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Keenan, M.C. (1995). Enactments Of Boundary Violations. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:853-868.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:853-868

Enactments Of Boundary Violations

Margaret C. Keenan

Glen Gabbard began his introduction of the panel Enactment of Boundary Violations with an excerpt from a 1911 letter from Freud expressing concern to Jung that Jung and Pfister had not yet acquired “the necessary objectivity”:

you still get involved, giving a good deal of yourselves and expecting the patient to give something in return. Permit me, speaking as the venerable old master, to say that this technique is invariably ill-advised and that … it is best to remain reserved and purely receptive. We must never let our poor neurotics drive us crazy. I believe an article on “countertransference” is sorely needed; of course, we could not publish it … [McGuire, 1974, pp. 475-476].

Now, over eighty years later, the discussion of countertransference and boundary violations no longer requires a shroud of secrecy. Today the analyst's countertransference enactments are widely regarded as both inevitable and useful to the analytic process. The assumption, however, is that enactments are partial—that the analyst “catches himself.” More profound enactments that involve significant violations of the analytic frame have been less likely to appear in discussions in the literature or in public forums.

Gabbard noted that the panel might make some members of the audience uncomfortable. Every institute and society has seen the ravages of severe boundary violations. Drawing on his extensive experience with issues of sexual misconduct, Gabbard emphasized that we are all potentially vulnerable to the enactment of boundary violations. We must avoid the temptation to projectively disavow our vulnerability and thus focus on a small handful of corrupt colleagues who have nothing in common with the rest of us.

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