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Bianchini, B. Dallanegra, L. (2011). Reflections on the Container—Contained Model in Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 1(1):69-80.

(2011). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 1(1):69-80

Reflections on the Container—Contained Model in Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Barbara Bianchini and Laura Dallanegra

Translated by:
Roma O'flaherty

Following on from Bion's idea that two people are required to think the most disturbing thoughts of the individual, we examine the hypothesis that a couple come together in order for this to happen. When it transpires that the capacity of a person's mind for dealing with mental suffering is inadequate, there is the urge to seek out another mind that can help to face the pain in an attempt to overcome the individual's suffering and in the hope of change. Should such expectations not be met and the resulting disappointment not be tolerated, it is often the couple relationship that begins to suffer.

Within the framework of the containercontained relationship as a model of the individual's and the couple's mental functioning, we explore, through some clinical cases, this dialectic relationship and its perennial imbalance between the capacity of the container and the growth of content. We propose that the relationship develops in two directions, that its functions are reversible, and that container and contained activate each other in a state of continuous mutual tension.

We highlight that clinical work with couples should tend towards expanding the containercontained relationship so that the partners function as mutual containers, where both benefit and both are enriched by new qualities and truths, which they feel are the best contribution to their individual development.

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