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Tag Archive for ‘Psychoanalysis’

The psychological significance of your purse, phone, and other seemingly ordinary objects


Life is one big Rorschach test, as far as I am concerned. When out in the world I may look like I am shopping or doing chores, but in fact, what I am doing while I do those things is reading ordinary objects as a way to understand  the unconscious aspects of people that I see in line at Trader Joe’s. Going to Costco for me is more like attending one big Sandplay convention, each person’s cart is a story that is so much for than just jumbo size Cheerios and a 48-pack of toilet paper, it is a container symbolizing the opposites—holding they life they have and, also, the life they want to have. Outfits are much the same, how we dress says a lot about our psyches— our sartorial signifiers reveal more about us than we might like them to and certainly more than we are willing to say out loud. Truly, everywhere you go there are symbols that surrounds us that look like mere ordinary objects and choices—ol;y they are more. If I could be known for a quote I might like it to be, ‘there are no small choices only small awarenesses of those choices.” I know it’s not as catchy as “don’t worry be happy” and even less likely to be made into a song by Bobby McFarren.

The question of “what’s in your bag” was a magazine and blogging phenomenon. It was so big that I actually think a psychological paper ought to be written about the meaning of our interest about “what’s in the bag?”. There is, me thinks, a kind of voyeurism and, to some degree, exhibitionism in it. LeAnn Melat wrote a PhD dissertation on “The mythical and psychological meaning of a woman’s purse”. I haven’t read it yet but I wonder if LeAnn might give is insight into why we are so curious about what goes on inside all those purses.

Melat gives us some clues : “Modern women almost always take their valuables and essentials with them in purses when they leave their homes, but psychologically, what are they actually reenacting with such ritualistic consistency? One theory of this hermeneutical discussion is that earlier historical feminine rituals are unconsciously reflected in today’s purse behavior. Because Western culture has devalued and underrated characteristics of the archetypal feminine, the repressed, but not lost, archaic traits of the feminine just may be symbolically stuffed away in the shadowy recesses of the purse, waiting to be reintegrated into feminine consciousness. Hestia was primarily the contained essence of each Greek home, and perhaps the modern purse as a psychic vessel of the feminine is related to this goddess’s archetypal realm. Through the purse’s Hermetic connection, the Hestian vessel is able to leave the home and be carried into the world, even though mythically, Hestia never wanted to leave the protected interior under any condition. Even when Dionysos wanted to be admitted to the Greek Pantheon, Hestia gladly relinquished her royal position because she simply did not want to be out, known, or exposed. In many ways, this act put the Goddess Hestia in the role of the thirteenth fairy, the uninvited, unacknowledged guest. We must ask ourselves when Hestia retired herself from view, what became unrecognized in the essential feminine nature? Through the patriarchy’s steady devaluation of the feminine, the contemporary woman has lost her quintessential, central core, which should be carried inside of her soul, unseen, like Hestia’s ember. Instead, she carries something representative of her sacred nature on the outside, on her shoulder or in her hand, as she leaves home gripping her purse. The authentic feminine essence of the modern her lost powers, an aberrant behavior, which manifests from the patriarchal culture’s pathology. Because her interior world has been so dishonored, today’s woman has extroverted what’s left of her value by carrying her essence in her symbolic sacred container, her purse, in much the same way as she dresses for success by attempting to measure up to the patriarchal values.”

Pamela Poole, writer and blogger , and cofounder of Cowgirl App!,” the app review site that doesn’t smell like Doritos and armpits”, wanted to know the deep and dark secrets of my iPhone. She kindly invited me to share “What is on my iPhone“. Not surprisingly these questions led to some significant psychological insight, which is not surprising as, to my mind, the phone is the Transitional Object of our time. If Freud was alive today I feel sure he would want to analyze his patients phone use ( you can’t imagine how often iPhones come up in session) and he would say, “Sometimes( actually most of the time) a phone is not just a phone.” An iPhone or a Blackberry is not just a phone, rather it is a container loaded with psychological significance. And, I think, that it serves as a kind of long-distance umbilical cord that allows us to feel connected and not-alone, no matter where we are. All you have to do is look at people’s relationship to their phone, and see how it is serves as an ever-present binkey for some, to see what a powerful symbol it it.

I am not going to give away the insights that I uncovered in the interview…as I do hope that you go over to Pamela’ and check it out.  I do warn you that a good part of the interview reveals a good deal of  my shadowy-silly self, as I even admit my most embarrassing app.  Please check out the interview here.

