I’m leaving in a few minutes for a week-long work trip to Upington in case you’re wondering why there’s no posting or commenting happening here at the Couchtrip. I was planning to do a post on relationships in line with Valentine’s Day but I guess that will have to wait. But what I can leave you with is this – an interesting journal article on Donald Winnicott and Masud Khan.

In the December 2008 issue of the journal Psychoanalytic Review, James Hamilton explores the “tragic misalliance” of these two very famous psychoanalysts. I’d heard of Khan in the way that you hear about examples of psychologists to avoid copying. Very talented but rather disturbed, Khan was kicked out of the British Psychoanalytic Society for misconduct which included sexual indiscretions with supervisees. Winnicott, in contrast, was hugely influential in understanding the mother-child relationship and promoting ‘good-enough mothering’, as well as establishing the mother-child relationship as the template for good psychodymanic therapeutic practice.

What makes the connection between the two interesting is that they had an “intricate personal and professional affiliation, which included Khan being in analysis with Winnicott for 15 years”. Two quotes to whet your appetite:

Winnicott had enormous therapeutic ambition, and an overriding need to be a rescuer …. This trait predisposed him to take on unusually difficult patients as well as marry his first wife, an artist, despite advice from friends not to do so because they considered her “mad: that is, she claimed she could communicate with T.E. Lawrence, with whom she was infatuated, through her parrot. (Rodman, 2003, p.291)

In summary, Winnicott’s intractable guilt over not being able to alleviate his mother’s chronic depression and for outliving friends killed in World War I was instrumental in his becoming an analyst and a rescuer who was prone to overestimating his therapeutic effectiveness while refraining from exploring the vicissitudes of aggression in his analytic work. This internal obstacle … in Khan’s case, promoted harmful acting out that was harmful to his patients and supervisees while ensuring his professional downfall.” (Hamilton, 2008, p.1032)

Have a good week.


6 Responses to Away

  1. The therapeutic relationship is such a strange one. It’s no wonder it goes awry at times. But I don’t know of any other way to heal old, deep wounds of the heart.

  2. litlove says:

    Oh boy,I need to get hold of this. As you can imagine,I’m doing a fair amount of work on Winnicott (and Khan is always an intriguing figure). I’ll try to get hold of the Psychoanalytic Review.

  3. Courtney says:

    safe travels! I hope you have a lovely week!

  4. Effendi says:

    If you haven’t yet read it, you must read the extraordinary piece written by Wynne Godley on his analysis with Khan and Winnicott. It was published in 2001 in the LRB under the title ‘Saving Masud Khan’. Having read it you might revise your opinion of Khan as ‘rather’ disturbed!
    (You need to be a subscriber to read it online or you’ll have to track down that edition of the magazine.)

  5. doctordi says:

    I’m just back at the parrot…

  6. Pete says:

    Lilian, Litlove, Courtney, Effendi, DoctorDi – Thanks for the messages. Am back and will be reading posts and commenting in due course. Litlove, will email you the link to the article.

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