Friday, June 3, 2011

Warren Colman on Imagination in Analysis

Warren Colman is Editer-in-Chief of the Journal of Analytical Psychology

"The ability to imagine, to symbolize and to play is a necessity of all successful analytic work. Jung described this ability as the transcendent function — the emergence of symbolic imagination out of the conflict between conscious and unconscious (Jung 1916). But this ability cannot be taken for granted; it is dependent on the development of an ego that is sufficiently differentiated to be able to engage with the unconscious as an equal partner. Jung certainly specified that this was a condition for the practice of active imagination, but due to his lack of interest in developmental psychology, he did not pursue the question of how such ego capacity might be acquired. This issue was investigated in the pages of the JAP [J. of Analytical Psychology] by Fordham and others in the London group, especially in the 1960s and, more recently, has been taken up by Bovensiepen (2002). Bovensiepen suggests that the process of developing a symbolic space develops out of the matrix of early maternal care, particularly through the mother’s reverie which he equates with symbolic attitude. With more disturbed patients who lack this foundation, he shows how the analysand’s inability to symbolize can be bridged by the analyst’s own reverie within the container-contained relationship (ibid., p. 243). This leads to the promotion of a symbolic attitude in the patient through the internalization of what Bion calls the container/contained apparatus."

"In this paper I want to look at a slightly different clinical issue that, crudely speaking, could be described as the difference between patients who can’t symbolize and those who won’t symbolize. The patients I am referring to have more ego capacity in some areas but use what imaginative capacity they have to defend against aspects of reality concerned with absence and loss that are felt to be intolerable. This blocks their capacity for real imagination and symbolic function since these require an acknowledgement of the gap between what is imagined and what is actually present in the material world. A symbol cannot be a symbol of something unless it represents something other than itself. Therefore the thing that is symbolized must be absent from the symbol. Similarly, imagination can only be recognized as distinct from material actuality by the absence of its contents from the external world."  (pp. 21-22)

Warren Colman (2006). Imagination and the Imaginary. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2006, Vol. 51, pp. 21–41

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