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Lombardi, R. (2009). Symmetric Frenzy and Catastrophic Change: A Consideration of Primitive Mental States in the Wake of Bion and Matte Blanco. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(3):529-549.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(3):529-549

Symmetric Frenzy and Catastrophic Change: A Consideration of Primitive Mental States in the Wake of Bion and Matte Blanco Language Translation

Riccardo Lombardi

(Final version accepted 8 December 2008)

The author explores the connections between Matte Blanco's notion of symmetric frenzy, i.e. the turbulence characteristic of the deepest levels of mental functioning, and Bion's concept of catastrophic change. For Bion, mental links are retrieved from the formless darkness of infinity. With catastrophic change, emotional violence and the confining nature of representation come into conflict, leaving the subject prey to an explosiveness that paralyses mental resources. Matte Blanco identifies indivisibility as the abyss in which all differentiation ceases; he bases his model on the conflict between symmetry and asymmetry. Infinity, he maintains, is where the first forms of mentalization develop. Both Bion and Matte Blanco emphasize the contrast between the immensity of mental space and the spatio-temporal order introduced by the activation of thinking functions. The author presents clinical material from the analysis of a psychotic patient, stressing the need to encourage both working through the defect of thinking (Bion) and ‘unfolding’ manifestations of symmetry (Matte Blanco) so as to foster the activation of the resources of thought, meanwhile postponing transference interpretation. He concludes with two later sessions, in which recognition of the analyst in the transference allows the analysand to develop his capacity for containment and asymmetric differentiation.

[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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