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The Sphinx and the Riddles of Passion, Love and Sexuality

Contributions by Stefano Bolognini, Rainer Gross and Sylvia Zwettler-Otte- Preface by Alain Gibeault

Edited By Sylvia Zwettler-Otte

An international cooperation of psychoanalysts presents the role of symbolization in the development of the human mind. Based on Freud’s theory of the Unconscious and of infantile sexuality we have now a deeper understanding of myths like Oedipus and the Sphinx and the representations of human struggles in art. In this book, this is illustrated from prehistoric paintings until poetry of the 20th century. The Sphinx, half animal, half human, represents the elaborations of sexual fantasies revealing desires and fears. She symbolizes an archaic maternal imago, seductive and threatening, omnipotent and enigmatic. She is a symbol of contradictions like drive and reason or gain and loss of knowledge. Case stories show that patients today feel not «devoured by the Sphinx», but by their work («burn out»), by annihilation anxiety, narcissistic or borderline disturbances, psychosomatic problems etc. But the «archaic mother never dies».


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The “countertransferenceless” Sphinx: the narcissistic myth of impenetrability (Stefano Bolognini)


31 The “countertransferenceless” Sphinx: the narcissistic myth of impenetrability1 Stefano Bolognini For a year, I have followed Paolo’s treatment in supervision. Paolo is a 25-year- old, very athletic basketball player who is obsessed with the idea that he has a small penis. This conviction makes it difficult for him to have loving relation- ships, and he has turned to Dr. S., whom I supervise, for psychoanalytic help after having received useless reassurances from an urologist about the normality of his genitals. Dr. S. is a communicative woman and a nice one. She is slender and much smaller than Paolo, but he seems to have feared her from the beginning as a big, powerful, dangerous, and mysterious creature, potentially capable of pointing out his weakness and insufficiency – like all women, at any rate. The paradox is that it is precisely this woman, the one of whom he is asking help, who would have the power to confirm his impotence and disgrace. This self-concept of Paolo’s seems to extend from the sexual to the broader mental area, as though he experiences his personal “penetrance” (= capacity for penetration) as precarious and at the same time dangerous, in every situation. And his associative process reveals this difficulty, even more so in the form of contents: Paolo interrupts his sentences halfway through, hinting at things but not completing them, as though he were “covering his thinking with sand” before it becomes clearly legible (and thus castrating himself in order not to risk being castrated by...

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