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Wilson, M. (2017). The Fragility of the Frame. Psychoanal. Dial., 27(3):361-362.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 27(3):361-362

The Fragility of the Frame

Mitchell Wilson, M.D.

The fragility of the psychoanalytic setup––what we now call the frame––becomes a felt fact whenever there is significant disruption. Imagine your office is flooded because of a broken pipe or corroded water heater. To put things back together such that your office looks like your office again first entails taking it all apart, from the carpet to the baseboards, and

moving various pieces of furniture, including the analytic couch, to a safe perch. You realize, with a shocking immediacy, that your workspace, that place where you lay it on the line every day, is constructed, highly fabricated, because it can so easily be de-constructed, even destroyed.

The psychoanalytic frame, as we know, entails more than the physical space in which we work. It involves the psychic space through which we work such that analysis has a chance to happen between our patients and us. The frame is something we both facilitate and inhabit, and that we invest with specific values, such as care and responsibility for the other. For me, one essential feature of the frame is that it contains an analytic relationship that is fundamentally asymmetric. As Laplanche rightly insisted upon, the analytic situation recapitulates the primary anthropological situation of early infancy. Transference, desire, and fantasy all follow from this recapitulation. And because of the vectors of force that get mobilized in analysis, the analyst has a deeply ethical responsibility to care for the other, namely, the patient as a person, and the “other,” the unconscious, in and between us.

[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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