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Brief Encounters with Couples: Some Analytical Perspectives by Francis Grier

By Francis Grier

Deriving from a convention organised by way of the Tavistock Marital reviews Institute, the current quantity attracts the main target of its inquiry from a number of basic questions.

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Yet w e noticed that their d e a d son's n a m e w a s n o t m e n t i o n e d u n t i l the e n d of the i n t e r v i e w w h e n t h e y t o l d us that t h e y c o u l d still n o t bear to l o o k at a p h o t o o f h i m . B e h i n d their c o p i n g exterior w e w e r e aware of an i n t e r i o r f u l l of p a i n . M r s A collapsed briefly f o l l o w i n g their son's d e a t h , b u t because of their j o i n t anxiety about facing such d e v a s t a t i n g feelings of p a i n a n d loss, t h e y s u p p o r t e d each other b y a p p e a r i n g p o s i t i v e .

Or was the contact too painful and so alarming that they could not contemplate returning to see us? We have subsequently wondered if, for this group of couples w h o have attended just once, their need to be helped is denied and projected into the research so the research project itself becomes the object in need. Many months later, looking back on our experience with Mr and Mrs A, we wondered if, alongside the feelings of terror at exploring more that w e might have experienced on their behalf, there lay our own ambivalence about what we were doing.

Many couples coming for help come because each partner feels unable to think about his or her own and the partner's unmanageable feelings and what is happen­ ing between them. Often they feel the impact of their o w n emo­ tions, but they are overwhelmed by them. In this primitive state of mind, they are unable to think about them. On top of this they often feel, like the young infant, that the reason they are feeling so over­ whelmed is because they are being attacked from outside, by the partner, just like Mr and Mrs B.

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