In Treatment -- Afterthoughts on Paul & Counter-transference

Laura is not the only person in her therapy; Paul is part of it also. Therapy is a relationship, an immersion of two people in the figurative bath of therapy.

For psychotherapy to be effective a close rapport is needed, so close that the doctor cannot shut his eyes to the heights and depths of human suffering. The rapport consists, after all, in a constant comparison and mutual comprehension, in the dialectical confrontation of two opposing psychic realities. If for some reason these mutual impressions do not impinge on each other, the psychotherapeutic process remains ineffective, and no change is produced. Unless both doctor and patient become a problem to each other, no solution is found. (Jung, Memories dreams Reflections,  p. 143)

So, Paul needs to be able to be open to what Laura tells him, to feel what she is feeling and become able to metabolize it in such a way that he can help her to understand herself and be more conscious of her life.

But, and this is crucial, Jung also says, The patient's treatment begins with the doctor, so to speak. Only if the doctor knows how to cope with himself and his own problems will he be able to teach the patient to do the same. (Jung, Memories Dreams Reflections, p. 132)

And here is where Paul is in deep water before Laura says anything about her feelings for him. He is not coping well, if at all really, with his life and his problems. And as we saw, this only became worse after her disclosure, as his wife went to Rome with another man.

Paul's feelings about Laura are what we call counter-transference. From the Jung Lexicon,

Even if the analyst has no neurosis, but only a rather more extensive area of unconsciousness than usual, this is sufficient to produce a sphere of mutual unconsciousness, i.e., a counter-transference. This phenomenon is one of the chief occupational hazards of psychotherapy. It causes psychic infections in both analyst and patient and brings the therapeutic process to a standstill. This state of unconscious identity is also the reason why an analyst can help his patient just so far as he himself has gone and not a step further.["Appendix," CW 16, par. 545.]

Paul, because he has not sufficiently dealt with the issues in his life -- his marriage, his  father complex, his need to be wanted and to feel he can care for and nurture a woman, falls prey to this common hazard and counter-transferentially believes he is in love with Laura as she believes she is with him. It is his fantasy of her, that she would adore him and make him feel good as a man, which his wife does not, at least not now. Laura and Paul become infected with the same fantasy, the same psychic virus.

"If the analyst fails to be conscious of the same sufferings within himself/herself and places the total responsibility on the analysand, dismissing his or her participation (albeit unconscious) as "nothing but the transference..."then the effort is lost", Jung also writes, "But life cannot be mastered with theories, and just as the cure of neurosis is not, ultimately, a mere question of therapeutic skill, but is a moral achievement, so too is the solution of problems thrown up by the transference...The treatment of the transference reveals in a pitiless light what the healing agent really is: it is the degree to which the analyst himself can cope with his own psychic problems." (C.G. Jung, CW 18, p. 493) 

The problem between Laura and Paul is not that Laura fell in love with Paul or that Paul developed feelings for her. The problem is that Paul failed to be conscious of the issues in himself that meshed so perfectly with Laura and her problems that he became blind and caught in a kind of possession so that what he felt became not a tool for helping Laura, but instead an occasion for acting out. 

"For two personalities to meet is like mixing two different chemical substances: if there is any combination at all, both are transformed. It is futile for the doctor to shield himself from the influence of the patient and to surround himself with a smoke-screen of fatherly and professional authority. By so doing he only denies himself the use of a highly important organ of information" (C.G. Jung CW 16, p.71)

It is here, in the last episode, where I find cause for optimism about both Laura and Paul. Laura does get it at long last that having Paul is not what she needs or wants. And this is an important step toward changing how she lives her life and relates to men. I would hope she would find another therapist and continue to look at what happened with Paul and how it followed from her earlier life and how she might choose differently in the future.

Paul, at the very end, surrenders and seems willing finally to look at himself, to open to the therapy he needs. Whether or not Gina is the best person for him to work with is an open question, but it is a place to start.



© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.