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Hirsch, I. Kessel, P. (1988). Reflections on mature love and countertransference. Free Associations, 1(12):60-83.

(1988). Free Associations, 1(12):60-83

Reflections on mature love and countertransference

Irwin Hirsch and Paul Kessel

The title of this paper includes three concepts noted for their varying and ambiguous definitions and vastness of scope: ‘love’, ‘maturity’, and ‘countertransference’. ‘Love’ is probably the most confusing of the three and certainly the most difficult to research and grasp, regardless of one's philosophy of science. Freud wrote:

Matters concerned with love cannot be measured by the same standards as other things: it is as though they were written on a page by themselves which would not take any other script. (1915, p. 378)

Countertransference’ takes a close second to love in terms of lack of definitional clarity and variety of clinical interpretations. Further, it is an emotionally loaded clinical concept. When love and countertransference are combined and the concept of ‘maturity’ is added, one ends up with a topic with little room for certitude, clarity and finality.

Nevertheless, in spite of such cumbersome concepts, each with a ponderous literature behind it (psychoanalytic or otherwise), we shall attempt to state a single thesis and discussion. Our thesis is that psychoanalysts frequently experience feelings of mature, adult-to-adult love for their patients in ways which enhance the analytic work.

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