As he feels the inescapable brunt of duty bound with crime, Orestes, son 0f Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, declares: If the serpent came from the same place as I, and slept in the bands that swaddled, me, and its jaws spread wide for the breast that nursed me into life and clots stained the milk, mother’s milk, and she cried in fear and agony- so be it. Aesch. Ag. 1 Spurred by Apollo, Electra, responsibility, and omens, Orestes is coerced to commit revengeful matricide. What seems an ancient family feud in The Oresteia is a timeless and modern issue, that yields itself to fruitful analysis when seen through the lens of infantile developmental stages in Melanie Klein’s object relations theory. Klein herself reflected upon The Oresteia and its correspondence to object relations in her book, Envy and Gratitude (1984). As if Aeschylus held a modern understanding of the depth and development of the unconscious, his characters are paradigmatic of the object relationships Klein describes. The cardinal conclusion Klein arrives at in her psychoanalytic criticism of Aeschylus’ trilogy is that Orestes’ acquittal in the third book, The Eumenides, heals and restores his mental state after intense familial trauma. I, on the other hand, propose that there is an essential feature of Orestes’ trial that forbids a healthy psychic recovery to occur for the unfortunate prince.
Two strangers come together to facilitate the therapeutic process. In stepping into a mysterious arena, the analysand and analyst meet in the psychoanalytic treatment room. What expectations does the analysand have of the analyst? What does the analyst hope will happen through treatment? How does the analyst create an emerging psychoanalytic treatment that facilitates healing for the analysand? Through the connection between analysand and analyst, the anaylsand hopefully forms a healthier, vital, and more coherent self. One must ask how the analysand comes to feel more coherent? What are the essential ingredients of a “cure?” In seeking to answer these questions, I have focused this paper on the discussion of empathy. The paper provides a self psychological historical analysis of the concept of empathy. Through turning to the work of Sigmund Freud, Heinz Kohut, Ernest Wolf, Howard Bacal, and Richard Geist, I strive to describe the concept of empathy and discuss how empathy plays a vital role in the psychoanalytic process. I argue that the self psychological psychoanalytic value of empathy has profound and altering effects for the analysand and analyst.