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Barros, E.D. (2000). Affect and Pictographic Image: The Constitution of Meaning in Mental Life. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(6):1087-1099.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(6):1087-1099

Affect and Pictographic Image: The Constitution of Meaning in Mental Life

Elias Mallet Da Rocha Barros

The author explores the processes of revealing, creating and working through new meaning in mental life and relates these processes to specific methods of producing representations of emotional experience through their transformation into unconscious symbolism in the form of imagery. Drawing on several dreams and other experiences from a detailed clinical case, the author argues for the value of considering three interpenetrating levels of meaning that operate simultaneously in mental life, namely hidden meaning, absent meaning and potential meaning: ‘hidden’ meaning resulting from dynamic forms of repression, absent meaning from a pregnant pressure exerted on psychic life by unconscious internal objects whenever any new emotional situation confronts the ego. Absent meaning is not just waiting in the unconscious to become explicit in a unique form. It is in its very nature to remain partially absent and it can never be rendered wholly conscious. All symbolic constructions that are expressed at first by unconscious imagery found especially in dreams are attempts to capture and represent the absent meaning. The concept of potential meaning refers to experiences produced by the interpretation of absent meaning, and consists of a specific case of this latter. Potential meaning, when interpreted, rearticulates meanings on a specific symbolic field, and opens up new experiential possibilities, thus creating new meanings that expand the possibilities for emotional development. The author's ideas draw on the formulations of Aulagnier, Bion, Ferro, Green and Khan.

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