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Gullestad, S.E. (2015). How to capture character through the patient’s language?. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(1):31-37.

(2015). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 38(1):31-37

How to capture character through the patient’s language?

Siri Erika Gullestad

Working analytically with character implies that awareness of stable and structuralized aspects of the analytic material must have a central place in the analyst’s listening perspective. Another tradition focusing on stable patterns of personality is the discourse analysis developed for the coding of the Adult Attachment Interview, which, in my view, represents a way of looking at the clinical material that, in many ways, is in line with the “character”-tradition. With a background in these two traditions, the paper argues, by way of clinical material, that the structure and style of language may represent an “entry” to the patient’s character, and specifically to dominant relational strategies, i.e. stable, internalized object relationships, which are a central focus of clinical psychoanalytic work. The aim of the paper is to sensitize analysts to embodied language as a source of highly relevant clinical information, thus widening the analytic listening perspective. In the last part of the paper, I will point to implications of this character-perspective for the analyst’s interventions. In my discussion, I will suggest how the analyst can bring structuralized relational strategies into the therapeutic dialogue.

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