18 Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

8. The uninvited guest

James Fisher Karnac Books ePub

Having become engrossed in an exploration of some rather technical and theoretical considerations, it is perhaps time to pause for a moment and look at another example of therapy with a couple as we did with the ‘‘Webbs” from the Marriage Book. This time I want to turn to what is perhaps the earliest recorded description of a couple therapy session. It is possible, in a sense, to identify the exact date and place for this first couple session—the 22nd of August 1949 in Edinburgh. In a way, of course, it is frivolous to link the serious therapy with often desperate couples, which we have been exploring in this book, with the portrait of a couple in T. S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party who are brought together for a “therapeutic” session with a mysterious figure whom Stephen Spender described as “an eminence grise of the psycho-analytical world” (Spender, 1975, p. 203). The consulting-room is one thing, the theatre another, worlds apart. And yet…are they? Perhaps I can appeal to the reader’s generosity to indulge me this link for a moment before judging how serious or how frivolous is my use of Eliot’s comic poetic drama.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751149

4. Gesture and recognition: an alternative model to projective identification as a basis for couple relationships

Karnac Books ePub

Gesture and recognition: an alternative model to projective identification as a basis for couple relationships

Warren Colman

In this chapter I propose a modification and limitation of the rather over-extended use of the term “projective identification”. I suggest that some uses of the term may be better understood to refer to a state of fluid ego boundaries, which, in health, may promote a sense of mutual identification between individuals; this needs to be distinguished from the defensive uses of projective identification associated with splitting and denial. Mutual identification is based in early communication processes between mother and infant, which Winnicott (1960b) has described as the mother’s response to her infant’s gesture. These processes occur prior to the establishment of the infant’s own sense of ego boundaries, which are required before projective identification can become a possibility.

My preference is to reserve the use of term “projective identification” for defensive processes subsequent to these early communications between mother and infant in which the mother’s own fluid ego-boundaries—her “primary maternal preoccupation” (Winnicott, 1956) or “reverie” (Bion, 1962a)—enable her to respond appropriately to the infant’s need to experience an illusion of oneness with her. However, since usage is a matter of shared custom rather than any one individual’s definition, we shall probably all continue to think of this distinction as being between the positive, creative use of projective identification for the purposes of communication and its defensive use for the purposes of evacuation, control, and intrusion. My concern is less with the introduction of new terms than with clarifying the different processes to which these terms refer.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

3. The gathering of the transference

James Fisher Karnac Books ePub

You might say that the development of a psychoanalytic understanding of the couple relationship began with the beginning of psychoanalysis itself, and thus with the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud. It is true that the couple in which Freud took the greatest interest was the analyst-analysand couple; at least, it was the couple relationship that he explored in some detail. However, the development of a psychoanalytic approach to psychotherapy with couples begins much later. I am tempted to claim that the first couple psychotherapy session was described in 1949 by T. S. Eliot in his play The Cocktail Party—a somewhat tongue-in-cheek claim that I will present in subsequent chapters. How psychoanalytic the “therapy” described by Eliot in that play is, the reader will have to decide after reading my commentary on it.

In a more sober mood, I want to acknowledge the work of two of the pioneering institutions in the application of a psychoanalytic approach to therapeutic work with couples: the Family Discussion Bureau (FDB), as the Tavistock Marital Studies Institute (TMSI) was originally known, and the Marital Unit of the Tavistock Clinic. Both of these units still exist, although only the TMSI has instituted a formal training and qualification specifically in psychoanalytic marital psychotherapy, and in consequence there is now a Society of Psychoanalytical Marital Psychotherapists (SPMP) which carries forward this tradition. The Marital Unit in the Adult Department of the Tavistock Clinic includes some experience with couples as part of its adult psychotherapy qualification. Since I do not intend to take a descriptive historical approach here, the reader who wishes to look back may want to consult Psychotherapy with Couples edited by Stanley Ruszczynski (1993) as well as Marital Tensions by Henry Dicks (1967) for an appreciation of the work and thinking of these two sister organizations, although there is no history as yet which includes the story of the SPMP.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751149

3. From the internal parental couple to the marital relationship

Karnac Books ePub

From the internal parental couple to the marital relationship

Giovanna Rita Di Ceglie

It is not clear when the concept of the parental couple appears in the course of individual development or in the culture of a society. Psychoanalysis views the encounter with the “couple” as the most important psychic event. The cluster of emotions, phantasies, conflicts, and thought derived from that encounter is what is called the “Oedipus complex”.

In the original myth, where people tend to act rather than think, there is a simultaneous encounter with and elimination of the couple: encounter with the father and patricide, encounter with the mother and incest.

In the various permutations of these actions in the theatre of the mind, the common denominator is the splitting of the parental couple and the denial of the generation gap. Psychoanalysis has discovered the connection between adulthood and infancy, between past and present, between the way we have emotionally experienced the parents as a couple and the type of relationships we establish as adults.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751965

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

James Fisher 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