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Spezzano, C. (1998). The Images That are Permitted: A review of Unformulated Experience: From Dissociation to Imagination in Psychoanalysis by Donnel B. Stern. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1997. xv + 293 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 34(4):635-645.

(1998). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 34(4):635-645

The Images That are Permitted: A review of Unformulated Experience: From Dissociation to Imagination in Psychoanalysis by Donnel B. Stern. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1997. xv + 293 pp.

Review by:
Charles Spezzano, Ph.D.

Donnel Stern's unformulated experience brings hermeneutics, postmodernism, and social constructivism into the theory of clinical psychoanalysis more fully than any book I have read on the subject. The core question he addresses was framed by André Green (1987): How, by means of speech, do we change something in the structure of the unconscious human subject that does not belong to the field of speech? Stern, however, has his own emphasis: how, by means of speech, do we change an individual unconscious mind so that what was previously not only kept out of consciousness, but not even formulated, can have a chance to be formulated?

The Unformulated

In 1915, Freud construed the unconscious as a repository for mental contents that had once existed as word presentations, had been stripped of the words, and now existed as thing presentations. Freud did maintain the existence of unconscious mental contents that had never been repressed, but these did not assume a central place in the literature on clinical work. In that literature, up until the 1920s, unconscious fantasy always awaited verbal labeling, as resistances were worked through. Also salient after 1926 was the unconscious ego, scanning emerging contents for their danger potential. Yet, these emerging contents were still considered to have been formulated already.

Stern

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