IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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of the analyst’s containing analytical function, consider their occurrence useful only if and when the analyst becomes aware of them, is able to interpret and work them through within the analytic process. ‘Enactive empathy’ of Gibeault (2014), De Marchi’s (2000) and Zanocco’s (2006) ‘sensory empathy’, and Godfrind-Haber’s and Haber’s (2002) ‘shared acted experience’ are examples of enactment-related concepts with emphasis on accessing, and working analytically with, pre-verbal, pre-represented and pre-symbolized data. While not a mainstream, they enrich the European and global dialogue on enactment and enactment-related phenomena.


When the analytic dyad gets dramatically destabilized (acute enactment) this may indicate that a previously chronic enactment was undone and is now active within the analysis. The analyst needs to become aware of this state, attempt to understand and then interpret what has occurred. The analytic field can be destroyed if this is ignored or the chronic enactment return. Additionally, the analyst can identify further aspects of chronic and potential acute enactments by taking a ‘second look’ when he/she writes the material, re-thinks it, or discusses it with other analysts. Enactments carry potentially significant developmental and dynamic meanings. Listening to, working with, understanding and interpreting enactments, can minimize the incidence of unsymbolized somatic expression and of acting-out by the patient in his or her every-day life. Doing so may lift the burdens that the unremembered and unforgotten events/happenings of infancy and childhood -- including those transmitted transgenerationally -- impose on the patients’ current relationships and involvements in their life pursuits. Analysts may also better apprehend, from a position of empathic understanding what a patient has lived through, thus deepening and widening the scope of transformative emotionally meaningful psychoanalytic experience for patients, and the analyst’s own multidimensional involvement in the psychoanalytic process. While the prevailing view among all three continental psychoanalytic cultures is that enactments are to be understood and ultimately interpreted, it is very important to be mindful of the existence of the type of countertransferential enactment, where the analyst’s diminished analytical capacity for containment can be communicated not only nonverbally, but also verbally, and disguised even within an interpretation.


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