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Poland, W.S. (1992). An Analyst's Slip of the Tongue. Psychoanal Q., 61:85-87.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:85-87

An Analyst's Slip of the Tongue

Warren S. Poland, M.D.

She was known for her limitless kindness, a woman to whom everyone turned because of her readiness to help, never to refuse. When she came for analysis, she knew how different were her public softness and her private sense of pervasive but shapeless discontent. Quite sophisticated, she spoke from the start of an intellectual knowledge that her tics must be connected to repressed rage. Indeed, with her determined commitment to analyzing, that intellectual knowledge slowly and with difficulty moved to an ever-expanding emotional insight.

In conflict over expressing any of her impulses toward autonomy, she suffered with an underlying fantasy that to have something for herself was to betray others. It was as if there were in the world a finite amount of whatever was good, as if her having more meant someone else's having less (see Modell, 1965). Her inhibited anger toward others became the leitmotiv of our work.

As this theme was repeatedly exposed and explored, first outside the transference and then within, I felt the occasion to intepret, as I had before, what was becoming increasingly clear to both of us. "Here again," I said, "when you have an urge to do it your own way, even start to feel having your own idea, a mind of your own, you feel you are betraying the other person and killing yourself, I mean, the other person."

It was my slip that substituted herself for the other as the object of murderous impulses. We had long ago known that undoing of herself was the result of her pattern, but we had not before directly focused on the self-punishing quality as a derivative wish in its own right. When I made my slip, I had not been thinking consciously of aggression turned against herself.


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