Enactment: When the Patient's and Analyst's Pasts Converge

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Abstract

As the emphasis on analytic treatment as a relationship continues to grow, all aspects of mutuality are being examined. Although much has been said regarding the analyst's emotional responses to the patient, enactment has been seen as a re-creation of some past event in the patient's life. Perhaps because of the threatening nature of the concept, analysts have not paid attention to the potential for recreating their pasts, sometimes in symmetry with the patient, at other times as an act of countertransference dominance that disrupts the treatment and may traumatize the patient. This article focuses on enactment as an inevitable mutual event beginning with mutual projective identification, followed by mutual, unplanned behavior, and culminating in a mutual sense of puzzlement and a certain sense of being emotionally out of control. The dangers of enactment are discussed, as well as its therapeutic uses.

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