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Little, M.I. (1987). On the value of regression to dependence. Free Associations, 1(10):7-22.
(1987). Free Associations, 1(10):7-22
On the value of regression to dependence
Margaret I. Little
The hunter and the animals he seeks seem to join and become part of one another and of all the life there is.
James Houston, ‘Spirit Wrestler’
In my paper (1985) ‘Winnicott working in areas where psychotic anxieties predominate — a personal record’ I wrote of continued self-analysis after the termination with Winnicott in 1957, and of ‘reconsidering the value of the regression, seeing it… especially the time in hospital as a challenge to determine which would prove the stronger, the sickness or the health, which were both there’ (Little, 1985, p. 37).
This consideration has its validity, but beyond what the experience brought me for myself there is a much wider value: for my own patients, for Winnicott, and for those psychoanalysts who are willing to allow such regression in their treatment of psychotic patients.
Except for its concluding section on Winnicott as teacher, the paper (which I have to hope has been read and understood) was written from the viewpoint of a patient, a borderline psychotic. It contains little reference to the theoretical and practical considerations which concern the analyst.
From the analyst's point of view the value of regression to dependence can be stated very simply: it is a means by which areas where psychotic anxieties predominate can be explored, early experiences uncovered, and underlying delusional ideas recognized and resolved, via the transference/countertransference partnership of analyst and analysand, in both positive and negative phases. In practice, of course, it is not so simple.
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