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Roughton, R.E. (1994). Repetition and Interaction in the Analytic Process: Enactment, Acting Out, and Collusion. Ann. Psychoanal., 22:271-286.

(1994). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 22:271-286

Repetition and Interaction in the Analytic Process: Enactment, Acting Out, and Collusion

Ralph E. Roughton

She burst through the waiting room door, already midway into her first sentence as she swept into my office, slamming the inner door behind her without a break in stride or speech. Laura had arrived, late, as usual; and vehement, as usual. Or so it seemed. But what was she actually saying? What angry tirade would accompany such an aggressive entrance?

More often than not, in this now familiar pattern, Laura would be telling me something interesting, but mundane. She was a master at finding the conversational gem in everyday matters. Occasionally a magazine cover in the waiting room would catch her eye as she breezed through. “Oh, that's interesting,” she would exclaim as she slammed the door and launched into a lively exposition on that subject.

Having long ago given up expecting Laura to be curious about the meaning of her lateness and the manner of her arrival, and notwithstanding that I felt slightly startled by her entrance each time, I would nevertheless sit back and listen, looking for something in her associations that would connect us back to the more troubling aspects of her life.

Thus, Laura and I had long since settled into a process that, in retrospect, I now recognize as containing elements of enactment and collusion, in addition to the acting out I recognized at the time. This vignette also calls for a discussion of transference-countertransference impasses and raises questions about more subtle issues of actualization and therapeutic emotional experience. All of these phenomena, I believe, are subsumed in the larger context of repetition and interaction in the analytic process.

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