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Yahalom, I. (1967). Sense, Affect, and Image in Development of the Symbolic Process. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:373-383.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:373-383

Sense, Affect, and Image in Development of the Symbolic Process

Itamar Yahalom

Nature speaks to us, first of all, through our senses; the forms and qualities we distinguish, remember, imagine, or recognize are symbols of entities which exceed and outlive our momentary experience.
—Susanne K. Langer:
Philosophy in a New Key

Every therapist knows that his patients teach him more than he teaches them. He also knows, though he sometimes forgets, that theory must continually be retempered and reshaped in the crucible of the therapeutic relationship. One deeply disturbed six-year-old forced her therapist and his supervisor to explore in new depth the nature of stereotypic repetitive behaviour and the roles of monsters and other psychotic defences in severe disturbances.

Ruth D forced these explorations by insisting on play-acting endlessly with the characters in the Oz stories and with members of television's macabre Addams Family. She set the stage, assigned the roles, ordering her therapist to assume a succession of monster roles. In so doing he was forced to re-explore his own therapeutic attitude. He came to see and respect the fact that Ruth (and other patients) wanted the therapist to become a willing servant, one who serves faithfully and with wholehearted devotion. Ruth spelled out the servant's duties in astounding detail.


As Ruth Entered Therapy

Of course Ruth wove into her play-acting emotionally charged material from her own life. Her parents, especially her mother, continually pressurized the child to be "normal", to go to a "normal school", to be a social asset rather than a liability.

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