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Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2017, 62, 4, 585601

Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on


the analyst

Marcus West, West Sussex, UK

Abstract: This paper argues that self-disclosure is intimately related to traumatic


experience and the pressures on the analyst not to re-traumatize the patient or repeat
traumatic dynamics. The paper gives a number of examples of such pressures and
outlines the difculties the analyst may experience in adopting an analytic attitude
attempting to stay as closely as possible with what the patient brings. It suggests that
self-disclosure may be used to try to disconrm the patients negative sense of
themselves or the analyst, or to try to induce a positive sense of self or of the analyst
which, whilst well-meaning, may be missing the point and may be prolonging the
patients distress. Examples are given of staying with the co-construction of the
traumatic early relational dynamics and thus working through the traumatic complex;
this attitude is compared and contrasted with some relational psychoanalytic attitudes.

Keywords: co-construction, early relational trauma, idealization, masochisto-sadistic


dynamic, moral defence, relational psychoanalysis, self-disclosure, shadow hunting

Trauma, and in particular early relational trauma, is, I believe, not only central
to all our analytic work but plays a signicant role in every session: will we
directly and compassionately help our patients face and address their
complexes, which embody unbearable experience and remain in signicant
ways unbearable? Or will we unwittingly avoid those complexes, move
toward idealized solutions, and tell them that they are not as bad as they see
themselves or that it wont be like that here?
I believe that self-disclosure is intimately related to trauma, and that it is
almost always in relation to these unbearable experiences, related to the
traumatic complex, that the analyst nds themselves moving toward forms of
self-disclosure that I suggest can be unhelpful, frequently miss the point and
can, at worst, lead to the breakdown of the analysis, having co-constructed
and re-enacted the patients, or perhaps the analysts, early traumatic experience.
It is for this reason that I believe that an analytic attitude is most useful, and I
dene this as trying to stay as closely as possible to what the patient brings. My
concern is that self-disclosure is frequently used to try to disconrm the
patients negative sense of themselves or the analyst, or to try to induce a

0021-8774/2017/6204/585 2017, The Society of Analytical Psychology


Published by Wiley Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
DOI: 10.1111/1468-5922.12338
586 Marcus West

positive sense of the patients self or of the analyst which, whilst well-meaning,
only serves to prolong the patients distress. As Jung says, Only what is really
oneself has the power to heal (Jung 1928, para. 258). I will give examples of
this below.
In regard to this, I will be exploring some particular pressures on the analyst,
all related to trauma, and outlining what I suggest are some unbearable
reconstructions that can be particularly challenging for the analytic couple. I
will also describe where I have found certain forms of self-disclosure to be
helpful, namely in exploring, with the patient, the detailed dynamics that have
been co-constructed in the analytic relationship.
As Gabbard and Lester say in their book on boundary violations (1995, p. 51),
some degree of self-disclosure is inevitable as the analyst is always
communicating much about what they think and feel through their presence
in the room, what questions they ask or dont ask, how they respond to
what the patient brings, and so on. Many of us now work in a new
paradigm that recognizes that an analytic attitude is not about maintaining
somewhat arbitrary boundaries, but rather about recognizing the pressures
and dynamics which form the reconstruction and co-construction of certain
early relational dynamics, frequently of a traumatic nature. By recognizing
these dynamics, the fundamental analytic attitude, which allows reection
on what is occurring, is, in fact, more easily maintained.
Self-disclosure has come into prominence in recent years, partly through the
relational movement. Aron (1991) challenged the notion of the analyst as
possessing a privileged, objective position from which to reect on the
patients subjectivity, or as having responses which are simply counter or
responsive to the patients transference, rather than emanating from the
center of the analysts psychic self (p. 33). This very much coheres with
Jungs (1921/1928) position and his recognition that analysis is a dialogue
demanding two partners (Jung 1963, p. 153). Whilst I thoroughly agree with
Jung that in any thoroughgoing analysis the whole personality of both
patient and doctor is called into play (p. 155), I will be suggesting that this
may entail a good degree of difculty, suffering and journeying for the
analyst as well as the patient. I will return to Arons position below, and will
now explore this further in relation to self-disclosure.

