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Ormont, L.R. (1992). Subjective Countertransference in the Group Setting: The Modern Analytic Experience. Mod. Psychoanal., 17(1):3-12.

(1992). Modern Psychoanalysis, 17(1):3-12

Subjective Countertransference in the Group Setting: The Modern Analytic Experience

Louis R. Ormont, Ph.D.

When Agamemnon took a slave-lover away from Achilles during the Trojan War, the great warrior smarted under the injury. However, Achilles, as close to invulnerable as a man could be, reacted in the most infantile way. He pouted and sat alone in his tent and would not budge (Homer, tr. 1951).

We don't know exactly why. But one thing we can surmise: Achilles had pouted before, almost surely in childhood. The injury was more than just a contemporary one for him. He was reacting to some figure in his past—and not merely to Agamemnon himself.

As group therapists, we, too, react to past figures continually as we work with out patients. We call this kind of reaction subjective countertransference; such transference always contains the essence of a much earlier engagement and distorts our response to our group members (Ormont, 1991).

Our subjective countertransference may be brought to our attention by some outside event or by our group members. Or we may even discover it within ourselves as if it sprang up without rhyme or reason. We have engaged in some irrational behavior or had irrational thoughts. The onset seems sudden, perplexing, inevitable. And also unshunnable.

Subjective countertransference generally unfolds in the following way: in reaction to what one or more members do, we unwittingly project onto them roles of someone in our early lives. For instance, our members treat us with indifference, and we instantly attribute to them the identity of our indifferent father.

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