Political Divide in the Consulting Room*

Some values are apparently so crucial to your identity, that the brain treats a threat to those ideas as if they were a threat to your very existence. (Kaplan, et al. 2016).

Only one can live. (Benjamin, 2018).

Both can live, I feel.


This paper addresses a treatment relationship that tests the analyst’s capacity for empathy within an impinging political context. It involves a Ferenczian “relaxation of technique” within the analytic frame, while the analytic couple attempts to negotiate a polarized transference and countertransference. Specifically, within a long-term treatment imbued with positive transference, my patient becomes openly outraged by my insensitive anti-Trump remarks. Increasing confrontations around the expression of political views illuminate our otherness. He complains of psychic ostracism within a liberal cultural context, which tolerates no divergence from mainstream liberal ideas or discourse. I come to embody the oppressive other: the liberal “thought police”, “silencing” him for his perspective. Empathic breaches between us take center stage: how I don’t see the world as he does, and don’t see or hear him.

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Correspondence to Leslie A. Hendelman.

Additional information

Leslie A. Hendelman, LCSW, Faculty and Supervisor, Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy, NYC; Member, International Sándor Ferenczi Network.

Address correspondence to: 700 West End Avenue, # GrB, New York, NY, 10025, USA.

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Hendelman, L.A. Political Divide in the Consulting Room*. Am J Psychoanal 78, 478–487 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-018-9168-z

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  • political issues
  • psychoanalytic frame
  • relaxation technique
  • Ferenczi
  • countertransference