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Mitrani, J.L. (2007). Fear of Breakdown, the Compulsion to Repeat, and the Defensive Organization: in Psychoanalysis and in Patrick SÜSkind's The Pigeon. Fort Da, 13(1):7-25.

(2007). Fort Da, 13(1):7-25

Fear of Breakdown, the Compulsion to Repeat, and the Defensive Organization: in Psychoanalysis and in Patrick SÜSkind's The Pigeon

Judith L. Mitrani, Ph.D.

When two personalities meet, an emotional storm is created. If they make sufficient contact to be aware of each other, or even sufficient to be unaware of each other, an emotional state is produced by the conjunction of these two individuals, and the resulting disturbance is hardly likely to be regarded as necessarily an improvement on the state of affairs had they never met at all. But since they have met, and since this emotional storm has occurred, the two parties to this storm may decide to ‘make the best of a bad job.’

W.R. Bion, “Making the Best of a Bad Job”

Clinical Background

At the time that his fifth analytic experience “overtook” him, unhinging his life from one session to the next, Joel Nathan could look back over a good thirty-year period of total uneventfulness, and would never have expected that anything of importance could ever overtake him again, other than death someday. That was perfectly all right with him, for he was not fond of events and hated outright and quickly fled those that rattled his psychic equilibrium and made a muddle of the internal arrangements of his life.

The majority of such events lay far back in the dim, remote years of his childhood, which he no longer had any desire whatever to recall and, when he did, then only with great aversion. On a summer's day in his third year, little Joel woke up in his bed with a sore throat. Before he knew it, he was being whisked off to the hospital where a tonsillectomy was performed.

He never recovered from that event, which might be said to have been a prelude to an even longer hospitalization in an isolation ward filled with iron tombs in which children like himself — their pale faces framed with halos of baby-fine hair poking out from one end — were encased. The rhythmic droning and whooshing sound of machinery blended with the footfalls and whispers of masked men and women, hopelessly in attendance, keeping busy wiping brows and putting glass straws to parched lips, waiting for death to take its toll.

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