What differentiates the various field perspectives is the different way of thinking about the analyst’s and patient’s subjectivity, having as cut-off points Ogden’s position (where the analyst’s and patient’s individualities are in constant tension with the analytic third) and more radical choices where, during the session, the patient’s and analyst’s subjectivities temporarily make way for the field as the only entity.
One way of thinking about the field model is to consider the analytic session as made up of different levels: the recurrence of pathological configurations connected with the relational setbacks that every individual has suffered in his/her personal history (from birth up to a moment before the start of the session) and which are seeking a new and different outcome, the transgenerational conceived of as the passage of pathological configurations between generations as well as analytic inheritance which lodges in us, the hic and nunc of the session, the original relational configurations which carry with them their (sometimes excessive) emotional baggage.
The field dimension, resulting from the communication between the patient’s and analyst’s unconscious, is ongoing but not always identifiable, not always with sufficient ‘sonority’ for it to be picked up.
The analyst tries to bear in mind the different narrative levels all at the same time. At any given moment one or any of these will have greater gradients of enlightenment, while others will be temporarily obscured.
The most important interactions occur when the analytic couple is experiencing moments of confrontation with problematic elements (the enactments, the field diseases) or original creative moments (unison). This is the level where the analyst may hope to activate original transformations.
In this perspective, when a character enters the field, it acquires a special quality, rather than being the inner character of either of the participants (obviously with different levels of elaboration and originality), it becomes a character which the field begins to transform by progressively greying out the meaning of its origin.
Though paving the way for a new perspective, I do not think that, clinically, the analytic field works like a magic eye that automatically transforms any character that the patient brings to the session. I imagine that the encounter with the analyst may initiate e deconstructive process which could result in an original production of the couple (with varying degrees of success).
One of the possible functions of the characters appearing in the session is as diagnostic indicators, thus signalling the emergence of pathological configurations and the field’s state of health, the fluency gradient of the narratives.
A short, provisional, summary list of characters with diagnostic functions could be the following:
Mythological characters. Referring back to the Character from the Greek tragedy which, for Aristotle, is codified in the myth preceding the tragedy in the encyclopaedia of time. At the beginning of the analysis we encounter some myths, personal, familial, which have consolidated over time and which contain traces of the patient’s trans-generational inheritance, both as a resource in the construction of his/her identity, and as a tangle of unresolved conflictual issues.
Characters cast as the masks in ‘the commedia dell’arte’. They are characters with limited freedom, representing ancient relational configurations that may become bastions signalling collusive pacts of the analytic couple.
Characters on trial. Sometimes in the patient’s narrative there appear characters that refer back to complex relational events which are not always dealt with explicitly. The extreme volatility of these characters, which appear suddenly and seem to represent a quantum leap in the relationship, does not guarantee that the characters’ depth remains unchanged. They can sometimes be experiments in intimacy leading to possible developments in the relationship but masking fear and the need for control.
The setting as a character signalling a diseased condition. The setting can be the background to the playing out of the analytic events but also a character that bursts on the scene when it becomes the victim of fractures or distortions. If we rule out extreme situations of analyst malfunctioning, the occurrences of the setting originate from the couple’s inevitable, pathological, relational configurations, which offer dangerous opportunities for growth. The setting turns into a character to the extent that it is a constant source of sensory stimuli and specific fantasies due to its repetitive and frustrating aspects. But it is also a container with more or less flexible features or even the representative of other relational configurations that the couple has entrusted it with. The analyst’s task is not so much the safeguard of the setting’s integrity as the capacity to recognize and manage controlled distortions and rifts that might enable the analytic couple to get in touch with extreme, though indispensable, elements for the understanding of one’s own functioning.
The buoy characters. They are characters which, produced in the couple’s fertile moments, allow for mutual recognition and may favour survival in difficult times, when one feels at sea, storm-tossed, trying to reach the harbour might simply exhaust all one’s energies. These are moments of impasse when the analysis must be guaranteed minimum levels of efficiency.
Characters that signal the field’s paralysis. There are characters that are imbued with a sense of persecutory and bring to the field a paranoiac configuration characterized by a gridlock in the movements of the analytic field, occasionally appearing even in a single session or interaction.
Unwanted third parties. These are characters that inevitably enter the analytic field as undesired guests. More frequently they throw into relief the presence of institutions, other colleagues involved in the therapy (supervisor, prescriber of medication, psychoanalytical institutions or psychotherapy schools).
Bridge characters, their role is to mediate between the different text levels, they create new connections and meanings.
Killer characters. They follow on from Ferro’s ♂ killer concept. Characters that enter the analytic field with seemingly positive features because they are introduced by leading figures in the patient’s history or possessing charming aspects which in the long run turn out to be lethal.