The Psychoanalytic Situation as a Play Situation: Exploration of a multi-faceted clinical situation

Abstract: The research question was stirred by observations that the set-up of the clinical situation seems to contain elements that have a deep impact on the patient. I found that the clinical situation shows important similarities to the space for play that children negotiate when they want to immerse themselves in mutual phantasy play. Consequently, one overall purpose of the present study is to explore the psychoanalytic situation as a play situation with the help of two clinical vignettes.In the first part, I give a picture of my understanding of Freud’s reasons for shaping his clinical situation as he did. A critical scrutiny of Freud’s case of the Rat Man gave us keys to an understanding of the clinical method’s contradictoriness.A tentative hypothesis was framed that the set-up of psychoanalysis’s clinical situation induces an ambiguity about different levels of reality, the purpose being to create a space in the course of the analysis in which this confusion can be analyzed and comprehended. This work on the ambiguity of the reality links psychoanalysis with the intimate and spontaneous interaction that characterizes children’s social phantasy play. The investigation came to the conclusion that there exists a conspicuous equivalence between the two situations. The issue of what connects the universal play situation of children on the one hand, with the specific psychoanalytic situation on the other, makes a point of departure from which to approach and investigate the field of inquiry.The theory is that a ‘play’ with factual and illusory asymmetry generates a field of tension that serves as a sounding board from the moment of psychoanalysis's introductory negotiations until its ending. A third area is created that supports a mutual explorative space that in its turn makes a bridge between outer and inner reality and between now and the past. In such a context the phenomenon of play becomes a transformational concept.The conclusion is that psychoanalysis organizes a clinical situation that speaks to a profound and universal human need and that it is understood as an analogy of the play situation of children.