Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

From Somatic Pain to Psychic Pain: The Body in the Psychoanalytic Field *

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

From Somatic Pain to Psychic Pain: The Body in the Psychoanalytic Field *

Article excerpt

He is always thinking, thinking. Where? In his head? Or in his stomach? ... It is possible to speak of someone having "his belly as his god". Similarly we can say that people have as their god the intellectual life. ... There can be such a thing as too much cerebration, the cerebral hemispheres used to the detriment of the sympathetic or autonomic system. And so the marriage between this patient and himself has never really been consummated.

(Bion, 1987, p. 163)2

Projections and introjections, as an ongoing and permanent exchange process, play the role of interface between the psyche and the outer world for the normal 'healthy' adult. However, in this process there are transitional areas that cannot be fully ascribed to either the inner-psychic realm, or external reality. In this paper we will focus on the intermediary site of the body in its position between the inner and the outer world. Wilfred Bion's quotation, cited above, refers to this complex integration of psyche and soma, that is, the psychosomatic integration of the initial years of life. If integration succeeds, psyche and soma are interconnected in a permanent process of exchange. If this process fails, a resulting psychosomatic overload develops, often painful, as described by Bion. Usually, during this process the body takes on a special function, that of an intermediate buffer for unbearable affective charge, which cannot complete its integration into the ego. At the same time this charge cannot be formulated into communication with the outer world. It is thus between the analysand's body and the analyst's body that a non-verbal communication can arise in such a way that, with his body (his somaesthetic perceptions), the analyst reacts to the analysand. In this way the body becomes a prominent component of the psychoanalytical field. If the analyst becomes aware of such mechanisms, then by internally processing his own bodily reaction to the analysand's messages he can in fact contribute to transforming those parts of the affect buffered in the latter's body. As such, they can be made accessible to the verbal analytical dialogue.

The psychoanalytical field (Baranger and Baranger, 1961-62/2008; Ferro, 2009) is thus open to enlargement. Not only does it consider the analysand's verbal and scenic messages from his outer and inner world as well as the scenic impressions between analyst and analysand during the session to evaluate the transference situation; rather, the analyst also relies on his own bodily reactions to be able to evaluate the analysand's situation. The analyst's sensory range of perception is thus expanded by the messages from his own body.

The topic of the body has been illuminated time and again in the psychoanalytical literature. Of the great many contemporary authors who have concerned themselves with the body in the psychoanalytical situation, we can highlight authors such as Aisenstein (2010), Bronstein (2010), Civitarese (2016), Kuchenhoff (2012), Lombardi (2009) and Scharff (2010). We will especially look in greater detail at Aisenstein's work (2014).

What we offer here as an original contribution and what we would like to emphasize is the view of the body in its function as a buffer between the inner and outer reality. In this context we refer to both the analysand's and the analyst's body as well as the communication between the two of them. We will illustrate this unique interaction with the following extracts from an analysis conducted in this manner, along with additional in-depth theoretical reflections.3

At the outset of his analysis4 Mr B was a married man in his early forties who had two children by his wife. Professionally, he ran an independent and very successful law firm with several employees. Several years prior to this analysis, he had begun psychotherapy for vague anxieties. The course of therapy had resulted in a clear alleviation of symptoms, 'then the therapy came to an end, just petered out'. …

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