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Thick- and thin-skinned organisations and enactment in borderline and narcissistic disorders.

In this paper the author argues that enactment is any mutual action within the patient/analyst relationship that arises in the context of difficulties in countertransference work. Such enactment is common during the treatment of borderline and narcissistic disorders. In order to delineate different forms of enactment, which in his view may be either to the detriment or to the benefit of the analytic process, the author describes a patient who was identified primarily with a sadistic mother and who threatened the analyst with a knife during treatment. Three levels of enactment involving countertransference responses are described of which two, namely a collusive countertransference and a defensive countertransference, were detrimental to the analytic process. The third level of enactment was beneficial but only because the intervention by the analyst was independent of the analytic process and yet in response to it. The author uses Rosenfeld's distinction between thin-skinned and thick-skinned narcissists to illustrate how enactment is most likely when a patient moves between thick-skinned and thin-skinned narcissistic positions. Nevertheless the move between thin and thick-skinned positions presents an opportunity for effective interpretation, allowing progress in treatment.

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