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Basch, M.F. (1974). Interference with Perceptual Transformation in the Service of Defense. Ann. Psychoanal., 2:87-97.

(1974). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 2:87-97

III Clinical Theory

Interference with Perceptual Transformation in the Service of Defense

Michael Franz Basch, M.D.

My interest in perceptual defense as contrasted with the defense against instinct began with a problem that arose in the analysis of a young woman, a graduate student, whose sexual frigidity and fear of marriage was the characterological outcome of a hysterical conflict. The psychoanalysis of this patient led rapidly to the development of a positive father transference. Soon her dreams and associations showed disguised derivatives of repressed oedipal material. Paradoxically, unusually smooth recovery of repressed content, significant insight into the sexual conflicts of childhood, and alleviation of neurotic symptoms were made possible only by an unexpected resistance to the transference neurosis. Though the patient's analytic hours demonstrated her genuine involvement with me, consciously she experienced the transference only in displaced form. She was convinced that one of her professors was the hidden object of her longing in erotic fantasies and dreams. Her hopes for and fears about that relationship could be dealt with analytically. In this context, significant childhood memories concerning the basis of her neurosis were recovered or reconstructed, accompanied by appropriate affect. But only in this indirect manner, through a “transference neurosis once removed,” so to speak, could the patient deal with her feelings for me. Transference interpretations meant nothing to her, and she could calmly, honestly, and convincingly maintain that she was aware of me only as a figure in the here and now performing a professional service.

Usually it was not difficult for her to rationalize the disavowal of my significance for her psychic life, but there came a time when this resistance in the transference was not feasible. One day the patient and I met while entering an otherwise empty elevator. We greeted each other and rode for a few floors in uninterrupted privacy. We were then joined by a man who happened to know me and also greeted me. The three of us soon reached street level and each went his separate way.

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