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Pollak, T. (2009). The ‘Body-Container’: A New Perspective on the ‘Body-Ego'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(3):487-506.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(3):487-506

The ‘Body-Container’: A New Perspective on the ‘Body-Ego'

Tamar Pollak

(Final version accepted 4 November 2008)

Psychoanalytic theory and practice tend to focus on metaphorical and symbolic mental representations in a way that often pushes aside the importance of a bodily ‘presence’ possessing qualities that can not and should not be subordinated to the representational structure. By introducing the ‘body-container’ model, this paper reintroduces the concrete physical body into the psychoanalytic discourse in a more direct way. This clinical-theoretical model links the ‘body-ego’ (Freud, 1923) to the container idea (Bion, 1962) aiming to creates a new integrative psy-che-soma scheme. The ‘body-container’ experience is available as a subjective realization through a priori psycho-physical forms structured as an envelope and a central vertical axis. These forms are the outcome of our given bodily structure experienced under the ‘magnetic’ force of object relation. The mental envelope is already discussed in psychoanalytic theory (Anzieu, 1989, 1990; Bick, 1968) and I wish to introduce the characteristics of the vertical axis which I call ‘the frontal spine’, emphasizing its constitutional reciprocity with the skin envelope. The proposed model offers new insights into the psycho-physical organization in primitive mental states and may contribute to the understanding of the complementary structural relation between embodied and represented in human experience. Two clinical examples illustrate the therapeutic work relevant to disturbances in the primal psycho-physical space organization at different developmental levels.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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