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Mills, J. (2004). Countertransference Revisited. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(4):467-515.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(4):467-515

Countertransference Revisited

Jon Mills, PsyD, Ph.D.

A female patient of mine recounts her week. I listen with interest, waiting for her to arrive at particular conclusions. She has suffered a great deal and still does, but prefers not to dwell on it. My interest turns into patience as she continues to talk but circumvents her discontent. She is adroit at avoidance, but easily offended when I point such things out. “I'd better wait” I think. I grow more aware that I must encourage her digressions. I feel frustrated. Getting further and further away, she skirts the issue with supple grace, then strays off into tangentiality. I forget her point and lose my focus, then get down on myself. The opportunity is soon gone. I glance at the clock as her monologue drones on into banality. I grow more uninterested and distant. There is a subtle irritation to her voice; a whiney indecisive ring begins to pervade my consciousness. I home in on her mouth with aversion, watching apprehensively as this disgusting hole flaps tirelessly but says nothing. It looks carnivorous, voracious. Now she is unattractive, something I have noticed before. I forget who my next patient is. I think about the meal I will prepare for my wife this evening, then glance at the time once more. Then I am struck: Why am I looking at the clock? So soon? The session has just begun. I catch myself. What is going on in me, between us? I am detached, but why? Is she too feeling unattuned, disconnected? I am failing my patient. What is her experience of me? I lamentingly confess that I do not feel I have been listening to her, and wonder what has gone wrong between us. I ask her if she has noticed. We talk about our feelings, our impact on one another, why we had lost our sense of connection, what it means to us. I instantly feel more involved, rejuvenated, and she continues, this time with me present. Her mouth is no longer odious, but sincere and articulate. She is attractive and tender; I suddenly feel empathy and warmth toward her. We are now very close. I am moved. Time flies, the session is soon over; we do not want it to end.

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