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A psychoanalytically informed conversation with a woman and her husband following major surgery for cancer of her neck and torso

Authors

  • Alun Jones MA MSc PhD RMN RGN PGDipPsychotherapy CPN(Cert) PGDE RNT

    1. School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
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Alun Jones, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. E-mail: alun.jones@man.ac.uk

Abstract

A psychoanalytically informed conversation with a woman and her husband following major surgery for cancer of her neck and torso

Aims of the Paper. This paper explores psychoanalytic ideas of containment as described by Wilfred Bion and applies them understanding the concerns of a woman with serious illness and her husband. A case vignette shows psychoanalytic thinking in context. The paper explores verbatim exchanges that took place in a room just off a hospital ward and offers a psychoanalytically informed analysis.

Rationale. This discussion suggests that the impact of physical illness is such that there is potential for the seriously ill to saturate health workers in anxiety and raw feelings. To protect themselves, nurses and other health workers could sometimes unconsciously overlook the emotional care of people in favour of routines, physical aspects of care and other demonstrable methods of treatment.

Conclusions. Drawing on the work of Isabel Menzies Lyth, the discussion concludes by recommending that environments are needed in which a person with serious illness or family member can be helped to make sense of his or her experiences and so integrate them into a meaningful life continuum. Similar conditions are perhaps needed for nurses or other health workers. Appropriate methods of work discussions in clinical supervision might conceivably provide these important requirements.

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