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Waugaman, R.M. (1987). Falling Off the Couch. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 35:861-876.

(1987). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 35:861-876

Falling Off the Couch

Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.


The patient's therapeutic regression intensifies certain unconscious meanings of the analytic couch. In addition to representing the analysis or the analyst in general, the couch can represent the unconscious, or it may take on the symbolic significance of the analyst's or mother's arms, lap, breasts, or womb. When the genetic roots of the patient's transference include substantial experiences of disappointment, narcissistic injury, and mistrust, the theme of falling from the couch may emerge as a dream, an association, or even an enactment. This theme usually implies the presence of a deepening but mistrustful transference, based on earlier disappointments by the patient's primary objects. Falling off the couch may be associated with being dropped as an infant, rolling out of bed as a child, birth, miscarriage, castration, death, termination, defending against passive wishes, punishment for sexual or aggressive transgressions, escaping an attack, descending into the unconscious, or wanting to be picked up and comforted.

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