The ‘secret cocoon’: Fantasies about the private self in the absence of consensual reality



Clinical material is presented from an analysand whose defense of withdrawal to ‘a private internal space’ was mobilized when she became confused, within her relationships and within the transference, about whose understanding of a shared event was ‘real.’ Analysis of the defense as resistance revealed a disrupted sense of connection to others and to the analyst in the face of the difficulty in determining a consensual reality. This was accompanied by emotional withdrawal, with a complex fantasy of retreat to a protective inner hiding place, or cocoon. The phenomenology and functions of such withdrawals, the fantasies accompanying them, and the ways in which they changed during the analysis are discussed in this paper. For the patient described, the analysis of her shifting ‘cocoon’ states and of the fantasies connected with them eventually enabled her to access her creative ‘private self’ more freely and with less conflict.