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Rose, J. (2000). Symbols And Their Function In Managing The Anxiety Of Change: An Intersubjective Approach. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(3):453-470.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(3):453-470

Symbols And Their Function In Managing The Anxiety Of Change: An Intersubjective Approach

James Rose

The author suggests that change inevitably creates anxiety because of loss and confrontation with the unknown. It is proposed that one function of symbols is to manage the anxiety of change. They do this by creating a means by which anxieties can be presented to the subject and then communicated to another mind. These creations are called symbolic because, it is proposed, their purpose is the communication as well as the incorporation of internal anxieties and desires with external exigencies, which might be termed symptoms. Viewing them in this way enables the analyst to put symbolic phenomena as they emerge in an analysis into an intersubjective perspective. The author suggests that thinking of symbols as purely intrasubjective phenomena limits our perspective. It is more technically useful to look at the communicative aspects of symbols as they present themselves to the symbolising subject; and, subsequently, to the analyst in the dialogue within the psychoanalytic setting because the objective and temporal dimension of the setting can thereby be included. Two clinical examples of symbols are discussed, one that was brought for analysis and a second that developed in the course of an analysis. One is given as an example of resistance to change, whereas the other revealed an unconscious drive for change.

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