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Merchant, J. (2016). The Image Schema and Innate Archetypes: Theoretical and Clinical Implications. J. Anal. Psychol., 61(1):63-78.

(2016). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 61(1):63-78

The Image Schema and Innate Archetypes: Theoretical and Clinical Implications

John Merchant, Ph.D.

Based in contemporary neuroscience, Jean Knox's 2004 JAP paper ‘From archetypes to reflective function’ honed her position on image schemas, thereby introducing a model for archetypes which sees them as ‘reliably repeated early developmental achievements’ and not as genetically inherited, innate psychic structures. The image schema model is used to illustrate how the analyst worked with a patient who began life as an unwanted pregnancy, was adopted at birth and as an adult experienced profound synchronicities, paranormal/telepathic phenomena and visions.

The classical approach to such phenomena would see the intense affectivity arising out of a ruptured symbiotic mother-infant relationship constellating certain archetypes which set up the patient's visions. This view is contrasted with Knox's model which sees the archetype an sich as a developmentally produced image schema underpinning the emergence of later imagery. The patient's visions can then be understood to arise from his psychoid body memory related to his traumatic conception and birth. The contemporary neuroscience which supports this view is outlined and a subsequent image schema explanation is presented. Clinically, the case material suggests that a pre-birth perspective needs to be explored in all analytic work. Other implications of Knox's image schema model are summarized.

[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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