The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Aggression in Countertransference
Aggression in countertransference has many faces: The crucial point to define its dignity and nature is to answer the question if it is open or hidden, active or passive, constructive or destructive, intended or unconscious.
The good: Its active forms can be a technical neccessity in terms of confrontations or early interpretations of the patient’s unconscious impulses, which is close to “wild analysis”. This approach should be used carefully and only by experienced therapists. The good form of aggression in countertransference is concordantly helping the patient to explore new forms of thinking and living. It is a form of honest tolerance. Another word for it is “optimal frustration”.
The bad: The problem arises when countertransference aggression is disguised, i.e. it is part of the therapist’s rest neurosis. In these cases, aggression in countertransference usually is passive and hidden, and is used beyond the therapist’s control.
The ugly: Forms of this pattern can be found in the passive-aggressive character structure of the therapist, in envy against the patient’s capabilities or sources, and in rivalries which make the therapist prone to unconsciously misuse his/her position in the game of therapy. The ugly way sometimes is disguised in a coat of spoiling the patient.