Defences of the self


In his paper on defences of the self, Michael Fordham (1974) describes certain
patients who react against the parts of the analyst which they see as technical
and mechanistic (typically the analysts comments and interpretations) and
attempt to unmask and obtain a good, hidden part of the analyst for
themselves (pp. 193-94). It is this kind of scenario that I am most interested
to explore and will suggest that in these situations it is usually the case that
Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on the analyst 587

early experiences of unresponsiveness, lack of care, rejection or harm, that are


experienced as inhuman, are being constellated in the analytic relationship
and need to be worked through.
These unresponsive, inhuman experiences meant that, in reaching out to the
other, the child experienced shame and annihilation, so that it is a considerable
undertaking to revisit and reconstruct them. As Bromberg (2011) describes,
trauma occurs when, in relationship with another, self-invalidation or self-
annihilation is inescapable, and the individuals normal sense of self is
disrupted by powerful affects. He holds that the process of psychoanalysis is
about helping patients reclaim their dissociated self-states. Jung (1921/28,
para. 266) also held that integrating dissociated parts of the personality is key
to the process of analysis.
In relation to experiencing the analyst as inhuman, Fordham describes how
the patient can become extremely distressed and come to feel that their pain,
terror, dread and confusion are directly caused by what they see as the
analysts sadism, cruelty and destructiveness. He says that the patient may
demand that you stop being an analyst and become yourself to which the
analyst may sometimes respond by trying to be himself by making
confessions or giving information about himself (1974, p. 196). Fordham
describes how this might lead to the breakdown of the analysis. Whilst he is
perhaps describing extreme examples here, I would suggest that the
underlying tendencies are present in many analyses.

Early relational trauma and the bad object


Experiences that were too much for the individuals psyche to bear at that stage
of their development are, by denition, traumatic this might be, for example,
the mothers absence that goes on for too long, as Winnicott (1967, p. 369)
suggests, the fathers persistent criticism and belittling, or a parents violence
or abuse. These experiences lead to shame and the experience of annihilation.
This experience sets up a dissociated, feeling-toned complex, not integrated
with the ego, as Jung described (1934). It is not integrated with the ego
because the affect, or the vehement emotion, as Janet called it, disrupts ego-
functioning so that there is no coherent narrative (van der Kolk 1996). The
powerful, affective-somatic reaction lies at the heart of the dissociated complex.
Such powerful reactions often form key elements of the transference, as the
patient reacts, for example, to the analysts silence, or something they
experience as criticism or oppression. In essence these reactions signal a
triggering of the traumatic complex a retraumatization. Such
retraumatizations are inevitable and, as Bromberg suggests, The analytic
relationship become[s] a place that supports risk and safety simultaneously
a relationship that allows the painful reliving of early trauma, without the
reliving being just a blind repetition of the past (2011, p. 16).
588 Marcus West

The moral defence


However, it can be very difcult for the analyst to feel they are exposing the
patient to what continues to be unbearable suffering the pain, terror, and
dread that Fordham describes; and it can be only too easy for the well-
meaning analyst to back off, and I quote Fordham again, relaxing
boundaries, trying to be more human, more themselves, expressing
themselves more emotionally, making disclosures, giving tokens, or maybe
allowing physical contact (1974, p. 143).
When the patients suffering is intense in this way the patient frequently
becomes morally outraged, telling the analyst that what they are doing is
morally wrong. I have experienced this on a number of occasions and it is
very powerful and distressing to be told that you are causing such suffering. I
have understood this as the patients moral defence, which can be
understood, constructively, as alerting the analyst to the re-wounding of the
patients traumatic complex (West 2007, 2016). This traumatic experience
can then be addressed compassionately.
As I have described before (West 2013), one patient was incensed by what she
called my petty, inhuman, uncaring behaviour when I asked her to wait in the
waiting room when she arrived a few minutes early for a session. It would
have been easy to allow her straight into sessions due to her particular
sensitivity, but we might never have got to explore what that sensitivity was
about, and her murderous reactions to it. It turned out to be a re-construction
of the experience of waiting, in dread anticipation, before her father came to
abuse her and, almost as bad, her mother knowing about it but not
protecting her from it (just as I knew about her waiting and distress). Whilst
the pressure here relates to relaxing a time boundary it could just as easily
have been an issue of self-disclosure.

The masochisto-sadistic dynamic


This moral defence can go on to form part of a masochisto-sadistic dynamic
where, due to the wounding the patient is experiencing, they feel justied in
angrily attacking the analyst, often inicting exactly the kind of wounding
upon the analyst which they experienced. They have thus moved from the
position of victim to that of aggressor.1 The analyst might then fall into a
passive, masochistic surrender, as Racker (1958) described. However, being in
touch with their primitive responses to the patient, e.g. feelings of anger,

