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Impert, L. (1999). The Body Held Hostage: The Paradox of Self-Sufficiency. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(4):647-671.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):647-671

The Body Held Hostage: The Paradox of Self-Sufficiency

Laura Impert, C.S.W.

I Felt a Cleaving in my Mind —

As if my Brain had split —

I tried to match it — Seam by Seam —

But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join

Unto the thought before —

But Sequence ravelled out of Sound

Like Balls — upon a Floor.

—Emily Dickinson

A TYPE OF MENTAL FUNCTIONING is often found in patients who convey an overly developed sense of self-sufficiency and independence. These patients present a particular clinical challenge, because many of them, while high-functioning, are overly defended and can be made uncomfortable with the treatment process. I use the concepts of premature ego development and the “mind-object” to explore the specific defensive posture of pseudo-maturity that characterizes the way in which these patients negotiate the demands of human relations. In addition, I pay particular attention to the way mind-object functioning shapes the somatic and sensory realm in these individuals, often narrowing access to the fullest range of their bodily states. I also focus on early development in order to highlight the preverbal stage in which the infant's somatic discovery of his or her own body is set.

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