikson, 1950, p. 212)

Allow me to begin this contribution on the notion of playfulness by talking about a revolver. Yes, you read it right: a revolver. The story goes like this. Donald Winnicott was to present a paper to the British Psychoanalytic Society. After being introduced, he walked up to the podium, opened his briefcase, took out his paper and also a revolver, which he carefully placed on the lectern. A hush fell over the audience. Winnicott began reading his paper and, after a few minutes, stopped and said something like this, “In case you are wondering what this revolver is doing here, let me tell you. It is intended for the person who, instead of discussing my ideas, would begin his remarks by declaring that what I am presenting is not psychoanalysis.” The audience laughed, a bit awkwardly to be sure. Winnicott then went on with reading his paper.

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t is to the gifted Greek storyteller of ancient times, Aesop (circa

620 BC), that we owe the eternally impressive tale of greed. Among the numerous fables told by him is this story of the farmer who found a goose that laid a golden egg each day. Initially jubilant at his good fortune, the farmer soon felt unable to wait twenty-four hours for the next egg to arrive. He imagined that the goose had hundreds of eggs inside her but was stingy in doling out the wealth. The farmer grew restless and wanted all the gold immediately. He cut the goose open but found no gold inside it. All that happened was that the goose died and the farmer lost the daily nugget of riches that was assured to him.

In this brief tale, Aesop elegantly addressed the coexistence of enormous hunger, impatience, inconsolability, a defective sense of empathy, and ingratitude towards one’s benefactors. It is this constellation of descriptive and dynamic features that are subsumed under the rubric of greed. Since greed—along with narcissism, paranoia, and discontent— constitutes an important feature of severe personality disorders and has an unmistakable impact upon their treatment, it is surprising that psychoanalytic literature has given inadequate attention to it.

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4. Disruptions

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

Things never do go smoothly in suicides, weddings, and courtships.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

In an aphoristic statement, the quintessentially American psychoanalyst, Harry Stack Sullivan, is known to have said: ‘Beware of smoothly going therapy’. At one level, we all attest to the wisdom of this statement. At another level, however, we continue to hold on to the idea that psychotherapeutic endeavors could or should go on without a hitch. Clinical experience shows us otherwise. Our patients ‘disappoint’ us. They walk out, act out, and drop out, leaving us baffled, embarrassed or even resentful.

Keeping this in mind, it seems imperative that we attempt to understand what such ‘disruptions’ mean, how they arise, what their dynamics are, and how they can be mended. Other questions also need to be faced. Are all disruptions, for instance, ‘bad’? Do disruptions happen in the course of all psychotherapies or only in the treatment of patients with severe character pathology? Are disruptions avoidable? Are there developmental prototypes for disruptions? In other words, are there normative aspects to the disruptions of dialogue between a patient and his or her therapist? And, finally, can disruptions ever be an indication that the treatment is progressing well?

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hile overtly destructive acts derived from rage and hatred draw sharp clinical and public attention, far more damage is done to human relations by the quieter evils of lying, cheating, and deceit. In myriad forms that range from pretentious decorum at official events to pseudo-cordiality among political adversaries, from socially convenient bending of truth to outright lying for monetary gain, and from laborious inflation of the self to deliberate fraud for seducing others, deception corrodes trust that is the glue of attachment and interpersonal bonds. Regardless of its form, deception arises from trauma and causes suffering to self and others. A common denominator in various types of deception (e.g., mendacity, forgery, betrayal) is the existence of a lie.

It is this central feature that I will address in this contribution. I will begin with elucidating the formal characteristics of lies and the motivations that propel individuals to distort the truth. In the passages that follow, I will take up the developmental achievements necessary for the capacity for lying to emerge. Then I will make a brief sociocultural foray into the worlds of art and entertainment, politics, propaganda, advertising, forgery, and counterfeit. Following this digression, I will return to the clinical realm and address the implications of lying for


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CHAPTER FIVE. Giving advice

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

Anton Kris

The analyst’s neutrality with respect to conflict may be suspended in situations the analyst feels are (a) emergencies for the patient— e.g., suicidality, psychosis, toxic state, etc.; (b) emergencies for someone potentially vulnerable to the patient’s destructiveness— e.g., the analysand’s children; (c) emergencies for the analyst—e.g., physical or psychological threats.

—Axel Hoffer (1985, p. 786)

The analytic treatment of adult patients who are parents often comes upon problems in regard to their child. In some of these instances, the evidence of difficulty or the signs of impending trouble run well ahead of the current analytic focus or matter in question. The analyst, however, may be keenly aware of potentially adverse effects on the development of a child or of the family as a whole. While such concerns may be far from the patient’s attention or interest as an analysand, they are vital to the patient’s interest as a parent. Interventions closer to child guidance than to psychoanalysis may be called for in the context of analysis. I shall try to describe and illustrate the technical problem that confronts the analyst in these situations.

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