1
I am yet to nd an established example of splitting which is not based upon such a dynamic,
whereby the person gets stuck in a masochistic position and, out of their suffering, is legitimized
and charged to attack the bad object, expressing the hate and murderousness that was, perhaps,
not safe to express in childhood.
Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on the analyst 589

tiredness or hurt (which can be borne, or ignored, by adhering to their


professional attitude), can alert the analyst to the implicit dynamics and
allow them to begin to formulate a constructive response, e.g., moving out of
a masochistic position, becoming aware of dissociation, or woundedness see
examples below.
Davies and Frawley, in their brilliant paper on working with people who have
been sexually abused, describe a similar scenario as follows:

It is eventually from the analyst, who seems so eager to help, that this [complete]
compensation will come to be expected. The child, who at rst needs certain
modications in analytic technique to begin the recovery and mourning process
and to tolerate the regressive disorganization that ensues, eventually comes to
expect and demand these interventions as evidence of the analysts real concern
for her and devotion to her. The treatment parameters thus lose their original
ego-supportive function and become symbolic expressions of the analysts love.
They become the stuff that compensation is made of. An entirely different
transference paradigm now exists. The demands that were at rst reasonable and
uttered with quiet urgency become more strident and entitled. They slowly call
for greater sacrices on the part of the analyst and become increasingly difcult
to keep up with.

(Davies & Frawley 1992, p. 27)

This calls to mind Balints description of malignant regression (1968). The


patients woundedness and increasing vulnerability engender a sense of
desperation and entitlement, and this can particularly centre on the analyst
expressing or demonstrating their humanity or care. When we nd ourselves
trying to prove that we are good, kind or caring to a patient, I suggest we are
at the beginning of what Gabbard and Lester (1995) call a slippery slope.
This is problematic not only due to the consequences but also because we are
at that moment missing the point, which is, I suggest, to address the traumatic
experience of not being loved, protected or cared about (or hated and abused),
rather than avoiding it. Such interactions and enactments are inevitable and are
all part of the important dynamics, but recognizing them is important.

The analysts humanity


A quote from Lewis Aron:

Patients probe, more or less subtly, in an attempt to penetrate the analysts


professional calm and reserve. They do this probing not only because they want to
turn the tables on their analyst defensively or angrily but also, like all people,
because they want to and need to connect with others, and they want to connect
with others where they live emotionally, where they are authentic and fully present,
and so they search for information about the others inner world.

(Aron 1991, p. 37)


590 Marcus West

I agree with this, and in many situations this is achieved through the simple
responsiveness and concern that is expressed through the analysts way of
being with the patient. As Jean Knox (2013, p. 502) points out, the analyst
rigidly adhering to their analytic boundaries in the face of the patient
experiencing them like the abuser can only too easily constitute an
unconscious re-enactment of the original abusive situation. In regard to
Arons quote, I would like to quote from Jon Mills description of
contemporary practice, with which I concur:

Analysts now behave in ways that are more personable, authentic, humane, and
reciprocal rather than reserved, clinically detached, socially articial, and stoically
withholding [He says it is difcult to make generalizations but] there is generally
more dialogue rather that monologue, less interpretation and more active
attunement to the process within the dyad, more emphasis on affective experience
over conceptual insight, and more interpersonal warmth conveyed by the analyst,
thus creating a more emotionally satisfying climate for both involved.

(Mills 2012, p. 97)

However, early relational dynamics related to traumatic experiences are


reconstructed in the analytic relationship through, despite and often because
of the analysts interpersonal warmth and personality.
The patient who experienced a lack of care, hatred or sadism in their
childhood will inevitably be vigilant for those things in the analyst. And there
is a further level too: they are also searching for the hate, sadism and lack of
care which they expect to nd in the analyst in response to what they are re-
enacting unconsciously, in talion form, upon the analyst; in other words, in
response to the hostility, suspicion and distancing that derives naturally from
their own early experience.
Even if the analyst is able to appreciate the hurt fuelling the patients
behaviour, on the primitive level the analyst will likely have a talion response
which will ultimately need, at the very least, to be recognized. The longer the
analyst remains the good object, the more the patients hostility and
distancing begins to take its toll, and the co-construction thus begins to take
on a darker hue, coming slowly to constellate the original dynamic.
The sad fact is that being the good object, or attempting to be the good object
or induce good experience in the patient, is not enough. Not only does the
traumatic experience need to be recognized and addressed but, in my
experience, the earlier and more profound the wound, the more the experience
of, for example, being bad or hated, will be installed at the core of the
individuals identity. As a result, the more fully this will need to be constellated,
co-created and lived through in the analytic relationship despite the fact that
neither party wants to go to these darkest places. Whilst neurotic patients
are able to get round their traumatic complexes, and a transference cure might
work temporarily, in the long run the complex will need to be addressed.
Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on the analyst 591

