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Cooper, S.H. (2015). Reflections on the Analyst's “Good Enough” Capacity to Bear Disappointment, with Special Attention to Repetition. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(6):1193-1213.

(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(6):1193-1213

Reflections on the Analyst's “Good Enough” Capacity to Bear Disappointment, with Special Attention to Repetition

Steven H. Cooper

Repetition is bedrock. It is the crime scene if you will—the place where something happened to the patient and he or she figured out something to do about it. It is how we think that we are trying to mitigate our pain, or cauterize it, while often inflicting it on ourselves. It is how we try to solve the problem by staying the same. It is the scene for patient and analyst where they are the least imaginative and the most imaginative in how they work together As analysts we are often trying to find ways to bear what seems to be repetitive while trying to understand the patient's continuing modes of expressing conflicts.

As most analysts know, Freud (1920) saw in his grandson Ernst's imaginative game of disappearance and return the symbolic representation of the renunciation of instinctual satisfaction. Ernst found a way to allow his mother to leave without protesting. In managing the distress he experienced in his mother's absences, he turned passive into active and symbolically took revenge on his mother for leaving him. Freud saw, in the game of tossing away the reel, a symbolized mother, and then, in the child's bringing it back, a situation—abandonment—that though clearly unpleasant was, like many neurotic behaviors, repeated over and over again. From this observation Freud gained insight into the nature of the repetition compulsion and behaviors motivated by something “beyond the pleasure principle.”

[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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