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Ogden, T.H. (1989). On the Concept of an Autistic-Contiguous Position. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 70:127-140.

(1989). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 70:127-140

On the Concept of an Autistic-Contiguous Position

Thomas H. Ogden


The development of British object-relations theory over the past twenty years can be viewed as containing the beginnings of an exploration of a realm of experience that lies outside of the states of being addressed by Klein, Winnicott, Fairbairn and Bion. In this paper, the idea of an autistic-contiguous position is proposed as a way of conceptualizing a psychological organization more primitive than either the paranoid-schizoid or the depressive position. This mode of organizing experience stands in a dialectical relationship to the paranoid-schizoid and depressive modes: each creates, preserves and negates the others. The autistic-contiguous mode is a sensory–dominated, pre-symbolic mode of generating experience which provides a good measure of the boundedness of human experience and the beginnings of a sense of the place where one's experience occurs. Anxiety in this mode consists of an unspeakable terror of the dissolution of boundedness resulting in feelings of leaking, falling or dissolving into endless, shapeless space. Principal forms of defence, ways of organizing and defining experience, types of relatedness to objects, and avenues to psychological change in the autistic-contiguous position are discussed and clinically illustrated.

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