To return to Aron for there to be the truest connection between patient


and analyst, the analyst needs to connect in these wounded places. As Jung
said in relation to trauma: The therapeutic effect comes from the doctors
efforts to enter into the psyche of his patient, thus establishing a
psychologically adapted relationship. For the patient is suffering precisely
from the absence of such a relationship (1921/1928, para. 276).
This connection is important as it results in what Ed Tronick and his
colleagues (1998, p. 409) have called dyadically expanded states of
consciousness, which counteract the wounded individuals isolation. Just as
the child of the depressed mother will experience more complex, coherent and
expanded states of consciousness by taking on elements of the mothers state
of consciousness, so patient and analyst experience such states when they
connect in this way.
In living the dynamic through in the analytic relationship, the complex is
made less powerful, is detoxied and integrated with ego-functioning; or, in
different words, the patient and analyst are able to think about and bear the
experience of being hated, being the object of sadism and a lack of care, as
well as the experience of hating, feeling sadistic and not caring. These
experiences that feel inhuman, but are sadly only too human, can be
particularly difcult to allow and bear in the analytic relationship.
Whilst the above discussion addressed working with the bad object, this also
applies to the patients bad internal object. For example, one patient told Jody
Messler Davies that he couldnt imagine he could be the object of a womans
desire. In response she told him of the sexual phantasies she had been having
about him because, she said, she couldnt think of a more direct way of
letting [him] know that this wasnt true (1994, p. 166). Quite apart from the
fact that her patient was furious and extremely distressed at her intervention,
accusing her of being sick and perverted and saying that he would press
professional charges against her, my main concern in this context is that she
wasnt staying true to what he was bringing.

The unbearable/impossible reconstruction


Id like to give another example (West 2016) of what I think of as an impossible
reconstruction: N was badly bullied by her violent, controlling, narcissistic
father and her fey, distant mother. In the analysis she would frequently tell me
of suicidal impulses, defying me to show that I cared by responding to her
many, desperate phone calls (to become an idealized rescuer); or challenging
me that I did not care enough to do anything to protect her (like her mother);
or accusing me of wanting her dead (as she felt her father had).
We lived through and explored these various scenarios in the analysis until it
became clear, from what was being co-constructed, that what had wounded her
most was her parents irritation at, and rejection of, her vulnerability, need,
592 Marcus West

upset, distress, anger and hurt at their behaviour, when all the while she
persisted in trying to please them. She felt mortally shamed and wounded not
only by their lack of sympathy for her distress but their hostility toward it; as
she put it, It was as if they wanted to shoot at the ambulance.
Now there were many times, particularly early on in the analysis, that I did
reassure her that I didnt hate her, and that I didnt want her dead, but these
reassurances had little effect and, after a time, I no longer expected them to.
They missed the point, because the point was that she needed to live through
with me (someone she largely trusted) how her demands and needs could
become irritating. She was thus taking this unbearable/impossible dynamic
into her sphere of omnipotence. I call it impossible for two reasons. First,
because it is impossible for the child to reconcile the fact that the parents nd
the childs basic needs for attachment and protection aversive and, at the
same time, to maintain a good relationship with the parents. Second, because
the analysts benign attitude will be insufcient and will necessarily be
challenged if the dynamic is to be reconstructed and worked through in the
analytic relationship.
Davies (2004) gives the example of her patient Karen, who asked for a
replacement session, implicitly knowing that this would induce guilt and
conict in her analyst, putting Davies in a bind and inducing helplessness
and hatred in her. In fact, she had also said, Youre such a bitch. Youre
cold and unfeeling and ungiving. Youve never been there for me not ever.
I mean, sometimes you pretend, but its just skin deep, adding, a little later,
you hate me (p. 715). Davies dealt with this by confessing her hatred
toward her patient, saying that they probably both hated each other at
times (p. 718).
I respect her congruence here, and recognize that she felt that her patient
would be able to deal with it at that moment; however, my patient N had
experienced such powerful expressions of hatred and violence from her father
that I felt she would not, at that time, have been able to deal with an
undigested disclosure of my feelings it would have been too retraumatizing
and I sensed that she might have felt that I just hated her. Furthermore, her
experience of shame was so intense and annihilating that for me not to be on
her side would, I feared, have been too much at that point.
Aron (1996, pp. 223-24) considers just such questions as when self-disclosure
might be helpful and with which patients, for what purpose, at which point in
the analysis, what conditions may need to be met rst, how much affect is it
appropriate for the analyst to disclose and so on, and recommends the analyst
evaluating the impact of self-disclosure. As Benjamin says, Disclosure is not a
panacea (2004, p. 40).
Incidentally, I do not feel guilty about feeling hate such as this, nor see it as a
bad thing, but rather recognize it as the inevitable consequence of the kinds of
experiences that N had in her childhood. So instead of guiltily confessing my
hatred, on this occasion, I talked with N of her worst experiences being made
Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on the analyst 593

