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Downey, T.W. (1988). The Disavowal of Authority in a Child of Divorce. Psychoanal. St. Child, 43:279-289.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 43:279-289

The Disavowal of Authority in a Child of Divorce

T. Wayne Downey, M.D.

AS ANNA FREUD (1969) HAS CAUTIONED, PSYCHOANALYSIS PERFORMED ON a "battlefield" may be impossible. If not impossible, it is likely to be overburdened by a variety of contemporary crises and conflicts between the individual and his environment which will constantly and unpredictably interfere with the establishment or continuity of an analytic process. Day-to-day events erratically impinging on the reflective potentialities of analysis keep the analysand in a state of alertness to external danger which greatly hampers internal developments such as the transference neurosis and depth-psychological events such as reconstruction. Ultimately the "battlefield" quality of the treatment may come to doom the analysis itself either by logistically blocking the patient's access to analysis or by destroying his psychological potentials for analyzability. Then we may be left, like Freud (1905) in the Dora case, to console ourselves with the sad dictum that analysis may have to settle for confirming certain aspects of the human condition where it is unable to assist the patient in substantially remediating his condition.

The narrative I am about to present falls somewhere in between. While Sally's case may sound both dour and dire, and indeed it is to some extent, the process of selecting it for this particular type of presentation enhances and retrospectively reinforces the more negative aspects of the treatment. I will focus on what in the family milieu of divorce interfered with the psychoanalytic process rather than what propelled it. As I will describe later on, child analysis was essential to Sally's recovery from a severe depressive state.

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