Seduction, Surrender, and Transformation: Emotional Engagement in the Analytic Process (Book Review)

Title:  Seduction, Surrender, and Transformation: Emotional Engagement in the Analytic Process
Author: Maroda, Karen J.
Publisher: Hillsdale, NJ; Analytic Press, 1999
Reviewed By: Mary Pharis, Summer 2001, pp. 66-67

What an exciting time this is for psychoanalysis! Research has finally begun to shape practice. And just in the nick of time, too. Three generations of theoretical elaboration in psychoanalysis, based on clinical practice and case review, had left us with so many rich, complex, provocative but unproved perspectives. But now neurological and developmental research has begun to give us the data to sort through our theories and find those that point True North. Our increased knowledge of affect, the neurobiology involved in the regulation of affect, the development of self, and the chemistry of organized and disorganized brain function put us at the threshold of much better understanding of how psychoanalysis can be transformative.

We are fortunate to have innovative clinicians like Maroda, Aron, Renik, and Wrye and Welles, to name only a few, who grasp and extend the central finding of much of the recent research: that affect and affect regulation are the keys to the development of self, and therefore also must be the keys to any therapeutic process targeted at disorders of the self.

In her 1999 book, Seduction, Surrender, and Transformation: Emotional Engagement in the Analytic Process, Maroda presents what other reviewers have rightly called “a significant advance;” an “outstanding book [that] will have repercussions in the psychoanalytic world for years to come;” and “the single best presentation of the technical interventions necessary to effect the emotional engagement” necessary for genuine psychological transformation.

Maroda offers a markedly different view of the analytic experience, and that view leads her to conceive of techniques that differ in significant ways from traditional analytic techniques. Announcing that “Psychoanalysis has always been an over-intellectualized process” (p.47), she argues that the successful analytic experience is primarily an emotional one, not an intellectual one. She seems dubious of the transformative power that the traditional analytic approaches confer on interpretation, commenting “...I just don’t think that correctness is ultimately the determining factor in whether or not the interpretation is therapeutic” (p.169). She reports that in her experience, interpretations fall on deaf ears if the patient and analyst have not mutually surrendered to the analytic process in an emotional way: “Surrender and transformation occur within an emotional matrix, not an intellectual one” (p. 59).

What is surrender? Maroda writes, “...surrender is the self-altering process. The patient surrenders through the medium of the emotional merger with the analyst and their shared regression. But the surrender is not to the person of the analyst, but rather a giving over to the patient’s own emotional experience - - losing herself to herself - - within the containing framework of the analytic setting” (p. 54).

Maroda’s view is that “felt emotion, on the part of both the patient and the therapist, is the key to the therapeutic enterprise” (p.181). And she adds, “If we take emotional honesty as the only authentic therapeutic stance, rather than the unachievable neutrality, then no emotions are off-limits or inappropriate for either person to feel” (p. 37).

In a chapter titled “Show Some Emotion: Completing the Cycle of Affective Communication,” the author then makes the argument that the therapist’s use of his or her own affect, including self-disclosure, is central to creating the context in which the patient can make significant psychological change. She advocates that experienced therapists use self-disclosure when they find themselves drifting away from connection with the patient in one or more sessions. Maroda is clearly aware that her viewpoint on the topic of therapist self-disclosure will be controversial. She develops her thinking on this topic carefully, identifies possible misuses of disclosures, and offers sound practical advice to practitioners on when and how to divulge one’s own emotional reactions to the patient in a benign and helpful manner.

Maroda describes the cycle of communication in an analytic process, and views the analyst’s ability to complete the cycle of communication in ways that show patients their own messages were understood by the analyst at an emotional level as a skill crucial to successful therapy. And she neatly describes the therapeutic dilemma when the patient’s message is presented in the form of projective identification. If the pre-verbal patient’s split-off affect is projected onto the analyst, and remains unavailable consciously to the patient, then the technical predicament for the analyst becomes one of figuring out how to complete the cycle of communication in a useful way, since interpretation with pre-verbal patients is generally viewed as futile. Maroda concludes that we must tell the patient how we feel in response to their projections. “I advocate such disclosure of the countertransference in response to projective identification because I believe it is the only viable method for completing the cycle of affective communication between patient and therapist” (p. 113).

Maroda’s chapters on enactment, on reconsidering physical contact between analyst and patient, and on projective identification and countertransference interventions are intriguing, provocative, thoughtful, and best of all, useful. She is one of the new generation of psychoanalytic authors who grasp the incredible importance of the affective interaction, over and above intellectual interaction, in the consulting room. She is careful to underline how, in order to use oneself well and ethically in such an intense interaction, the analyst or therapist must have had a thorough personal analysis.

I found surprisingly few things to disagree with in Maroda’s book. I thought she said too little on the first of the three elements in the book’s title, seduction. What an emotionally charged word! Yet Maroda says little about it, or why she chose to include it in her title. Occasionally she makes strong-form statements which seems to me arguable, as for example when she states, “I can honestly say that I have never treated anyone who did not know the ‘truth’ about themselves and the people closest to them, no matter what mental gymnastics they might go through to deny or split off the truth” (p.40), or when she writes “...the patients who seem to change the most are those who are capable of deep grieving, that is, crying profusely or sobbing” (p. 16). And while her bibliography and discussion throughout reflected Maroda’s talent for a careful and respectful reading of the literature, and thoughtful consideration of historical elements in psychoanalysis, I was puzzled by her failure to cite any of Allen Schore’s (1994; 1997; in press) work, since in so many ways it would have provided her with a vast amount of supportive research data on the centrality of affect and affect regulation in human development and psychopathology.

Intellectually, I found Maroda’s book well argued and compelling in many ways I felt emotionally engaged as well, and I’ve re-read it twice. I expect she’ll be pleased with that.

References

Schore A.N. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self: The neurobiology of emotional development. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Schore, A.N. (1997). Interdisciplinary developmental research as a source of clinical models. In M. Moskowitz; C. Monk; C. Kaye & S .J. Ellman (Eds.), The neurobiological and developmental basis for psychotherapeutic intervention. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Schore, A.N. (in press) Clinical implications of a psychoneurobiological model of projective identification. In S. Alhanati (Ed.), Primitive mental states, Volume III: Pre-and peri-natal influences on personality development. London: Karnac.

Reviewer Note

Mary Pharis is a Division 39 member and a past president of the Austin Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology.

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