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Kafka, H. (1998). Fear in the Countertransference and the Mutuality of Safety. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 7(2):97-103.

(1998). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 7(2):97-103

Fear in the Countertransference and the Mutuality of Safety

Helene Kafka, Ph.D.

Fear in the countertransference, and its consequent need for safety, is often ignored in analysis. Yet it helps analysts understand themselves, their patients and the interactive process that triggers these reactions. From a two-person relational perspective, I discuss transactions that arouse mild and more intense fearfulness. My thesis is that not only is fear-arousal an interpersonal event, but so is its relief. I contend analyst and patient together create a danger/safety balance that enables each to profitably pursue their analytic mission. Reciprocity and responsibility are essential aspects of the two-person endeavor in analytic work.

Fear in the countertransference often results from induction and projective identification, commingled with personal anxieties and fantasies. I discuss here projective identification as both a communication and an enactment. Two clinical vignettes illustrate the interpersonal transactions that elicit the analyst's fear as well as the dyad's attempts to alleviate it. Conjoint regulation and the analyst's use of self-disclosure provide examples of techniques that help recalibrate the danger/safety balance. The analyst's fearfulness demonstrates vulnerability to and interdependence with the patient. Understanding and working through of fear in the countertransference facilitates the analytic process.

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