There is much of the ‘non commonsensical’ in the practice of therapy – the phenomena of ‘introjection’, ‘projection’, ‘projective identification’, and ‘transferences’ included. These ‘psycho dynamics’ involve feeling states that are unconsciously transmitted from one to another and defy logical analysis or the ‘usual’ rules of scientific observation.
I tried to explain ‘projective identification’ to a highly intelligent (but consistently rational) friend recently. In short, this dynamic – familiar to any therapist with a knowledge of the work of Melanie Klein – occurs when an unconscious feeling of a client (eg rage) is transferred by the client ‘into’ the recipient therapist. The client isn’t choosing to reject and propel such a feeling – this operates unconsciously. If all goes well, the therapist will detect that the rage he or she may feel is that of the client, and can then work with this unusual communication. The therapist has then learnt about a client’s hidden rage. ‘Sounds a bit like magic to me’ my friend responded to this explanation, while screwing his nose up.
I remember reading Susie Orbach’s Impossibility of Sex while I was training as a therapist and being amazed by her description of a powerful ‘countertransference’ she experienced with a client whose brother had died in a fire: she felt her own body on fire. At the time I was reminded of ouija boards and clairvoyance. I didn’t disbelieve her, but I couldn’t make any real sense out of it until I had my own first experience of something similar. During a session with a client, I suddenly felt terrorised, along with the inevitable profound visceral feelings of fear associated. This gave me a valuable clue to a terror that had happened to him in the past, that we came to talk about. A bit like magic again?
The literature is ever-growing about these ’embodied transference’s but I read less about other synchronicities or oddnesses in my professional literature, such as: how it is that therapists who talk about a client they are puzzling over with their supervisor can rapidly then help to shift something in a client – as if the client was in the room with the supervisor during the discussion, or how it is that ‘themes’ can emerge in a therapist’s practice, when similar presenting issues gather together on one day. I’ve had one client finish work with me, to be replaced the following week with a client of the same age and same name. All of this ‘magic’, this universal consciousness as Jung might have put it shines another light on the struggle we have to quantify much of what we do. This is the powerful universal unconscious communications between human beings, that can’t be seen, or measured or reduced to scientifically digestible data. This is the stuff of therapy too.