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The Changing Face of Empathy: Harnessing Unconscious Resonance in the Countertransference

  • PPSC 80 5th Avenue, Room 1408 New York, NY, 10011 United States (map)

“The Changing Face of Empathy: Harnessing Unconscious Resonance in the Countertransference”

Janine de Peyer, LCSW-R

Can our clients sense when we’re bored, distrustful, envious, or downright disgusted? To what degree are our ‘private’ countertransference reactions perceived, both consciously and unconsciously, and what can we do about it? This presentation delves into the unconscious influence of internally harbored reactions to our clients, both positive and negative. Self-reflective work in-between sessions can shift negative countertransference reactions, but are such shifts unconsciously perceptible to the client? If the client unconsciously perceives a shift in us, is it possible that this perception can be registered, mind-to-mind, in the relational unconscious, before he/she walks even back into the room with us? In other words, what is the reach of dyadic, right hemisphere-to-right hemisphere communication?

As theories of empathy evolve, discoveries of mirror neurons, perceptual encoding, emotional contagion, and social brain activation challenge us to consider neurological, physiological, cognitive, and dissociative levels of mental interpenetration. Where does empathy stand in relation to all this? What differentiates emotional contagion from empathic responsiveness, or ‘affective empathy’ from ‘cognitive empathy?’ How do we separate mutually projective unconscious processes from activation of our own personal history, and how does all this affect our capacity for compassion?

Through clinical illustration, a method for shifting negative countertransference will be presented through the cultivation of identificatory empathy and self-forgiveness. When the analyst identifies and releases correlations to the client’s traumas, unconscious resonance will occur. We will integrate theories of the relational unconscious, self-state sharing, mirror neuron exchange, unified field theory, and the wisdom of psycho/spiritual healing practices.

In a sociopolitical climate where empathy is sorely lacking, practices designed to develop the capacity for empathy will also be proposed, including introduction to innovative Virtual Reality technology.

Janine de Peyer, LCSW is Faculty and Supervisor at the National Institute for the Psychothera- pies, and the Stephen Mitchell Relational Study Center where she teaches on clinical process and transference-countertransference dynamics. She is Associate Editor with Psychoanalytic Dia- logues, and has published multiple papers on dissociation and unconscious communication. Janine’s recent articles include Uncanny Communication and the Porous Mind, (2016, Psycho- analytic Dialogues), Byron-Beguiled, (2017, Psychoanalytic Perspectives), and Traversing the Ineffable: Commentary on Sharon Farber’s “Becoming a Telepathic Tuning Fork” (2017, Psychoanalytic Dialogues). Janine integrates EMDR and creative visualization within a relational psychoanalytic framework. She is in private practice in Manhattan. 

*This talk has been approved by New York State for 2 hours of Continuing Education Credit for LMSWs and LCSWs.