Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gustav Bovensiepen on the Analytic Attitude, the Transcendent Function, and Reverie

"I shall investigate Jung’s claim that the transcendent function can only unfold if we succeed in assuming the analytical attitude that he called the ‘symbolic attitude’. This is one of the few of Jung’s concepts from which he explicitly deduced a treatment technique, that of active imagination. Since the prerequisite of active imagination is a differentiated and stable ego, it is not, in my opinion, an appropriate technique for patients who are structurally disturbed at an early developmental level. I believe that the gap between Jung’s fundamental, but very general concept of the analyst’s symbolic attitude and the analysand’s inability to symbolize can be bridged by Bion’s concept of ‘reverie’ within the container-contained relationship. I include the earliest, mostly non-verbal exchanges between mother and infant in what Jung referred to as the ‘symbolic attitude’. I therefore propose that, although Jung assumes it is a ‘natural process’ and hence archetypally grounded, the transcendent function does not work spontaneously, but requires a matrix, which is based on the child’s earliest experience of a relationship and which can later be re-enacted in treatment." (p. 243)

Gustav Bovensiepen (2002). Symbolic attitude and reverie: Problems of symbolization in children and adolescents, Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 47, pp. 241–257.

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