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Zinchenko, A. (2014). Catch Them before They Fall: The Psychoanalysis of Breakdown by Christopher Bollas London & New York: Routledge, 2013, 143 pp.. Fort Da, 20(1):128-135.

(2014). Fort Da, 20(1):128-135

Catch Them before They Fall: The Psychoanalysis of Breakdown by Christopher Bollas London & New York: Routledge, 2013, 143 pp.

Review by:
Alexander Zinchenko, Ph.D.

Before my pencil ever touched the paper, my hand made a strange journey of its own…. You must understand this was not hesitation. I was unconsciously establishing the relationship between the subject I was about to draw and the size of my paper.

— Henri Matisse (as cited in Johnson, 1993, p. 21)

Christopher Bollas, writing on the states of breakdown, is engaged in an aesthetic enterprise: grappling with recognition and apprehension of his patients' non-representational experiences, he simultaneously is looking for ways to create conditions to further unfold and contain them by giving meaning. Together with his patients he is confronted with a pre-semiotic, primordial world that resists description, let alone interpretation. Yet, his characteristic poetic and musical language portrays their experiences of breakdown. These depictions are recognizable. Bollas's writing opens space for reflection and introspection. It makes readers grapple with how many patients they witness going through these breakdowns and how many they might have had themselves. Did they catch patients under their care and did they have someone to turn to at the time of their own breakdowns? These breakdown states might be precipitated by a separation, rejection, or a quarrel or something as innocuous as a credit card being cancelled or a parking ticket, which might have a toxic effect, and

… evoke latent psychological issues that rush into the void created by rejection, and fill the space with deferred affect, usually stemming from a much deeper and more disturbing event in the self's childhood. (Bollas, 2013, p.

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