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Ogden, T.H. (1997). Some Thoughts on the Use of Language in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Dial., 7(1):1-21.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 7(1):1-21

Some Thoughts on the Use of Language in Psychoanalysis

Thomas H. Ogden, M.D.

In this paper I comment on several aspects of the way language is used in psychoanalysis. Language is viewed not simply as a “package” for carrying ideas and feelings, but as a medium in which thoughts and feelings are created. In the analytic setting, analyst and analysand are viewed as engaged in an effort to use language in a way that is adequate to the task of creating/conveying a sense of what it feels like for the patient to be human, to the extent that he is capable at a given moment (with particular emphasis on describing the leading anxiety that the analysand is experiencing).

The analyst strives to use language in a way that embodies the tension of forever struggling to generate meaning while at every step casting doubt on the meanings “arrived at” or “clarified.” Forms of lifelessness of analytic language are discussed with emphasis on those forms of linguistic deadness that derive from (1) the analyst's ideological attachment to a particular school of analytic thought and (2) the analyst's unconscious participation in an intersubjective construction jointly, but asymmetrically, generated by analyst and analysand (Ogden, 1994a, b, in press a, b).

Finally, I discuss the idea of effects being created in language and suggest that this phenomenon constitutes a principal medium through which unconscious meaning is communicated in the analytic setting. Such unconscious effects in language are generated at least as much through the way the patient (or analyst) is speaking as through what the patient (or analyst) is saying.

This paper does not represent an effort to apply analytic thinking to the field of literary studies. Instead, I hope to make a small contribution to an awareness of the life of words (and the life in words) that occurs in the analytic situation. Rather than attempting to look behind language, the effort here is to look into it.

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