Also, here is a great post about the psychoanalytic symbolism of ordinary objects.

Shopping for Change: Transformational Objects

ImageOne of the first essays I ever published was a piece called “The Search for Sacred Accessories”. The editors at Mode Magazine sadly did not get how clever the title was and they changed the name of the piece to “Practical Magic”, which was a pretty lame title if you ask me. My essay was about an experience in which I found of pair of feathered gloves that I felt convinced would transform me into the person I had always wanted to be. I would, I believed,  with the purchase of these Holly-Go-Lightly gloves become my ideal self. Alas, I did not. What in fact happened is that I wore the gloves to a party and when I reached for an appetizer the ostrich feathers caught on fire and they went up in smoke as did my dreams of their being the vehicle to a more perfect manifestation of myself.

Even though the feathered gloves did not allow me to live up to my full potential, I have continued to seek ordinary items that promised to transform me. There have been shoes, dresses, and handbags that all, in their pre-purchase state, promised a new and improved me. However once I purchased the said item, I found that I had a sort of anti-Midsas touch and turned the numinous object into an ordinary one that left me exactly as I was before and turned the object into something much more ordinary than I imagined it to be.

Christopher Bollas, the psychoanalyst and author, would describe what I was doing as an attempt to create a “transformational object”. A “transformational object” gived us the potential for a “transformational experience”. According to Bollas the mother creates for their babies a “transformational process”.  Mothers change the internal and external environment to meet the infant’s needs, but babies do not know that a separate person is performing these functions and so they experience the transformation as a process and not coming from a person. Bollas explains: “We see how hope invested in various objects ( a new job, a move to another country, a vacation, a change of relationship) may both represent a request for a transformational experience and at the same time, continue the ‘relationship’ to an object that signifies the experience of transformation. We know that the advertising world makes its living on the trace of this object.: the advertised product usually promises to alter the subject’s external environment and hence change internal mood. The search for such an experience may generate hope, even a sense of confidence and vision, but although it seems to be grounded in the future tense, in finding something in the future to transform the present.”

Very often, when we want something we are actually wanting the transformational experience. We want the shoes or the trip or the  house to give us a different experience of ourselves. Or at least that is something I experienced. I have imagined that when I had the new car, new furniture or that Ferragamo bag that I would be transformed in some permanent way. Only, it has been my experience that objects rarely, if ever, give us the imagined character qualities that we believed they would.

Here is the equation of the transformational object prior to the purchase :

Me+Desired Object=Me as more.

Here is the equation of me after the purchase:

Me+Possessed Object= Me as the same as before,  with some initial and temporary excitement and, perhaps, some grief and depression that said object did not make me more than I was before.

That said, there are some shoes in my closet that do have a “Ruby Slipper” quality, in that they remind me in someway of my essence. But, like Dorothy, I had the essence all along and the shoes just reminded me of who I am—they didn’t turn me into something I wasn’t.

Thanks to Bollas, and YEARS of therapy, I now deconstruct my desire. Each time a desire is born I ask myself, “What qualities do I believe that these Black Jimmy Choo Verdict Cutout Sandal’s will give me?” If I am clear that I will be the same once I acquire them then I am feel free to go on longing them, which is not necessarily a good thing as they are ridiculously expensive and, perhaps more importantly, they don’t have them in my size.

This is the Christopher Bollas article that inspired this post.

Is the unlived life worth examining?

Nothing I know matters more
Than what never happened.
— John Burnside, ‘Hearsay

9780374281113_p0_v1_s260x420I once had a psychoanalyst ask me to write out in detailed form the way I wish my life had gone. I am not sure why he asked me to do that, and at the time I was even less sure.  I do know that I was at once both resistant and energized by his invitation which I ultimately did not accept.  When I think back to my work with this well-meaning analyst,I suppose many of my hours with him had sounded a lot like the following: “If we had only stayed in Seattle and not moved to Los Angeles.”; “If only I had been able to stay near Mirjam and Paul( my Nanny and her husband) and not move two states away from them.”; “If only I had been allowed to stay at Montessori and not been forced to attend Parochial school.” It’s funny to think back to that time and see the point my analyst was trying to make. He was, I suppose, trying to get me to see the impact of my unlived life and discover who it was that I longed for and what I imagined those roads not taken would have lead to. I imagine that he thought that I was marred by regrets which is strange as I don’t really experience myself as a person who regrets much. But was my analyst onto something? Was my unlived life worth examining?

