CHD Blog

articles written by CHD faculty and guest bloggers

Limerence: A Psychic Retreat

by Nicole Matusow, LCSW, Co-Director, CHD

February 6, 2023

Psychoanalytic practitioners of all persuasions have theorized that infants psychically retreat into an ideal and omnipotent fantasy space in order to cope with anxiety that stems from breaks in the caregiver/child connection. When distress calls prove fruitless, some infants defend against distress by fully retreating into fantasy with a romanticized object who is perfectly attuned to the infant. The fantasy satisfies the infant’s need to feel wanted and cared for. Although this false protective construction fosters a false confidence, hopelessness and fear of a motherless world is quelled, for now. Relief from the terror of the void provides a blissful experience worth revisiting.

The withdrawal described above bears a resemblance to limerence: seeking comfort, pleasure, and self-esteem through fantasizing about being wanted. And, if someone wants you, you must be worth something. And, if you’re worth something, you’ll continue to be wanted.


Limerence and Splitting

by Nicole Matusow, LCSW, Co-Director, CHD

July 15, 2021

In limerence, obsessive fantasies of an idealized love object and that happily-ever-after rush are made possible by splitting the love object’s bad qualities off from the good. In object relations theory, splitting – a concept first coined by object-relationist Melanie Klein, then expanded upon by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Ronald Fairbairn – refers to the coping mechanism whereby infants unconsciously defend against having negative feelings toward their inattentive or neglectful caregivers, splitting the nuanced array of emotions into good and bad. Fairbairn suggested that some infants compartmentalize these feelings, seeing and preserving the caregiver as the idealized object and then internalizing all the bad feelings. Considering that limerent objects keep their special status as long as they remain unsatisfying to the limerent person, the parallels to splitting seem uncanny. Read more...

Preparing Analysands for a Break in the Work: An Example of the Oral Tradition

by Richard Friedman, PhD, Adjunct Instructor, CHD

June 11, 2019

Most published psychoanalytic articles are about relatively big ideas. Why not? Writing an article is work, and who wants to work to create something that is trivial? And, perhaps even more to the point, which journal would publish an article about a small-bore topic? But the focus on important ideas is unfortunate in that a lot of practical material — the kind of advise supervisors give their supervisees, gets subsumed in what I think of as “the oral tradition” where it might be forgotten.

I’ve been thinking about one aspect of the oral tradition as I’ve just returned from a three-week vacation, and I realized how many little techniques I used with my analysands to deal with their separation anxieties, and where I learned the techniques. Read more...

Reader Response to Two Therapy Texts

by Calla C. Jo, LP, LCSW, Director, CHD

May 28, 2019

Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans (RMRD) is a rare text. It treads unexplored ground as well as synthesizing topics that have yet to be put together in psychoanalytic literature. Asian American history, social theory, and critical race theory is weaved into a text that repurposes older ideas into current times. Freud’s melancholia is not thrown out as unrelatable or irrelevant, rather it is repurposed as a social phenomenon that affects a class of people.

While psychoanalysis historically examines the individual and family unit, sociological studies, including race studies usually examines the group, the data produced by the group, and the legal and historical reasons for movements within large groups. RMRD sets out to explore not just the mother, but the motherland, not psychoanalytic theory as it applies to a case, but as it potentially applies to a class. Read more…

Psychoanalysis and Addiction

by Harlan Matusow, PhD, LP, Faculty, CHD

May 9, 2019

What does modern psychoanalysis have to tell us about treatment for addictive disorders?

The starting point for any psychotherapeutic treatment is helping a patient describe both the circumstances that initiated use and those that perpetuate it. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people begin taking drugs for one or some combination of the following: feeling good (getting high); feeling better (relieving stress); doing better (improving performance); curiosity; and peer pressure.

In 1986, the musician Robert Palmer observed a cluster of symptoms including sweating, shaking, disorientation, irregular heartbeat, and extreme agitation. He offered a diagnosis: You’re addicted to love! While evocative as a lyric and a notion, love addiction is only a poetic diagnosis Read more…

Hypochondriasis as a Form of Sacrifice

by Richard Friedman, PhD, Adjunct Instructor, CHD

March 17, 2019

Years of experience as a modern analyst has left me convinced that Freud got it right in his 1895 “Project for a Scientific Psychology:” what changes people is what they say – an idea, of course, that became the basis of Spotnitz’s work.  Our job, as analysts, is to facilitate people saying everything. One way of doing this is by helping the people who have trusted us to help them expand their vocabulary, both in the sense of introducing specific words for what had been unlabeled feelings as well as suggesting new metaphors to help them flesh out their discourse. I do this by suggesting plausible hypotheses – not presented as the definitive interpretation or only possible truth but as a framework on which they can hang thoughts, feelings, memories, and fantasies. Read more…

Psychoanalysis: A Modern Approach

by Harlan Matusow, PhD, Faculty, CHD

January 21, 2019

Modern psychoanalysis is a process in which an individual trained to listen carefully (the analyst) elicits from another individual their story. In short-term analysis, the story might be limited to a particular event (e.g. My wedding planning is driving me crazy and affecting my relationship with my fiancé!), or a crisis (e.g. My father is dying, and I am unable to make sense of all my feelings). In medium-term analysis, the story might involve a chapter in an individual’s life (e.g. I’ve been unhappy in my marriage for a while, and I don’t know if I want to try to fix it or just walk out the door; I am conflicted and sad). In long-term, or what some people might recognize as traditional psychoanalysis, there is frequently no precipitating event like a death or a marital rupture. Instead, someone might simply wish to better understand the basis for their decision-making, their goal-setting, their value system, in other words: Themselves. Read more…