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Hubback, J. (1990). Tearing to Pieces: Pentheus, the Bacchae and analytical psychology. J. Anal. Psychol., 35(1):3-17.

(1990). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 35(1):3-17

Tearing to Pieces: Pentheus, the Bacchae and analytical psychology

Judith Hubback, M.A.

Here is a vignette from my analytical practice.

A woman comes to the first session after a two-week break. She looks well. She has had, mainly, a good holiday and describes to me with pleasure the parts she has enjoyed, but there are also some tears, which she knows are tears of anger and envy, apparently in connection with one of her friends. Where she and I are concerned, there are, I think, among the many things she tells me, two or three especially significant details: one, she was initially not sure if she had come back on the right day; two, she had found a very good vegetarian restaurant in a little seaside town; three, she has put on weight and has decided she must go on to a diet.

During the session it was possible to get to her unconscious fear of attacking me for not protecting her well enough from those horrid emotions, anger and envy, that emerged from exploring why she had wondered whether she had come back at the right time. She recognised, after it had been interpreted, that she had appreciated the good vegetarian food because by eating it she had been able to conceal from herself her unconscious wish to go at me tooth and nail, to tear at me and eat me. Where the plan to diet was concerned, it is relevant that she uses the rug on the couch as a representative of my protective arms: she had missed them holding her from the outside and had mistakenly taken too much food into her as a substitute.

A positive aspect of the whole story was that in the vegetarian restaurant she had eaten the produce of the earth, symbolically representing mother's milk, which is made especially for the infant, rather than in any way putting into action her hungry but cannibalistic, man-eating, destructive, impulses.

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