The containing function and the analyst's projective identification

Department of Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland 97201.
The International Journal of Psychoanalysis (Impact Factor: 0.86). 02/1990; 71 ( Pt 3):445-53.
Source: PubMed


The concept of the container and the contained in psychoanalysis describes a process whereby the patient's projective identifications are internalized by the analyst, transformed, given meaning, and returned to the patient in a useful fashion. In this paper, it is suggested that what the analyst gives back, and what the patient receives, is the analyst's projective identification. The containing function itself can be transmitted to the patient via this mechanism. All interpretation, from whatever theoretical viewpoint, has an element of containing and therefore projective identification on the part of the analyst. Paradoxically, neutrality itself can be considered a vehicle for projective identification. Previously, the role of the therapist's projective identification in the containing process has been implied, but not discussed.

1 Follower
2 Reads
  • Source
    • "In her depiction of the third in the one Benjamin ( 2001 ) emphasises Bion ' s ( 1962 , 1967b ) idea of the therapist ' s functioning as a detoxifying container for the patient ' s intolerable affects and experiences . In further elaborations of the concept of containment , the patient is not only contained by the therapist , but also internalises the process of containing and becomes capable of containing himself ( Hamilton , 1990 ; Ogden , 1994 , Benjamin , 1998b ) . The question that then arises is how the therapist does not become a " negative container " ( Grotstein , 1995 , p . "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to explore how personal therapy influences experienced psychodynamic psychotherapists’ ways of being clinicians, and, by implication, their professional development. A hermeneutic research method, which also drew upon aspects of grounded theory methodology, was therefore devised to explore and examine how personal therapy and professional practice relate to each other and to the therapist’s development, and to deepen this descriptive account into a more differentiated and theoretically viable understanding. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight psychodynamic psychotherapists who were working as clinicians and who were concurrently in therapy. Keeping the research objective in mind, a list of questions was developed from the interview material through which the data was re-read and edited. In accordance with the aims of the study, and as suggested by the results of the initial phase of the textual analysis, intersubjective theory, mainly that of Jessica Benjamin, was used to generate a conceptual framework through which the interview material was further interpreted. This foregrounded the shifting power distributions and the varying processes of identification between the treating therapists and the participants. The Jungian notion of the wounded healer was intersubjectively reconfigured as indicating a therapist whose (often unacknowledged) needs and vulnerabilities engender a proclivity to relate to patients as objects rather than subjects. The participants could all be described as having started out their professional lives as wounded healers. The effects of personal therapy on their clinical work were conceptualised in terms of increased abilities for subject-to-subject relating. These were linked to augmented capacities for reflective and symbolic thinking and an enhanced openness to the implicit, unformulated and opaque aspects of experiences in the therapeutic space. Finally an intersubjective model of personal therapy and development as a therapist was generated. It was concluded that because of the focus on the therapeutic relationship as the vehicle for change in psychodynamic psychotherapy, as well as the current increasing emphasis on the use of the therapist’s subjectivity, the therapist’s capacity to engage in and sustain subject-tosubject relating and, by implication, the therapist’s personal therapy, are of pivotal importance for all therapists doing the work of psychodynamic psychotherapy.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: After around half a century of progress, Jewish-Christian relations seem to have reached a plateau. Among many possible reasons, it appears that good intentions at “official” church levels continue to be subverted by traditional Christian supersessionism, especially as manifest in the “performed” life of the church, and in relation to Jews and Judaism. The research generates a psychoanalytical understanding of Christian anti-Jewishness complementary to those from other fields, to try to understand more comprehensively its aetiology and why it manifests in such particular ways. The theoretical approach begins with Freud and the British Object Relations school, but includes perspectives from other streams of psychoanalysis, and from contemporary cognitive theory. Utilising an “applied” psychoanalytic reading of The Wandering Jew as a synecdoche of Christian anti-Jewishness, the research argues that performance of the church’s sacred texts (traditionally interpreted in anti-Jewish ways) connects, via unconscious association, with latent primal fears and anxieties of worshippers. It is this regular, uncritical performance of such texts that keeps a largely unconscious, affect-laden, contemporary anti-Jewishness alive. Understanding that “bodies” can bear powerful meanings, the research investigates the person of The Wandering Jew as a Christian anti-Jewish construction, and uncovers a number of psychoanalytically significant themes which closely relate to issues of human development. All of this, taken together, helps explain why Christian anti-Jewishness is often so passionately irrational, palpably incarnate, deep-rooted and difficult to educate against. The research concludes with two theoretical reflections. The first explores whether the idea of the analytic third might help towards a better understanding of the potency of Christian anti-Jewish fantasy. The second is a discussion of whether it is helpful, given anti- Jewishness is no longer generally understood as “psychopathological”, to think instead of Christian anti-Jewish construction as taking place on neurotic islands having cultures of narcissism and paranoia. The main implication of the research is that the church needs to take responsibility for its own anti-Jewishness which is what, in essence, is currently subverting better Jewish- Christian relations.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The psychoanalytic literature on altruism is sparse, although much has been written on this topic from a sociobiological perspective. Freud (1917) first described the concept in "Libido Theory and Narcissism." In 1946 Anna Freud coined the term "altruistic surrender" to describe the psychodynamics of altruistic behavior in a group of inhibited individuals who were neurotically driven to do good for others. The usefulness and clinical applicability of this formulation, in conjunction with the frequent coexistence of masochism and altruism, encouraged psychoanalysts to regard all forms of altruism as having masochistic underpinnings. Since then, there has been a conflation of the two concepts in much of the analytic literature. This paper reexamines the psychoanalytic understanding of altruism and proposes an expansion of the concept to include a normal form. Five types of altruism are described: protoaltruism, generative altruism, conflicted altruism, pseudoaltruism, and psychotic altruism. Protoaltruism has biological roots and can be observed in animals. In humans, protoaltruism includes maternal and paternal nurturing and protectiveness. Generative altruism is the nonconflictual pleasure in fostering the success and/or welfare of another. Conflicted altruism is generative altruism that is drawn into conflict, but in which the pleasure and satisfaction of another (a proxy) is actually enjoyed. Pseudoaltruism originates in conflict and serves as a defensive cloak for underlying sadomasochism. Psychotic altruism is defined as the sometimes bizarre forms of caretaking behavior and associated self-denial seen in psychotic individuals, and often based on delusion. We consider Anna Freud's altruistic surrender to combine features of both conflict-laden altruism and pseudoaltruism. Two clinical illustrations are discussed.
    Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 02/2001; 49(3):933-59. DOI:10.1177/00030651010490031901 · 0.79 Impact Factor
Show more