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Migone, P. (2007). Mentalization, Insightfulness, and Therapeutic Action. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 88(3):772-773.

(2007). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 88(3):772-773

Mentalization, Insightfulness, and Therapeutic Action

Paolo Migone

Dear Editors,

Alan Sugarman's (2006) article of the role of insight in therapeutic action deals with a problem that is at the heart of psychoanalysis. The author states that the old debates over the relative roles of interpretation versus relationship with the analyst, as contributing to structural change, ‘are based on traditional definitions of insight as gaining knowledge of unconscious content’ (p. 965), and suggests a redefinition of the concept of insight. According to the author, ‘a way out of this debate is to redefine insight as a process, one that is called insightfulness’ (p. 965), and goes on explaining in detail how and why his suggestion can better account for a more consistent and up-to-date theory of therapeutic action in psychoanalysis.

I fully agree with Sugarman's ideas and I appreciated his article. However, I am surprised by the fact that he seems to have reached these conclusions without considering that the very same revision of the concept of insight was put forth by Kris (1956). Kris, in this classic paper, discussed in depth the clinical and theoretical aspects of insight, and explicitly advocated a change of the concept of insight from ‘content’ to ‘process’, where the key aspect becomes the ‘function of insight’ and not its mere content. In other words, insight is important not for its veridical aspects, nor for the fact that its content is remembered, since it can be forgotten, but for the interstructural changes between the ego and the id. According to the structural model, in fact, the ego can also be unconscious, and what matters are changes in the relationship between structures. (Incidentally, psychoanalysts have known for many years that false insights can be mutative, see Glover, 1931).

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