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Robinson, B.L. (2020). Concrete People? Modes of Imagination in Psychotherapy, Fiction, and Neuroscience. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(3):385-401.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(3):385-401

Concrete People? Modes of Imagination in Psychotherapy, Fiction, and Neuroscience

Benjamin L. Robinson

Imagining people is crucial to the work of psychotherapists and fiction writers. By analysing how practitioners of both crafts use the word ‘concrete’, however, I find that writing and therapy diverge widely in their modes of imagining others. Therapists apply concrete to patients who are thought unable to symbolize, hard to treat, and lacking in imaginative capacity, whilst writers use concrete to denote quite the opposite: symbolic potency and meaning-making. By analysing this use of concrete, and exploring the rich history of the word - including the introduction of material concrete into the modern world, and the alchemists' use of the word in their search for the philosophers' stone - I find that the current application of concrete by therapists denies a great wealth of potential which is much-needed in our demanding work. Driven by research in sensory neuroscience, I suggest we consider mind, brain, and person to encompass both polarities of concrete, and thus two different forms of imagination. By using both forms with ‘concrete’ patients, we may discover new ways of imagining others and responding to them, going beyond the concrete fixities of our own theories to pay due reverence to the concrete realities of another person.

[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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