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Halton, I.H. (2004). Two is Too Much: The Impact of a Therapist's Successive Pregnancies on a Female Patient. Psychoanal. Psychother., 18:86-98.

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(2004). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 18:86-98

Two is Too Much: The Impact of a Therapist's Successive Pregnancies on a Female Patient

Isabel Hernandez Halton Author Information

This paper explores the consequences of the therapist's two successive pregnancies on a female patient. The second pregnancy was felt to be particularly difficult and disturbing. One of the central reasons was that after the patient's birth, the mother had a disabled child, followed by a stillbirth and soon after that the father left to marry another woman. Using Freud's concept of deferred action I will argue that my second pregnancy revised these earlier traumatic experiences.

The patient seemed to have incorporated and identified with a damaged maternal object that at the time of the original trauma was left husbandless, depressed and suffering from panic attacks. Although the therapist's healthy pregnancies seemed to reassure temporarily, it was difficult for the patient to hold onto a view of a helpful and productive therapist, one separate from this damaged internal mother. This was particularly so during and after the second pregnancy, where there was a marked absence of an idea of a third object, a father or a husband, who could help the patient deal with this pregnancy, her only escape was to retreat and act out.

The acting out was in part identification with a fleeing father and in part a defence against the absence of such a third object, so that it was used as a way of avoiding claustrophobic feelings of being trapped with the damaged mother. Her feelings of triumph then produced much guilt, and impeded reparation.

Another important issue that two successive pregnancies bring, are feelings of guilt in the therapist for exposing the patient to two major disruptions. In this patient's case it exacerbated the internal reality of a damaged maternal figure.

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