real between us, recognizing the purpose of this for her, and that she needed to
experience this with me, someone she mostly trusted.
It was this recognition of the cruelty of her natural attachment needs being
aversive that was the most important thing. I have come to see this aversion
to the childs basic attachment needs as not only characteristic of individuals
with a borderline personality organization but intrinsic to the development of
that organization.
I have found that working in the framework of trauma is containing for me,
as the analyst, as experiences of rage, anger, hatred, murderousness and so on
tend to be more eeting, and pointers to the hitherto unknown/unrecognized
dynamics that are struggling to be made manifest and thus to be
acknowledged, contained and integrated.

Shadow hunting
Another intense pressure to self-disclose I have met with on a number of
occasions is what I think of as shadow hunting. This has occurred
particularly with patients whose experience of a parents public persona has
been signicantly dissonant from the way they are privately. For example,
abusive fathers who have often been held in high esteem typically pillars of
the community yet their private, family lives have been appallingly,
abusively different. The patient, therefore, is naturally extremely suspicious of
the analysts professional persona, and is intent on digging beneath the
surface to nd what they are really like, or what they may be hiding.
Initially this is to reassure themselves that they can really trust the analyst,
and that they are not like the patients abusive father. Yet the analyst is never
able to prove that they are good, and they are all the while being asked to
dismantle their own persona and ego-functioning, so hated and distrusted in
the father. As Gabbard and Lester point out, the analytic frame can be
regarded as an extension of the analysts own ego boundaries, and that these
boundaries dene the parameters of the analytic relationship so that both
patient and analyst can be safe while also being spontaneous (1995, p. 41).
The patients continual distrust and probing, and then anger and outrage at
some, sadly inevitable, hurtful infraction, will likely engender the hurt and
rage in the analyst (who has bent over backwards to demonstrate their
humanity) that the patient had been expecting yet fearing to nd, as a result
of the masochisto-sadistic dynamic. The more the analyst has let down their
personal boundaries this is the pressure to induce helplessness and
regression that Fordham describes (1974, p. 195) the more the analysts
incipient anger and outrage will be revealed, recapitulating the patients
original experience with their father.
The reconstruction of the betrayal is now complete, with the patients hoped-
for good object having shown themselves to be bad and the analyst, who started
594 Marcus West

off so eager to please and repair, feeling that they have been lured into a
situation where they have been abused, just like the patient was as a child.
And this may, of course, also represent a repetition of the analysts own
childhood experience Adrienne Harris (2009) describes how analysts are
frequently attempting to repair the parent/patient they could not repair in
childhood and, I would add, perhaps being exploited or abused in the process.

Idealization and staying good


To turn to the other end of the spectrum the ideal, good analyst. Idealization is
a natural, inevitable and, in my experience, universal phenomenon where there
has been traumatic experience. It is understandable that the patient will seek an
idealized, conict-free world where their traumatic experience will not be
repeated where there will be no re-traumatization. As Davies and Frawley
describe:

It would appear to be a universal fantasy among all adult survivors of childhood


sexual abuse that once the horrible facts of the abuse become known, the world will
be moved to provide a new and idealized, compensatory childhoodOften the
renunciation of this wish proves to be even more unimaginable for the child than
accepting the realities of her abuse. Acknowledging the impossibility of bringing this
fantasy to realization represents a betrayal of her most sacred inner self.

(Davies & Frawley 1992, p. 25)

Of course the analyst wants to promote good experience and strengthen the
patients experience of the good object, of which they had too little early on.
In regard to this, Jessica Benjamin (2004, p. 37) describes her work with one
of her patients, Aliza, who had told her that she was literally dying, and that
Benjamin [did] not care, and that she [wouldnt] be able to trust again. In
response to this Benjamin told her that no matter what she did, she would
always have a place in [her] heart, that she could not break [their] attachment
or destroy [her] loving feelings.
As it happened, the patient left, re-enacting the role of her abandoning
mother who had left her child with relatives who did not speak the language,
with Benjamin nding herself in the position of the loving, abandoned child.
Such co-constructions are inevitable, and I am grateful to Benjamin for her
example which demonstrates, I believe, the re-enactment of the traumatic
dynamic.
Benjamin then gives more details of the patients abandoning mother, who
responded to any crisis or need with chaos and impermeability and goes on
to say that it was this mother whom neither of us could tolerate having to
be (p. 37); it is coming to embody the bad, uncaring or sadistic object that
can require a good deal of journeying for the analyst.
Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on the analyst 595

Benjamin then described how, when her patient could recognize her
identication with her mother toward her own daughter, she spoke of how
transformed she felt, so much stronger after that session that she often had to
marvel at herself and wonder if she were the same person (p. 40). It was the
recognition of the re-enactment of the traumatic dynamic that was, I suggest,
key here.

