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Impert, L. (1999). The Body Held Hostage: The Paradox of Self-Sufficiency. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(4):647-671.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):647-671

The Body Held Hostage: The Paradox of Self-Sufficiency

Laura Impert, C.S.W.

I Felt a Cleaving in my Mind —

As if my Brain had split —

I tried to match it — Seam by Seam —

But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join

Unto the thought before —

But Sequence ravelled out of Sound

Like Balls — upon a Floor.

—Emily Dickinson

A TYPE OF MENTAL FUNCTIONING is often found in patients who convey an overly developed sense of self-sufficiency and independence. These patients present a particular clinical challenge, because many of them, while high-functioning, are overly defended and can be made uncomfortable with the treatment process. I use the concepts of premature ego development and the “mind-object” to explore the specific defensive posture of pseudo-maturity that characterizes the way in which these patients negotiate the demands of human relations. In addition, I pay particular attention to the way mind-object functioning shapes the somatic and sensory realm in these individuals, often narrowing access to the fullest range of their bodily states. I also focus on early development in order to highlight the preverbal stage in which the infant's somatic discovery of his or her own body is set. This issue is relevant in the psychoanalytic setting because the patients discussed here struggle

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I would like to express gratitude to the following people, each of whom made significant editorial and conceptual contributions to this article: Drs. Sandra Buechler, Pasqual Pantone, and Martin Frommer. I am especially indebted to Philip Bromberg, Pearl-Ellen Gordon, and Dr. Margaret Rubin for their support.

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