A sexual violation in an analytic treatment and its personal and theoretical aftermath

Yüklə 306,67 Kb.
Pdf görüntüsü
ölçüsü306,67 Kb.
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   20

Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 47, No. 1. ISSN 0010-7530

© 2011 William Alanson White Institute, New York, NY. All rights reserved.








 A S











Abstract: Sexual boundary violations are as old as psychoanalysis itself. Yet, al-

though this professional, intellectual, clinical, and personal dilemma is receiving 

more attention in the literature, it endures. Do analysts not want to think or talk 

about it? Is our shared shame, or even ambivalence, in the way? Is the primal 

crime inherently unstoppable? The author examines her own experience of a 

sexual boundary violation from clinical and theoretical perspectives. Locating her 

analyst’s transgression in its 1970s cultural history, the article attempts to decipher 

what led up to it: What did the analyst do and not do, say and not say? How did 

the analyst’s character combust with her author’s to produce a conflagration 

about which the analyst never spoke and the author/patient remained silent for 

thirty years? And under what circumstances can the damage inflicted by such an 

ethical lapse be transformed?

Keywords: Silence, enactment, erotic countertransference, feminism, patriarchy, 


Freedom of expression has its roots in pride, 

and is, in essence, an expression of human dignity.

—Orhan Pamuk (2005)

Introduction: The Hug and the Hard-On



before I thought of becoming a clinician, I entered treatment with 

an impeccably credentialed psychoanalyst. I was 26 and it was 1968, an 

era of political, personal, cultural, and intellectual change, but in which 

women’s sexual subjectivity was still officially less than their own. In No-

vember 1973, I was about to attend an annual anthropology conference 

(I was by then an assistant professor), set on sleeping with a man I’d met 

the previous year. Off and on, I’d been sharing this plan with Dr. O and 



was now relating my excitement, fear, and adulterous guilt. Though I’d 

often discussed sex, I see, looking back, that this was the first time I was 

owning my sexual intentionality. Doubtless, feminism and the so-called 

“sexual revolution” (aided by the 1960s birth-control pills and New York 

State’s 1973 legalization of abortion) were, for me, synergizing with psy-

choanalysis to recuperate a way of self-knowing that had been closed off 

for too long, an unthought-known reason I’d sought treatment.

The session ended, Dr. O walked me to the door, I said, “I’m scared, I 

want a hug.” (This was not the first hug: in the spring of the preceding 

year, when I was grieving my father’s death, he sat on the couch to put 

his arm around me.) As I was ending the embrace, I kissed his cheek; I 

do not know whether there’d been a kiss before, but I don’t think so. 

And then he said, and this was a definite first—and last—“No, how about 

a real kiss?” So—it wasn’t even a question, because, as the quip goes, 

there’s a “trance” in “transference”—I kissed his mouth. He returned the 

favor with his tongue—at which point, I recall—as I write—a feeling of 

shock, and then a feeling of ignoring the shock. He chuckled: “Oops, I’m 

getting a hard-on, I better stop.” In me, nothing or, rather, awareness of 

nothing. Call it a confusion of tongues.

I left, went to the conference, had disappointing intercourse, never 

saw the guy again, returned to analysis, did not speak of the hug or the 

hard-on or the French kiss, and never did anything like it again in a treat-

ment that lasted for seven more years. Dr. O did not mention it either.

Dr. O’s professional background made his silence odd. Had he been 

classically trained, we might deem his lack of speech technically man-

dated: no matter what the analyst does, it’s the patient’s perception of it 

that matters and is in need of investigation (Brenner, 1979). The ordinar-

ily loquacious Dr. O, however, held the analyst to be a person just like 

the patient: the analyst is not a cipher but a contributor to the relation-

ship. And he regarded the patient as responsible, an adult like the ana-

lyst. He believed the psychoanalyst should routinely acknowledge and 

sometimes even discuss the patient’s reception of the analyst’s particular 

presence. Had Dr. O stuck to his last, however, the treatment would have 

soon ended. Instead, it was prolonged by the silence vitiating it.

Dr. O, you should know, fed me well. His voice and cadence, familiar 

to me from my mother’s, were a comfort. And, unlike my father, whose 

narcissism took a different path, Dr. O listened. A man who listened. 

O brave new world! That was enough, a phallic presence with a mother-

ing heart. Gender and power were never more beautifully married, a 



solution that, needless to say, became a problem. My transference neuro-

sis—call it penis or, better, phallus envy—was that his masculinity would 

free my own voice. Nestled in this powerful patriarchal transference—

was it love?—I grew. In the idealizing glow of his care and modeling, an 

engaged, engaging, vocal self, abandoned early on, returned. My confi-

dence burnished, I wrote my first book (1977), switched careers from 

anthropology to psychoanalysis, and left my marriage.

All this took place next door to a profound dissociation. I would go to 

sessions with what I privately called “hopeless hope.” Blind faith, I would 

call it now that I can think. Unconsciously, that’s where I wanted to stay, 

and indeed could stay, because, absent symbolization, nothing had hap-

pened and no time had passed. Sometimes I think of myself as having 

been a Lorenz gosling (Brigandt, 2005), as one is in deep analysis. Except 

that’s how I was from the initial phone call and apparently that’s how I 

wanted to remain, in a state of total trust and worship, that necessary but 

dangerous state of attachment (Bowlby, 1982) we call “imprinting” (Brig-

andt, 2005). Dr. O’s silence not only enhanced dissociation and protected 

me from the shame that blankets fear, it drew on and intensified the 

originary trance.

I always remembered the hug and the hard-on, I always recalled that 

tongue slipping into my mouth, but I couldn’t sort any of it out. The 

memory lived without affect, as though in two dimensions. Post-Dr. O, 

whenever I tried to go beyond the mere recounting of who did what to 

whom, I would feel only hunger and an overwhelming sadness that led 

to an obsessive questioning of every other turning point in my life. At-

tempting to manage this painful flood alone, I could not locate a chain of 

significance. More precisely, what happened between Dr. O and me had 

not been an object of knowledge until I wrote about it and had the ex-

change afforded by writing and speaking with the psychoanalytic com-

munity and others. It simply was. In the absence of mutuality (Aron, 

1996; Benjamin, 1988), feeling could not be contained (Bion, 1962), 

knowledge (Ogden, 1994) could not coalesce, nor could there evolve an 

“I” to hold the self-shards together (Bromberg, 1996; Rivera, 1989).

Because an enormous ambiguity surrounds and infuses Dr. O’s lapse, 

it seemed sensible to entitle this article “Lapsus linguae.” Literally this 

phrase translates as “a slip of the tongue,” an expression giving my sec-

ond title, which I have in turn put as a question, because what went on 

in that treatment is not at all limpid (indeed, were it so, this long article 

would have been unnecessary). In psychoanalysis, we apply the rather 

Yüklə 306,67 Kb.

Dostları ilə paylaş:
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   20

Verilənlər bazası müəlliflik hüququ ilə müdafiə olunur ©genderi.org 2023
rəhbərliyinə müraciət

    Ana səhifə