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Feldman, M. (1993). The Dynamics of Reassurance. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:275-285.

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:275-285

The Dynamics of Reassurance

Michael Feldman

In an analytic session a patient spoke about an incident from his childhood. On the occasion of his mother's birthday, he had bought her a tub of ice-cream, choosing his favourite kind. When he offered it to her, she said she supposed he expected her to give him some of the ice-cream. The patient reported that he had felt deeply wounded by her response. He saw it as an example of the way she never wholeheartedly welcomed what he did for her, and always distrusted his motives.

This story, or some variation of it, had come up a number of times in the analysis. As on these other occasions, my patient portrayed himself as simply offering something good to his mother—the variety of ice-cream that he liked best—only to have his motives suspected by someone who was critical and distrustful. It was understandable that he was wounded by the incident—one of many similar ones. Listening to his description of this episode from the past, I thought it also carried a reference to the situation between the two of us: he wanted to make the point that he often felt similarly misjudged and hurt in the analysis, confronted by my equally inappropriate suspicions of his motives.

In the particular session to which I am referring, I commented that he was not only describing an upsetting episode that had taken place, but also needed to emphasise how hurtful it was when his benign motives were mistrusted and misjudged by his mother in the past, and by myself in the analysis.

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