Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lucy LaFarge - Interpretation and Containment

Abstract "The author explores two aspects of the analyst's effort to imagine the inner world of his patient and the way that they are manifest in the clinical moment. The first of these is the analyst's recognition and interpretation of his patient's elaborated fantasies. This current of the analyst's imagination is most often evoked by the patient's communication of whole-object transferences, which occurs largely in his verbal associations. The second is the analyst's reception and transformation of his patient's primitive emotional experience, a process that Bion has called containment. This second imaginative current is most often evoked by the patient's communication of part-object transferences, which occurs largely in affect and action. Interpretation and containment both go on at once in clinical work, although one or the other is usually dominant. Attention to the interplay of interpretation and containment in the clinical moment enables us to identify the articulation of whole- and part-object transferences and to integrate ego-psychological and Kleinian frames of reference in clinical work. In addition, the concept of mutual containment opens Kleinian theory to the possibility of a two-person psychology in which the roles of analyst and patient are more symmetrical than they are usually conceived to be within this frame of reference. The author presents two clinical examples to demonstrate the interplay of interpretation and containment. In the first, these processes operate smoothly. In the second, the process of containment is strained but ultimately successful." (p. 67)

 
Conclusion: "In this paper, I contrast two aspects of the analyst's interchange with his patient. At one pole, I have placed the analyst's recognition of his patient's elaborated fantasies, often communicated by the patient in his verbal associations. The analyst feels this material to arise mainly from the patient, rather than from the analyst's own subjective experience. I have argued that this pole of the analytic situation often reflects the patient's experience of the analyst as a whole object and is often best understood within an ego-psychological frame of reference, in which interpretation is the chief therapeutic agent. At the other pole, I have placed the analyst's imaginative transformation of material that he feels mainly as arising within himself, as a shaping or a disturbance of his own subjective experience. I have argued that this second pole of the analytic situation often reflects the patient's experience of the analyst as a part object, conveyed in the patient's affects and actions rather than words. I have argued that this pole is often best understood within a Kleinian, or more specifically, a Bionian frame of reference, in which containment is an important therapeutic agent. From a theoretical standpoint, it might be argued that both the polarisation of two kinds of listening and the use of two theoretical frames, is unnecessary. As I have noted, the two poles rarely occur in pure form. The skilled analyst, whatever his theoretical frame, tends to draw upon both kinds of data, and to blend them in his formulations. And it has often been argued that a good analyst who puts either of the two frames of reference that I attempt to integrate to full use will get a good clinical result. Nevertheless, I think that the teasing out of these two aspects of analytic material, and the effort to understand them as different, is useful, both in elucidating the extreme cases, where one pole or the other strongly predominates, and in helping us to see, in the more common, middle range where both kinds of material are intertwined, those aspects of the clinical situation which are more evident from one vantage point than from the other." (pp. 81-82)

Lucy LaFarge (2000). Interpretation and Containment. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 81, pp. 67-84

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