The ination following disrupted ego-functioning


Id like to describe another extremely powerful phenomenon. As Fordham
describes, the patient will sometimes tell the analyst that they must cure
themselves of their illness and that the analyst [is] defending himself against
the truth about himself and [is] trying to force his own anxieties into the
patient (1974, p. 193). This can be extremely perplexing and lies at the heart
of what Fordham describes as the psychotic transference.
When there has been traumatic experience, ego-functioning is disrupted (van
der Kolk 1996) and the persons affective-somatic reactions are compelling and
powerful. They feel more real and more true: there is an immediacy,
spontaneity, vitality, power and intimacy in these interactions, and the patient
speaks with conviction (West 2007). At these times it is often the case that the
patient demands that the analyst show themselves, speak with the same
emotional openness, intimacy, spontaneity, vitality and power that they are
doing, and cure themselves of the limitations imposed by the cognitive
functioning of the ego, which the patient experiences as defensive.
In a classical Jungian framework we can understand the disruption of ego-
functioning as a defeat of the ego which leads the patient to an inated
identication with these undigested, archetypal contents of the unconscious.
Or from another perspective, we could understand this as an omnipotent
reaction, demanding the analysts compliance, representing a defence of the
fragile core self against too much difference.
If we can understand this dynamic in terms of its traumatic origins however,
it can be more easily contained and addressed, rather than the analyst enacting
the role of the unboundaried, doomed, heroic rescuer, lured by their own
reality-denying tendencies.

The loving/erotic transference


Turning to the loving/erotic transference: when someone has had their early
attempts to attach continually frustrated or rejected, or the early expressions
of their self trampled upon, the experience of a benevolent, warm, accepting
analyst is a revelation that can be intoxicating at times. In the analysis they
are nally able to be themselves, yet this self is still wounded, has known
many experiences of annihilation and is unused to the knocks of everyday life.
596 Marcus West

From the analysts perspective, to be with someone whose self is unfolding,


who is experiencing their freedom and expressing themselves so openly,
perhaps for the rst time, is a wonderful thing, and the last thing the analyst
wants to do is to tread on these tender green shoots retraumatizing and
annihilating once again. However the person frequently wants to experience
their self reected back, safely accepted and mirrored; as a patient once said
to me, If you cant express your sexual feelings toward me, you will kill off
my sexuality (West 2007, p. 4).
My focus here is once again to suggest that the essential dynamic concerns the
persons early experience having been killed off and their sensitivity to further
annihilation. The analytic process is about helping the person to bring
themselves into an imperfect world, where there are mismatches and
imperfect mirroring at times. Once again, an issue of early relational trauma,
narcissistic wounding, and the recognition of the narcissism behind the state
of being in love, in contrast to loving.

Self-disclosure exploring the co-construction


A nal example: although with N, as I described above, I didnt use full self-
disclosure, there are times when I do explore the co-constructed dynamics
that are unfolding in great detail.
B complained that I was not responding to her and said she felt I was like a
block of wood and that she wanted to stick a knife in me. I recognized that,
whilst on the surface I had been responsive to her, I had increasingly become
sullen and unresponsive, and I reected that this was due to the fact that she
rarely took up and explored my comments or interpretations, that if I had said
something that had gone in she would simply move on and bring the next
problem, and that, due to what seemed to be envy she treated me as if I was
clearly ok and had neither a need nor an interest in her, nor in relating to her.
Whilst we had carried on in this way for some time and I could work over the
top of these feelings, staying in my professional analytic self, I recognized that
slowly, incrementally this had been wounding, both to my narcissistic need to
be responded to and appreciated, and to my basic needs for relationship and
to be treated as a human being, rather than as someone performing a
function for her. It was as if I had been killed off.
In recognizing this dynamic, the heat went out of it so that I was able to
explore it with her in a way that was not me simply putting pressure on her
to stop exposing me to something unbearable (the patient senses when the
analyst is simply evacuating what they cant bear). I described the dynamic to
her, suggesting that we had been co-constructing the kinds of interactions
between her and her depressed mother, where she was at one moment feeling
that I was not responding sufciently to her as I was disinterested, full up and
self-preoccupied, and thus killing her off, and, at other moments, she was in
Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on the analyst 597

