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Ehrlich, R. (1999). A Review of A Framework for the Imaginary: Clinical Explorations in Primitive States of Being: Judith Mitrani. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc. 1996. xvii + 307 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(1):158-166.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(1):158-166

Psychoanalysis, Early Anxieties, and Bodily Experience

A Review of A Framework for the Imaginary: Clinical Explorations in Primitive States of Being: Judith Mitrani. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc. 1996. xvii + 307 pp.

Review by:
Robert Ehrlich, Ph.D.

AS JUDITH MITRANI ACKNOWLEDGES, there has been a growing realization among psychoanalysts that sensitivity to pre-oedipal as well as oedipal issues is extremely important, both theoretically and clinically. In her book, Mitrani attempts to explore certain states that are very difficult to verbalize and at times remain primarily on a somatic level. It is for this reason that she asks us to “consider not only the dangers inherent in intrapsychic conflict and the anxieties provoked by such conflicts, but the dangers of re-experiencing certain elemental states of terror that have failed to attain mental representation and are 'felt' on a bodily level” (p. 277). These states result from an “awareness of those early experiences of bodily separateness and loss that have yet to be mitigated through a process of human interaction” (pp. 205-206).

In attempting to explore these “elemental states of terror” Mitrani draws heavily upon the work of Melanie Klein and her followers as well as others, especially the British “Independents,” all of whom have focused considerable attention on the earliest phase of development. Mitrani synthesizes this work in a very clear and evocative manner through the juxtaposition of theory and case presentations.

Her entire argument is predicated on a conception of human development which stresses the idea that the earliest experiences are bodily based and therefore are “recorded somatically” (p.

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