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Oedipal Love in Countertransference

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  • Pages: 3
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  • Category: Love

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In ‘Oedipal love in the countertransference’ (1959) author writes about his emotional involvement and responsiveness to the transference and countertransference phase of treatment. Through out the phase conscious and unconscious are interchangeably repeated. Searles distinctive form of analytical thinking is described in the emotional context (of experiences with the patient). It describes the occurrence of Oedipus complex in patients and how he reacts to the patient in the countertransference.

Harold Searles’s “Oedipal Love in the Countertransference” (1959) addresses the mutual romantic feelings with the patient in the transference/countertransference contexts. The psychoanalyst reacts to the patient and then relinquishes him.

Analyst’s countertransference reactions are developed in response to the transference love of the patient. The erotic feelings in countertransference convince therapist for a romantic relationship with the patient. The transference-countertransference enactments have thrown light on the erotic feelings of love between therapist and patient. This is the way, as Searles writes about, he works with the patient. The constructive feelings in countertransference are important for successful therapy and they promote growth. These feelings are demonstrated in analytical settings. He discusses his clinical experiences with the patient with whom he would get too emotional in the final stages of treatment.

Searle describes that every neurotic or psychotic patient he encountered had oedipal phase in their early psychological development that impaired their ego-development because their original love with their parents was suppressed and parents repressed their desire for the child, hence unconsciously denying child’s importance. This happens for the reason that parents have too their Oedipal complex in an unresolved state because of the complications and unsatisfying relationship in marriage and unproductiveness towards his society. Parents are unable to give child the love he demands during his oedipal phase of development. On the contrary, if parents had succeeded in developing true loving relationship in marriage and have good relations with their surrounding culture then he would have been able to foster good heart-felt relations with the child to cultivate mutual loving relationship with the child and that would be a healthy resolution of child’s Oedipus complex.

The child who grows-up with unresolved oedipal complex is now a neurotic or psychotic patient. He now seeks this resolution from his therapist. Psychoanalyst’s emotional feelings with the patient develop in response to the patient’s oedipal strivings and these are necessary for analysis of the transference in patients.

Child’s desire of love is suppressed into repression and remains unresolved when parents repressed their feelings. This child who later becomes psychotic and show symptoms of neurosis has these repressed feelings of love and now admires the doctor for his desires. His unresolved Oedipus complex still disturbs him and he seeks a resolution. He admires his therapist and seeks to have a resolution with them. During this treatment phase his oedipal strivings cause a doctor to respond and react to his feelings. In the countertransference the doctor develops the feelings of love and admiration with the patient to such an extent that he wants to get married with the patient. During this phase of treatment the therapist’s main goal remains the same i.e. the analysis of transference stage of the patient, not actually the romantic outcomes.

Usually the parents of such children also had an unresolved Oedipus complex that later led to unhappy marriage and problems in life. Such parents are not able to give full attention and love to their kids hence the complex remains unresolved for the child as well. It succumbs into the state of repression.

The neurotic and psychotic patient whose Oedipus complex is still unresolved seeks resolution from the therapist in the process of transference. It involves the phase of deep love (oedipal love) for the patient followed by the termination of feelings and grief.

The author states it as the “analyst’s intellectual and emotional understanding of transference neurosis” (Searles, 1959). In countertransference erotic responses are common to every therapist who is experienced and confident in his analysis. These responses are problematic sometimes when they gain intensity; however, therapist is much careful about the process and performs it with fear and conflict. The transference and countertransference are interconnected and related and very important phenomena in therapist perception of transference neurosis in patients.


“Oedipal Love in Countertransference” Herald F. Searles.

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