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Rayner, E. (1981). Infinite Experiences, Affects and the Characteristics of the Unconscious. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 62:403-412.

(1981). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 62:403-412

Infinite Experiences, Affects and the Characteristics of the Unconscious

Eric Rayner


The work of Matte-Blanco is little understood by psychoanalysts largely because he used mathematical logic as an essential method to elucidate psychoanalytic theory. His findings, however, seem to be important and warrant this simple introductory paper explaining key ideas. Two fundamentally distinct processes, defined as asymmetrical and symmetrical logics are introduced and illustrated. Asymmetrical logic is analogous to secondary process while symmetrical logic has affinity with primary process. Both logics seem to interweave in any thought processes but with asymmetry predominating in

scientific thought while symmetrical logic is most evident in psychosis and dreams. It is furthermore argued that the various characteristics of the unconscious, as described by Freud, can be seen as different mental outcomes with symmetrical logic at the base of all of them.

A parallel is discovered by Matte-Blanco between the characteristics of symmetrical logic and those of infinite sets as defined mathematically. This leads to an investigation of the concept of infinity and of psychological infinite experiences. These can be readily detected in omnipotence, omniscience, and idealization, but they also seem to occur in extreme emotional states such as being in love, dread and grief. If nuclei of extreme states are contained in any affect, then it is likely that all affects in their cognitive aspects contain experiences of infinity. Symmetrical logic may thus be a common background both to the characteristics of the unconscious and emotionality generally.

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