Excerpt About Helplessness

The Empathic Bond between Teacher and Student

This brings us back to our consideration of Kohut’s view of the transformation of narcissism. We have noted his emphasis on the empathic bond between teacher and student, and discussed our view that the importance of this bond is not only to provide what was missing in the student’s early childhood, but to provide sufficient holding for the student to venture into the narcissistic helplessness and terrifying emptiness. Also, this empathy gives the teacher the information and skill necessary for guiding the student deeper, to contact his own real support. It is clear from the cases above that the empathic bond would not by itself reconnect the student with his own true support. The insight into the helplessness, the understanding that the deficiency is not a real one, and the recognition of the delusion behind both, are pivotal in the transformation of this narcissistic manifestation. It is these insights that are primarily responsible for this transformation. In fact, the transformation is bound to occur if we achieve these insights, even in the absence of the empathic bond. We see, then, that although the empathic bond is helpful, it is not the central factor in the transformation, and insight into the functioning of the psyche retains its traditional place of central significance.

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