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Quinodoz, D. (2009). Aggression Turned against the Self: Also Attacks Others. Fort Da, 15(1):10-23.

(2009). Fort Da, 15(1):10-23

Aggression Turned against the Self: Also Attacks Others

Danielle Quinodoz, Ph.D.

Elise was a single 50-year-old woman. She asked me for help because she was depressed and had ideas of suicide. She also wanted to find a better relationship with her mother. Elise was not connected with psychiatry or psychoanalysis. She worked in statistic research in University, but her professional life was not very satisfying. Elise had had love affairs, all finishing with her being abandoned. She longed for life in a couple. She was a friend of many couples but was very jealous of them.

During the first three years in analysis, Elise was very distant, rejecting, and factual. Dreams were very rare. Sometimes I felt in Elise a pleasure for living, but it quickly switched off. It seemed to me that she had no representations of internal objects and little ability to symbolise, which Elise summarised, saying, “I am empty.” I had the impression that the analysis was turning round and round, and that Elise did not understand what “unconscious” means or what psychoanalysis is. Elise rejected my interpretations with scorn: “You are useless,” she said. And, actually, I felt myself very useless. Very often I imagined that Elise was at the point of stopping her analysis, but she continued. In contradiction with her words, Elise regularly paid me and came punctually to the sessions. On the one hand, by words denigrating the analysis, Elise was unconsciously pushing me to interrupt her analysis as if to prove that nobody loved her. But, on the other hand, by actions, she showed that analysis was very precious for her.

Elise was a heterogeneous patient (D. Quinodoz, 2003): a part of her was able to verbalise, but another part, without words, could only act or project into me. During the analysis I paid attention to both parts of Elise, trying to listen to both — her verbal language and her non-verbal language. To try to understand the non-verbal language, I was very attentive to my countertransference feelings and my bodily sensations. To touch Elise's infantile part I tried to find a language full of images that expressed not only the thoughts but also the feelings and the sensations.

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