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Poland, W.S. (1984). The Analyst's Words: Empathy and Countertransference. Psychoanal Q., 53:421-424.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:421-424

The Analyst's Words: Empathy and Countertransference

Warren S. Poland, M.D.

"It sounds," I said, "as if when you moved from your parents' home to live with your new bride, you felt you were being traded to the minor leagues."

We both felt my statement captured his earlier feeling and its modern derivative at a period in the analysis when the primary themes were of dependency longings and passivity, particularly important matters for a man who had not been weaned from his mother's breast until his fourth year of life.

But I was struck by my baseball simile, and later my mind wondered and wandered. Growing up in a city where baseball was important, I had thought I had been indifferent to the sport. I had not given it thought for years. Indifference had actually been active repudiation, a competitive belittling of one of my father's interests. The only professional game I had ever attended was one I begrudgingly had allowed myself to be dragged to by my enthusiastic father when I was fifteen. It was a doubleheader, no less. And they were minor league teams! On that long hot afternoon, fidgety and bored, I struggled with my fear of a strong father, my disappointment with a weak father, my adolescent hopelessness of ever being at peace with and apart from my father.

Next I recalled a study group I had been in several years before. A colleague, emphasizing the purity of his technique, described a patient who was a passionate devotee of baseball, who spoke often in baseball terms to describe other feelings and life events.

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