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VanDerHeide, N. (2004). Enmeshment, Enactments, and Engagement: Reply to Discussion. Progress in Self Psychology, 20:259-264.

(2004). Progress in Self Psychology, 20:259-264

Enmeshment, Enactments, and Engagement: Reply to Discussion Related Papers

Nancy VanDerHeide, Psy.D

Though there is considerable difference between Hartmann's ideas about my work with Josh and my own, I heartily agree with his citation of his analyst, Christel Schöttler, to which he refers in his discussion: “No development without involvement.” It is not clear from this phrase whether she is referring to the analyst, analysand, or both, but I would venture to say that it is descriptive of the entire relationship. My involvement with Josh's processes resulted from my deep interest in the co-creation of a therapeutic relationship, one in which the processes of self-transformation would find fertile soil. Josh's growth was not solely mediated through interpretation; rather it occurred naturally during the course of analytically following the twists and turns of our relationship.

It is that theme of involvement to which Dr. Hartmann refers. His references to that involvement are far from positive: he terms it “enmeshment.” Ironically, his illustration, pointing to the validity of using that term, is not accurate. There was no “slip of the pen,” as Hartmann presumed; I actually did intend to say that Josh was powerless to resist his state of attraction to me. Rather than my being irresistible, I felt it was his own needs and desire that compelled him. The potent nature of his need was fueled by intense selfobject longings for both mirroring and idealization, as well as his pull for enactment in the repetitive dimension of the transference. Nevertheless, the concept of enmeshment is certainly relevant to my involvement with Josh, as is the notion of enactment.

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