Friday, February 10, 2012

Murray Jackson - Considerations in Symbolic Process with Schizoid Patients

"In recent years there has been an increasing interest among psychopathologists in the study and treatment of schizoid disorders, which are now known to be more accessible to analytical psychotherapy than was formerly realized. Clinical and theoretical studies, mostly made by psycho-analysts, have revealed types of mental mechanism specific to the schizoid level of mental organization, and thrown light on the process of the formation of symbols and their precursors. In the course of analysis of schizoid patients the process of symbol formation may sometimes be seen developing. At primitive levels symbolism is archaic and prelogical, the symbol having the same emotional value as the thing symbolized, and this stage has been called the symbolic equation. With further development this changes to symbolic representation, where the symbol represents rather than presents the thing symbolized, is a picture rather than a replica. When this change occurs in the treatment of schizoid patients, it is associated with a lessening of persecutory anxiety and an increased capacity for depression and for healthier object relations.

In the transference with such patients primitive contents are projected into the analyst and may confer a delusional quality on the process. Examples are given from clinical practice of the appearance of symbolic equations in such cases, and of their change to representations as treatment progresses.

In the context of clinical observations a condensed account of psycho-analytic theories of symbol formation is presented, and the relevance of all this to Jung's concept of the symbol is considered.

The main contention of this paper is that Jung's use of the term "symbol" corresponds to the experience of symbolic equations by a relatively mature ego, an ego with a specific attitude of receptiveness, the "symbolic attitude", towards such experience. With the immature ego at the schizoid level of mental organization, it is most unlikely that symbols can be appreciated in this way, and attempts to use symbolic experience in a conventional therapeutic way are likely to lead to defensive splitting in the ego.

The best safeguard against this happening is for the therapist to give the bodily aspects of mental life the importance they deserve, and to be aware of the need for genetically earlier levels of experience to be properly integrated before there can be much hope of potentially creative experience having a truly creative, rather than a defensive, outcome.

These ideas contain little that is new, and accord with Jung's views about the need, in certain cases, for regression to the archaic object relationship, which is represented by the biologically based symbol and which has the potential of resolving the state of splitting into opposites. However, the linking of current psycho-analytic concepts with these established ideas of analytical psychology seems, to the author, to be quite essential if progress is to be made in the treatment of, and discussion of, schizoid patients." (pp. 156-157)


Murray Jackson (1963). Symbol Formation and the Delusional Transference. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 8, pp. 145-159

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