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Spotnitz, H. (1995). Some Notes on Rebuilding the Defective Preverbal Ego. Mod. Psychoanal., 20(1):3-6.

(1995). Modern Psychoanalysis, 20(1):3-6

Some Notes on Rebuilding the Defective Preverbal Ego

Hyman Spotnitz, M.D., Med.Sc.D.

In considering the nature of the anaclitic countertransference, the author is led to devise the formulation “actual but unreal” to characterize the peculiar nature of the feelings created in all phases, not just the anaclitic phase, of the psychotherapeutic relationship. The nature of the analytic relationship has been a subject of great interest. Is it an illusion based on transference and countertransference distortions? An artifact of the process? Simple reality, psychic reality—or yet another kind of reality? The feelings created in the psychotherapeutic relationship feel as “real” as any others, to therapist and patient alike; they function in the same way as any others, as psychic and somatopsychic and communicative forces. Yet, to be successful in his task, the therapist must respond to them differently from those of the rest of life; and indeed those feelings are, and must be experienced as, importantly different from those of other relatinships—relationships formed and carried on without agreed-upon, delimited purposes—real relationships. Mistaking these actual but unreal feelings for real feelings has led to many negative therapeutic reactions. When these feelings are seen as actual but unreal, the work to resolve resistances can proceed to its appropriate conclusion.

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