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Martin, K.A. (2002). Mirror, Mirror: An Enactment That Stalemated a Psychotherapy. Ann. Psychoanal., 30:211-221.

(2002). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 30:211-221

V. Female Homosexuality

Mirror, Mirror: An Enactment That Stalemated a Psychotherapy Related Papers

Karen A. Martin, M.A., L.C.S.W.

The term enactment is used in psychoanalysis to refer to unconscious symbolic repetitions of early trauma. When enactments occur in a treatment relationship, both therapist and patient unconsciously contribute to and participate in them. The term is also used, at times, to refer to unconscious symbolic repetitions of early trauma that occur outside of the treatment relationship (see Brothers, 1997). Enactments, sexual or nonsexual, that occur between psychotherapists and patients, are also conceptualized as transference-countertransference collusions. However named, these unconscious symbolic repetitions of early trauma suggest that there is an unconscious push to repeat and/or to relive early experience, understood and conceptualized first by Freud (1914) as the “repetition compulsion.”

Holly, the young woman whose case I present, is a lesbian. During the first several years of psychotherapy with me, Holly's relational involvements would be characterized, in my view, as sexual enactments rather than healthy homosexual relationships. That Holly engaged in these sexual enactments outside of the treatment for as long as she did was indicative of a parallel, unseen, and therefore unanalyzed enactment, of the nonsexual variety, between her and me in the treatment. The enactments in which Holly engaged with her various lovers and with me during many years of this treatment were unconscious repetitions of her early trauma at the hand of her mother. I think this becomes clear as I give an account of Holly's history and as I describe the psychotherapy.

Holly is the third of four daughters born to parents who remained married until she was ten years of age, then divorced, remarried one year later, remained married for two more years, and then divorced again. Mother was actively alcoholic throughout Holly's childhood and until Holly was 30 years old. Mother was extremely narcissistic and emotionally unavailable to Holly and her sisters. Drunk or sober she was haughty, arrogant, and narcissistically self-absorbed.

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