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Kumin, I. (1998). A Framework for the Imaginary: Clinical Explorations in Primitive States of Being. By Judith L. Mitrani. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1996, 328 pp., $45.00. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(3):936-940.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(3):936-940

A Framework for the Imaginary: Clinical Explorations in Primitive States of Being. By Judith L. Mitrani. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1996, 328 pp., $45.00

Review by:
Ivri Kumin

Psychoanalysis has been, until recently, a science of the symbolic. Freud yoked psychoanalysis to the representational because of his focus on the contents of the repressed unconscious and his reliance on speech as the primary mode of communication. Only gradually, beginning with Freud's own concept of the body ego, has a psychoanalytic study of the unrepressed unconscious begun to emerge.

This interest in states of pre-object relatedness has come from many theoretical quarters, but from none more than British object relations theory. Its focus on the infant-primary caregiver pair was a major contributor to the current psychoanalytic awareness of the role of developmentally archaic environmental disturbances in lesions of emotional and representational capacity. It is against the background of this increasing effort to understand patients who cannot fully encompass their suffering, mentally or emotionally, that Judith Mitrani's A Framework for the Imaginary takes its place.

Mitrani's primary sources are the pioneering work of Esther Bick and Frances Tustin on adhesive identification. Closely observing infants and mothers, Bick concluded that infants begin life in a boundaryless emotional state in which they lack the cohesion of feeling held together. This early state of unintegration is expected and normal, a consequence of the extreme emotional immaturity of the infant that precedes integration. It is to be contrasted with disintegration, which is a defense organization that can be utilized only when a modicum of ego integration has been achieved. Bick showed how, when an infant is empathetically held by a mother attuned to its emotional needs, the various unintegrated parts of its personality achieve a feeling of being held together and of being bounded by an emotional skin.

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