Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mark Winborn - The Influence of Familiarity on Analysis

"I propose that familiarity is a particular aspect of the intersubjective field which emerges over time and begins to shape and influence the behaviours, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings of the participants. I also propose that it is an influence co-created (Eber 1990) in the field; it does not originate from the individual psyche of either the analyst or patient." (p. 189)

"I have proposed that the experience of familiarity is an affective state that can be utilized as a defence (defensive familiarity) against ‘analytic contact’ (Waska 2007) or in a manner facilitative of the analytic process (facilitative familiarity). Facilitative familiarity is associated with the positive aspects of familiarity (e.g., consistency, continuity, predictability) that help establish a sense of security in analysis. In practice, we can see states of familiarity along a continuum that extends from utility and facilitation to defensiveness and obstruction; with more optimal functioning of the dyad, there will be a fluctuation of states of familiarity and otherness in the field while at the other extreme there will be a fixed tone and sense of stuckness." (pp. 194-195)

"I have outlined a distinction between experiences of ‘facilitative familiarity’ which furthers the felt sense of security and trust in analysis and what I have termed ‘defensive familiarity’ – those states of familiarity which interfere with or otherwise disrupt the analytic process. It is facilitative familiarity states that provide the base from which the members of the dyad can face the disruption and conflict that may emerge as implicit states of defensive familiarity that come alive in the dyad. Engaging with states of familiarity in the analytic field is a complicated project fraught with ambivalence. In many instances,the familiar feels warm, comfortable, predictable, or safe and an analysis can’t proceed without the presence of these elements that help to build a secure base; however, they engender feelings that can be difficult for the analyst to question or relinquish, even in the service of greater analytic depth; and the patient may also be reluctant to examine the experience of familiarity too closely, perhaps fearing to venture into riskier psychic territory. The patient may also hear our attempts at exploring the feelings of familiarity as an indication that they aren’t doing therapy correctly, feeling criticized in the process of the exploration. These are some of the shared emotional dilemmas that may be encountered as the analyst and patient attempt to mutually engage experiences of defensive familiarity. Reading the implicit communication on the face and in the body, voice and feeling tone will be important to this process as will awareness of states of match and mis-match during analytic interactions.

I am not advocating the adoption of a stance of formality as a means of avoiding a sense of familiarity, nor am I advocating any attempt to avoid the feeling of familiarity in the analytic setting. I think the danger for analytic work is not the feeling of familiarity itself but the lack of sufficient consideration for how it affects our various analytic relationships. Obviously, it is not possible or desirable to defend against or attempt to diminish the influence of the familiar on an analysis, but by considering the variety of ways it can influence an analysis, we can become more conscious of this phenomenon. My aim is to bring the feeling of familiarity, as an emergent aspect of the transference/countertransference field of many analytic relationships, to the foreground for consideration."'
(p. 202)

Mark Winborn (2012) The Shadow of Familiarity: A contributor to the intersubjective field. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 57, pp.187–206

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on "familiarity" Mark. I would enjoy reading more about how you feel it might get in the way and also your clinical experience exploring this with your analysands. A. Guerra