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Balint, E. (1973). Technical Problems Found in the Analysis of Women by a Woman Analyst: A Contribution to the Question 'What Does a Woman Want?'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 54:195-201.

(1973). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 54:195-201

Technical Problems Found in the Analysis of Women by a Woman Analyst: A Contribution to the Question 'What Does a Woman Want?'

Enid Balint


1. Some technical problems connected with a woman's attachment to her mother in adult life can be hard to detect by a woman analyst in the analysis of women patients, but if not detected can hold up treatment and the analysis can become repetitive.

2. This tendency shows itself in many ways. For instance, the most important part of the session can be the way the patient comes into and leaves the analyst's room, and the verbal communication is meaningless unless the real meaning of entering the room is understood.

3. The patient's feeling that the analyst looks to the patient for satisfaction and is excited by her has to be understood not only in terms of a wish to satisfy the mother and the analyst, but also as the method the patient adopts in order to keep her own femininity, and prevent the mother from being too envious of her—the possessor of an exciting, excited vagina which she feels her mother has not—and which is useless in relation to her mother.

4. This can be understood as a form of latent homosexuality but arguments have been put forward to suggest that the heterosexual strivings are primary and are not a defence against homosexuality. The wish to care for the mother arises partly because she (the mother) was depressed or withdrawn when they were young, and partly because of the hostilities of the oedipal phase. They are able to do so after some analysis because there was some early object who cared for them and once the reaction formations against hostility have been overcome.

These patients do not repress their heterosexual drives and the pleasures their vaginas can give to men. In spite of this they can be seen to centre their lives around their mothers and to choose their husbands in order to repeat a pattern that they had with their mothers, i.e. one in which they, like their mothers, cannot be satisfied. At the same time they secretly satisfy other men, not their husbands. It is possible that this also repeats the pattern which they had as children when they satisfied their brothers. In consequence the lives of these women are split into two apparently disconnected parts in which women are valued but unsatisfied and unsatisfiable, and men are undervalued but some are satisfied and satisfiable.

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