the depressed mother role, ignoring my narcissistic and human needs, and
killing me off.
This kind of disclosure allows a much fuller exploration of the dynamic that is
being co-constructed, and I have found it helpful in being straightforward, real,
and recognizing both the analysts and the patients contributions.2 I do note
that I concentrate on the primitive reactions that I am having and rarely
mention the affective element, as it is this, I think, that the patient might either
nd persecutory, or burdensome, or may excite their sadism. Perhaps most of
all, such affective responses are valorizing that is bad and unacceptable to
me or that is good and pleasing to me. Whilst such affective responses do
play a fundamental role in everyday life, in particular in the individuals
(largely unconscious) appraisal of experience, ultimately I suggest that the
process of analysis is about moving beyond what is good and bad to being able
to accept the deeper reality of what is unfolding now, what happened in the
persons past, and what that means for the persons ways of being.

The analysts journey


I recognize that all of the examples I have described above may likely entail a
signicant learning from experience, emotional development, and journeying
for the analyst, as they are challenged to bear and recognize primitive, painful
and often ego-dystonic experiences and reactions. The analytic process will
therefore call on the whole of their personality, and call for the enlargement of
their personality. Whether that is the experience of, for example, being seen as
bad, cruel or destructive and recognizing that their actions or inactions are
causing real distress and sometimes experiences of annihilation for the patient;
being seen as morally bad, wrong, failing, or inhuman and, concomitantly,
feeling uncaring, hateful or sadistic; being prepared to emotionally stand up to
bullying or sadistic behaviour, or pervasively disconrming or annihilating
behaviour (without, hopefully, resorting too much to retaliation); being able to
grieve for the idealized, loving response/world where there is no conict or
opposition and where each person is able to express themselves fully and
safely; or being able to experience, maintain and contain hope, love,
inspiration, excitement and ecstasy, or despair, powerlessness, frustration,
failure, or defeat of their cognitive or ego-functioning.
These are considerable experiences which may, at times, challenge the very
limits of the analysts experience, sometimes profoundly disturbing their sense
of self, almost inevitably taking the analyst into new areas of experience, and
of themselves. The process of analysis therefore takes time for both patient and
analyst to move toward being able to bear, recognize, and then understand and
2
Aron (2006 p. 366) describes another form of self-disclosure where the analyst reveals their
double-mindedness, describing their conict between, for example, their wish to urge the patient
to do the sensible thing and their concern for the patients need for autonomy.
598 Marcus West

discuss experiences that were, and remain, signicantly painful, intolerable and
sometimes verging on the unbearable (for both patient and analyst).
An analysis proceeds at the pace that is required for that to happen and will
depend on the personalities and particularities of the two individuals concerned
(and this will include the supervisory, professional, personal, cultural and
societal matrices in which each are currently embedded). Cognitive
interventions/interpretations will only be successful if they respect that pace,
and are working at the edge of what is just being made manifest by, between
and in response to the patients and analysts respective selves in the context
of the relationship that is emerging between them.

Conclusion
I suggest that this attitude is relational, yet also analytic, in the sense of
accompanying the individual to the darkest places of their experience and
thus helping to detoxify and work through their traumatic complexes. It
values the transformative crucible of the analytic relationship. This attitude is
in contrast to some relational psychoanalytic positions where self-disclosure is
used to try to disconrm the patients negative experience of themselves or
the object, or to promote endorsing forms of relatedness that, as Meredith-
Owen puts it, may foreclose on a reaching down to engagement with
intrinsic ambivalences, often beneath conscious awareness, whose only means
of expression may be the negative transference (2013, p. 595).

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TRANSLATIONS OF ABSTRACT

Cet article soutient que lauto-dvoilement est intimement li lexprience traumatique


et la pression exerce sur lanalyste de ne pas traumatiser de nouveau le patient ou
rpter des dynamiques traumatisantes. Larticle donne plusieurs exemples dune telle
pression et souligne les difcults que lanalyste peut rencontrer adopter une attitude
analytique recherchant rester au plus prs de ce que le patient apporte. Il est
suggr que lauto-dvoilement peut tre utilis dans le but de tenter dinrmer le
sentiment ngatif que le patient a de lui-mme ou de lanalyste, ou bien dessayer
dinduire un sentiment positif de lui-mme ou de lanalyste. Ces tentatives, bien que
partant dune bonne intention, prsentent le risque de passer ct de lessentiel, et de
prolonger la dtresse du patient. Des exemples sont donns dans lesquels il sagit de
persvrer dans la construction deux des dynamiques relationnelles prcoces et
traumatiques et ainsi de perlaborer le complexe traumatique; cette attitude est
compare et contraste avec certaines attitudes psychanalytiques et relationnelles.