Adam Phillips’, author, psychoanalyst and my latest intellectual crush, has an answer for that. “It seems a strange question until one realizes how much of our so-called mental life is about the lives we are not living, the lives we are missing out on, the lives we could be leading but for some reason are not. What we fantasize about, what we long for,are the experiences, the things and the people that are absent. It is the absence of what we need that makes us think, that makes us cross and sad.”

In his latest book, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, Phillips explores the unlived life and how it impacts our lived life. The book jacket offers the following description of Phillips’ exploration:

All of us lead two parallel lives: the life we actually live and the one that we wish for and fantasise about. And this life unlived (the one that never actually happens, the one we might be living but for some reason are not) can occupy an extraordinary part of our mental life. We share our lives, in a sense, with the people we have failed to be – and this can become itself the story of our lives: an elegy to needs unmet, desires sacrificed and roads untaken….Adam Phillips demonstrates that there might in fact be much to be said for the unlived life. …he suggests that in missing out on one experience we always open ourselves to the potential of another, and that in depriving ourselves of the frustration of not getting what we think we want, we would be depriving ourselves of the possibilities of satisfaction.

This is, I imagine, and I imagine my old analyst would agree, is something I know a little about.

There is the me that was an only child who moved from Seattle at three and moved to Los Angeles and whose parents were career focused and not child focused. There is the me who had traumas and dramas mar her childhood. And that me that went on to marry and not have children and become who I am today. But what, I suppose, makes all of the pain of that biographical narrative so much more painful is that I hold in my mind the story of “what should have been” and  ” the unlived life that I should have had”. That, truth be told, is much the pain of infertility and the resulting grief that lingers today…it is the feeling of missing out and having in my head the alternate life I would be living if I had only had the baby.  I share my life with the Tracey that I have failed to be. There is the me that exists and then there is the me that went to Sarah Lawrence and who is a mother and who has a huge and loving family ( the me that doesnt’ exist).

In answering the question of why do we spend so much time imagining another ( or unlived life) Phillip argues that we are by nature frustrated creatures and that is because our expectations and fantasies are more than can possibly be met by the world. He goes onto explain that one of the ways we cope with that frustration is to fantasize about what we need and what is missing. It is Phillips’ assertion that fantasizing about what we don’t have is not merely an act of compensation but that it gives us insight into what we want to do with our lives. The fantasy gives us information about what we want to do and how to give our selves some sense of satisfaction. Phillips’ encourages us to use our fantasy life to seek what is truly available in the world. He goes onto say that by really knowing our frustration that comes at the intersection of lived life and not lived life that gives us a better sense of what we really want, so  it is important to look at that wished for life for clues

A very interesting point that he makes and one that I need to pay special attention to is that the fantasy of the unlived life can make the lived life seem disappointing as there are no boundaries in the fantasy life and there are always boundaries, rules and limitations in the lived life. “reality isn’t disappointing, it is just reality.”In my unlived life I had that baby and I live in Lake Bluff and I write in my free time when I am not being the best mother I can be. Yes, giving space for that unlived life makes me sad. When I really walk around that life it is both lovely and horrible in the pain that it constilates, but when I really move into that fantasy there is something I wanted psychologically and symbolically, as well as literally,and some of those things can happen and some of those things can’t. In the fantasy I am the perfect mother and I have the perfect baby and I am perfectly happy. I know the reality would have been very different and I am perfectly okay with that.

Phillips argues that Capitalistic culture promises to endlessly supply things we want, that if we have a need that Capitalistm promises to produce something that will fill that need( interestingly that in the height of my trying to conceive I used to dream of going to Land of  Nod or Pottery Barn Baby and buying my own perfect baby as well as all the nursery furniture). Phillips makes the case that “the effect of this forced feeding( by Capitalism) is that we never can think about what we might want.”

The surprising point that Phillips makes is that frustration is more enlivening than happiness. “I think that our frustration is one of the best things about us….at its best our frustration, for example, can lead us into the knowledge  and the acknowledgment that we need other people, say, and that there is a limit to what other people can give us and we don’t have to, as it were, murder them because they are so frustrating….And if frustration were more culturally acceptable…it would be more talked about.” We are capable of more satisfaction in our life and that can  looking at our frustration and seeing what is act
ually possible.

