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Viederman, M. (1994). The Uses of the Past and the Actualization of a Family Romance. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:469-489.

(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:469-489

The Uses of the Past and the Actualization of a Family Romance

Milton Viederman, M.D.


This paper elaborates an aspect of the therapeutic experience of analysis that pertains to the examination of the past as it influences a patient's view of his self-worth and relationship to the world. It is complementary to the usual view of psychoanalytic process that involves analysis of transference resistance, revelation of transference, and the discovery of its genetic roots. I propose an additional therapeutic aspect of the reexperience of the past in which the changed representation of patient as child is validated by a new object, the analyst, who is experienced as a benevolent witness to the past and as a benevolent presence in the past, thereby consolidating the change and influencing the patient's adult self-representation. This therapeutic effect is more likely to be of significance in patients who have experienced parental loss or significant deprivation in childhood. Segments of the analysis of a patient illustrate this point. The patient described "listening to himself with compassion for the child he had been" and being listened to by me in the same way. He became thereby "tolerant and empathetic with the child he had been." The more general implications of this as a vehicle for change in psychoanalysis are discussed. Of ancillary interest was the patient's research into his past and ultimately his actualization of a family romance fantasy with a particular ironic twist.

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