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Dunn, P.B. (2007). The Clinical Implications of an Integrative Theory: Commentary on Fonagy and Target. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 55(2):479-484.

(2007). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55(2):479-484

The Clinical Implications of an Integrative Theory: Commentary on Fonagy and Target

Peter B. Dunn

While psychoanalysis had been evolving (or devolving) into a psychology with multiple competing models of the mind, there has been a counterbalancing movement toward theoretical integration. “The Rooting of the Mind in the Body: New Links between Attachment Theory and Psychoanalytic Thought” by Peter Fonagy and Mary Target is a contribution to this movement. They carefully delineate a theory to provide attachment theory and psychoanalysis a common theoretical base consistent with contemporary neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Such a theory would, in Fonagy and Target's view, further a mutually beneficial rapprochement. As Bertram Lewin once said, “There is nothing as practical as a good theory.” With this in mind, I will assess the utility of Fonagy and Target's integrative theory by considering its practical, or technical, implications.

Fonagy and Target's theory is highly abstract, detailed, and, to the extent that it draws from the linguistic theories of Ivan Fónagy on gestural language, it is bold and speculative. Their theory of the embedded mind posits that the mind is organized around a series of core concepts and representations, which arise from the child's sensorimotor, emotional, and enacted experiences with primary objects. As children develop the capacity to abstract, they infuse these concepts and representations with meaning by drawing metaphorical comparisons between abstractions (such as the concept of a mother) and sets of mental images drawn from experiences with the primary objects.

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