As much as I love Phillips, and I do, I find him to be a bit of a frustrating read ( and for Phillips that would likely be a compliment) he writes in a free-associative style that leaves one feeling completely unsure of what they just read( and I KNOW that Phillips would love that critique). Let me be absolutely clear,  I am not in this post recommending that you rush out and buy his book ( but you might well enjoy it). What I do hope is that you might feel inclined, after reading this post and some of the scaffolding bones that make up the body of Phillips argument, to examine your unlived life and see what exactly frustrates you about it? What in the frustration offers for potential REAL fulfillment in your REAL life?

I WANTED a baby. I wanted to have a family. I wanted to create a life for myself and for the longed for baby that I didn’t have created for me. While I can’t create that baby, I can, if I chose, create a life in which I have more opportunities for love and connection and nurturing, which I imagine is at the crux of the desire for a family.  I don’t have all the answers about the meaning of my “unlived life” but I do think it is definitely worth exploring further. And I can see already that just in posing the question that there is an opportunity to be somewhat less frustrated, which is strangely a bit frustrating.

“Missing Out” reviewed in the New York Times

Excerpt from “Missing Out”

Radio Interview with Adam Phillips

 L.A. Review of Books on “Missing Out”


Intellectual crush #3: On Pleasure and Frustration

I miss James Hillman. I really do. I just saw a friend last week,  a fellow therapist, who is the person who talked me into talking to Hillman the last time I saw him. The minute I saw her I greeted her with the following, “I thought of you when Hillman died.” I know that “hello and “how are you” are more customary, but this woman greeted me with the same, “I know, I thought of you too.”

When you love someone as deeply as I love Hillman it can take awhile before you are willing to fall in love again. You may even defend against love and swear you will never-ever-ever find it again. But one day you do. One day you are reading a book and you find that you must immediately go to and order every other book that this person ever wrote. And, dear readers, I have found such an author. Let me introduce you to Adam Phillips. Adam Phillips, the author and British psychotherapist, is a genius. I had several of his books in my bookcase for several years and I hadn’t read them. Just recently I began to read “On Balance” and I lost mine and I started Googling him( which is a bit ironic as Adam is a conscious technophobe who eschews cell phones and emails in favor of a less wired and more inspired lifestyle).and I found this interview that I have watched more times than I care to admit. But trust me, watch this and really think about what he says and it will change you( well, it changed me…and it made me fall in love with thanatos all over again). This is a whole lot of important stuff in only six minutes and eight seconds. If you can’t be bothered to watch it and rather read, then I quote from his New York Times Interview in which he discusses the Psychoanalysis of pleasure and frustation:

One of the obstacles is the demand that we be happy, that we enjoy our lives. I think it’s a huge distraction, and it’s very very undermining, I think. So, living in a quasi-hedonistic culture, I think it’s a big problem. It’s wrong because, if we are to make this crude, in the old days whenever that was, there was an internal injunction to be good. Now the injunction is to be happy, or to be enjoying yourself. And the reason this is a distraction is because life is also painful, in other words—and it’s a very simple thing and its very obvious—and it starts in childhood—which is that if someone can satisfy you, they can also frustrate you. This is ineluctable, this is structural, it is never going to change. This means that everybody has to deal with ambivalence. They are going to have to deal with the fact that they love and hate the person they love and hate.

What we are continually being sold are possibilities for pleasure…as though all we want to do is get away from the pain and increase the pleasure. I think this is a very impoverished view of what a life is, even though every life has something to do with the pain and the pleasure. But there’s a difference between evacuating pain and frustration and modifying it. And what we’re starved of now is frustration. There isn’t a really powerful account of the value of the state of frustration. It’s as though we are phobic of frustration. And as soon as there is a moment of frustration, it has to be filled with something. It’s a bit like the mother who overfeeds her child—she does that stop her child from having an appetite, because the appetite is so frightening.

I think that it would be possible to have pictures of good lives that are not set up to make one fail. So that a more realistic idea, as opposed to ideal, is one that is genuinely attainable…Ideals create a sort of fight-or-flight. Either you run away from it, you get rid of it, and produce a new one, or you comply with it, or you battle with it. I would be interested in people producing fictions that are discussable, that are realistically possible, rather than humiliating. Because the other thing about cultural Ideals is that they are set up to humiliate us. So that the fictions would be non-diminishing, they would be genuinely possible, but they would keep alive the idea that we don’t know who we might become, and that who we want to be is very important.

Giving up on happiness. Accepting frustration. Fictions that are possible. If someone can satisfy you they can also frustrate you. Brilliant, huh?

That said, I still miss Hillman.

