Disidentity Shock in Transference and Counter-Transference


Transference is the therapist’s hypothesis that the patient perceives, imagines, knows him, – the analyst, – not as he is in the actual psychoanalytic situation, but as other fictional persons were in the patient’s past history. Conversely, counter-transference is the therapist’s hypothesis that his own feelings, perceptions, imaginations do not belong to his actual self, but are derivatives of the experiences of his past elicited by the patient. The two hypotheses construct a possible world inhabited by disidentical persons, such as a therapist who is not what he is and is what he is not, while seeing a patient who is also not what he is and is what he is not. The phenomenon of disidentity shock is characterized by a set of feelings of surprise, uncertainty, confusion, bewilderment, which can arise anywhere, every time you open the door expecting a known person and see an unknown one. From this point of view, psychoanalysis is not the endeavor to transform disidentity into identity, but the ability to tolerate the uncertainty of disidentity. The authors distinguish two types of disidentity, diachronic disidentity, as in the example of saint Paul, and synchronic disidentity, as in the example of Dorian Gray. In the paper, two clinical vignettes illustrate these concepts, also in the light of tense logic and of modal figures.

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European Journal of Psychoanalysis