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O'Neill, S. (2015). The Countertransference Impact of Autistic Defence in an Otherwise Neurotic Patient. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(5):1283-1303.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(5):1283-1303

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

The Countertransference Impact of Autistic Defence in an Otherwise Neurotic Patient Language Translation

Sylvia O'Neill

This paper investigates the question of why, in the psychoanalytic psychotherapy of a patient with encapsulated autistic pathology, the steady maintenance of a therapeutically neutral stance can be especially difficult. Transference and countertransference vicissitudes are examined. The author notices that the patient's intolerance of ‘opposites’ (cf. Tustin, 1986), combined with extreme antipathy to having that intolerance noticed, can elicit corresponding, and potentially destabilizing, countertransference reactions. These reactions comprise an unstable tension between co-existing pressures towards fusion with, or expulsion of, the patient, their co-existence under further pressure to remain unnoticed. Until perceived, this state of affairs risks collusion with the pressure either to merge with or to expel the patient, and compromises the capacity to notice the detail of the transference process and even to notice co-existent positive and negative transference images. Detailed clinical illustration is given, including a session where it was difficult to notice the patient's experience of a couple as a combined object. The author finds these observations of bipolar countertransference tensions illuminated by Green's concepts of positive and negative narcissism and of the disobjectalizing function, and specifically accounted for by Ribas's theory of autism as radical drive defusion.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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