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Induction and transference in psychoanalysis: the unconscious is fascinating!

My analyst is trained in modern psychoanalysis, which is very similar to traditional analysis, or what you think of when you think of Freud. But this guy, Hyman Spotnitz, came along and basically said he thought everyone could be analyzed, even schizophrenics, whereas Freud did not think analysis was applicable to everyone. Spotnitz’s basic goal was to get the client to “say everything”. (This is part of the reason my analyst is so awesome – I can email her ’til her inbox won’t hold anymore and she’s cool with it, because I am putting thoughts and feelings into words – discharging energy in a productive way.)

Anyway, my analyst knows that I want to be an analyst (I think she may be a little put off by this idea, but perhaps that is transference), and so she is letting me borrow her analyst books. The first one she gave me is Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient by Spotnitz, also known as “The Red Book”. I’d been reading along, googling the many things I don’t understand, writing my analyst emails about this theory or that technique. Then I came across what felt like a recipe for a “cooperative analysand”, as Spotnitz called it. It felt so creepy and manipulative. And then I thought, why not my analyst? If she was trained in this discipline, isn’t she also playing mind games with me? What the fuck is this analysis shit, anyway?

What it came down to was transference. With a history of stalking and sexual abuse from my grandfather, I was assuming my analyst had creepy attributes and was trying to manipulate me into doing what she wanted. It kind of blew up in our relationship but we were eventually able to identify that what was going on was actually transference. My analyst isn’t being, and has never been, inappropriate with me. And now we’re both aware that if those feelings surface again, we will know what we’re dealing with.

Transference is an interesting phenomenon, certainly, but I find induction to be even more fascinating. Induction is a big part of modern analysis because the analyst is trained to use the emotions induced in them by the client as a tool to understand the client’s life as well as for interventions. I’m not quite sure how it works, and it seems a little weird, but my analyst said she’s seen it a million times, and it’s really the result of the unconscious. Small things like body language and probably mirror neurons conjure up countertransference feelings in the analyst. If the analyst is well-trained, he or she will identify that they are being induced and will use that as part of their work with the client.

I recently went away for a long weekend to attend a wedding out of state, meaning that I wasn’t physically with my analyst on Thursday or Friday. We did talk on the phone, but the feeling of connection was weak at best. After all, I sit next to her every session, so this change was pretty drastic for me. Then, of course, we did not talk at all on the weekend, and I started shutting down. I stopped feeling, which was great, and I emailed my analyst and said that maybe I shouldn’t be doing therapy – I was doing fine without it.

What I really wanted, though, was more connection. I walked into her office on Monday desperately wanting a hug, but not being aware of it. Growing up in a household where hugs were pretty much unacceptable, not being able to shake off my need for connection, and not understanding what I was feeling or what was going on, I was stuck. I wouldn’t sit next to my analyst, I was frozen on the floor – and she played right into it. The more I wanted connection but stopped myself from seeking it, the more distant my analyst became. I worked up the courage to sit next to her, and she was emotionally distant. She was completely unlike herself. It was a mess.

This went on for a few more days until I understood what had actually happened. After telling my analyst, she informed me that she was likely induced to be my mother. My mom is awkward around physical contact and I spent much of my childhood wishing for connection. Instead, I received the message that this desire was unacceptable. This same scenario was reenacted with my analyst, because I induced her to behave the way in which my mom did. Weird? Yeah. And really hard to sort out. Both the client and the analyst have to be aware of what’s going on and willing to work things through – I definitely considered leaving the relationship. But! It’s important to trust the process. The unconscious is fascinating.

I want my analyst to sit on the couch with me.

This needs to be explored thoroughly. My previous therapist would sit on the couch with me, at my request. I loved the physical contact. She would hold my hand, we would cuddle… it was very nice. In my mind, it was representative of acceptance – my mother is quite uncomfortable with physical contact and so, as a child, I received less of it than I would have liked. I’m also convinced that my mother finds people repulsive, including her own children, and so to have my therapist sit with me felt like I was not repulsive to her.

But also, having my therapist sit next to me on the couch meant that we weren’t facing each other, and she couldn’t look at me. I think there is something big here. Currently, my analyst and I sit across from each other – I’m sitting on the couch and she’s sitting in her chair (on her “perch”, as she once called it). As much as I am telling myself that I want my analyst to convey to me that I’m not repulsive, I think there might also be something to do with looking at me. To be looked at and acknowledged means one must exist. I think I have difficulty in this area. In the beginning, I did make quite a bit of eye contact with my analyst – a sharp contrast from where I was when I left my previous therapist. But last week, I noticed I was not looking at her at all. I also noticed I was feeling a distinct lack of connection following the sessions, and I hypothesised it had something to do with the lack of eye contact. I had to make a conscious effort to look at her on the last session of the week, and I noticed the difference. Our sessions are naturally increasing in content and intensity, and I’m wondering if it’s difficult for me to have that raw feeling of being seen while exploring topics that are more difficult. And if that’s the case, I may be looking to alleviate that discomfort in two ways by having her sit on the couch. One, it would feel like she is more “with” me if she sat next to me, and two, I wouldn’t have to tolerate the feeling of being looked at. I mostly remember my mom making eye contact with me when I was in trouble, so maybe having eye contact with my analyst also feels like I am in trouble for having thoughts or feelings.

When I first started analysis about three months ago, I told my analyst about how my therapist would sit on the couch with me, and I requested that my analyst not do this. I thought it was because I knew I needed to tolerate the feelings of not having physical contact, and that in order to work through them, I needed to have my analyst sit in the chair. To have her sit on the couch with me would be to skirt around the issue and to gratify my need for the contact. While I still believe that is true, I think there is more to it in the sense that I do not want to be looked at, that acknowledgement of my existence is too overwhelming, and I need to tolerate this, as well.

I thought I might try to take this blog in a new direction. Being a mother is an experience too remarkable to not capture, and the same, I think, with being an analysand. So, here we are.

My ultimate goal, of course, is to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted human who is comfortable in and with herself. My daughter, Peanut, is ten months old, with a personality so uninhibited that I don’t know how she fits it into her little body. In order to foster who she naturally is, my husband and I try to create an environment which does not sap her energy and liveliness. We attend to her when she cries, we bed share, I breastfeed, in hopes that she will not have to worry about why her primal needs are not met and instead can grow and develop with confidence. I find myself intensely attuned to her; I suppose my analyst would say that I track her.

Speaking of my analyst – after two and a half years of tempestuous therapy, I left my therapist. Considering my options, I decided to enter psychoanalysis. For one, I enjoy the depth and work required. It challenges my brain in a vigorous and exciting way. Two, I want to be an analyst, and one has to undergo personal analysis before one can sit in the chair. So I thought, why not? And I very carefully selected my therapist – analyst. She’s good. She’s steady and sharp. She will be good for me.

So, that is what I hope to do here – record the intertwining journeys of being a parent, and becoming an analyst. I have a feeling that each will strongly influence the other.