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Hepburn, J.M. (1996). The mind-body split and body memory. Free Associations, 6(4):589-606.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(4):589-606

The mind-body split and body memory

Jan McGregor Hepburn

This paper is an exploration of some of the ways in which bodily functions/feelings and cerebral activity may be split as a defence against anxiety, and the way in which while psychoanalytic psychotherapy seeks to reconcile the split by dealing with the underlying anxiety, in some ways it may run the risk of perpetuating it.

In resolutely dealing with people's minds we perhaps exclude the body, but working with body matters provokes anxiety about boundaries in the therapist and about abuse in the patient. However, in therapy, patients may have bodily experiences, and may exhibit bodily behaviour which in fact is often at variance with their thoughts or the material they produce. My idea about this is that these experiences may well relate to a body memory; that the body has remembered something which the mind has forgotten. Although not an everyday phenomenon, it is I think of interest and value as part of the psychoanalytic psychotherapy repertoire: the part that is concerned with understanding the historical context of the patient and the pathology, and the part that is concerned with both pre-verbal and secret issues which need to be named and brought into consciousness.


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