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Boulanger, G. (2012). Plea for a Measure of Imagination: Commentary on Paper by Harvey Peskin. Psychoanal. Dial., 22(2):206-210.

(2012). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 22(2):206-210

Plea for a Measure of Imagination: Commentary on Paper by Harvey Peskin

Ghislaine Boulanger, Ph.D.

In responding to Harvey Peskin's important paper, “Man Is a Wolf to Man,” I further deconstruct his proposition “what therapeutic neutrality is to psychic reality, the therapeutic witness is to the recovery of social reality.” This statement calls into question two principles of the orthodox Freudian canon, one theoretical and one technical. Beyond the stimulus barrier, traumatic reality collapses psychic reality, conscious and unconscious fold into one another, reality and fantasy merge, and nightmares are made flesh. In attempting to impose psychic reality on a traumatic experience, then, classical psychoanalysts disavow a significant portion of human experience. Technically, the analyst's neutrality or failure to acknowledge the significance of historical reality condemns the survivor to further dehumanization as her dehumanizing experiences go unmarked in treatment. Peskin contends that the need to have experience validated, to have a witnessing analyst before an interpreting one, arises not only in matters of extreme traumatization but in everyday life. Illustrating the importance of this claim with an example from my own life, I propose that extreme traumatization takes a different kind of therapeutic engagement, one that is beyond professional obligation; a moral imperative that requires imagination when recognition is not enough. I add a further caveat that in cases of extreme traumatization, rather than privileging a search for psychic reality or even historical reality, some contemporary analysts privilege an exploration of the treatment relationship, failing to recognize that in such cases historical reality must initially take precedence over an emphasis on the intersubjective.

[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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