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Weigert, E. (1954). Counter-Transference and Self-Analysis of the Psycho-Analyst. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 35:242-246.

(1954). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 35:242-246

Counter-Transference and Self-Analysis of the Psycho-Analyst

Edith Weigert, M.D.


The ideal positive counter-transference, the maintenance of benevolent neutrality depends on the alertness to the swings of counter-transference. The action of interpretation, its appropriate depth and timing is based on empathy, an optimal flexibility of ego boundaries, which becomes disturbed by the analyst's anxieties. In each counter-transference experience new territory can be discovered. New facets in the patient's personality may touch off unknown boundaries in the analyst's ego. The confrontation with the unknown arouses anxieties not only in the patient, but in the analyst also, although he is fortified by professional knowledge and experience. A new experience may even arouse transient withdrawal and estrangement, before it can become an integrated insight. It is important that the analyst admit such anxieties to himself. The young analyst frequently feels that he should not have any counter-transference reactions, that he should be a mirror, unswerving in his neutrality, detached like a surgeon. He is ashamed of his anxieties, he would like to be relaxed and spontaneous. It is true that the analyst becomes useless to the patient when his own anxieties exceed those of the patient. But the patient, in phases of negative transference, goes all out to arouse the analyst's anxiety and to defeat him therewith. He may be very intuitive in spotting the weaknesses in the analyst's armour. If the analyst becomes preoccupied with mending his own fences he loses sight of the essential job of understanding the transferencecounter-transference situation and he impairs the patient's trust. It is understandable that the young analyst particularly is at times tempted to deny his anxieties to himself and to pretend to a false equanimity. But such inner division and conflict decrease the

analyst's ego-strength. It is important that the supervisory analyst stimulate the self-analysis of the analyst. The pretence of courage is just as detrimental to the development of genuine courage as hypocritical dedication is in precluding the growth of real devotion. The analyst must expect anxieties, whenever his benevolent neutrality is challenged by limitations of trial identification or by over-extension of introjection. In supervision as well as in my own experience I have found the most visible progress made when the analyst can become conscious of a formerly unconscious counter-transference reaction.

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