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Emanuel, R. (2004). Thalamic Fear. J. Child Psychother., 30(1):71-87.

(2004). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 30(1):71-87

Thalamic Fear

Ricky Emanuel

This paper suggests that some neuroscience concepts particularly concerned with brain pathways in trauma and fear, as well as the neurobiology of emotion, provide an additional vertex to the psychoanalytic understanding of patients’ material. The role of the body has been neglected in psychoanalytic thought and formulations in favour of purely ‘mental’ experience. The paper attempts to show how neuro-psychoanalytic understanding, which is conveyed to patients through interpretation, can increase their depth of understanding. Different types of memory are delineated and the paper describes a simplified schema of emotional processing, drawing on Damasio's distinction between emotion as an instinctual body based experience and its mental representation as feeling. Clinical examples are used to illustrate the usefulness of the distinction. The concept of emotional regulation is discussed as well as showing how its failure is associated with the appearance of persecutory superego structures.

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