A Technique for Facilitating the Creation of Mind

By Symington, Neville | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, December 2007 | Go to article overview

A Technique for Facilitating the Creation of Mind


Symington, Neville, International Journal of Psychoanalysis


There are two forces operating in people. One resists pain and violently opposes integration. The other force is slowly bringing coherence and integration to what is inside. There has been a tendency within psychoanalysis to focus on the former. In this paper the author focuses on the latter. The hypothesis here is that if the analyst focuses upon the signs of integration that this assists the process of growing self-awareness. The negative transference emerges as the undeveloped aspects of the psyche are recognized by the patient.

Keywords: creation, mind, undeveloped mind, inner eye, glue-like attachment, mind-building, constructive process, emotional growth, recognition

I start with a true story which is a symbol for the technique I want to recommend. In 1906, when Picasso was aged 25, he surprised his American patron Gertrude Stein when he asked if he could paint her portrait. She agreed and settled down to the ordeal of 80 sittings while Picasso's then mistress, Fernande Olivier, read aloud to her the Fables de La Fontaine. When he was finished, it failed to please him and he said irritably, 'I can't see you when I look', and he abruptly painted out the whole head and then went off to Spain for several months with the painting unfinished in his studio. On his return, he painted in the head without seeing his model again. Critics said that there was no likeness whatsoever to Gertrude. Picasso, undaunted, replied, 'Just wait and see-everyone thinks she is not at all like her portrait but never mind, in the end she will manage to look just like it' (Penrose, 1971, p. 122).

Gertrude Stein kept the painting with her all her life. By the time she died all acclaimed that it was an admirable likeness. So his prophecy was fulfilled. With his inner eye he could see into the structure-he could see beyond the phenomenal appearance. Being too close prevented him from seeing what was there. Commenting on Picasso's method, one of his biographers says,

In considering the act of perception, Picasso has always been amazed at the discrepancy between seeing an object and knowing it. Its superficial appearance is to him absurdly inadequate. Seeing is not enough, neither is the aid that the other senses can bring. There are other faculties of the mind which must be brought into play if perception is to lead to understanding. It is somewhere at the point of junction between sensual perception and the deeper regions of the mind that there is a metaphorical inner eye that sees and feels emotionally. (Penrose, 1971, p. 122)

When supervising, I have often commented, 'Sit back, stay further from your patient in order to remain closer.'

In Symington (2002, p. 117), I referred to a glue-like attachment. There, I spoke of patients who demonstrate this, but of course we are all patients and analysts can also attach themselves too closely to their patients. The result: we neither represent our patients as they are nor enable them to develop their own minds. I need the other to perceive me with the inner eye as Picasso did with Gertrude Stein.

This paper is based upon the following assumptions:

1) that a mind has to be created. We are not born with a mind but with the potential for creating a mind;

2) that envy, jealousy, greed, paranoia, infantile dependence and omnipotence are the products of an undeveloped mind;

3) that mind is created through reflective communication with another; and

4) that psychoanalysis, as communication between two people, needs to occur according to certain principles if creation of mind is to happen.

A woman said, 'I realize that I have never been able to trust anyone'.

A weight of baggage from many years of training which perhaps in the service of honesty we might call indoctrination meant that I was programmed to say, 'I wonder what has prevented you from trusting ??' but my thinking, my inner eye, told me this: 'This lady's ability to say this is evidence that she is beginning to trust ? …

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