Review: Platko’s In the Tracks of the Unseen

Review: Platko’s In the Tracks of the Unseen

Some topics are so controversial we cannot discuss them. Jane Davenport Platko’s In the Tracks of the Unseen: Memoirs of a Jungian Analyst brings one of those topics into full view: when the doctor and patient fall in love.

While we psychoanalysts and psychotherapists have thorough discussions as to why these kinds of relationships are problematic, we seldom have open discussions about what happens when they seem to work. Those who have entered such relationships rightfully fear judgement.

I will be honest. I have a bias. Having barely survived the 1970’s in psychology after early experiences with therapists and teachers who did not know the power of the tool of the transference, I developed a healthy respect of the need for “boundaries,” as we put it in the talk of our trade. As a result, I often have had a hair trigger reaction when these boundaries are transgressed. For the most part, I think my stance has merit.

But Platko’s story demonstrates it is not so simple. What happens when the analytic vessel cannot contain the feeling within a transference format, when the Self has something different in mind? Are there times the therapeutic meeting is a springboard into the soul connection of friendship or romantic love and this is not exploitive of the patient?

With great integrity, honesty, and courage, Platko lays out her vulnerabilities and history, antecedents to both a friendship with her first analyst and then marriage to a man who had been her patient. Her decisions are not impulsive. In fact, she deeply and openly suffers them with her then current analyst and with her then husband.

In the preface she quotes Jung, “My story is my truth.” This story is Platko’s truth, and one can only feel compassion, awe and concern for a woman reveals herself so openly in order for us to understand the decisions she has made. There will be judgement!

When I began reading In the Tracks of the Unseen, I did not want to put it down. Platko is a good storyteller, and I have not read a book like it. It is well written, albeit disturbing, submerging the reader in the rawness of human attachment and the lonely quest of a woman who followed her heart. This is an important book in that it questions some suppositions of the last decades, taking the structure of love in analytical relationships down to the studs. There are no answers here, only a kind of solutio. Perhaps it is only now that we can follow “the tracks of the unseen,”  to a larger playing field that may redefine ethics and the challenges of the human connection in the vessel of analytic work.