Mots cls: auto-dvoilement, traumatisme relationnel prcoce, construction deux,


psychanalyse relationnelle, dfense morale, dynamique sadomasochiste, reprage de
lombre, idalisation
600 Marcus West

Dieser Beitrag legt dar, da die Selbstdarstellung eng mit traumatischer Erfahrung und
dem Druck auf den Analytiker zusammenhngt, den Patienten nicht zu
retraumatisieren oder traumatische Dynamiken zu wiederholen. Eine Reihe von
Beispielen fr solche Drucksituationen wird angefhrt und die Schwierigkeiten
skizziert, die der Analytiker bei der Einnahme einer analytischen Haltung erleben kann
im Versuch, so dicht wie mglich bei dem zu bleiben, was der Patient anbietet.
Es wird angedeutet, da die Selbstdarstellung verwendet werden kann um zu
versuchen, das negative Selbstwertgefhl des Patienten oder des Analytikers zu
entkrften oder zu versuchen, einen positiven Sinn fr das Selbst oder den Analytiker
zu induzieren, der, obgleich wohlmeinend, den Punkt verfehlen und so die Not des
Patienten verlngern kann. Es werden Beispiele dafr gegeben, wie bei der Co-
Konstruktion der traumatischen frhen Beziehungsdynamik geblieben und damit der
traumatische Komplex durchgearbeitet werden kann; diese Haltung wird verglichen
und kontrastiert mit einigen relationalen psychoanalytischen Einstellungen.

Schlsselwrter: Selbstdarstellung, frhes Beziehungstrauma, Co-Konstruktion,


Beziehungstheorie, moralische Abwehr, sado-masochistische Dynamik, Schattenjagd,
Idealisierung

Il presente lavoro ipotizza che la possibilit di disvelamento di s sia profondamente


legata ad esperienze traumatiche ed alla pressione esercitata sullanalista al ne di non
ri-traumatizzare il paziente o ripetere dinamiche traumatiche. Vengono presentati
diversi esempi in cui si manifesta questa pressione e sono evidenziate le difcolt che
lanalista pu sperimentare nel tentativo di mantenere un atteggiamento analitico
cercando di rimanere il pi possibile aderente a ci che porta il paziente. Si ipotizza
che il disvelamento di s pu essere utilizzato per tentare di disconfermare la
percezione negativa di se stessi che hanno i pazienti o anche lanalista, oppure per
tentare di indurre una percezione positiva di se stessi o dellanalista che, pur se con
buone intenzioni, potrebbe mancare il cuore del problema e prolungare la sofferenza
del paziente. Vengono presentati esempi in cui lanalista riesce a stare nella co-
costruzione delle dinamiche relazionali traumatiche precoci ed in tal modo riesce a
lavorare sul complesso del trauma. Questa attitudine viene messa a confronto con
alcune attitudini dellapproccio relazionale in psicoanalisi.

Parole chiave: disvelamento di s, trauma relazionale precoce, co-construzione,


psicoanalisi relazionale, difesa morale, dinamica sado-masochista, caccia allombra,
idealizzazione

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Self-disclosure, trauma and the pressures on the analyst 601



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El presente trabajo argumenta que la auto-revelacin est ntimamente relacionada a la


experiencia traumtica y a la presin sobre el analista para no re-traumatizar al
paciente o repetir dinmicas traumticas. El trabajo ofrece algunos ejemplos de dichas
presiones y subraya las dicultades que el analista puede experimentar al adoptar una
actitud analtica intentando permanecer lo ms cerca posible de aquello que el
paciente trae. Se sugiere que la auto-revelacin puede utilizarse para refutar el sentido
negativo del paciente hacia s mismo o hacia el analista, o para tratar de inducir un
positivo sentido de s mismo o del analista, el cual, aunque bien intencionado, puede
estar perdiendo el punto y prolongando el malestar del paciente. Se ofrecen ejemplos
de cmo permanecer en la co-construccin de dinmicas relacionales tempranas
traumticas, y trabajar as, a travs del complejo traumtico. Esta actitud es
comparada y contrastada con algunas actitudes psicoanalticas relacionales.

Palabras clave: auto-revelacin, trauma temprano relacional, co-construccin,


psicoanlisis relacional, defensa moral, dinmica sado-masoquista, cazando la sombra,
idealizacin

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