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Shahly, V. (1987). Eating her Words—Food Metaphor as Transitional Symptom in the Recovery of a Bulimic Patient. Psychoanal. St. Child, 42:403-421.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 42:403-421

Eating her Words—Food Metaphor as Transitional Symptom in the Recovery of a Bulimic Patient

Victoria Shahly


The earliest psychoanalytic references to figurative language recognized the fundamental relationship between body and metaphor. Current work reemphasizes the association between the somatic discharge of impulses and their metaphoric expression. Bulimic patients are particularly resistant to psychodynamic intervention because of the "constant ready availability of their own bodies for the representation and expression of psychic conflict" (Ritvo, 1984p. 455). Metaphor, however, seems especially appealing to bulimics. Perhaps this is because the compromise-formation structure of metaphor parallels the

structure of the bulimic conflict, the economy of expression permitted by metaphor is congruent with the patient's own concern with self-abnegation and greed, and the metaphor models a similarity-in-difference analogous to separation-individuation. This study proposes that the concrete referents of food and body metaphors provide a therapeutic bridge from physical discharge to metaphysical understanding and so "tip the scale" in favor of recovery.

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