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Schaefer, M. (2010). Discussion of: Mary Morgan's “Unconscious Beliefs about Being a Couple”. Fort Da, 16(1):56-63.

(2010). Fort Da, 16(1):56-63

Discussion of: Mary Morgan's “Unconscious Beliefs about Being a Couple”

Milton Schaefer, Ph.D.

Beliefs about a Couple and Beliefs about the other

One can discern, from the seriousness and complexity of her paper, Mary Morgan's unique ability to simultaneously hold in mind the emotional tone and interactional dynamics of the couple; listen for the conscious and unconscious ways this gets played out in the transference and countertransference with the therapist; and track how that is informed, moment to moment, by the haunting trajectories of both the inevitable everyday and more traumatic failures and disappointments of the individual's early object relations. Morgan's writing is suffused not just with intellectual rigor and an abiding curiosity but with a deep sense of compassion for the ways that these couples are imprisoned and unaware in their unconscious phantasies, projections, and, as she shows in this paper, their unconscious beliefs about what it means to be a couple.

Over the past decade, Morgan has generated many of the most central concepts in psychoanalytic couples therapy, especially within a neo-Kleinian and Bionian framework. I will touch on her concepts of “Projective Gridlock” and the “Creative Couple” as they provide a backdrop to her paper on unconscious beliefs. In all of her writings Morgan is concerned about the essential tension in the individual between having an intimate relationship with another while at the same time maintaining a sense of autonomy and separation. Central to the work of theorists at the Tavistock Center for Couples Relations was the role of projective identification as both a means of communication and a way of ridding one of unwanted parts of the self. Their notion of the “unconscious choice of a partner” entailed choosing someone who could serve the function of reclaiming those disowned aspects of the personality.

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