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Feldman, B. (2006). A Skin for the Imaginal. Fort Da, 12(2):50-78.

(2006). Fort Da, 12(2):50-78

A Skin for the Imaginal

Brian Feldman, Ph.D.

The evolution of internal space and psychological boundaries is a developmental task that facilitates symbolization and significantly impacts later development. These elements form the foundation of our experience of self and identity, as well as our capacity for attachment and individuation. My theoretical and clinical speculations concerning the development of these psychic elements stem from the infant observation research that I have conducted in California during the past twelve years, and from my analytic work with children, adolescents, and adults. I have been interested in how the capacity for symbolization evolves from infancy onward, as well as how difficulties in symbolization processes appear in the context of analysis. I believe that the precursor of the capacity for symbolization — and by this I mean the capacity to utilize thought, image, and emotion in an integrative manner for psychological growth and development — has as its foundation the sensorial development of the infant during the first year of life. In this regard, the development of sensorial differentiations through the use of touch, smell, taste, sight and sound — and the infant's experience of the skin as a defining boundary between what is experienced as internal as opposed to what is experienced as external to the self— are fundamental to psychological development.

I would like to focus in particular upon the psychological experience of the skin in infancy and its relationship to the development of a concept of an internal space where symbolization processes take place. I think of this internal space as containing imaginal functions such as dreaming, reverie, and imaginative activities (such as active imagination).

My interest in the psychological function of the skin began several years ago when I was doing research into Jung's infancy and childhood, and the impact that this time had upon the evolution of his own psychology (Feldman, 1992).

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