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Akhtar, S. (2000). Response. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(6):1221-1222.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(6):1221-1222


Salman Akhtar

Dear Sir,

I am much pleased with the careful attention given to my paper by James Hamilton. I admire his work in this area and have cited it in my paper. The points he raises essentially involve three issues. First is the question whether the experience of mental pain can ever be satisfactorily put into words. I agree with Hamilton that ordinary language may not be capable of expressing the phenomenon. The abstract of my paper indicates that the experience of mental pain is ‘difficult to convey to others’. To quote Wordsworth, it involves ‘tears that lie too deep for words’. The fact that Pontalis (1981) placed mental pain at the ‘juncture of body and psyche’ in part might explain the difficulty in verbalising the feeling. Compounding this difficulty is the rupture of ego that lies at the root of mental pain, a rupture that inevitably pulls cognitive functions in a regressive direction. In mentioning the English language specifically, Hamilton leaves the possibility open that other languages may be better equipped to express such deep experiences. Being bilingual, I resonate with what he seems to be suggesting; my mother tongue, Urdu, does seem richer to me in this regard. However, this may only represent an immigrant's idealisation of his first language. More careful thought is needed here.

The second point raised by Hamilton pertains to my ‘choice’ of writing a poem in response to the experience of pain. The fact is that I felt no choice at all in the matter.

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