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Vorus, N. Wilson, A. (2004). Conceptual frontiers: Representation and object relations. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(6):1501-1504.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(6):1501-1504

Conceptual frontiers: Representation and object relations

Reported by:
Neal Vorus

Moderator Arnold Wilson

If psychoanalysis can be thought of as founded on a basic understanding that relations with other people are always more than they seem, then the concepts representation and object relation are surely cornerstones of our discipline. However, the exact relation between these concepts has never been precisely defined. As Arnold Wilson opined in his introduction to the panel, the question of ‘how external reality sets up shop inside’ is one that reaches back at least to classical Greek philosophy, and in recent times has been addressed in a variety of ways and at different levels of abstraction. While unlikely to be resolved today, this panel was assembled in hopes of clarifying current thinking on this important question for psychoanalysis.

In his paper, ‘Representation and object relation’, Horacio Etchegoyen offered an erudite historical review of the way psychoanalysts have conceived of the ‘processes that take place between the body and mind, and from the latter to the external world’. Central to his review is the ‘dilemma between representation and object’ that first appeared in Freud's writings in 1915. In his definition of instinct, Freud described the source (body) as somatic, the aim (satisfaction) as psychological. In Etchegoyen's words, ‘in the journey from the source to the aim, the mysterious jump that unites the biological and psychological is accomplished’. Only the derivative, or representation, of the drive reaches consciousness, and this is also true of the unconscious manifestation of drive.

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