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Roussillon, R. (2015). An Introduction to the Work on Primary Symbolization. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(3):583-594.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(3):583-594

An Introduction to the Work on Primary Symbolization Language Translation

R. Roussillon

One of the changes affecting psychoanalysis, and which seems to me amongst the most fecund, concerns the evolution of the conception and the model of the activity of symbolization, which for the most part controls the work of subjectivation that is at the heart of psychoanalytic practice.

Classically, symbolization, and more generally, representational activity, is directed towards the question of the absent object. W.R. Bion, for example, takes the absence of the breast as his point of departure for thought activity, but all French psychoanalysis also roots the work of representation in the encounter with the absent or separated object. This conception has produced some of the most beautiful jewels of psychoanalytic thought and it is not for me to call this into question, its relevance is beyond doubt. The absence of the object, its ‘perceptive’ absence, compels the subject to widen the distinction between the object perceived in the present and the internal trace of previous perceptions of the object, from which construction of the internal object representation is made possible. When the object is present, the internal object representation is superimposed upon the perception of the object. Thus it does not appear as a representation, it is not ‘reflected’ like a representation, except of course if the subject perceives a gap between his or her object representation and what he or she perceives of it.

In this conception, the presence of the object and the link with the object in presence do not pose any problem, they are deemed ‘givens’ through perception and its investment.

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