SONGS IN THE COUNTERTRANSFERENCE OR “GILDING THE PHILOSOPHIC PILL”

Unpleasant truths are swallowed with a will,

If first ye gild the philosophic pill.

Gilbert & Sullivan (1888)

Abstract

Songs that interrupt the psychoanalytic psychotherapist’s countertransference reverie are invariably relevant and potentially useful. Like any other countertransference “presence,” songs accompanying the narrative may contribute to understanding both patient and analytic process. Taking their intrusive, fecund, pesky presence one step further, song lyrics may be used as metaphor-saturated interventions, helping reach the well-defended patient. Five brief vignettes illustrate the process. Because we must learn to tolerate ordinary unhappiness, Blues music, a carrier of preconscious mythic themes (love and work), may prove especially useful, helping the patient indirectly embrace everyday wisdom, endure hard times, universalize misery, and see ourselves in the roomy mirror of metaphor.

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Correspondence to Charles A. Peterson.

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Address correspondence to Dr. Charles Peterson, 1549 Albany Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA. Email: charles.peterson626@comcast.net

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Peterson, C.A. SONGS IN THE COUNTERTRANSFERENCE OR “GILDING THE PHILOSOPHIC PILL”. Am J Psychoanal 77, 177–191 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-017-9090-9

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Keywords

  • use of music
  • countertransference
  • metaphor
  • interpretation