Emotional Vertigo, between Anxiety and Pleasure

Emotional Vertigo, between Anxiety and Pleasure

Emotional Vertigo, between Anxiety and Pleasure

Emotional Vertigo, between Anxiety and Pleasure


Danielle Quinodoz unravels the unconscious significance of the feelings of vertigo which arise in situations where there is no immediate physical danger of falling and no organic cause.


In this fascinating book, Danielle Quinodoz suggests a way of researching and understanding vertigo, namely treating it as a factor of prototypical importance in the organization of the psyche and of its object relations. While other authors may have referred to the subject, this is the first time that vertigo and its corollary, anxiety related to the void and to falling, have been treated as part of a much wider problematic.

The author rightly recalls that Freud discussed vertigo at the very beginning of his work: at the time, he considered vertigo as an important symptom of anxiety neurosis, that is, as an example of failure to elaborate a somatic tension psychically; in addition, he also thought that it could serve as a psychic representation, especially in the case of hysterical patients.

Seen in that light, vertigo is part of a wider problematic of somatization, and can assume different functions according to whether the ego excludes or includes the body and the object. The Freudian distinction between actual neurosis and psychoneurosis which underlies the different meanings and functions of vertigo is not, however, as clear as one might think because, even in hysteria, the somatic symptom is part of the wider issue of affect prevailing over representation, and action over thinking. At times, vertigo may therefore seem a veritable form of acting out in the body intended to avoid destructive acting out with respect to the object, and to the maternal object in particular; but it also becomes an appeal during analysis to transform action into representation and to integrate messages from the body and from objects on the psychic plane.

This is why Danielle Quinodoz is right to consider vertigo an ‘alarm system’ which draws attention to faults in the containing function of the object, but which also triggers off attempts to integrate incompatible sensations into representations increasingly reorganized according to the secondary process. In these circumstances, the description of different forms of vertigo is . . .

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