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Ornstein, A. (1991). The Dread to Repeat: Comments on the Working-Through Process in Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:377-398.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:377-398

The Dread to Repeat: Comments on the Working-Through Process in Psychoanalysis

Anna Ornstein, M.D.


This paper focuses on the process of working through in psychoanalysis. Reemphasis of the centrality of the empathic listening perspective and discovery of the selfobject transferences made it necessary to reconceptualize various aspects of the analytic process from the perspective of psychoanalytic self psychology. With the help of a clinical vignette, the paper illustrates the manner in which archaic defense organizations and newly developing psychic structures find a compromise solution in a transference symptom. Such symptoms can serve as nodal points in the process of working through; they represent a transitional phase between the old automatic responses to narcissistic injury and an increased capacity to use signal anxiety. The psychopathology that became illuminated in this process can be described phenomenologically as a self-defeating personality disorder.

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