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Hirsch, I. (2017). External Crises and Analytic Symmetry. Psychoanal. Dial., 27(2):122-124.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 27(2):122-124

External Crises and Analytic Symmetry

Irwin Hirsch, Ph.D.

In reporting on my work with patients on the 1st-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on my city and country (Hirsch, 2003), I wrote,

Core contemporary conceptions like participant-observation or its more current variants, observing-participation and mutuality of influence, generally refer to relatively subtle and often unconscious mutual influences between patient and analyst. Rarely is such action based on shared experience of a profound and dramatic external event. Most analysts with whom I have spoken reported that interactions with patients shifted dramatically in the direction of increased symmetry in the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11. For me and for others, what can be referred to as a “participant–participant” dyad temporarily replaced our normal analytic spacing. (pp. 665-666)

This phenomenon once again occurred on the days following the shocking presidential election of 2016.

The difference between these two external events should be noted. September 11 was a tragedy that virtually everyone in this country agreed was a tragedy. The election of 2016 was experienced as a tragedy by most people in New York City and by most psychoanalysts nationally. The similarity between these two events is based on the fact that something very important had happened in the world shared by patient and analyst alike. For many of us analysts, it was difficult to hide our personal sentiments with our customary reserve and, as well, to hold back from initiating conversation about the dramatic events that had just happened and that impacted patient and analyst with a similar immediacy.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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