“I am working with a depressed patient who faced his rage toward an abusive brother in a portrayal and experienced his mixed feelings toward him. His anxiety dropped and he became calm and relieved. So I guess we did a good job.
However, there was one point I found very confusing. When I asked him to look in his dead brother’s eyes and pressed for guilt feelings, he suddenly thought of his mother’s eyes when she was dying. So I interpreted that his love for his mother is helping him to express his love for his dead brother. Maybe I should explore his rage toward his mother, even though he really loves her and misses her a lot now. What do you think? And many thanks for your interest and time.”
First of all, bravo on helping this patient face his feelings so deeply that you were able to get a breakthrough of the rage and an unlocking of complex mixed feelings. This is wonderful.
With the rise of complex mixed feelings toward the brother, the unconscious unlocked: the image of his mother appeared. Now we learn that his conscious feelings toward the brother are linked to unconscious mixed feelings toward the mother. This “transfer” or unlocking of an unconscious image is the beginning of the unlocking of the unconscious.
At this point, explore that unconscious image as quickly as possible.
Th: So it is your mother whom you wanted to kill. [Then outline everything that was done to the brother as what he wanted to do to the mother.] What feelings do you have as you look into her dead eyes looking up at you?
This will mobilize his unconscious mixed feelings toward the mother. You will help him face these feelings, especially guilt, as deeply as possible. As a result of these feelings, the patient may start recalling memories with his mother, and spontaneously offer insights as part of the unlocking. You encourage as much to come out as possible as the unconscious unlocks.
Rather than speculate about the links between the brother and mother, we encourage him to experience his unconscious mixed feelings toward the mother. This experiential unlocking of feelings allows images, memories, and insights to arise within him. Those derepressed elements will offer the understanding which you will summarize later during the phase of consolidation.
What you thought was a problem (the image of his mother) was a sign of success: the beginning of the unlocking of the unconscious!