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Wille, R.S. (2011). On the Capacity to Endure Psychic Pain. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 34(1):23-30.

(2011). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 34(1):23-30

On the Capacity to Endure Psychic Pain

Robbert S.G. Wille, Ph.D.

Psychic pain, which is an unavoidable part of existence, derives from unconscious layers of the personality and is rooted in early, preverbal experiences, on the border between the somatic and the psychic. The comfort provided by the emotionally attuned mother is internalised by the child and constitutes the core of the capacity to endure psychic pain. Mature pleasure cannot be experienced without having known unpleasure. As the goals of psychoanalysis include experiencing psychic pain and internalising the idea that psychic pain is an inseparable part of life, the analyst must not only be able to uphold a maternal, caring attitude, but also maintain a degree of hardness. In so doing, he helps bring the analysand in contact with his pain and even deepen it. This attitude has a strong impact on transference and countertransference. Several clinical vignettes are given to illustrate these realities.

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