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(1978). Meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 47:658-659.

(1978). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 47:658-659

Meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Society


Quoting a number of linguistic, anthropological, literary, and psychoanalytic sources, Dr. Arlow spoke of the inherently ambiguous and metaphorical nature of language and speech. The word "metaphor" derives from the Greek "to carry over" and refers to the figurative reference to one object as if aspects of another were transferred to it. The achievement of a wider or special meaning can thus be used in human thought to integrate experience and organize reality. In the essentially aesthetic communication between analyst and patient, metaphor is involved in the transmission of those aspects of meaning and emotion which are the basic components of empathy.

In the psychoanalytic situation, the analyst and analysand engage in mutual metaphoric stimulation. The analyst moves from free-floating attention to the dissolution of verbal statements and the resynthesis of their imaginal fragments that disclose unconscious meaning. When the analyst finds that he entertains in his imagination persistent structures, he can consider them to be indications of the patient's unconscious thought processes. Then, he can supply the appropriate metaphors upon which the essential reconstructions and insights may be built.

Several clinical vignettes were cited to demonstrate the place of metaphorical usages or understandings in analytic work. A patient, in conflict over homosexual transference wishes, misinterpreted a man trying to effect a delivery to a store which had not yet been opened in terms of "he is attempting forced entry." The attendant associations, together with accompanying anal sensations, demonstrated the relationship between the persistent unconscious fantasy and the metaphorical misinterpretation of the perceptual experience. A second example concerned an inappropriate response of shame, embarrassment, and anger on the part of a patient to the sight of an older professor putting on a pair of galoshes. In context in the analysis, this constituted a metaphorical comment on a primal scene experience.

The role of metaphorical re-ordering of experience in enabling the analyst to identify and empathize with his patient was demonstrated in a final clinical vignette.

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