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Sloane, J.A. (2013). Sleep, Death, and Rebirth: A Relational Perspective on Sleep in the Countertransference. Contemp. Psychoanal., 49(4):509-535.

(2013). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 49(4):509-535

Sleep, Death, and Rebirth: A Relational Perspective on Sleep in the Countertransference

John A. Sloane, M.D.

Sleep in the countertransference, a not uncommon phenomenon, is rarely spoken of because of the shame associated with it and the difficulty registering, remembering, and finding words for unconscious elements that set the stage for and trigger its occurrence. The article begins, as did the clinical experiences it seeks to formulate, with a dramatic instance of what felt like sudden death. The author describes several examples of this phenomenon and how he has learned to understand and work with it clinically. It occurs in the context of empathic immersion in—and disconnection from—the patient's nonverbal emotional core. It may be sudden and massive, or subtle and gradual—with clouding of consciousness over which the analyst has no control once it goes beyond a certain “event horizon” analogous to that described around black holes in outer space. There are many psychoanalytic, poetic, and religious ways of wording what the author considers a regressive “phase in the motions and transformations of psychic life” (Loewald, 1981). In some cases, it may even be crucial to the reanimation of buried or dissociated aspects of both patient and analyst.

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