More on Adam Phillips:


“Why you are “Too Much for Yourself”

On Why You Are a Fundamentalist

What smarty-pants psychoanalysts say about shoes that defends my obsession

This shoes thing won’t let me go. For over 20-years I have been unable to do heels. I had foot problems. I was a Pisces who was more suited to swimming than walking. I was imbalanced. I couldn’t stand the pain. I was constitutionally incapable of walking in them. High-heels were just for special occasions. I needed a man to wear them, as I needed someone to lean on in order to walk in them. I could wear them for only brief periods of time. Valet parking was a must if heels were going to be worn. Only now I can walk blocks in them. I can wear them all day. I wear them alone. And I don’t need to valet park in order to wear them. So what’s happened? I have the same feet. If anything, I would imagine with age that I would be less likely to be able to tolerate four-inch heels than more. The only way I know how to make sense of this is to look at it symbolically as it can’t really be explained physically.

According to J.E. Cirlot in A Dictionary of Symbols, shoes are often symbolic of the vagina. Cirlot points to Cinderella as a story that uses shoes to symbolize female sexuality. Not surprisingly Freud saw the shoe or slipper a “symbol of the female genitals.” In symbolism, the shoe has is largely associated with fertility customs, marriage and romance. For example: The custom of tying shoes to the newlyweds car, which is symbolic of the sexual union.

The Erotic Foot” makes this interesting argument that might explain my new passion for shoes that perch me higher, “The high heel and the position it creates for the foot is a strong sexual stimulus. The feet are plantar-flexed (not perpendicular to the leg as they are in a relaxed position). This is the position emphasized for the foot in any centerfold picture. It is also achieved in the sexy crossing of legs where one foot teasingly flexes forward. The extension of the foot, pointing of the toes, particularly with a circular movement, is a strong body language signal saying “I’m available.” So perhaps my choice of foot wear speaks to my availability.

The Jungian analyst and writer, Marie-Louise Von Franz describes the symbolism of shoes in the following manner: “If we start from the hypothesis that the shoe is simply the article of clothing for covering the foot and that with it we stand on the earth, then the shoe is the standpoint, or attitude toward reality. There is much evidence for this. The Germans say when someone becomes adult that he “takes off his childish shoes,” and we say that the son “steps into his father’s shoes” or  “follows in his father’s footsteps” – he takes on the same attitude.” In that vein, it is interesting to note that the moment I knew that my marriage was over came through a pair of shoes that no longer fit. The running shoes went wrong made me aware that I needed to leave my marriage. And within a month of leaving my marriage my ability to wear high heels returned. (It is also interesting to note that He-weasel would still be taller than me in most heels, so it wasn’t out of consideration for him that I chose not to wear them). If we look at the running shoe as a shoe that should have allowed freedom of movement, speed and support and that it no longer did and how the running shoe has been replaced by a shoe that is less practical,less supportive and  more beautiful—we can see how the shoe might, as a shift in attitude and a differing standpoint then I had before. My decision might have not been practical and it left me less supported and yet my life is feeling more beautiful, and more my own.

In April( a month after the seperation), when I bought my first pair of high-heels as soon as I stepped into them I noticed feeling more powerful, sexual, visible, and much more feminine. In them I have to walk slower and more carefully but walking in heels creates a kind of deliberate awareness that I never had when walking in flats. Heels slow me down and as I am in this state of transition and am using action as a way to tolerate my anxiety, the heels work as a counter-balancing agent to my impulse to run-run-run as fast as I can.

Also important to my heel obsession is how during the same time I have given flats the boot, I have had two pretty big falls. Both falls were so signifigant that I might be left with a long term scar to remind me of them. The first fall was so scary that it almost stopped me from running. A month later when I fell again I got back up and didn’t even assess my wound before getting back into the game.  I don’t know exactly how this relates to the heels, I suppose it makes the attraction to the heels feel even stronger and more important. If I am falling and feeling a bit unstable then the fact that I am choosing 4 1/2 inch sandles and not orthapedic shoes tells me that the psychic significance of this object choice is even MORE significant. I am willing to risk the fall in order to have the heights. I suppose one might rewrite that sentence and say, “I am willing to risk falling/failing in order to have this elevated life.”

