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Campbell, D. Enckell, H. (2005). Metaphor and the violent act. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):801-823.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):801-823

Metaphor and the violent act Language Translation

Donald Campbell and Henrik Enckell

During the treatment of violent individuals who were, incidentally, highly verbal, the authors noticed that physical assaults were often preceded by the perpetrator's use of metaphors. It was observed that the linguistic metaphors failed to function as ordinary ‘as if’ devices and became ‘concretised’. When this occurred, the perpetrators resorted to a physical attack. In this paper, the authors argue that the capacity to interconnect (which is considered to be the essence of psychic work) is dependent upon what can be conceptualised as a primary mental ‘frame’ or ‘warp’. Distortion of the warp will, in turn, weaken the ‘weaving’, or interconnecting function of the ego, which is considered analogous to the interconnecting in linguistic metaphors. Clinical material from the treatment of three violent men (two in psychotherapy and one in analysis) is used to illustrate the hypothesis that the concretised use of metaphor represents a restitutive, but failed attempt to maintain a psychic coherence in the face of an imminent breakdown.

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