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Teising, M. (2005). Permeability and demarcation in the psychoanalytic process: Functions of the contact-barrier. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(6):1627-1644.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(6):1627-1644

Permeability and demarcation in the psychoanalytic process: Functions of the contact-barrier

Martin Teising

Introjection, identification and projection are concepts that designate processes in which something is being put into or taken out of something else. These processes presuppose the overcoming of some form of separation between two entities. The permeability or impermeability of a fictive boundary between the representations of subject and object set the emotional tone of their coexistence. There are moments of complete diffusion, in which subject and object can no longer be differentiated, and moments of autistic enclosure in which the individual can no longer be reached at all. Permeability and demarcation result from the processing of stimuli carried out by the ‘contact-barrier’, as an ego function. Stimuli of internal, libidinal or aggressive origin, as well as ‘im-pressions’ of external origin, are classified and processed with the aid of various kinds of factors arising from coagulated object-relational experiences. Whereas for Freud the contact-barrier regulates the quantity of energy and founds a topographical structure, Bion understands the contact-barrier as a psychic function that simultaneously regulates boundary demarcation and making contact. In the psychoanalytic process, the contact-barrier created by patient and analyst regulates the events in the transference and countertransference. An awareness of the struggle for contact and demarcation at the dynamic boundary representations that are constantly being recreated by both partners in the analytic process may be helpful in our clinical work. The author presents an examination of the ways in which patient and analyst make contact and demarcate the boundaries, which provides a better understanding of the dynamics of transference processes. He demonstrates this in relation to clinical material.

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