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Camden, V.J. (2018). The “Goddess of Presence” and the Birth of the Self in an Analytic Treatment. Psychoanal Q., 87(4):639-665.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 87(4):639-665

Original Articles

The “Goddess of Presence” and the Birth of the Self in an Analytic Treatment

Vera J. Camden

The great conductor Bruno Walter proclaims in his memoir, Theme and Variations: An Autobiography (1946) that, “Out of the countless variations of my life’s experiences, [I] recognize and appraise myself as their theme” (p. vii, emphasis added). This paper considers the “uses” of Walter’s memoir in the psychoanalytic treatment of a woman who had been clinically diagnosed as “pre-psychotic” and whose besetting fear was that people were only creatures, and that she herself did not have a “self.” After many years of treatment, in what became a watershed in our work together, Ms. T, herself an accomplished musician, brought Walter’s autobiography to me in the form of certain pages copied and highlighted from Walter’s account of his brief, and remarkable treatment by Sigmund Freud. Walter’s reflections upon his little known treatment by Freud’s offered an inlet into the ways Ms. T and I learned to hear the variations on the theme of her self–through the seemingly intractable, psychotic symptoms that brought her into treatment. Her contribution of the Walter text became a shared witness in our analytic space, even as this account of her treatment testifies to our time together.

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