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Civin, M. (1997). Therapeutic symbiosis, concordance and analytic transformation. Free Associations, 7(2):260-268.

(1997). Free Associations, 7(2):260-268

Therapeutic symbiosis, concordance and analytic transformation

Michael Civin

In The Past Several decades the published writings of Harold Searles, his lectures and training interviews have emerged as transitional phenomena in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, and, consistent with Winnicott's (1971) characterization of transitional phenomena as paradoxes to be respected and accepted, but not resolved, this corpus of work presents us with an essential paradox. In a meticulously crafted, logically robust, process of theory building over more than a third of a century, often relying for data on analyses that last almost that long, or longer, and which certainly figure among the lengthiest chronicled in the psychoanalytic literature, Searles demonstrates time and again the mutative potential of minutes of mutual madness, or near madness.

Searles presents rigorous, candid descriptions of his own analytic experience. These penetrating and detailed presentations illuminate for us a profile of analysis shaped by the realities and fantasies of human interaction. What emerges is a clinical theory which explores in minute, but essential, detail multiple levels of experience of both participants, bringing into sharp focus the dramatic discontinuities of the moments of analytic transformation. Thus, paradoxically, without denigrating the value of time consuming exploration, these lengthy analyses promote an understanding of a dimension of analytic change which highlights pivotal moments, much like Betty Joseph's (1992) discussion of the coming together of the vertices and Bion's (1967) belief that ‘psychoanalytic “observation” is concerned neither with what has happened nor with what is going to happen but with what is happening’. Such views contrast dramatically with theories which limit analytic progress to that which may be revealed through a slow and methodical archaeological dig.

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