I still don’t know exactly what my ability to walk in heels is all about….but I am seriously enjoying the question, the seeking the answer, the resulting ruminations and, of course, the shoes themselves. I wanted to share with you a few things that sparkle with meaning for me as I explore this topic:

1) The blogger, Dorothea, who writes the brilliant blog, Another Door, had this to say on the subject: “You can walk in heels now because you aren’t carrying all that old weight on your shoulders, throwing off your balance. You can walk in heels now because it’s like being on tip-toe and you want to be the first to see what’s coming over the horizon. You can walk in heels now because you know that if you fall down, you can get right back up. You can walk in heels now because your legs are strong from all that running (running toward, not running away from). You can walk in heels now because you are excited about taking up as much space and attention in the world as possible.” I think she is absolutely right.  Actually, in all things I think she is absolutely right. She is a brilliant writer and you MUST read her.

These shoes.

3) This fantastic quote that follows by, the author and psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas which does a FANTASTIC job explaining my current obsession with heels.  However, if you find reading psychoanalytic literature to be tedious, here is what Bollas says in a nutshell: We need an object to release the self into expression. What that means for me is that  at this point in my life, I need high-heeled shoes in order to become myself.

If you do like psychoanalytic reads or would like a highfalutin explanation for your shoe love then read on. Now, I am handing my blog over to Christopher Bollas, famed psychoanalyst(Please, when reading, replace the word “object” with “high-heeled shoes”. The management thanks you for your cooperation).
“Certain objects, like psychic ‘keys,’ open doors to unconsciously intense — and rich — experience in which we articulate the self that we are through the elaborating character of our response. This selection constitutes the jouissance of the true self, a bliss released through the finding of specific objects that free idiom to its articulation. As I see it, such releasings are the erotics of being: these object both serve the instinctual need for representation and provide the subject with the pleasures of the object’s actuality…

Those objects and experiences, keys to the releasing of our idiom, free us to experience the depth of our being and of the interplay between the movement of our idiom, driven by the force of our instincts, and the unconscious system of care provided by our mother and father. We are forever finding objects that disperse the objectifying self into elaborating subjectivities, where the many ‘parts of the self’ momentarily express discrete sexual urges, ideas, momories, and feelings in unconscious actions, before condensing into a transcendental dialectic, occasioned by a force of dissemination that moves us to places beyond thinking.…

… Do I select objects that disseminate my idiom or not? For example, do I pick up a novel which I don’t like but think I should read — but through which I shall not come into my being — or do I select a novel which I like, into which I can fall, losing myself to multiple experiences of self and other? Do I have a sense of this difference of choice? What if I don’t? What if I do not intuitively know which object serves me? If I don’t know then my day is likely to be a fraught or empty occasion. Neuroitic conflict eradicates, at least for a time, potential objects.… Or I may choose an object because it is meant to resolve a state of anxiety or to recontact a split-off part of myself housed there. In other words, pathology of mind biases the subject toward the sleection of objects that are congruent with unconscious illness.…

The ego chooses not only what aspect of an object to use but also what subjective mode to employ in the use.…

We can learn much about about any person’s self experienceing by obseriving his selection of objects, not only because object choice is lexical and therefore features in the speech of character syntax, but also because it may suggest a variation in the intensity of psychic experience that each person chooses. If we live an active life, then we will create a subjectified material world of psychic significance that both contains evocative units of prior work and offers us new objects that bring our idiom into being by playing us into our reality.”
From, On Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience, 1992 by Christopher Bollas


The Container

So you know how I often write detailed accounts of what I told Igor and what he told me in my sessions with him? Well, there is a school of thought that would say that by my doing that I am damaging the work and even impinging my growth. I have kept this idea in the back of my mind as long as I have been writing about my own personal therapy here on the blog and chose to keep it there, that is until now. Cheryl Fuller, on her brilliant blog Jung at Heart, wrote a post about the importance of container for transformation to occur in psychotherapy and it got me thinking and I felt like I needed to think about/write about this issue as a means of coming to understand exactly how I feel about this and to see if perhaps my writing about my own therapy is helping or hurting my work with Igor.

In case you don’t know about the idea of the “the container in therapy” here’s the theory: In Depth psychotherapy the relationship and the room that the work is done is understood as an alchemical vessel, a sealed vessel and as a container. According to this theory the change occurs because, in part, due to the container remaining sealed. The heat, tension and energy that happens within the therapy needs to remain in the container for change to occur.  There are many ways that the therapist works to keep the container sealed: a safe room that has a sealed door and doesn’t allow for others to hear what’s going on. The therapist doesn’t take calls during session. And the therapist’s use of confidentiality is another way the container  is kept sealed and safe and a place where change can occur.
Continue reading ‘The Container’

About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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