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Wilson, M. (2015). Introduction: Working with the Analyst's Disappointments, Grief, and Sense of Limitation in the Analytic Process. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(6):1169-1172.

(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(6):1169-1172

Introduction: Working with the Analyst's Disappointments, Grief, and Sense of Limitation in the Analytic Process

Mitchell Wilson

Some years ago the novelist and short story writer Jonathan Lethem published a book of essays titled The Disappointment Artist. On the cover of this rather slender volume one finds a photograph of a melting ice cream bar, a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream bar, to be more exact. Melting, dripping over the clutched hand of an adult. Now this photograph, for the purposes of my introducing a series of papers that concern the topic of disappointment as it relates to the practice of psychoanalysis, is pretty close to ideal. After all, isn't it the case that, in a very real sense, all things are impermanent? Especially a good thing, where its loss stings, its absence cuts deeply? And, regarding ice cream, isn't it the case that we can never fully devour ice cream in whatever form it takes? That there is always ice cream we don't get at precisely because, inevitably, some of it melts? There is always a remainder, something we both lack and cannot get hold of. This always remaining thing is the price one pays for being a desiring subject.

In this light, it turns out that the cover photograph of The Disappointment Artist, while pretty close to ideal, is not exactly right. And notice that this “not exactly right” is only in relation to my particular subjectivity, my particular state of desire. Someone else would be in a different state, perhaps with a different desire. For me, given that I am introducing the topic of disappointment in the daily work of the psychoanalyst, I would have preferred a photograph of an ice cream cone, not an ice cream bar, holding two or three scoops of ice cream, melting of course, onto the delicate hand of a small child. Such a picture could have then allowed me to imagine with you a scenario that related this child's holding the melting cone to, let's say, her mother.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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