MUTUAL LOVE AS TRAUMA:
Implications for Clinical Work
Mutual love, while inducing great happiness, weakens higher mental functions and, so, is paradoxically traumatic. We will begin with the clinical observation that experiences of satisfaction, especially when mutual, make people happy but anxious. We will look at a literary example of the traumatic aspect of mutual love, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), and consider Freud’s two-stage theory of trauma. Next, we will read papers by Freud, Weiss, and Laplanche that shed light on why mutual love is traumatic. Finally, we will examine the clinical implications of this phenomenon, including its ramifications for the therapeutic relationship where, if things go well, mutual love naturally develops. We will discuss how to help patients understand this phenomenon and recognize techniques they can use to cope with it. The goal will be to help them replace self-defeating behaviors with more adaptive ones in the face of mutual love and other significant successes in their lives.
At the conclusion of this course, participants will be able to:
- Describe, in your child and adult patients, instances in which their anxiety symptoms are preceded by an experience of heightened success and gratification as in mutual admiration/love
- Apply theories of Freud, Laplanche and Weiss about the nature of trauma, the origins of infantile sexuality and the dangers to higher mental functioning of success and heightened gratification as in mutual love.
- Apply specific techniques people use to cope with success/happiness as in mutual love.
- Demonstrate ways in which the therapist/analyst can help patients become more familiar with the phenomenon that success (as in mutual love) induces great anxiety.
- Demonstrate ways in which the therapist/analyst can help patients recognize techniques they use to cope with success (as in mutual love) and help them distinguish self-defeating vs. adaptive methods of coping.
- Bartels, A. and S. Zeki (2004). The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love. NeuroImage, 21(3), 1155–1166. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.11.003.
- Høglend, P, A. G. Hersoug, K. Bøgwald, et al. (2011). Effects of transference work in the context of therapeutic alliance and quality of object relations. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(5), 697–706. doi: 10.1037/a0024863.
- Gilbert, P. , McEwan, K. , Catarino, F. , Baião, R. and Palmeira, L. (2014), Fears of happiness and compassion in relationship with depression, alexithymia, and attachment security in a depressed sample. Br J Clin Psychol, 53: 228-244. doi:10.1111/bjc.1203
Diane Donnelly, Ph.D., is a psychologist and psychoanalyst on SFCP’s faculty. She practices in San Francisco and Marin where she sees adults and children. In 2012, she received JAPA’s New Author Prize for her paper “The Function of Suffering as Portrayed in The Scarlet Letter and Reflected in Clinical Work.”
This intermediate course is for mental health clinicians with moderate to extensive clinical experience and a background in principles of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.
Enrollees who cancel at least SEVEN DAYS prior to the event date will receive a refund minus a $35 administrative charge. No refunds will be allowed after this time. Transfer of registrations are not allowed.