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Fordham, M. (1978). Some Idiosyncratic Behaviour of Therapists. J. Anal. Psychol., 23(2):122-134.

(1978). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 23(2):122-134

Some Idiosyncratic Behaviour of Therapists

Michael Fordham, M.D., F.R.C. Psych., Hon. B.B.Ps.S.


The CENTENARY OF JUNG's BIRTH produced a spate of anecdotes about him and his behaviour as a therapist. They almost all seemed unusual and non-analytic (Cf. HENDERSON 7). They led me to contemplate the behaviour of analysts and therapists which is unpremeditated, outside usual practice and, one might say, idiosyncratic in the sense that the analyst's strong effects appear to be the explicit motive for a communication to a patient. I found that when I remarked on them to some analysts and therapists of my acquaintance, they tended to tell me about an occasion when they also had behaved in a similar way; the result was less unfavourable than they would have expected—their examples corresponded with some of my own.

Although these confidences were interesting I do not intend to record them, because sufficient examples for my purpose can be found in the literature. I do not believe that anybody has discussed these over the years because, at the time, they were difficult to digest, there being no theoretical foundation for so doing. Latterly, however, through detailed understanding of analyst-patient interaction, enough has been discovered to render them assimilable.

A Clinical Example

In Memories, dreams, reflections Jung records the following event. A patient with an obsessional personality had contracted the habit of ‘slapping’ her employees, including her doctors. Jung writes:

She was a very stately and imposing person, six feet tall—and there was power behind her slaps, I can tell you! She came, then, and we had a very good talk. Then came the moment when I had to say something unpleasant to her. Furious, she sprang to her feet and threatened to slap me. I, too, jumped up and said to her, ‘Very well, you are the lady. You hit first—ladies first! But then I hit back!’ And I meant it. She fell back into her chair and deflated before my eyes. ‘No one has ever said that to me before!’ she protested. From that moment on the therapy began to succeed.’ (JUNG 10, p.

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