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Parkinson, J. (2003). Intruder in the Night: Cancer and the ‘I’ Within. Brit. J. Psychother., 19(4):415-433.

(2003). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 19(4):415-433

On the Body

Intruder in the Night: Cancer and the ‘I’ Within

Judy Parkinson

Little has been written about psychoanalytic psychotherapy with people who suffer from medical conditions such as cancer and as distinct from the well-established literature describing psychoanalytic theories and clinical work with those who have medical conditions which may be considered to have a psychologically-influenced causal basis.

In this paper, I will explore the nature and experience of cancer, its psychological impact upon the patient and also the therapist, and the patient's relation to the disease inside. I think about cancer as an unboundaried invader within the body which may temporarily dislocate the patient's ego, resulting in the ‘I’ of the patient feeling overwhelmed or threatened. The subject of this paper is the ‘I’ which perceives and relates to the cancer within. The aim of the paper is to work towards describing the principles and practice of a model of ego-supportive psychotherapy with cancer patients, its goal being to help the patient to strengthen, relocate or reinstate his/her vulnerable ego.

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