Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ferro and Basile - Types of Countertransference Experience in the Analytic Field

"The field concept, originally formulated by Willy and Madeleine Baranger (Baranger & Baranger, 1961-62) has gradually assumed increasing complexity (M. Baranger, 1992; Eizirik 2005; Ferro 1996, 2002a, b;). Initially regarded as a situation whereby the products of the patient-analyst encounter are seen in terms of crossed resistances, and hence of the formation of bulwarks that are subsequently broken down by interpretations resulting from the analyst's ‘second-look’ capability, the field has increasingly become the locus of the multiple potentialities of analyst and patient alike and of all the possible worlds that may be opened up by their encounter. As we see it, it is not only a spatial but also a temporal field, inhabited by the present and the history, which constantly affords vistas onto the future. It is a field in a state of perennial transformation, a characteristic of which nothing can ever remain outside it after the ‘big bang’ of the possible worlds generated by the patient-analyst encounter within the setting. Places in the field are the present analyst-patient relationship, as well as their histories, transferences, and so on.

The field has a breath of its own, whose inhalation phase signals the arrival (or unfreezing) within it of lumps of unthinkability, while its exhalation is the collapse that follows every saturated interpretation, which reduces it to a point so as to prepare it for future expansion. This is of course an incessant movement. Another feature of the field is that sooner or later it must, however slightly, be infected by the patient's illness, and indeed itself contract that illness, in order to become the locus of the treatment and hence of transformations.

Thus, the field has an oscillatory character, swinging between the constant opening up of meaning (negative capability) on the one hand, and the unavoidable closure of meaning when it forgoes all possible stories in favour of the one pressing most strongly to be told (the selected fact).....

This suggests to me that, on the basis of a Bion-inspired view of the field enriched with concepts extrapolated from narratology, a whole series of progressively higher countertransference levels can be distinguished:

Countertransference level 0: When the field itself becomes the narrator and metabolizer of what happens in it, it digests, transforms and alphabetizes the primitive emotions aroused in it, and the signals of its functioning are picked up by the analyst, who is thus enabled to modulate them continuously. This is merely an ideal situation, because caesuras of various kinds will inevitably mobilize the events of the field. The characters of the session themselves assume the task of describing what is happening, thus allowing the analyst's interpretations to modulate the movements of the field. The analyst presides over a process co-generated by himself.

Countertransference level 1: The field is no longer able to absorb and modulate its own tensions, which instead impinge on the particular locus of the field that is the analyst's mind, thereby arousing in him an active, conscious reverie which he perceives and uses.

Countertransference level 2: When the field's tensions are so high that they overflow its central part, they overwhelm the analyst's capacity for reverie and activate particular experiences on his part, on which he must work inside himself in order, on the one hand, to digest and metabolize them and, on the other, to use them for understanding the patient and where appropriate for giving interpretations.

Countertransference level 3: The overflowing is so severe that the analyst as it were takes the problem home with him at night. Something remains encysted and needs to be worked through, for example by the precious tool of countertransference dreams.

Countertransference level 4: The overflowing is so bad that the analyst's very analytic function is overwhelmed, resulting in breaches of the setting ranging from a physical illness in the analyst to unrecognized enactments or dramatic manifestations that preclude continuation of the analysis. A field of this kind is imbued with the violations of the setting so well described by Gabbard & Lester (1995), in which it has not been possible to dissolve the countertransference and to manage it on the level of thought, so that it becomes a ‘thing’ or ‘fact’. At this point, given that one of the components of analysis — the setting — is lacking, what takes place can simply no longer be called analysis."
(pp. 4-5)

Antonio Ferro and Roberto Basile (2008). Countertransference and the characters of the psychoanalytic session. Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 31, pp. 3-10

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