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This paper describes how marked positive changes occurred in two male patients when feelings of dread of tunnels, bridges and interpersonal relationships were found to be transferential derivatives of an underlying dread of being aborted and a wish to be aborted. Both of these men had a proneness to act out by sanctioning the abortion of their own and others' unborn children. Associations and dreams were characterized by a fear of annihilation in holes or containers and a mental imagery and mental processes of formlessness and timelessness similar to that seen in borderline conditions and psychoses. They were drifting through life, alive but not alive. Little movement had occurred from addressing symptoms in terms of post-natal separation and individuation issues of self, or psychosexual conflicts of desire despite many years of analysis with myself and prior analysts. The long delay in connecting the word abortion to feelings of dread raises questions about counter-transference blind spots in seemingly interminable analyses, and the need for models of therapy and of the mind that include a consideration of pre-natal mentation and communication, and the registering of pre-natal experiences as important influences in later life. These issues will be explored in a companion paper (Sonne, 1995) "The Relevance of the Dread of Being Aborted to Models of Therapy and Models of the Mind, Part II: Mentation and Communication in the Unborn."
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John C. Sonne, M.D.
John C. Sonne, M. D., a psychoanalyst and family therapist, has had a long standing interest in models of mentation and communication, with a particular focus on how these models operate in the family, in prenatal and neonatal stages of life, and in therapy. He is also a musician, has done isotopic tracer research on purine synthesis in biochemistry, and has a particular interest in physics. In addition to being in private practice, he is currently Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Senior Attending at the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Address correspondence to 443 Shady Lane, Moorestown, NJ 08057.
The masculine gender is used for convenience, but with the recognition that statements apply to both genders.
A paper on one of the patients presented here, George, titled "The Analysis of an Unconscious Wish to Abort in a Male" was presented to the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Society February 18, 1976 (Sonne, 1976). A preliminary version of Parts I and II of this paper, titled "The Relevance of the Dread of Being Aborted to Models of Therapy and Models of the Mind" was presented to the staff of the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital April 14, 1992 (Sonne, 1992).
Part II of this paper will appear in Volume 9, Number 4, Summer 1995.