D. W. Winnicott on Hate in Countertransference

Summary of D. W. Winnicott on Hate in Countertransference-1947

In analyzing psychotics, as oppose to neurotics, treatment is very stressful and straining on the role of the analyst. Hate is an inevitable emotion that the analyst will have to deal with and acknowledge.  He will need to become aware of it, sort it out, and interpret it, in order to gain reflection and awareness of his countertransference, and in order for the therapeutic process to be successful. In countertransference there are three categories 1) the repressed memories of the analyst that become revealed in the process, 2) the identification the analyst has based on his personal individual past experience, 3) and there is the objective countertransference based on the patient behavior. This paper will focus on the latter. When treating psychotics hate will be something that will need to be explored objectively with the patient when the patient is able and ready to explore and contain it.

With treating neurotics the hate is not so extreme and thus the analyst is able to keep it latent and bring it up with the client when he is ready. However in psychotics due to the client’s deficiency in the foundation of his ego’s character development, the analyst is under an extremely high amount of stress and strain from the client constant demand and expectations. The client’s neediness and demanding participation of the analyst creates a sense of hate in the analyst that becomes very difficult to keep latent. Only with the analyst’s keen awareness of his own hatred can he keep it sorted out and latent.   The analyst becomes the substitute of the early good enough mother and allows the client to regress to dependency and re-experience his early development in a healthy environment. For the analyst to create this environment of allowing the client to re-create himself and adjust and stay attuned will inevitably take a  toll on the analyst and can be extremely exhausting and stressful, which inevitably results in resentment and hate.  Thus the environment plays more of an importance  than the techniques and interpretations of the analyst. The environment is the symbolic holding womb that gives the patient the opportunity to recreate itself anew. In neurotic where the developmental of the ego is intact the analyst is only required to interpret the free associations of the client thus the hate is limited and bearable and thus kept latent.

With psychotics objective-hate is part of the healing process and the client can only be loved once he has been hated. Objective-Hate gives the individual the sense of individuality and separation which allows him to start feeling real and thus being able to feel loved and love others. He can also only love only after he hates and kills off the others and only then after the object survival can he begin to love and feel loved. The hate of the analyst also allows him to feel his own hate like a mirroring object. And only after the hate of the analyst is explored is the patient able to move from the child-like position to the active responsible position of manhood.

Winnicott quotes Freud “We might of a pinch say of an instinct that it loves the objects after it strives for purposes of satisfaction but to say that it hates an object strikes us odd…Hate cannot be said to characterize the relation of the instincts to their objects, but are reserved for the relation of the ego as a whole to objects”.  Winnicott explains that the child is unable to hate the mother at the primary developmental phase, however the mother can hate the child right from the get go. The mother needs to keep the hatred latent until the child is able to work it through. The hate can be originated due to the extreme desperation the child puts on the mother and cause her hurt, aggravation and his non-appreciativeness attitude towards her. In the beginning the child and patient are unable to recognize the analyst’s position and his feelings of hurt. Only after the patient and child have developed the capacity for the whole ego can the identify and relate the analyst and understand the hate of the analyst.



7 thoughts on “D. W. Winnicott on Hate in Countertransference

  1. Fascinating:

    “He can also only love only after he hates and kills off the others and only then after the object survival can he begin to love and feel loved. The hate of the analyst also allows him to feel his own hate like a mirroring object. And only after the hate of the analyst is explored is the patient able to move from the child-like position to the active responsible position of manhood.”

  2. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It means a lot to me and It feels good to know that you enjoy it. I just finished reading Winnicott’s paper in the book ‘Playing in reality’ the chapter is ‘The use of an object and relating through identification’ he elaborates on the need for the child to first hate and kill the other (symbolically) and if the object is able to survive (which he defines as not retaliating) then the infant can see the object as ‘not me’ and separation and love can take place.

  3. What happens if the therapist is psychotic and attempts to drag the client in to fulfill their unmet needs? Sometimes clients have good reason to hate a therapist and this does not mean they are psychotic – merely extremely uncomfortable and distressed by feeling trapped with a scary individual who lacks social skills and derives amusement and a sense of power by ridiculing, attacking and shaming or neglecting a client’s needs. Don’t blame everything on counter-transference. Some psychiatrists, in particular, are devoid of empathy and social skills and play god in the office. Who was employed to torture people in the concentration camps and derive forms of torture to get dissenters to retract? Doctors. A thinker may be devoid of the emotional skills to be a competent carer. Treating patients as objects of scrutiny to nit pick their psychic weaknesses can lead to unnecessary regression, which can be explained away as “psychosis”.

    1. Chris,
      Thanks for reading the summary and commenting. You bring up an important and practical issue; doctors having a serious lack of empathy and labeling and being judgmental. I agree. It can be a serious issue, and when choosing a doctor careful consideration needs to be done. However, Winnicott, whose article I’m summarizing, is talking from a psychoanalytic perspective. He’s discussing a doctor who’s healthy and empathetic and the patient knows that and appreciates that. Nevertheless, the patients has a deep need for attachment and the analyst is forced to be firm and set boundaries which causes the patient to feel angry. The anger is a healthy anger, because it helps the individual feel independent, and eventually the patient can love. Hope this clarifies a bit. Good luck.

  4. Thank you very much for writing this up and posting it on the web to help others. It is very much appreciated

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