Vera, a middle-aged, bright and skillful mental health professional, consistently maintained throughout the first years of her analysis that she had no imagination and, indeed, exhibited during the early years of work a limited, stunted capacity for truly abstract symbolic thinking, emotional expression and playfulness. I report developments within the fourth year of Vera’s psychoanalysis, currently in its eighth year, during which Vera spontaneously began to draw objects, at first copying and eventually drawing from imagination. For a time, Vera was critical of her work, which was actually quite good, and experienced great difficulty acknowledging and appreciating the many internal dimensions and interests that her work revealed. This watershed development required an equally gradual “interpretive welcoming” on the analyst’s part so as to contain Vera’s transition from preoccupation with concrete, technical aspects of her drawings toward a more mature thirst for the aesthetic, symbolism and play. At some point, analysand and analyst began to play with cognate associations surrounding the Hebrew word for arto’ma‘nut—combined with the image of the nursing mother (o’me‘net), and fidelity, trust and faith (e’mu‘nah). This creative countertransference enactment eloquently reflected the spectrum of shared transformative aesthetic-imaginative processes within both analytic partners, or the emergence of the dyadic psychoanalytic artist. Discussion elucidates what has been achieved and what remains to be achieved.

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Moshe Halevi Spero, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Louis and Gabi Weisfeld  School of Social Work, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan; Director, Postgraduate Program of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Bar-Ilan University, Israel; Editor-in-Chief, Ma’arag: The Israel Annual of Psychoanalysis; clinical and supervisory practice, Efrata-Gush Etzyon, Israel.

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Spero, M.H. ON BEING ABLE TO PAINT: THE REVIVAL OF AESTHETIC IMAGINATION THROUGH THE ‘DYADIC PSYCHOANALYTIC ARTIST’. Am J Psychoanal 80, 151–175 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-020-09249-9

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  • aesthetic conflict
  • art
  • countertransference
  • dyadic psychoanalytic artist
  • faith
  • genera
  • Hebrew language
  • imagination
  • magical thought
  • micro-analysis
  • repetition