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Berg, J. (2012). ‘A Bad Moment with the Light’. No-Sex Couples: The Role of Autistic-Contiguous Anxieties. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 2(1):33-48.

(2012). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 2(1):33-48

‘A Bad Moment with the Light’. No-Sex Couples: The Role of Autistic-Contiguous Anxieties

Jenny Berg

This paper explores the impact of adverse experiences in infancy, before an adequate sense of self, or ego, is formed, on the sexual functioning of a couple. The author utilises Thomas Ogden's (1989) concept of an autistic-contiguous phase of development, and the idea that a lack of ‘good enough’ holding (Winnicott, 1956) leaves the infant with an inadequately internalised ego. This results in the lack of a capacity for self-containment, and an ongoing vulnerability to overwhelming experiences of fragmentation.

Due to the sensory nature of early experience, which is not accessible in declarative memory, this vulnerability is potentially re-evoked in a sensory domain, such as in a couple's sexual relationship.

When two individuals with this underlying lack become a couple, they unconsciously seek an experience of containment, which neither has the capacity to offer. Defences against recognising this shared deficit can result in a collusive fused dynamic that may veto the sensory aspects of relating, including sex. If this embargo is lifted, the psychic fusion maintaining integration for the couple is sundered. With two individuals experiencing psychic collapse can the temporary containment offered by couple psychotherapy adequately deal with this degree of underlying disorganisation?

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