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Arizmendi, T.G. (2008). Nonverbal Communication in the Context of Dissociative Processes. Psychoanal. Psychol., 25(3):443-457.

(2008). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 25(3):443-457

Nonverbal Communication in the Context of Dissociative Processes

Thomas G. Arizmendi, Ph.D.

Nonverbal communication, at both conscious and unconscious levels, can be portrayed as a type of “body language,” a communication between the psychic bodies of patient and therapist. In this article, the author provides several examples of this communication process in the context of a psychoanalytic treatment with a patient who has a history of trauma resulting in frequent dissociative states. Motoric actions (drawing), somatosensory symptoms, and intense affect states represent the media through which she “informs” the analyst of her painful experiences. The analyst's surrender to countertransference states, such as deadness, constitutes the beginning of attunement to the patient's body communications. In one particularly unusual symptom of dissociation, the patient exhibits physical abilities that she is incapable of in more integrated states. An attempt is made to understand this event from a phenom-enological and neurobiological perspective. Using an information-processing model, the author illustrates one instance of how the patient's subsymbolic information may be converted to the verbal symbolic via the analyst's use of evoked images.

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