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Savitz, C. (1991). Immersions in Ambiguity: The Labyrinth and the Analytic Process. J. Anal. Psychol., 36(4):461-481.

(1991). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 36(4):461-481

Immersions in Ambiguity: The Labyrinth and the Analytic Process

Caroline Savitz, M.A., M.S.W., C.S.W.

Before Aeneas descends to the underworld to visit his father's shade, he arrives at Apollo's temple at Cumae. Here, he stops to study the carvings on the temple gates that tell the story of the inextricable labyrinth, the house of toil (Virgil 19, Bk 6, p. 134):

the labyrinth in high Crete had a path

built out of blind walls, an ambiguous

maze of a thousand ways, a winding course

that mocked all signs of finding a way out,

a puzzle that was irresolvable

and irretraceable (ibid., Bk 5, pp. 123-4)

Experiences of ‘inextricability’ and ‘toil’, of ‘blind walls’, of ‘a winding course’, of an ‘irresolvable and irretraceable puzzle’-these words and corresponding imagery that belong to the essence of the labyrinth come to mind most readily in attempting to understand the often ambiguous and irresolvable nature of the transference. The twistings and turnings of the analytic process, the dead ends, circuitousness, the breaks of light and then the blind alleys, the confusions, disorientations, and exhaustion—as well as the potential for getting permanently entrapped in what Freud called an ‘analysis interminable’—these characteristics of the labyrinth concern us particularly in our attempts to untangle the ‘labyrinthine’ structure and dynamics of the schizoid world. To survive the wanderings in this analytic labyrinth without losing the thread is replete with numerous opportunities for confusion, collapse, and forgetting.

In this paper, I will use the myth of the Cretan labyrinth—with its minotaur lurking at the centre—as both archetype and metaphor to illuminate the dark, unguided maze of the labyrinthine transference that often occurs when we reach the schizoid core of the personality.

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