12 Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

1. The Winter’s Tale: marriage and re-marriage

Fisher, James Karnac Books ePub

Let’s begin with a tale, a tale of hateful jealousy and suspicion, as well as, one might say, a tale of remarriage. But why begin there? Not all of the couples who seek therapy by any means suffer the kind of jealousy and doubts that plague Leontes in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Nor would I suggest that the experience of couples in therapy can always be described as a process of “emerging from narcissism towards marriage”, to reiterate the subtitle of this book. Juxtaposing these states, narcissism and marriage, in polar opposition may seem puzzling. And yet that is just what I mean to do throughout this book, to set in opposition narcissism and marriage, in ways perhaps familiar and unfamiliar. Adapting Bion’s notation, we could then picture “narcissism ↔ marriage” as a fundamental human tension.

By marriage, I mean to emphasize the passion for and dependence on the intimate other. By narcissism, on the other hand, I do not mean a preoccupation with the self, a kind of self-love. Rather, I mean to point to a kind of object relating in which there is an intolerance for the reality, the independent existence of the other. Narcissism in this sense is in fact a longing for an other, but a longing for an other who is perfectly attuned and responsive, and thus not a genuine other at all.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

4. Duet for one? Two people or a couple?

Fisher, James Karnac Books ePub

Having had this report of the first two sessions with Mr Webb, the reader may be a little uneasy about the marital dimension of the work. What distinguishes these sessions from initial sessions with an individual patient? One essential boundary of psychoanalytic psychotherapy with couples has to do with the psychic reality that the analytic work is with two people linked in a particular intimate and powerful way. It is important to keep that in mind even in this early way of working in which each marital partner was seen individually. Before we explore this issue of boundaries in couple psychotherapy, perhaps we ought to meet Mrs Webb.

One might note here the importance of the fact that Mrs Webb was seen, in parallel individual sessions, by a therapist who would meet regularly with her husband’s therapist throughout the therapy. This reality shapes and informs the analytic work in a powerful way. He, Mr Webb, is always there in a unique way in all her sessions, “listening and watching” in a way that is not always literal (confidentiality being maintained for each partner) but is more than metaphorical—just as she, Mrs Webb, is there in his sessions.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

9. Hell is oneself, the others merely projections

Fisher, James Karnac Books ePub

One of the most interesting remarks reported to have been made by T. S. Eliot about The Cocktail Party is that it constitutes his rejoinder to Jean-Paul Sartre’s biting judgement that hell is other people. An interesting thought. In an earlier version of Eliot’s play, he puts the following often-quoted lament in the mouth of Edward:

What is hell? Hell is oneself,
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
One’s own projections.

[1.3.417-419]

Martin Browne, director of all of T. S. Eliot’s plays (except the unfinished Sweeney Agonistes), who, as he put it, assisted at the birth of each, claimed that Eliot said during rehearsal of The Cocktail Party that it contained his rejoinder to Sartre’s 1944 Huis Clos (Browne, 1969, p. 233). That may be, and we have only Browne’s account for what Eliot said. However, I think that it is just as plausible to read The Cocktail Party as Eliot’s exegesis of Sartre’s forlorn thesis, although it is likely that if it is an interpretation of Sartre it was an unconscious one. Eliot, whether consciously or not, had a remarkable insight into what it means for someone to experience other-people-as-hell

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

6. That which couples bring to therapy

Fisher, James Karnac Books ePub

The therapy with the Webbs has brought into focus some critical questions. For example, when would we encourage people to seek therapy individually and when, if ever, as a couple? Why indeed would one want to engage in the psychoanalytic process as a couple?

One of my aims in this book is to convey something of the stark temerity of an invitation to the psychoanalytic experience in the actual presence of the partner with whom one shares, potentially anyway, the most intimate of life’s experiences. It is possible to imagine that only someone who has experienced psychoanalysis as an analysand can appreciate how forbidding that prospect could be. It is forbidding, I suggest, not only for the couple, but in quite a profound way for the therapist as well. And yet the reality is that couples do seek out psychoanalytic therapy as couples and engage in the analytic process as couples, sometimes for four or five years.

In this chapter, I want to begin to explore the idea that certain forms of narcissistic relating lead to seeking therapy as a couple. Or perhaps I should say that a variety of circumstances may mean couples seek out therapy together, but certain forms of narcissistic relating make it possible for some couples to sustain participation in the analytic process as a couple. My query is whether or not that which couples bring to therapy, to paraphrase Henri Rey, helps us to make sense of what brings couples to therapy.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

12. Termination: Othello’s version of Eliot’s “two ways”

Fisher, James Karnac Books ePub

“ ¦ et’s begin with a tale, a tale of hateful jealousy and suspicion, I as well as, one might say, a tale of remarriage/’ With that JL-J invitation which opened chapter one we began this exploration of the developmental achievement I am conceptualizing as the emergence from narcissism towards marriage, or re-marriage, and its links with the psychoanalytic process in therapy with couples. The reader will be.aware by now that in a similar way I am proposing to end with a tale, also a tale of hateful jealousy and suspicion. It is true that Shakespeare’s play Othello is not, in any obvious way, a tale of remarriage. And yet in setting the discussion of this disturbing play as a counterpoint to The Winter’s Tale I mean to focus attention on the intimate link between endings and beginnings, separation and union, and, one might say, an idea of marriage.

In a word, I want to end our exploration of the psychoanalytic process with couples by thinking about endings in therapy in the context of the emergence from narcissism. Discussion of the process of and the criteria for termination inevitably takes us back to the most fundamental questions. My aim in this final chapter is to revisit the way of thinking I have been developing about the nature both of the psychoanalytic process and of marriage in order to consider how this might help us to think about the termination process itself. To do this, I want to return to The Cocktail Party, to the endings that T. S. Eliot proposes for his characters, his “two ways”. This will lead us directly into the images of Shakespeare’s Othello considered in relationship to The Winter’s Tale.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters