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Kernberg, O.F. (2003). Reply to Panel Follow-up Questions. Psychoanal. Dial., 13(3):443-444.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 13(3):443-444

Reply to Panel Follow-up Questions Related Papers

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.

Question 1

I AGREE THAT THE ANALYST'S “CHARACTER” WILL INEVITABLY AFFECT THE psychoanalytic situation, but I question that it will “contribute to the nature of transference.” The analyst's personality is part of the reality of the analytic situation that the patient is facing and that the patient will “model” in his transference developments. I believe, however, that not everything the patient feels or does constitutes transference and that realistic reactions to the treatment situation are just that, realistic reactions. Therefore, I question the constructivist position that the transference is a compromise between the patient's transference disposition and the personality or the behavior of the analyst: the transference is a subtle or not so subtle distortion of the patient's perception or reaction to the reality of the treatment situation. That perception derives from the unconscious reactivation of regressed, dissociated, or projected conflicts from the past. The analyst certainly should have sufficient knowledge of his own personality, and an awareness of his dispositions to react in special ways to tensions or countertransference developments, to be able to assess the reality of the patient's experience of him and his behavior.

Here a “three-person psychology” seems to me an important concept: that is, the split, within the analyst's mind, of one part that is engaged in the transference-countertransference bind and another part that maintains sufficient objectivity to explore that bind in terms of the patient's transferences. I expect a well-trained analyst to be able to carry out such an internal division in his functioning: in fact, it seems to me an essential part of his or her training. Naturally, there will be times when that “excluded third party” of the analyst's mind may be submerged by countertransference developments, but the analyst's working through of his countertransference should permit him again and again, to restore his or her analytic functioning.

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