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Meissner, W.W. Van Dam, H. (1978). Colloquium on 'Symbol Formation'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 59:321-328.

(1978). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59:321-328

Colloquium on 'Symbol Formation'

W. W. Meissner and Heiman Van Dam

The topic of symbol formation is one that holds the greatest interest and importance not only for the understanding of the integration of cognitive and affective processes, but also for the clinical understanding of the psychoanalytic process and particularly the process of change within psychoanalysis. The subject is also of the greatest interest and relevance in our attempts to understand the unique nature of human psychological functioning.

In his opening comments the Chairman, Harold Blum (New York), noted that homo sapiens is essentially a symbolic creature who has the capacity to create and manipulate symbols and whose existence, in fact, is defined by symbols. He is the unique creature who is also simultaneously created by his own symbolic process. It is only recently that the uniqueness of human language and culture, and the specific nature of the symbolic process and function has been effectively delimited from pre-symbolic processes. The evidence for such symbolic processes in primates has been controversial. The presence of symbolic processes and functions, such as those manifested in psychoanalytic symbolism and generative language, has not at all been confirmed in non-human primates. In addition to psychoanalytic clinical investigation, studies of primates, infant developmental studies, and research on symbolism and language may provide further information and hypotheses. The understanding of symbol formation and symbolic expression bears upon many disciplines and is vital to human psychology.

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