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Langs, R. (1989). The Transformation Function in Light of a New Model of the Mind. Brit. J. Psychother., 5(3):300-311.

(1989). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 5(3):300-311

The Transformation Function in Light of a New Model of the Mind

Robert Langs, M.D.

The paper introduces a new model of the mind based on psychoanalytic listening which attends carefully to the distinctions between derivative and nonderivative communication, and the three levels of meaning in messages - manifest, implication and encoded. The model forms a basis for revising Freud's theory of primary and secondary process thinking as well as notions of unconscious communication, experience and information processing.

The paper then conceptualises a particular subsystem of the model - the transformation subsystem (TSS). The transformation function safeguards processing which takes place in the deep unconscious system at a high level of perceptiveness and intelligence. The information processed is coated with anxiety and terror, and the transformation function assures that the images involved will not gain direct access to awareness. Displacement and symbolisation are the essential components of this processing system.

On this basis, patients are classified as transformers or nontransformers, and factors in this aspect of communicative style are presented. The basic flaw in the human mind to which the transformation function contributes, namely, that information derived from the processing which takes place in the deep unconscious system is not available for conscious adaptation, is identified and discussed. Nonetheless, the transformation function is seen as a safeguard against somatisation, acting out and, more fundamentally, as a modulating factor in the human psyche. The means by which the transformation function safeguards against symptom formation is articulated, as is the means by which the therapist may assist the patient in expressing him or herself in this fashion.

The paper concludes with a comparison between Bion's Alpha function theory and the present theory of transformations. Brief mention is made of the dysfunctions in the TSS in schizophrenic patients.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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