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Wiedermann, K. (2017). Fear of Break-up, Fear of Breakdown: Why Some Can Come to Psychoanalysis Only as a Partner in a Couple. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 7(2):208-224.

(2017). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 7(2):208-224

Fear of Break-up, Fear of Breakdown: Why Some Can Come to Psychoanalysis Only as a Partner in a Couple

Klaus Wiedermann, Ph.D.

This paper summarises the theory of psychoanalytic couple therapy from the point of view of contemporary object relations theory(s) and then locates psychoanalytic couple therapy in the larger context of psychoanalysis. The author asks why some individuals get the therapy they need by being brought in by their partners, seeming to enter treatment because of a threatened break-up of the couple relationship or a breakdown in one of the partners. The author observes that in these cases unresolved aspects of the self have been located in the partner to such an extent, that at least one partner will initially be very resistant to any form of dynamic therapy, including couple therapy. Winnicott’s concepts of “undifferentiation” between self and other and “fear of breakdown”, and Colman’s concept of “marriage as a psychological container” are used to investigate the couple dynamics in those circumstances. Clinical examples show the slow process of disentangling and reclaiming projected aspects of the self from the shared unconscious phantasy created by the two partners.

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