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Goldberg, P. (2012). Active Perception and the Search for Sensory Symbiosis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 60(4):791-812.

(2012). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 60(4):791-812

Active Perception and the Search for Sensory Symbiosis

Peter Goldberg

I would like to look at the question of the senses in psychoanalysis not so much from the standpoint of how the analyst listens and takes in data (which is generally taken for granted as the natural role of sensory perception in the analytic situation) as from the standpoint of the active uses of sensory perception. Attention to the domain of sensory perception, especially in working with patients who suffer from what might be described as disorders of the sensorium, reveals the importance of the analyst and patient's engagement at the sensate level and the significance of active perception in the analyst's technique.

Attention to sensory perception in the analytic situation illuminates certain phenomena that otherwise remain obscure and that invite conceptual elaboration. Of particular interest is the way in which immediate sensory experience seems to lend itself naturally to a shared consciousness of the world and how this affects a kind of functional symbiosis between analyst and patient at the sensate level.

This has implications for our understanding of clinical theory and technique. I will propose that the analyst's sensory participation serves a quite specific function, namely, to initiate or catalyze a shared framework of sensate experience in the analytic situation. This I will refer to as the analyst's inductive function, inasmuch as it entails an active dimension of technique that constantly, if unconsciously, seeks to establish a shared sensory state.

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