The Limit of Intimacy and the Intimacy of Limit:
The Emergence of Play in Relation to the Analyst and to Internal Objects.
The refractoriness of the bad object (Fairbairn, 1943;1958) has remained a durable clinical problem
and to some extent under-theorized among psychoanalysts. Through an extended clinical example,
this paper examines how the experience of limit is part of an undercurrent within the object
relation between patient and analyst, that, in turn, sometimes gives rise to a shift in the patient’s
relationship to an unsatisfying internal object relation.
The Play of Mourning
In the density of psychic regression and progression, psychoanalytic play is able to help patients
move toward grieving internal objects. Play occurs at a moment of dawning awareness of
transference-countertransference enactment within both patient and analyst. Often these moments
especially involve the analyst’s new awareness of his or her own resistance to understanding
transference-countertransference enactments. Through a series of brief clinical vignettes and
analysis of a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, the author examines how patient and analyst become better
able to acquire an “internal environment” (Winnicott, 1954), one in which they try to face the
profound disappointment of grieving these objects.
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