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Steiner, J. (2018). Overcoming Obstacles: Response to Rosemary H. Balsam. Psychoanal Q., 87(1):33-37.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 87(1):33-37

Overcoming Obstacles: Response to Rosemary H. Balsam

John Steiner

I would like to thank Rosemary H. Balsam for her detailed response to my paper, which gave me the impression that we each had interesting things to say but were focusing on different issues. I am concerned to understand obstacles to progress in analysis, while Dr. Balsam, it seems to me, chiefly wishes to correct erroneous views on femininity that have arisen partly as a result of Freud's influence, and which she feels creep into my formulations. I hope this discussion will allow us to integrate complementary views even though the different vantage points do at times find us to be at cross-purposes.

Perhaps a brief summary of my earlier work on impasse could clarify my present approach. Initially I was concerned with the problem many patients seem to have of relinquishing the omnipotence that is frequently turned to as an instant remedy for anxiety and pain. Influenced by the work of Rosenfeld on narcissism (1971), I formulated the idea that pathological organizations based on phantasies of phallic omnipotence create psychic retreats to which patients defensively withdraw and where they sometimes become stuck (Steiner 1993). Being stuck in these retreats creates an impasse in analysis, but sometimes progress is resumed when either with the help of analysis or through their own endeavours patients make moves to emerge and to face the reality they have been evading. I described how, as they come out from the protection of the retreat, patients come to fear both seeing and being seen (Steiner 2011). Once they have moved outside the retreat, they are able to observe their objects and hence to see the damage that omnipotence had done.

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