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Rhode, M. (1984). Ghosts and the Imagination. J. Child Psychother., 10(1):3-13.

(1984). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 10(1):3-13

Ghosts and the Imagination

Maria Rhode

In this paper, I wish to offer some speculations concerning a particular quality of atmosphere that characterises one's relationship with certain patients. Though this quality is hard to define, it is easy to recognise: one senses that the patient's imagination, and one's own, are free to extend themselves, to entertain phantasies not immediately connected with the matter in hand. Layers of meaning seem to be coming together, areas of interest to be invoked although they may appear to lie beyond the scope of the session. One feels that one is being presented with the chance of learning something. In this respect, the atmosphere I am considering is not identical with beauty of the material; beauty may be present in the sense that a clear illustration of a process can be beautiful, without the sense of resonance that I wish to discuss.

The converse is equally easy to recognise. Indeed I First began to wonder about this area because of Mr. X, the first of the three patients whom I will give in detail. His material was usually reasonably understandable and interpretable, sometimes even interesting in an abstract sort of way; but he exuded what I can only describe as an aggressive flatness of feeling. Somehow he managed to convey the idea that any cultural interest was snobbery, that no great men had lived in the world, and certainly that there was to be nothing new under the sun.

It will be clear that the area I am referring to is related to Meltzer's concept of dimensionality (Meltzer, 1975); to Winnicott's notion of a transitional space in which play and other creative acts can occur (Winnicott, 1953); and of course to Melanie Klein's work on symbol formation (Klein, 1930) and its elaboration by Hanna Segal (Segal, 1957).

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