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Kaftal, E. (1999). A Review of Pre-Object Relatedness: Early Attachment and the Psychoanalytic Situation: Ivri Kumin. New York: The Guilford Press, 1996. xiii + 240 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35:335-341.

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(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(2):335-341

Mystery in Mind

A Review of Pre-Object Relatedness: Early Attachment and the Psychoanalytic Situation: Ivri Kumin. New York: The Guilford Press, 1996. xiii + 240 pp.

Review by:
Emmanuel Kaftal, Ph.D.

Although There Is Still a good deal of controversy concerning the scientific status of psychoanalysis, most analysts will admit, when pressed, that they do know something and that they bring that knowledge with them into the session. The trouble begins when we try to clarify exactly what we know and how we know it, when we try to stand back from what we know and point to it. This is what I do, this is how I do it, and this why it works. The process of clarifying our own place in the work can concretize what we think of as knowledge. This can cause us to confound levels of abstraction and to create unwarranted theoretical, and ultimately clinical, closure. This is especially problematic when it comes to those aspects of psychoanalytic experience that are intuitive, capricious, and self-contradictory, those things we pluck from reverie or fantasy — those that come “unbidden” (D. B. Stern, 1997) or “off the wall” (Bollas, 1989) and are at the heart of the work.

Ivri Kumin's recent, and in many ways excellent book, Pre-Object Relatedness, is an effort to demonstrate the clinical utility of the ideas that emerge in unsystematic ways during the swirl of psychoanalytic interaction. It is also an effort to account for and locate such experience within a larger and more systematic psychoanalytic theory of development and psychopathology. Kumin, who has written widely in object relations theory (1978a, 1978b, 1986), is interested in locating this kind of experience in the quality of relatedness between infant and caretaker that he calls “pre-object relatedness.” “Pre-object relatedness” is an early form of attachment and communication. It is “pre-representational.” But Kumin is careful to point out that “pre-representational” does not mean “non-representational.” He suggests that the term “proto-representational,” meaning “first” or “earliest form of,” might be a better way to describe this early form of relatedness.

Infancy research, he argues, has demonstrated that early experience is encoded in a “mysterious amodal form of representation” (D. Stern, 1985, p. 51, quoted in Kumin, 1996, p. 64), which makes it possible for

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